Escape … Kim McKay booked into a Thai resort to wean herself off her phone. Photo: Janie Barrett
Heading off on a holiday to Thailand two years ago, frazzled, digitally dependent Kim McKay realised she needed to escape the constant distractions of her iPad, iPhone and laptop.
''I used to sleep with my phone beside my bed, checking email and monitoring Facebook and Twitter for clients before bed and first thing,'' says the 39-year-old owner of consultancy business Klick Communications. ''I went to Chiva-Som in Thailand. They have a 'no mobile phones in public areas' rule but I didn't trust myself to follow it, so I decided not to take any of my devices with me.
''It was scary and liberating at the same time.''
McKay is one of a growing number seeking refuge from the relentless connectivity of the 21st century via ''digital detox'' holidays. At a time when 88 per cent of Australians own mobiles, according to Roy Morgan research, a digital detox is often the only chance for modern holidaymakers to switch off completely.
The singer-songwriter and self-confessed iPhone lover Katie Noonan recently returned from a self-imposed one-week digital detox holiday at Fiji Beach Resort and Spa on Denarau Island. ''Not having my phone with me was incredibly liberating,'' she says. ''We live in the age of over-stimulation and it really has affected my ability to relax, my nervous system and my sleep.'' In Fiji, Noonan read a lot of books and spent a lot of time sitting around the pool. ''It felt weird because I'm constantly checking my phone for email and work stuff.''
And now official holiday resorts are coming to the party.
For those who crave a digital-free holiday but who lack the self-discipline to disconnect themselves, there are a number of remote destinations around Australia without internet or mobile reception that give guests no choice but to throw down their devices and relax.
A Queensland tourism operator, Kim Marsden, created the Daintree Digital Detox package at Cockatoo Hill Retreat, which lies in a technology dead zone. ''People are afraid to be out of communication; they feel as if they're letting people down or being irresponsible. But it's so important to get a complete escape.''
Digital addicts can also unplug at the Emirates six-star Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa at Lithgow in NSW, Wild Bush Luxury's Bamurru Plains in the Northern Territory, Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef on the West Australian coast and Arkaba Station in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, all of which have no satellite coverage.
Wilson Island, just off Heron Island in Queensland, has no mobile reception, Wi-Fi or television. Jill Collins, a spokeswoman, says: ''Our guests tell us when they look for holidays destinations, one of the great luxuries they now consider is … that they can get away from phone, the iPad, the laptop and completely switch off.''
McKay now returns to Chiva-Som at least once a year. ''At home, my phone now gets left in the living room when I go to bed.''