A digital detox in the French Alps worked wonders for my physical and mental health.
After a hectic few months of work, I decide it’s time for a break.
Over dinner, my friends and I chat about travel and what life was like prior to the explosion of technology. The topic is front of mind as I've recently read that 5 billion people - almost two-thirds of the world’s population - use the internet daily, according to DataReportal’s Digital Around the World report.
Knowing we’re included in this figure makes us worry about the negative effects the internet and social media is having on our physical and mental health.
In an effort to combat dwindling concentration and creativity, we make a pact to take a digital detox. Soon enough, we’re leaving internet-induced stress behind as we embark on a long weekend trip to Morzine in the Chablais mountain range, between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc.
We ask our hosts to hold our mobile phones hostage
On arrival at The Farmhouse - a boutique hotel that forgoes TVs - we ask our hosts to take our mobile phones for the entirety of our stay.
Once we explain our intention to detach from modern day life, they stop looking puzzled and happily oblige. We settled in for a relaxing evening of wine, cheese and moments of iPhone withdrawal in Morzine’s oldest building.
A local guide, not Google Maps, leads us to our temporary camp in the mountains
The following afternoon, we meet mountain guide Hervé Le Sobre who works with local company Alpi’ Rando Raquettes. His calm nature encourages us into silence as we walk up a sunny mountainside in an area called Zore.
We continue along the path through valleys covered in purple aster, yellow alpine flowers, and pine forests with trees that look as tall as the mountains.
As we approach what we think is the top of the mountain, we spot a goat-antelope with short hooked horns, and a couple of large marmots scurrying into the forest.
If you’re familiar with the mountains, you’ll know that what looks like the top is very seldom the summit. There’s always another peak waiting for you just ahead.
An hour later, we arrive at a secluded spot in the mountains where we set up camp for the night. As we chat happily, Hervé prepares a barbecue to cook sausages and the vegetables we gathered earlier that day in the Saint Jean d’Aulps vegetable garden.
After we’ve eaten and embraced the relaxing atmosphere of the mountains, Hervé begins to tell us stories about the local area. My personal favourite is the one about a mountaineer who found a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires on Mont Blanc. Many years later he was given half of the money collected from the sale of the gems.
It is a cloudless night, and the sky is free from light pollution. Hervé points out some amazing constellations. As we listen to his tales, we begin to relax further. It feels like time is standing still.
At around 11pm we decide it’s time to sleep, so we clamber into the hammocks set up in the trees for a night under the stars, with the sounds of the forest keeping us company.
We wake up with a bracing dip in Lake Montriond
After a sleep cut short by the raucous surrounding wildlife, I mention to Hervé that we don’t have a plan for the day. Our sole aim is to disconnect from technology and be outside. He drives us back to The Farmhouse to pick up our swimwear and we head over to nearby Lake Montriond.
The lake is a huge outdoor playground surrounded by dramatic mountains and forests. We jump at the opportunity to swim among the rainbow trout in the crisp water.
I feel completely at peace as I venture out further - one cool, fresh stroke after another. It’s a lovely way to start the day, and I follow it up with a jog around the lake.
If you’re less enthused about the cold water, you can hire a wetsuit from outdoors centre Buzz Performance before departing from Morzine.
A foraged lunch brings some surprise guests
Later that morning, we meet our local host, Véronique Fillon, for a walk through the mountains to La Tapia at the Col de l’Encrenaz. As the sun warms our faces, Véronique speaks passionately about the edible plants along the route. We resist picking the alpine spinach, nettles, dandelions and fruits, as our host's husband is kindly preparing lunch for us back at their chalet.
We arrive to wild garlic pesto on bread served at our outside table, as cows, marmots, the couple's two dogs, and the occasional hiker pass by.
Next, we’re treated to péla - a traditional regional dish made from onions, potatoes and melted cheese, salads - paired with salad and charcuterie. Local ingredients and herbs fill every course, resulting in a taste as fresh as the mountain air. Food certainly tastes better when you’re not tweeting what you eat
We feel invigorated as we head back to The Farmhouse to spend time in the garden. A short walk into Morzine lands us at La Chamade, recognised as one of the top 100 restaurants in France by the Tour des Cates 2022. The wine and cheese taste delicious devoured with our senses rather than our phones.
I leave Morzine feeling healthy and reconnected to nature.
I resolve to reduce my screen time at home
Now I am home I’m still picking up my phone and answering emails regularly, but I’m limiting social media to 10 minutes a day. I’ve even taken the bold step of deleting two out of four social media accounts, and most importantly I’m not missing them.