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  • Writer's pictureAudra Krieg

Unplugged Outer Banks

When I was a kid we would go on vacation and come home to a full mailbox and a full voicemail on our home phone. It was mostly junk mail and voicemails reminding us about a doctors appointment or a haircut in the upcoming weeks.

When I was a teenager and email and cell phones were more accessible, I vividly remember being on the Disney Cruise and trying to check my email for 50 cents per minute just to see if my best friends had emailed me anything "important.”

News flash, they hadn’t. One friend emailed me to tell me that she put Sun In in her hair and it had turned orange and another friend emailed me to tell me that the neighborhood pool had to be drained in the middle of the Summer because the cute lifeguard messed up the chlorine so badly that there was no looking back. I think I spent $15 to find out that ultra important information and with the slow speed of dial-up internet, I think it took up a good 45 minutes of my vacation time.

In college, I stayed at a resort and didn’t have access to wi-fi and I didn’t have cell phone service. That will always go down as one of my favorite vacations because I was forced to unplug and detach the device from my hands.

Here on the Outer Banks, I don’t know of a single vacation accommodation that doesn’t include wi-fi. That means that while you’re vacationing here, you are never more than a stones throw from a free connection to outlets like Instagram and Facebook. Your work email is still accessible from your smartphone and your kids are posting to snapchat before they even get out of their cushy vacation beds, oftentimes a king-size suite with an ocean view. You’re still able to connect to your neighbors and if you want, you can even give them a play by play of your trip via social media. Even as a gal that loves some instagram, that sounds like the farthest thing from a vacation to me. Just because you can access all of these things at your fingertips doesn’t mean that you should. There are so many reasons why vacation time is so important. Employers build weeks into their budgets for people to have time off so that they can recharge because it is proven that people who have dedicated vacation time off work harder when they are in the office.

I co-own 12th Street Portraits, a family portrait business that serves about 50-60 families per week. We meet so many people who have been coming to the Outer Banks for years because it holds such a special place in their hearts. We also meet people who have never been to the Outer Banks before but the one thing that so many of them seem to have in common is that they are distracted from this amazing place by their cell phones.

I’ve seen kids pedaling down the beach road on their rented beach cruisers while looking at their cell phones.

I’ve seen a dad lose his marbles over a sandy cell phone that his toddler tossed to the side because he left it on her beach chair.

I’ve witnessed kids getting rescued by Corolla lifeguards after getting caught in a rip current and their parents didn’t even notice because they were looking down at their cell phones.

Countless times I’ve watched teenage girls have a full-on Instagram photoshoot with their iPhones during golden-hour on the beach.

I’ve seen toddlers sit at the beach on their iPads next to their parents who sit on their cell phones under a $100 beach umbrella.

What’s my point?

It’s time to look up more. Look up from your phones and unplug while you’re here on the Outer Banks. Look up and make memories here on vacation instead of looking down and witnessing the experiences of others.

Perhaps you used precious vacation time to come to the Outer Banks with your family. Yet there you sit on your iPhone, checking your work email to make sure that nothing important comes through. Look up and recharge as the water laps the shore. Breathe in the salt air without looking at the Instagram feed of your neighbor or responding to a text from the friend you share a carpool with back home. Those things don't need your attention. Put down your cell phones and live in the moment. Invent a new game for the beach and ask strangers to play it against your family. Ride the go-carts without putting them on your Instagram story and play miniature golf without posting #fore under the photo of your child and their tiny, neon golf club.

I know that as an adult it is so hard to disconnect. I built three successful businesses here on the Outer Banks around social media alone so the idea of taking some time "off" is slightly terrifying. Oftentimes I give myself every excuse in the book for reasons why I cannot turn off my phone. When I make the time, I feel incredibly free, like a giant weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. If it is this good for me to disconnect, I know that our kids desperately need a vacation from their phones too. The Outer Banks is the perfect place to start this family vacation tradition!

Try putting your phone on airplane mode for the week and using it as a camera only so that you can still capture your family memories. I promise, you’re not missing anything more important than a chlorine mishap at your neighborhood pool or a mini-drama via social media. Look up more.

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