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Phone Down, Eyes Up: When you should put your phone down and embrace the moment while traveling

I haven’t lived THAT many years on this planet, but in my time thus far I’ve yet to meet someone who, when prompted, hasn’t exclaimed “Yes!” With enthusiasm when asked if they like to travel.

Whether it’s a two week anniversary trip with your SO or a yearly birthday adventure, people like to explore new places, learn new cultures, try new foods, and then share it all with their family and friends. But when is posting on the IG story too much?

Here are 8 times you should be looking UP and not DOWN:

Strolling a busy, open air Market

Whether it’s a farmers’ market in Santa Monica or a night market in Ayuthaya, Thailand, your eyes are going to be focused on the fresh fruit or piles of candy and not on the hoards of people around you who could easily grab your phone right out of your hand. Unfortunately this can especially be the case when you look like a tourist-when you’re distracted and not a local you’re an easier target. Best to just keep the phone in your bag, zipped up tight.


Yes I know that view is just UH-MAH-ZING but take it from the girl who fell face first down a mountain while wearing proper hiking shoes….had I been holding my phone, or even kept it tucked into my pants, it would have been destroyed. Backpack is ten times safer.

Meeting Locals

Especially while visiting a country that may not be as well off as where you’re from, speaking to the local people with your phone out and in use can come across as not only rude but as an unnecessary sign of wealth. I highly recommend bringing a dictionary everywhere you go, as I’ve found most people are thrilled to see you try and communicate in their native tongue. But keep Google Translate in your back pocket when meeting new friends; it’s just polite.


This is a big one. Don’t just take photos of random children you see playing in the streets, wandering the parks, working in the market. Rule of thumb-if you wouldn’t do it at home, it doesn’t fly while traveling either. Posting photos of children you don’t know without theirs or their parents consent isn’t cute, so try to pass on that.


You’d think this one is common sense but the number of people I see on their phones or taking photos while wandering through the Getty is unbelievable….toss the phone in your fanny pack and take in the exhibit! Look the Mona Lisa was definitely a little underwhelming but you can bet I was staring into her eyes and not checking my Twitter timeline. Taking the time to wander an exhibit, especially in a new place, is an incredible experience.


Do you know how many interesting people you can meet just sitting down to eat? Open air cafes are big in a lot of countries and can be a fantastic way to meet some locals and get a real feel for the city you’re in. At home, I make my friends put our phones facedown in the middle of the table when we go out so no one is distracted and we can all catch up properly. Maybe don’t use the center of the table if you’re out and about somewhere you don’t know, but try to engage with your travel mates or the people around you while sharing (or not, I don’t like to share) some local favorite foods.

Public Transportation

It’s can be tricky when traveling on public transit to not look at your phone-whether it’s the Subway, a taxi, or a Tuk-Tuk - the temptation to check your map to make sure you’re headed the right direction, or snap a quick picture of scenes are you’re going by can be strong. But you know what’s more fun than the DMV? Losing your phone in a foreign country because you dropped it out the window or had it snatched from your hand as you drove by. Yes it happens, and no it’s not fun.

Take Off and Landing

Have you ever sat in a twelve person plane for the first time, grabbing the seat in front of you as it takes off into the air, shaking side to side as it rises because it’s really just that light, praying to anyone that will listen to just get up in the air safely? Well if you haven’t let me tell you it’s a terrifying feeling, but as I forced my eyes open halfway through our rise, I saw the most gorgeous clouds and felt the most exhilarating energy run through my body. I know this is hard for some people-flying isn’t easy. But if you can put the phone away (I mean you can’t really use it anyway) and look out your window (or make friends with your window seat neighbor by just leanin’ all over them), you’ll see some pretty awesome stuff. I highly recommend trying to get the window seat when you’re flying back to when you live-nothing makes my heart glow more than seeing the familiar lights and sites of home.

Traveling to new places is an incredible experience for those lucky enough to be able to do it. Make sure you’re taking advantage of all your destination has to offer by putting your phone down as much as possible and looking around~as the intellectual philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Do you have any other times you like to keep your phone away when you travel? Let us know!


About Journey to Teach Abroad:

Become a global citizen and discover life TEACHING ABROAD. Get paid to travel to stunning places, bond with an international community that you'll forever belong to, feel rewarded daily for teaching students who want to learn, and gain the confidence to discover new things. Journey to Teach Abroad is a teacher training TEFL certification course here in Los Angeles that GUARANTEES a teaching job abroad.

To contact please call 818-389-5884 | email: |


About our J2 Writer: Shannon Reffein

Shannon, on the left, is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. In her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, photography, watching Game of Thrones (she’s on season 5, shh!) and playing volleyball with the local students, who are infinitely better than she is.



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