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Five things I learnt being disconnected at Pulau Ubin

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Here is what I learnt being on an island without a phone for a day.

Most of us must have received annoyed looks whenever we are caught using our phones at the dinner table. Admittedly I, like pretty much every other person, find myself checking my phone at least five times every hour for notifications.

So, when my editor sent me for a nature trail at Pulau Ubin on Mar 16, I decided to do something that many youths today would consider a death sentence – I switched off my phone.

I spent close to six hours forgoing live updates on 9GAG and Twitter, or texting during awkward moments throughout the trail.

Here are the five things I learnt being on a rural island without my smartphone.

1. Everyone has a story to tell

instructor-telling-his-stories
ONE OF OUR INSTRUCTORS TELLING US STORIES ABOUT HOW THINGS WERE LIKE IN HIS TIME.

While riding the boat to Pulau Ubin, I had to strike a conversation with the people around me. Not one conversation I had disappointed me.

For example, one of the tour guides shared about the games he played as a child with his friends outdoors, and the scolding he would get from his mother because of how dirty his clothes became. It was wonderful to hear stories from the tour guide and the group, instead of reading them off a Facebook post.

2. It is a small world

trail-organised-by-outward-bound-singapore 
I WENT ON A TRAIL, ORGANISED BY OUTWARD BOUND SINGAPORE, WITH A BUNCH OF AMAZING PEOPLE ON A HUMID AFTERNOON.

Through hours of conversing with people and sharing stories, it is enthralling to discover you share mutual friends with the strangers you have just met. The person you just met could be your classmate's best friend, and the auntie you spoke to might be one of your mother's friends.

Imagine how amazed I was to realise the woman I was talking to on the trail was related to my lecturer.

3. Not everything needs a filter

 taking-photos-of-the-wild
WHILE SOME WANTED TO CAPTURE MOMENTS, OTHERS, LIKE THIS BOY, JUST STARED IN FASCINATION.

As I only had my camera with me, I was all set to get good shots of the trail. Again, the temptation to reach out for my phone to take an "Instagram-worthy" photo creeped in.

We often spend so much time trying to find a "picture perfect" scene, and even more time trying to make the pictures better when we share it on social media.

Truth is, there are some moments that the camera cannot capture, like how a mother piggy backed her daughter through half the trail.

4. You have more time on your hands

 pulau-ubin
I WOULDN'T MIND RETURNING TO PULAU UBIN, ACTUALLY.

It was a long but fruitful day. I had done and learnt so much that I didn't realise it has only been a couple of hours. Without my phone, I did not have to waste time checking my social media or reply unnecessary texts.

I was only left to invest my time in productivity.

5. Actually, I needed my phone

missed-calls-and-unread-messages 
I HAD PLENTY OF MISSED CALLS (INCLUDING MY MOM'S) AND A BUNCH OF UNREAD MESSAGES.

The day ended on a good note, but I had missed important calls and messages that that needed to be replied urgently. I had left people on the other end scrambling to contact me for important matters.

For anyone interested in trying this out, I would recommend just giving yourself a day off or a few hours in a day, where you refrain from using your phone.

Stay offline, but do not stay uncontactable. Especially if you are wandering about in a quiet place like Pulau Ubin.

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