THERE ARE PLENTY of how-to articles, and some rather costly weekend retreats, that promise to teach you to crack the habit of checking your gadgets all the time. But, as with any addiction, the best way to break the pattern might be as simple as going somewhere so good that you forget your craving entirely.
Enter New Mexico. Before you pay someone else to rip your phone out of your still-grasping hand, try out some of these self-guided experiences that will have you willingly leaving the tech in your hotel room. Who knows — you might not even check your snapchat for days.
Detox 1: Lavender-covered fields, Abiquiu
Duration: A few hours
Abiquiu is 53 miles north of Santa Fe, so lesson one will happen in the car: Be present and enjoy the moment. Notice the subtle changes of the drive and simply follow the road signs, leaving your phone and tablet in the glovebox. Here, you don’t need a little blue dot on a screen to tell you where you are (Cerro Pedernal makes for a pretty unmissable landmark).
Your destination is the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm. Though the main draw is simply being in the place (Georgia O’Keeffe set up shop here for a reason), you should take the walking tour of the grounds for an introduction to the lavender plant and its many uses. Few things are more relaxing than good smells and fine food, so go as deep as you can into the exploration of this delicate flower, and follow everything up with a trip to the onsite teahouse. It doesn’t matter if it’s the fresh lavender in the spice mix atop your focaccia or the flowery aroma in the lavender glaze of a bundt cake — the experience is going to be lost if you’re snapping photos. The secret in the subtle lavender flavor is something only those truly present can enjoy.
Bonus: If you’re feeling inspired by the long-standing traditions of herbalism, there’s a fabulous distance-learning course from the Milagro School of Herbal Medicine to check out once you plug back in. Electricity has its merits, after all, when you’re learning a new life skill that better grounds you in the here and now.
Detox 2: Beyond cell signals, Carlsbad Caverns
Duration: A half-day
For a more enforced detox, it’s time to lose those cell signals completely. Even if you don’t have the courage to leave your phone in the car, it’ll be about as useful as a paperweight in the web of caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It includes more than 119 chambers hiding beneath the surface of the Chihuahuan Desert, though the main attraction is the “Big Room,” coming in at 4,000 feet long and 255 feet high. The self-guided walking tour usually requires about two hours of your time, and it winds around for close to 2.5 miles.
You can hike in via the natural entrance or take the elevator. Whichever way you go, not only will you not have cell service down in the caverns, but there are places so dark you’ll have to trust the low trail lights or the hand of your partner. It’s like experiencing sensory deprivation — definitely a place to exercise your imagination.
Bonus: If you time your reemergence around sunset, you’ll soon see thousands of bats coming out after you. Call ahead or check with a tour guide to find out the best time to go.
Detox 3: Living marshes at sunrise, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Duration: A half-day
Numerous studies have shown that the more time spent away from our screens, the better we sleep, and you’re going to want the quality sleep that comes from the first few days of a detox for this one. To catch the so-called Festival of the Cranes during migration season in November, festival goers should hang their hat in Socorro, wake up before dawn, and book it to the birds.
Early risers will be rewarded with the spectacular (and potentially once-in-a-lifetime) sight of sleeping cranes in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Leave the car and stand amidst thousands of migrating cranes before they take flight. Even professional photographers struggle to get a good shot in during sunrise, so leave your selfie stick at home and remember you’re up far too early to give anyone a call. You won’t want to be anywhere but in the moment.
Detox 4: The infinite beyond, Bottomless Lakes State Park
Duration: A day + night
Roswell, New Mexico — you’ve heard of it. Come here, get sufficiently creeped out by the legends of extraterrestrials at the UFO Museum, and then wander 20 or so miles southeast. Ditch your electronic devices (they could be sending homing signals to another planet anyway…), and head out to contemplate a different kind of infinite: Bottomless Lakes State Park, so named for a reason. You can’t not feel the unsettling sense of depth as your legs dangle in the middle of the pools (that are technically sinkholes) reflecting the nearby rock formations. They range from 17 to 90 feet deep, and they take on an intense blue-green color from submerged plants and algae.
To get the full detox effect, camp here for a night — and keep that phone in your glovebox. The Lea Lake campground has plenty of sites, and at the park you’ll also find five miles of trails, a beach, sand volleyball courts, and opportunities for scuba diving, boating, and fishing.
Detox 5: A massage in the mountains, Santa Fe
Duration: A weekend
Being in nature surrounded by wildlife isn’t the only way to detox, and it’s certainly not for everyone. If you require the five-star-hotel kind of relaxation, you can stop and start right here. Ten Thousand Waves, once a humble bathhouse and now one of the best spas in the region, offers services grounded in ancient Japanese healing practices, focusing on the use of natural elements and thermal waters.
The wood-lined soaking tubs and massages are a guaranteed way to forget all about the bars you don’t have (there’s no cell service here, despite being just four miles from the Santa Fe Plaza). Most patrons even store all their belongings and their clothes — you’ll receive a traditional kimono on arrival — and don’t “come back to real life” until days later. Staying at the onsite lodging, Houses of the Moon, makes this possible. You’ll get access to the spa outside of normal hours, plenty of complimentary goodies, and, to top it all off, you’ll be surrounded by acres and acres of juniper forest.
Detox 6: A retreat into simplicity, Santa Fe
Duration: A weekend
Similar to Ten Thousand Waves (but with a more holistic focus) is Sunrise Springs Spa Resort. Yes, it’s a resort and a spa, but what you come here for is full immersion into a better, cleaner lifestyle. Yoga, meditation, and a sweat lodge comprise the docket, but you’ll also find gardening, clean eating, and fitness classes, and even — especially — time to play with puppies.
You can choose between all-inclusive and a la carte packages (both get you access to the puppies), and there’s special options for couples and girls’ weekends if you’re traveling with a fellow detoxer. In between massages, hikes, and fresh meals, wander the 70 acres of gardens, and be sure to try out a soak in their mineral springs.
Detox 7: The ultimate pilgrimage, Chimayo
Duration: Two to four days
While Spain’s Camino de Santiago gets a lot of fanfare — complete with countless selfies of happy pilgirms — anyone who’s ever gone on a pilgrimage will tell you social media doesn’t do it justice. Making a pilgrimage is an overwhelming experience that causes you to rethink the way you’re living and especially the ways we connect, or fail to connect, on social media. And El Santuario de Chimayo, a Roman Catholic church in Chimayo, is said to be one of the most important pilgrimage centers in the country.
Before Easter, thousands of pilgrims join together from all over to journey to the santuario on foot, typically requiring anywhere from two to four days, depending on where they begin (it’s not unusual to find someone walking from Albuquerque, 90 miles away). The church is also a national historic landmark, attracting visitors — some 300,000 — who seek healing from its “holy dirt” year-round. Some people use mud from the sacred grounds as a salve, but for others, it’s the heritage of so many generations of believers that makes this a mystical place.
From the Santuario website: “A pilgrim is not a tourist who only touches, for a fleeting moment, the land and people that they visit. Rather, a pilgrim seeks to understand the essence of time, place and people that they meet on their path.” Participating in a less-traveled pilgrimage can prove transformational, connecting you to the pilgrims of all walks of life who have come before you. Even if you don’t identify as Catholic (and that’s totally not a requirement), this is a powerful experience.
Detox 8: The art of zen, Jemez Springs
Duration: A week or longer
Now that you’ve broken your compulsive tech-checking habits, an entire week of self-exploration and simple living is within your grasp. The beautiful Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs is open to any visitor who wishes to bring some meditation and spiritual inquiry into their lives. They offer programs like workaway and WWOOFing, as well as longer-term residencies concentrated around meditation practices and an intimate community setting. The center is chiefly Buddhist, but those of all walks of life can get something out of this experience. (And if a week seems like too much, once a month there are weekend getaways, too — consider it a test drive.)
Like the rest of these off-the-beaten-path escapes, a trip to Jemez Springs will make it easy to unplug — and give you the best vacation you won’t see on any Instagram feed.