April 5

My Digital Detox on a Remote Tropical Island

Filed under Traveling in the Raw by Frederic Patenaude

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If you found the most beautiful island in the world would you tell others about it or would you want to keep the location of this paradise to yourself?

I recently discovered the most beautiful beach and place in the world, for me at least. I remember sitting on the beach and telling my friend, “I’m not telling anybody about this place.” But I’m going to tell you about it today!

Some simple pictures taken with my phone camera, without any editing:

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After reading a number of books on the South Pacific, I really wanted to experience living in a remote location for a week or two and really feel this slow rhythm of life that can be experienced only on a remote island.

Now there are different types of islands. Most of us are familiar with high islands that are created when a volcano erupts over the sea and then cools down and then as the volcano starts to fall into the ocean or creates valleys. This creates the geography of the islands that we know and love, like the islands of Hawaii, which are volcanic islands with one volcano as we know is still quite active on the big island of Hawaii.

Islands have a life-cycle like people, but their life-cycle is in the millions of years. Coral reef will form around many islands and when that happens the middle part of the island or the volcanic part of the island, the dead volcano itself, will start to fall into the sea at a very slow but steady rhythm.

This is accentuated by tectonic plates and their movement. The first stage of this type of island is the typical island that we know like Maui and so on.

Then, if a coral reef forms around the island, the next stage might be an island like Bora-Bora where a lagoon is formed around the island but the lagoon itself is surrounded by a coral reef where islets form. Eventually, this happens:

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In Polynesian language these islets are called motus. If an island like Bora-Bora continues its life-cycle eventually the island itself will fall to the bottom of the sea and all that will be left is the lagoon, the coral reefs and some of the motus.

An atoll looks like this:

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An atoll is the last stage of a coral reef volcanic island and it is a unique place in the world.

I’ve always been fascinated by atolls. I didn’t even know what they were until my first trip to French Polynesia.

In French Polynesia there is an archipelago called the Tuamotus with over 70 different atolls and each of them is unique. From Google maps:

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Atolls themselves have a unique kind of life because very little grows on these motus. You have coconut trees and breadfruit and other kinds of vegetation but plenty of life, lots of birds.

It’s an incredible thing looking at an atoll lagoon and seeing how much life is happening at any one time. There are dolphins, sharks, turtles, whales, every kind of sea life imaginable.

The feeling that you get when you’re on a motu and an atoll is incredible. You really feel like you’re at the end of the world. You might walk from one side, the lagoon side, to the ocean side in just a few minutes. It can be a hundred, two hundred meters wide, and that’s it. Sometimes the villages will be organized around a road. Sometimes there are no main roads, no cars. It depends on the population of the atolls.

The atoll I visited is called Fakarava. This is a beautiful atoll known for its scuba diving.

I discovered that an amazing guesthouse or as we say in French, a pension, is situated on the southern side of the motus where there are no roads.

It’s far from the village so in order to get there you have to first fly into Tahiti and then take another one hour or so flight to Fakarava and then take a boat, which is going to take an hour and a half to get to this point of the atoll, the southern part of the atoll where the pension, Raimiti, is located.

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In the pension, inside of the bungalows, there’s no electricity, only gas lamps. It is sort of a Robinson Crusoe experience.

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However, there is electricity on the premises themselves, provided mostly by solar energy; on the restaurant side and inside of the reading area and so on. There’s no Internet either, but cell phones do work. For me it was not only an escape away from the modern world, so to speak, but also a digital detox  – just you and the ocean and the quietness of it all.

My “Digital Detox”

I’ve been wanting to get away from the Internet for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it for more than one or two days at a time, even while on vacation.

I think the last time I completely disconnected from more than one or two days of was in 2008, and every time I tried to to disconnect a found myself extremely bored and just unable to to do it or missing that connection.

You want to text somebody, you want to tell them how it’s going. You want to check what’s going on elsewhere.

Instead, I spent a lot of time listening to the sounds of the ocean, reading, listening to music, chatting with people, and of course enjoying the lagoon.  You can always meet new people that are coming in.

At first I was going to bed around 10, 11, and then I just started falling asleep at 9, and getting up before 6.

It seems like at some point when you remove all the distractions that your body requests some of the sleep it’s been missing for a while.

I felt an incredible sense of relief. There’s so much more to life than being connected and getting a Google answer whenever we need one.

We lost this habit of waiting. When I was younger, I used to order books in the mail and because I lived in Canada, they would take weeks to arrive.

Now we have Amazon, Prime shipping, two day free shipping, and Kindle books can be had instantly.

The same for movies. We used to have to drive to the Blockbuster or similar establishment to rent movies and DVDs and then return them. Now it’s all Netflix and downloadable movies.

When you add wait to your vocabulary something else can fill the void during the wait.

Boredom is another concept that we associate with negative things.

“I’m bored.”

“There’s nothing to do.”

We’re used to filling all of our time with exciting things that we tend not to get bored too often.

I rediscovered the joys of boredom.

Every time I ask people who lived on Fakarava: “Don’t you miss the big city? Don’t you get bored here?”

And they always looked at me with this puzzled look on their face. “Bored? Why? I have everything here. It’s so beautiful. What when I go back to the city I miss it. I miss this.” And they point at the lagoon and the immensity of the ocean with the beautiful colors and I understand them.

Life can be simple. But the more complex it gets, the more we need to fill every minute of our time with something increasingly exciting and interesting.  We forget how the little things can be fulfilling, like having an afternoon to yourself or listening to the sounds of the ocean.

If you ask me, “Would you have stayed longer? Are you eager to get back?”

To be honest, I would have stayed a lot longer than a week.

A part of me was eager to get back, but it’s only the part that wanted to tell others about this experience.

At the end of the trip, I felt like the island had shared something important with me — the atoll way of life started to become part of me.

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So what are your thoughts? Have you ever done an Internet “detox”? Have you discovered any benefits from it? Share them below in the comment section.

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9 Responses to “My Digital Detox on a Remote Tropical Island”

  1. Michael says:

    Hi Fred!

    For me that was your most beautiful post ever!!
    It makes me really happy to hear you speak of your realizations…..and they are priceless ones.
    When i disconnect from the internet there is usually a mild urge to reconnect for 2-3 days and then it subsides and i feel totally neutral towards it and also become aware like it is some sort of mild addiction even though i do not spend a lot of time in the internet.
    Then i feel like that basically Internet is a good thing but i just do not know why i have to go there everyday, but the habbit will come back in time 🙂

    I also want to visit the Südsee as we say here in Germany, but it is such a long flight from Germany to those beautiful islands, i would have to take my complete holidays all at once.

    All the best to you
    Michael

  2. Richie K says:

    Cool Post Fred… Nice to learn about the atolls. What’s interesting is that I spend 8 months out of the year on an Island that has both natural untouched beauty… and enough development in its mid-section to have the elements of civilization. A beautiful mix. And no… I’m not saying where it is. Be well…

  3. Diane says:

    Hi Frederic!

    I loved this post — thank you. I value all of your newsletters, including the ones where you’re selling something, because I find that all of the information and products you offer have value. And/but I especially enjoyed this one because it was different.

    I always learn something from what you write, and I greatly appreciate that, and all that you do in order to be able to provide that.

    I do feel that as a culture we are internet-addicted (I use Dr. Gabor Mate’s definition of addiction which is anything you do that creates negative consequences that you don’t stop doing in spite of those consequences). I think the loss of boredom, of face-to-face connection, of time to oneself, of the brain work required to find answers on your own (including by using your intuition) … are all negative consequences the impact of which we’re barely beginning to perceive let alone understand.

    Thank you again for sharing this story.

    Diane

  4. Frederic Patenaude says:

    Thank you for your kind comments Diane! I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my story (because I thought it was unrelated to the topic of my website), but I’m now glad I did 🙂

  5. Diane says:

    Hi again, Frederic!

    I think the practice of choosing consciously what we eat gives us the capacity to begin to make new choices in all arenas of our lives — partly because of the clarity that comes with eating clean, nutrient-dense foods, and partly because conscious choice IS a practice (and takes practice to do well and consistently).

    So in a way, I think this post is integrally related to your site!

    😀

  6. nisha says:

    Hi Fred,

    fantastic blog, makes me want to go to such a place for a detox just what i have been searching for. would like some more information about this place as i have been to many islands as u said but quite tired of the commercial stuff. All these commercial places lack genuiness and seem fake. I would love to take my son along too as he is a scuba diver. Sounds bliss

  7. Hilary Teske says:

    Hi Fred,

    Thanks for generously sharing the location of your wonderful experience.
    I would just love to go to that place and am making plans (in my head!) already.
    How did you find out about the pension? And how did you contact them to
    book a room? What was the food like there?
    I live in Germany, so it would be a long way for me to go and probably only worth it if I stayed longer than a week.
    Again thanks so much for sharing the pictures and info.

    Hilary

  8. Frederic Patenaude says:

    They have a website http://www.raimiti.com – The food was island food, based on local products. It’s not a place where you can go as a raw foodist. You have to make compromises or go somewhere else where you can make your own food.

    It’s not the only option as there are many other small places to stay in French Polynesia, and of course in South East Asia where costs are much lower. I also visited other islands and stayed three weeks in total.

    Most people who visit this area of the world stay for a few weeks and visit multiple islands. I met some people from Germany too! I can give you more info if you contact me via my support desk and then they’ll give you my personal email (ask Sara, and tell her I referred you here). Not posting it here for spam concerns.

  9. Reece says:

    Hi Frederic!

    I have enjoyed this post so much! I love the idea of being able to detox from the electronic environment. In the pursuit of health in all forms, this type of detox is a welcome aspect for your blog. For me, this could be an important part of detoxing for overall health and wellness – to occasionally unplug from electronics as much as possible. Through the photos you shared, it seems so peaceful and serene. Thank you for sharing your experience on the Fakarava atoll.

    I must tell you that I have enjoyed your blog for a number of years and have learned a great deal from you. Thank you for bringing your food and health experiences to all of us.

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