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Travel Company Bans Use of Cellphones, Even for Photos

A woman takes pictures from the top of Lisbon's Santa Justa lift, April 19 2016.
A woman takes pictures from the top of Lisbon's Santa Justa lift, April 19 2016.
Travel Company Bans Use of Cellphones, Even for Photos
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Would you take a trip if you could not use your cellphone during it? Not even as a camera?

A new travel company is asking customers to do just that. The company is called Off the Grid. Zach Beattie is its founder.

“When you’re somewhere new, there’s a lot to soak up, a lot to see, a lot of cool, interesting people to meet,” Beattie said. “Your phone can distract you.”

Beattie says Off the Grid trips are meant to be “fully unplugged and very social.”

The company’s first trip is to Lisbon, Portugal, in July. It is also planning trips to the Croatian coast; Barcelona, Spain; Lima, Peru; and Tulum, Mexico.

The seven to 10 day tours are for small groups, no more than 16 people. Trip prices begin at $1,500. The cost includes stays in hostels, some meals and ground transportation. It does not include airfare.

Trip schedules include at least three activities and two social events. Off the Grid favors special experiences over more traditional sightseeing. The Lisbon trip, for example, includes surfing lessons, exercise by the sea, a day of boating and dinner with a local family.

Beattie says he does not want the travelers to be too busy going from one place to another. He says the goal is mindful travel instead of, in his words, “cramming every single site into your trip.”

The cellphone ban will not be forced upon the travelers. “We want it to be volunteer," Beattie said. "We’re not collecting phones..."

Travelers will be able to use a simple cell phone that does not connect to internet. It will be loaded with useful local phone numbers.

Off the Grid travelers are permitted to bring usual cameras to take photographs. But the company also employs a photographer to take lots of pictures during the tour.

Once the trip is over, travelers can post the images on social media.

“I think it’s interesting and challenging to say, ‘Can I enjoy this moment without a camera? Can I soak up this memory and have it be part of me without instantly sharing with someone else in order for the moment to be real?’”

So far, people who have registered for Off the Grid tours include young people just out of high school as well as people in their 60s. Most of them, though, are professionals between the ages of 24 to 35, Beattie says.

Beattie started the business using money he saved from a technology job at a mapping company. He employs guides to lead each trip. But he will help lead the first few tours himself.

Kensey Neely is 30 years old and from St. Joseph, Missouri. She is set to go on the Lisbon trip. She says she had been “trying to find a way to step out of my comfort zone.”

Neely says giving up her phone may be hard, but she says “I’m hoping once I do it during the trip, I won’t be as tied to it when I get back.”

She plans to take a camera with her to Portugal. But she hopes she does not use it very often. “I want to enjoy the experience and not take pictures of every little thing," Neely said.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

soak up - phrasal verb. to enjoy feeling or experiencing (something pleasant) in usually a slow or relaxed way​

distract - v. to cause (someone) to stop thinking about or paying attention to someone or something and to think about or pay attention to someone or something else instead

unplug - v. ​to disconnect (something, such as a lamp or television) from an electrical source or another device by removing its plug

hostel - n. an inexpensive place for usually young travelers to stay ​

surf - v. ​to ride on ocean waves using a special board (called a surfboard)​

cram - v. ​to fill (something) so that there is no room for anything else : to fill (something) completely

challenging - adj. ​difficult in a way that is usually interesting or enjoyable​

instantly - adv. ​without delay​