Tech-Free Memory

When I was 17 in 2003, this is how I had to call home while on a group trip abroad:

France, Circa 2003.
France, Circa 2003.

Growing up in a bridge generation between the analog and the digital, my high school years were marked by the rapid transition from land line to cell phone. I find myself constantly wondering what it must be like to be a teenager now, with phones the way they are and the internet as wide-reaching as it is – How do they focus? What is high school with social media?

Do they ever take a break?

Luckily for us, we have a field report from a real-life teenager who just spent nine, literally wireless days helping build sustainable eco-tourism bungalows in Laos (waaaaaay more than I did in high school). The program required its participants to be tech-free, with the exception of a traditional camera. Bailey (the real life teen) is here to give our tech-addled minds a dose of perspective about being disconnected…

Hey Readers, it’s Bailey Baumbick, one of the social media interns at EA.

I just got back from a refreshing, 9-day digital detox in the wonderful country of Laos! I traveled to Laos as part of a 10-day World Volunteers Program. Laos’ tourist industry is beginning to flourish, and World Volunteer’s aim is to provide the rural farming villages with an alternative source of income in the form of eco-bungalows for rental to tourists. Our project was to assist the village of Bang Nong Khuay with the construction of an adobe brick eco-lodge. The tribal elders said that technology during the trip was a no-go (traditional cameras only), and so we all said goodbye to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and we welcomed the challenges ahead – with no cords attached.

unnamed-5So, there I was on Day One, out in the jungle building clay bricks, painting walls, and carrying harvested rice grain, with not one selfie to show for it. I remember how hard it rained, and how much clay I had stuck in my hair – another instagrammable moment lost!

But then, an amazing thing happened.

I met some of the village children and really became in engaged in communicating with them. I had brought a soccer ball with me to Laos and began to play with them. It became a routine that I very
much looked forward to every morning and afternoon. I taught these small Lao children how to say “Go Bailey!” so I had my own personal fan club when I played with the bigger Lao kids!  It’s funny, but I remember so much more from this trip than others because there was no technology to distract me from living in the moment.  I have some photos to record my interactions with these kids, but being totally focused on forming friendships has embedded these memories deep into my unnamed-4mind, and my heart.

This experience also made me realize it isn’t necessary to travel 4,000 miles to have these moments of true human connection.  Go out for a coffee with a friend, or go and enjoy a picnic with your family – totally unplugged! You may find that a digital “detox” is exactly what you need!

unnamed-6So, when you finish a meal in a traditional Lao household, expect at least three more dishes to come your way. Don’t ever forget your bamboo walking stick, especially on long jungle treks.

But most importantly, enjoy the time that you have offline, and try hard to engage yourself in what you do, and focus on creating those face-to-face memories that you will remember forever. 

*If you want to learn more about World Volunteer Laos, visit

“Digital Detox” is a weekly series written by Victoria Freyre. Every Friday, we explore different ways to disconnect, use the digital world responsibly, and rekindle human connection. To stay current with our latest posts,  follow #digitaldetox on our other platforms and check back regularly for updates.



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