How My Smartphone Addiction Almost Ruined My Family Vacation

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“I said… my phone’s dead.”

Daddy Park walked across our hotel room, intentionally ignoring my plea for attention, and reached for the curtains. He pulled them together and the room went dark, save for the faint light from the small lamp on the study table. “Let’s take a nap first, everyone,” he said. “And then we can go out and play.”

The children squealed and practically flew onto the bed, hiding under the thick bed sheet covers, giggling and rolling around underneath. DP was on one side of the bed while I was on the other, the one nearer to a socket; I was charging my phone hoping to somehow jolt it back to life. “It won’t turn on,” I said again.

He sighed. “I always tell you not to bring your phone into the bathroom, but you do it, anyway. You didn’t have to bring it into the shower.”

Another argument was coming; I could feel it. The first was when I was taking some photos while we were waiting for the food. The second was when I was walking a bit slow on our way back to the hotel.

“Let’s leave at 5,” he said. “Let’s rest then go.”


Naturally, I couldn’t sleep.

It wasn’t the kids’ kicking or rolling around that kept me awake. I knew that the battery hadn’t gotten wet; why won’t it turn on?

For the nth time, I took out my phone’s battery and then returned it. Charging for a few minutes at a time didn’t work either. I tried a few other things but the farthest I got was the sight of Samsung logo on my phone screen for a few seconds before going blank again.

At exactly 5PM, DP’s phone was singing for all of us to wake up. Mine was just dead silent.

DP rose, walked over to the table to turn off the alarm. I sat up and repeated the last thing I said to him.

He shook his head. This time, he at least tried to smile.

“You can use my phone to take pictures,” he suggested. Later on he added, “you’d better stick to me today. We need to watch the kids carefully and we canNOT be separated.”


As we walked down the cobbled paths of Gubei Water Town, Daddy Park happened to see a sign on our right about boat rides. “You wanted to do that, right?” He asked.

Earlier on, I had insisted that we had to ride the boats at night. I argued that it was one of the highlights of Gubei Watertown—passing through the town’s waterways, with the houses lining the man-made river lighting up our way. But I wanted to get to the other side of the watertown as quickly as possible since it was almost dinner time. So I agreed to an afternoon boat ride.

As we entered the boat I asked him if we should take a photo before going in. “Nah, let’s just take photos while we’re on the boat itself.”

The short boat ride would have still been enough time for toddlers to get tired of doing nothing. To distract them, I kept pointing out the different sights and sounds along the way. Look at those wheels, L1; people hang those wheels on the side because they can throw it into the water in case someone falls over. Look at our boatman, L1; see how he rows the boat. Mommy once tried to join the rowing team and I can tell you from experience that what he’s doing is harder than it looks.

I talked about the mountains, described the traditional Chinese architecture as much as I could and encouraged the kids to sing songs and talk about what they saw. Daddy Park joined a bit, then took out his cell phone to take a video of all the talking going on. Later that night he showed it to me and said, “look at this video I took of you guys while you were talking.”

After the boat ride was dinner, but the first few restaurants were mostly full; one wasn’t but the waiters just ignored us no matter how much we called to them to order. L1 was cranky while L2 was tired; Daddy Park was running ahead, running back, going through side streets just to find us a great restaurant. I cursed myself for not having a phone to search for some recommended restaurants.

DP came back, tired from running back and forth but a bit proud of the few that he found. His pride was, quite honestly, amusing. Here we all were, starving, and here was DP having fun restaurant-hunting.

Unfortunately, there were so many tourists that night that the ones he found were mostly full. And so DP went off again and eventually returned again to report his findings. The kids found their father entertaining; they laughed whenever he came back and tried to run after him when he went off again to find us a new restaurant. L1 was quite cranky, but her father’s dedication to finding the best restaurant for us somehow made her less antsy.

We eventually decided to go together and find just any restaurant. We eventually found one that, though not exactly what I had in mind, at lesat filled our bellies with delicious, local food and was fully air conditioned.

While the kids were eating, I asked DP if I could borrow his phone and take pictures. He immediately handed over his phone and I started walking around outside the restaurant, taking pictures. When I was done with that I quickly went to my favorite sites to check out the latest GoT news (yes, I’m a big fan). And when all that was done I returned to my family and found him feeding and just chatting with the kids.

I returned his phone and, was again, phone-less.

Strangely, it felt refreshing.

“I like me without my phone,” I said to him. DP chuckled.

While the kids continued eating, I shared my realizations on how different our trip now was compared to before my phone broke. I was either looking at my phone, holding my phone or was wondering about what was happening in our chat groups.

I also realized how convenient it was to tell DP to go ahead of me (so that I could take more pictures at my own pace, of course) because I knew that I could easily call him in case we got separated. I also relied on the phone to find the nearby restaurants even though we were holding physical maps. I don’t use social media much and I’m not the type who instantly shares everything we do the moment we do it, and so I didn’t consider myself an addict until this trip.

My smartphone was supposed to be a tool. But instead, it practically became a part of me, like an extension of my hand.

Until it broke, anyway.

“I told you you use your phone too much.” He paused. “I use my phone a lot, too, but it’s because of work. If someone important is calling, then, of course, I have to answer the call. Otherwise, I just cancel the call and send them a message that I’m busy. When I’m with you guys, I really try to spend this time with only you guys.”

After dinner, we continued walking around Gubei Watertown. DP and L1 weren’t too happy about it at first, but I convinced them to just explore a bit more with me. I occasionally borrowed DP’s phone to take a few photos but I mostly peeked into stores and just took in the sights and sounds of this man-made ancient town.

And that night, just when I had given up on my phone, I discovered it was alive and well. I thought that the water had gotten to it (because there was no other explanation at the time); it turns out that it just needed a bit more charging. But it didn’t matter as much anymore.

The next day, I gave my phone to my husband to keep while we continued exploring.

He took the phone, put it in his pocket and gave me a curious look. “Are you sure?”

I smiled. “Yeah,” I answered. “This is our holiday, after all.”

Multicultural Parenting in Beijing

Thank you for reading, and I hope you liked the post! 🙂

Would you like to try using your cellphone less on your family holiday? Here are some sites that share some tips:
How To Stop Being A Slave To Your Cell Phone
8 Tips for a (Nearly) Tech-Free Vacation
Hanging up on bad habits – Will switching off my smartphone bring my family together?

How My Cellphone Addiction Almost Ruined my Family's Holiday (1) 3 WAYS TO CURB YOUR CELLPHONE ADDITION ON A FAMILY HOLIDAY


  1. One of the reasons I love traveling is the lack of wifi and therefor less to be connected to. It is so refreshing. I also use my camera more, look at my phone less and use my “eye-app”, as my friend would say, much more to find things. Sometimes just running back and forth to find a restaurant is awesome. It doesn’t have to be on Mango Plate, Buzz Feed Food or whatever, it’s just food to feed those bellies. Always a good thing to remember.

  2. I currently use a tablet, and own no phone. I’ve done it for about five years. I have access to google maps, and internet only when I stumble or seek wifi. My friends think i’m nuts. At home, i’m on my laptop or tablet almost all the time. In addition to my day job, i’m a writer and I spend way more time on my tablet and computer than i’d like. I’m always so excited for the weekend because I often am hours without using or even looking at my tablet. I know these things are useful, but they are so addictive, and, as you point out, take us away from our immediate environment. My not having a cellphone is essentially a method to limit my use of internet access and living in the here and now.

  3. This was a great post! So many of us (myself included) are way too attached to our phones. It’s a real problem. I try to make it a point when I’m with people to actually be with people. I find it extremely rude when people are on their phone in a social situation. It’s sad. Good on you for recognizing, even if it took it being broken for you to realize!

  4. We are all addicted to our phones whether we’re aware of it or not. That’s truly a fact. And I think as technology development increases, the lines between our selves and our devices blur ever more. I find this topic incredibly fascinating and have read so much literature about it. We all think of it as an addiction but the way professionals view our relationship with our phones is as that of an extension of our minds. And think about it, didn’t you feel like a part of you, like a very poignant part, say a limb, was missing when your phone went dead? That’s because we’ve outsourced a part of ourselves to it. It’s our eyes (all those pics and videos we take), a part of our actual brain (googling !) and so on. In my own personal experience, I’ve never been as hooked on my phone since I’ve lived in Korea. There are many factors behind this and I try to monitor my usage but it’s an ongoing quest for finding a balance.

  5. Being the owner of a smart phone and now a smart watch, I still find myself not really giving into the tech. Yes, its convenient, but just like you said you have to enjoy the time with your family when you’re with them. When you’re alone or with a bunch of strangers (metro, bus, etc) go ahead and do what everyone else is doing – give into the screen. Its great that you’re able to reflect on your own dependence and be a bigger person and not give in. Good on you!

  6. I try to take little breaks from my phone when I’m traveling. But I also use it to take photos for my blog. I think those are great tips about putting on airplane mode and blocking off time for tech. We should be enjoying our surroundings for sure!

    1. Definitely! Otherwise, we’d end up having a relationship with our phone rather than the people we are with! I know I’m guilty of that sometimes!

  7. I can relate to this so much. I have people who constantly remind me that I’m a little to attached to my smart phone. At first I didn’t quite believe it, but now I realize that I do indeed have it practically glued to my hand. At least at home I can put it away but when I’m out and about… At meals I play a game where all the phones are in the middle of the table and the first one to grab theirs must pay for the meal. Than always works!

  8. Congratulations, Jackie! Good for the family, too and for your darling daughters.

    As for me, I am on my 1st week without an FB app on my phone. I intentionally deleted the app (but kept the messenger, hahaha). It feels good and my husband’s happy about it, too. I felt more productive without browsing through other people’s timeline while on the road.

    1. Yes! Haha I think we really need to curb our phone usage, kudos to you for that! 🙂 (I would also do what you did though, keeping the messenger hahaha)

  9. I know how you feel – I remember reading that a study has shown that many people now suffer from anxiety when their phones are taken away and I have experienced that myself. I get very upset and feel like I can’t do anything anymore – check out routes, find restaurants, take pictures, check and chat in WeChat, check the BBC news app – i need my by my side constantly. Too unhealthy ;(

    1. I understand! The struggle! Haha I hope you are able to fight the temptation when you need to one day. It’s really hard, and I say that from experience!

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