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Outdoor Diary: What I Learned When I Unplugged for a Week

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If you’ve been following the Unplugging Challenge, you know Amy was trying to unplug over her outdoor time each day for a week. So what did the challenge teach her? Here she shares what she learned over the seven days of unplugging that you might want to know, too.

Some of the good stuff:

[:25] Amy’s technology problem

[2:08] Amy’s most recent challenge

[2:36] What she learned

[4:15] Alaska seasons

[5:16 ] This week’s Outdoor Hero

Connect with this episode:

Find full show notes at humansoutside.com

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

What happens if you unplug over your outdoor time for a full week?

I’ve told you before about how bad I am at unplugging anywhere – inside, outside, in nature, sitting in my hot tub, whatever. My brain goes a million miles an hour and I’m always planning or thinking about something. Even vacations are dangerous for me because I start them as a perfectly normal person, and end them as someone sending applications to new degree programs or, case in point, launching a podcast.

I am a person in motion. I always want to feel like I’m producing something new. And a lot of that comes back to being plugged in, feeding into and hearing from the rest of the world via my devices.

But I haven’t always been this way. I was born before people were plugged in if they left their homes or jobs. The idea of having a phone in your pocket was a wild thing. My father at one point got a “car phone” and that was a huge, fancy deal. My family loved being plugged in, and he would call into the office from a pay phone regularly when we were staying in a cabin where there was no other way to get in touch. I’d say being plugged in was taught to me as a good thing, but that seems over the top since there really wasn’t that as a thing yet.


Anyway, let’s talk about now. Even though I have an at least 20 minutes a day outdoor habit, I still stay pretty plugged in. Especially in the summer or when I’m spending time outside just on my porch or around a campfire, I remain plugged in. You can see me chillaxing there, scrolling away on my phone.

When I connected with Sebastian Slovin and Sonya Mohammed, who I sought out because of their company Nature Unplugged and National Day of Unplugging, which is the first Friday in March, I was confronted with how much I really am plugged-in — and challenged to unplug. And so from Feb. 28 through March 6 I unplugged during my outdoor time, leaving my phone in the house or in the car or, in one instance, tucked in my pack while I hiked. And here’s what I experienced.

First, I learned that it’s challenging to sit with just yourself if you’re not actively doing something. For one of my days I used my hot tub, leaving my phone inside and literally just sitting there for 20 minutes watching the sky and the trees and a few birds. I worried first that I could be doing something useful right then — and then reminded myself that it was useful to just be. I also was afraid Id be a little bored. After a few minutes, though, I settled into a space where I really just enjoyed looking around and being still. I was kind of sad when the 20 minutes ended.

I learned that when you leave behind all of the distractions, it’s downright wonderful to just be present with the people you’re with. Because I left behind my phone completely, I didn’t whip it out to take photos or anything. Even that action, then tucking it back in my pocket, is a distraction from the moment or conversation. Instead I pointed out the beautiful scenery to my husband and we enjoyed it together.

I also was reminded that it’s OK not to share everything with the world. I take a photo of my outdoor time daily under normal circumstances as a matter of accountability, and I encourage you to do the same because accountability is awesome and it’s wonderful to be inspired by what you’re doing. But it’s also OK to keep all of these things just for myself. It’s OK if you don’t see them — although I’m sad for you because they are incredible. It’s ok that I’m the only one who gets to know that that tree looked just so in a magical way covered with snow like a scene from Narnia as the light crept in just to the side.

Over the last few days we’ve experienced here in Alaska what we like to call “first spring.” As my friend Rachel pointed out, no one loves the sun like an Alaskan in March. The days start really cold, but then warm up 20 or 30 degrees. Things are starting to melt, and I hiked a mountain this week without a coat, in long sleeves only.

But here’s the thing about first spring — it’s going to end, and we will have second winter. That will last for several days and be really cold with more snow than we’d prefer.

After second winter we will have what I like to call “the spring of deception.” It will be longer and you will be tempted to wash all of your warmest gloves and coats. Do not do that! Because then we will have third winter, which will be just long enough to make you wish those things were not packed away yet. Finally, after third winter, actual spring will arrive.

But it doesn’t matter, because spring in all of its fake-outs is glorious, and I’m loving every second of it.


If you live somewhere with changing weather where it’s not quite warm but also not really cold anymore, you might be looking for some mid-weather things. One of my favorite pieces of gear is the Brooks lightweight Dash running gloves. I wear these both as mitten liners and my only glove when doing outdoor adventures. They wick sweat and they help my hands stay warm even when things aren’t cold enough out for mitten, but too cold for bare hands. They’re a favorite piece of gear and my outdoor hero for this week.

Even though we’re done with our unplugging challenge, I’m going to be more intentional going forward about leaving my phone in my pocket or in the house when I’m outside, even if that means fewer great pictures of every single thing. But those that I do post – and there will still be at least one a day — will be over on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Until next time, I’ll see you out there.

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