For us travellers being away from home can lead us to constantly rely on being connected to the internet allowing us to communicate with family and friends with updates and photos of our adventures. Sometimes to destinations your mother would rather you stay away from.
For many of us back home, being connected and immersed online is just a part of everyday life. According to researchers, the average adult in developed nations spends around 11 hours each day watching, reading, listening or interacting with media. Surveys have found that technology can contribute to high levels of stress causing sleeping problems, depressive symptoms, or anti-social behaviour which can further develop mental health issues.
While technology addiction is not formally recognised as a disorder, there are many self-help guides available that provide advice and steps to help cope through with what is known as a digital detox. What is a digital detox? It’s a period of time when a person refrains from using digital devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets, and social media websites.
I’m here to provide another unique way of partaking in a digital detox and that is to visit North Korea. Whilst North Korea does technically have the internet, it is not cheap nor easily accessible to tourists visiting the hermit kingdom.
Whether you’re visiting on a scheduled group tour or alone on an independent tour you’ll find yourself indulged in conversations over a meal with your fellow travellers or your North Korean guides, and not mindlessly browsing through Facebook or Instagram. On long drives between the DMZ and Pyongyang, you’ll feel compelled to learn what you’re passing by and listen to stories from others in your vehicle.
Hotels in Pyongyang only offer a few TV channels with usually only one news channel in English. However, outside of Pyongyang most restaurants and hotels have only one North Korean channel available so you won’t be so tempted to stay up all night binge watching Netflix.
Unless it’s to take a photo, you’ll rarely feel the need to pull out your smartphone and browse through the countless apps you have installed as the majority of them are complete and utterly useless without the internet.
Over the years of leading tours into North Korea I’ve heard positive feedback from those that had really enjoyed their time away from the Internet and being officially ‘off the grid’. I’ve been told it’s the perfect excuse to avoid the pressure of dealing with work emails during vacation, or the stress of consistent messages from WhatsApp group chats.
I encourage those reading this to put themselves to the test and join us on a digital detox in North Korea. Of course, for those who do wish to reach out to loved ones back home – international phone calls are possible from most hotels in Pyongyang and our YPT guides are always connected with our office back in China for emergency football results.