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When our parents planned our summer holidays back in the 90’s, they involved long train or bus rides, somewhere in the range of 15-20 hours. And what did we do for those hours? I for instance mostly stared out the window, sulked, and ate some, played antakshari with my brother which always ended up in a fight followed by a battle of the berths. Who would get to sleep right on top?
And now when we plan our holidays, I not only pack our essentials but also – tablet, portable DVD player, Boogie board, coloring books, reading books, kitchen set and what have you for the pleasure of our little one. Armed with anti boredom paraphernalia, we equip ourselves with nothing less than a mini toy store.
So, this summer, when we planned a trip to Srinagar, I decided to get on a gadget diet. All we took along was our phones and nothing else. No laptop, no tablet, no other device! I did carry some reading books for her and a game for us to play.
Honestly I was apprehensive at first, I must have played peek-a-boo with the devices in and out of the suitcase several times before I held ground and refused to carry them. I wanted to challenge myself to a techno-free vacation, just like old times. I wanted to let my daughter experience (read torture according to her) the joys of nature. I mean Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places in India and the three of us wanted to take its beauty in, my seven year old included.
The flight from Pune to Srinagar was spent reading, looking out the window and playing master mind (superb game to get you thinking). As soon as we landed, I turned my phone on only to find out neither I nor my hubby had any service. “God, I do want a gadget free vacation, but this is stretching it neigh?” I told myself. Nevertheless we were prepared, as we had heard about the occasional interruption of cell phone service.
Our first stop was a house boat and what a charm it was! If anyone wishes to experience true beauty and hospitality of the people of Srinagar, house boat stay it is. My only miff was it had a TV. But I wasn’t prepared to let it ruin my gadget diet, and so we went on long shikara rides learning about the floating gardens and making garlands out of lily stems.
Next few days were spent visiting Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and local spots in Srinagar. All through our trip, not once did my little one miss her gadgets and thanks to limited 2G connectivity I too did not feel the urge to check my phone.
And so, my dear parents, yes it is possible to take a gadget free vacation, and this is how
1. Self-confidence – most of the times, we as parents are afraid of the imaginary consequences we may face by not providing the appropriate tools to keep our children busy, which in this day and age means, gadgets mostly. But, honestly, children if given an opportunity do find ways to keep themselves busy. For instance, my daughter had her natural kitchen assembled in less than 15 minutes (twigs arranged to resemble a chulha, leaves were plates, small stones, wild flowers and grass became a variety of food stuffs) and was busy cooking up a storm for us for almost an hour. Of course I was carrying Dettol anti bacterial wipes for a quick clean up later.
So build that confidence in yourself to allow them to just be. Necessity is the mother of invention and rightly so.
2. Get creative- Many vacation destinations require long travels, like in our case from Srinagar to Gulmarg and Pahalgam were an all day trek. And if you want to be spared by the constant “how long” and ‘are we there yet’ type of questions, get creative. We would play this game called ‘Related’, perhaps it has many other names but that’s what we call it. It starts with a word for e.g. snow, then the next person says something related to snow, like white, then the next person says something related to white, like milk and this continues until someone repeats a word that has been used before, then that person is out and the game continues until the last one wins. It can go on for a good while. Gosh, I hope I am making sense here. Anyways, get creative with travel games which involve thinking.
3. Travel Diary – In the evening when we would have nothing much to do, I would get her to document her day in her travel diary. Since she is now able to form sentences and write well, it was fun to actually contemplate what we did each day and write about it and in some instances even draw. It turned out to be a great way to engage her and cut off that silly T.V time.
4. Self-control - Curb your own impulsive desire to check the phone and your children will follow suit. No 4G connectivity was a blessing in disguise. It was amazing to see the power 2G can have on your psyche. Neither of us cared to get online much, except for the occasional phone calls and necessary whatsapp messages. But since not all cities/countries have such a regulation, the best way to muster self-control is to turn off data connectivity and only turn in on 2-3 times a day, at specific pre-determined intervals. Get into the habit of doing that and watch the wonders the world unfolds in front of you.
And so, despite initial apprehension, going on a gadget free vacation, was by far the most memorable and the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir just added to it.