Instagram detox in Bali? Here’s how it went

A serial Instagrammer banned social media during a weekend away in Uluwatu. Did the digital detox leave her with withdrawal symptoms or more connected to her destination?

  • Sangeeta Kocharekar
  • November 2018

Holidays are starting to make me anxious. Like most millennials, I’ve been using Instagram opens in new window religiously since its early days. I’m strategic about what I post and when, capturing the “best moments” of my life in a curated feed. Whenever I travel though, with so much new and exotic material to share, things can get overwhelming. Knowing I won’t be back in that perfect spot and have only one chance to get the shot – the pressure is on. So challenging myself to an Instagram-free weekend away seemed like exactly what the doctor ordered. It was only 48 hours but c’mon people, baby steps...

It’s a tough job…

The area of Uluwatu is filled with picturesque spots begging to be ‘grammed but my rules were set – no social media and so I wouldn’t be tempted later, no photos at all. It was 2pm when I arrived at my home for the weekend, luxury resort The Edge opens in new window, and my fingers were itching right from the get-go. At their public day club Oneeighty opens in new window°, a couple in the glass-bottom pool – which juts out of the cliff 150 metres above the Indian Ocean – was posing for a paraglider floating past. I would’ve killed for those shots.

The show-stopping pool at Oneeighty beach club

Then there was lunch – my mushroom and truffle oil pizza placed on the daybed with the sea in the background was Instagram catnip. But my villa was by far the hardest to resist. Its 18- by seven-metre wraparound pool, the marble-floored lounge and personal butler – all of it screamed #sorrynotsorry.

This was harder than I’d thought it would be, I was actually feeling annoyed I couldn’t Insta-boast about it all…

The only thing stopping me from reaching into the bottom of my bag where my phone was lying, cold and alone, was sheer willpower. Normally when I travel, it’s glued to my hand. However, hard as it was, I was committed to recapturing that carefree holiday spirit I had before the days of #travelgoals.

Would you be able to resist the temptation of posting about this on social media?

Getting into the groove

On my first evening in Uluwatu, I decided to check out Ulu Cliffhouse opens in new window beach club. Sitting with a chilled coconut on the Ocean Deck, which hovers halfway down the cliff face above the sea, I let my phone stay where it was. Usually, I’d be rushing to snap the swatches of pink and orange painting the skies at sunset – and then racking my brain to come up with a clever caption – but I just enjoyed the moment… and it felt pretty damn zen.

The next morning, after a butler-made breakfast in the villa, complete with a pastry-loaded tiered tray and caviar-sprinkled salmon – which I successfully managed to not post on Instagram – I headed to Uluwatu Temple. Set on a cliff 70 metres up, with waves crashing at its feet and pesky monkeys perched along its cliffwalk, this Balinese Hindu temple is captivating. A photo here would’ve given me that token #culture shot – essential to gaining travel ‘gramming cred. But I’d made it this far, why stop now?

Instead of hanging around waiting for the perfect temple photo, I soaked up the spiritual vibe then headed to Karma Beach Club opens in new window for a cool drink and a bite. Arriving at its clifftop (yep, another one) entrance, my jaw dropped at what was beyond. A rustic collection of beach shacks nestled in a tiny cove dotted with paddleboards, its shallow reef showcasing every shade of blue.

This Instagram shot was NOT taken by the writer!

The steep cable car ride down to the beachfront provided highly covetable Insta photo-ops but I resisted. Instead, I simply delighted in the views. It was getting easier, taking in what was in front of me rather than carefully constructing a #breathtaking square shot in my head. I was beginning to see details instead of photo opportunities and that, in turn, made me feel a lot more present and relaxed than I had in a long time.

Finding freedom

But all that mindfulness – and perhaps two Espresso Martinis and a cabana siesta – made me late for watching the sunset at seaside restaurant and bar Single Fin opens in new window, even though it’s an Uluwatu must-do.

Unfortunately, by the time the Go-JEK (Indonesia’s rideshare service) dropped me off at the restaurant, it was already dark and the sunset show was over. Normally, I would’ve been kicking myself for missing the money shot but this time I wasn’t fazed.

Too-pretty-to-eat food is probably the hardest to not share on social media

As I dug into a plate of nachos at a candlelit table on the bar’s outdoor deck, I felt a pang of isolation – no one knew where I was or what I was doing on this trip. Then that pang morphed into excitement and liberation: no one knew what I was doing.

Being Insta-free on holidays helped me experience Uluwatu more authentically than I have other destinations where I’ve spent the whole time stressing about snapping. I was reminded of how important it is to live in the moment and create and preserve real memories.

Will I go Insta-free on holiday again? I’m not sure. I quite like getting and giving my #travelinspo on Instagram. But will I get anxious about social media posting? Never again. Because this trip taught me that even though I didn’t ‘gram it, yes it did happen. And it was amazing.