For the past year and a half, I have lived without a cell phone plan.
When I tell this to most people, they think I am nuts.
"You don't have a cell phone? How do you communicate or get a hold of people?"
To most people, the idea of not having a cell phone has become a completely foreign idea.
We assume because the technology exists, we must have it.
But for millions of years we existed without cell phones, and we can still exist without them today.
Why I cancelled my cell phone plan
About a year and a half ago my fiancee and myself left the United States and started a year of travel around the world.
When we kicked off this journey, it made sense to cancel our cell phones as opposed to paying the outrageous international rates. We looked into other carriers for international, but decided to just take a hiatus from our phones.
After a few months in Mexico with no phone plan, I knew I didn't want to go back.
I suddenly felt free from distraction. No one could call me, text me, ping me or get a hold of me to interrupt my day. My only source of communication was my computer, and thus if I wasn't sitting down at my computer working, I was distraction free.
This enabled me to become more present, enjoy my surroundings more and experience life in a way I hadn't in years.
This took away the urge to reach into my pocket and fiddle with my phone when I wanted to kill time.
I was forced to just be present and observe the world around me.
Being present and distraction free doesn't sound like an amazing benefit until you experience it.
When you experience life without distractions, it's hard to imagine going back.
The average American
When we came back to the States, it was quite an adjustment.
Everywhere I looked, everyone had a cell phone and was connected all the time.
It was hard to get through lunch or coffee with family and friends without them pulling out their cell phone to check an incoming message or look up something that they just had to know at that moment.
Time and time again, I found myself sitting and waiting while the company I was with fiddled with their phones and interrupted our conversation.
I don't get angry at them. I just recognize that this is the way that our society has become.
The benefits of not having a cell phone
It's hard to explain the benefits at first, but it is something that completely changed my life.
Deeper focus - When you turn off any distractions, you are able to focus deeply at the work at hand. No one can contact you, interrupt you or kill your flow. It's just you in the zone.
You become present - When you take away the connectivity that comes with a cell phone, you are forced to become more present. Instead of fiddling with your phone, you look around and begin to absorb the world, observe people and experience the world in a very different way.
Save Money - My Skype phone number plan costs me roughly $10 per month. Compare that with most cell phone plans and it's quite a bit of savings.
My current communication setup
Yes, I don't have a cell phone but that doesn't mean that I communicate through carrier pigeons and the postal service. I do still use modern tools to communicate.
Below I have outlined my communication workflow:
Skype + Skype Phone Number - Nearly all voice communication I do is done through Skype. I have a registered phone number with Skype that I use for my business and hand out to anyone new.
The great thing about this number is you can only reach me when I am at my computer with Skype turned on. Otherwise, you just get voicemail and I call you back at my convenience. Believe it or not, you can still run a successful business even if you aren't available 24/7.
(Note for anyone considering this approach, I would actually recommend Google Voice instead since Skype does not allow text messages.)
E-mail - I do a lot of communication through e-mail and encourage my clients to contact me that way.
Facebook Messenger - When I meet a new friend, I have them add me on Facebook or send me an e-mail if they aren't a Facebook user. This creates a nice separation from work and personal communication.
iPhone as a tool - I do still have my old iPhone but I use it now much more as a tool than a phone. I use it as an iPod for music or reading books. Sometimes I use the apps for productivity or I take it with me while traveling in case I need to look up something while connected to a coffee shops wifi. I still often cary it with, but unless I have wifi it is just an iPod in my pocket.
Emergency Phone - Elisabeth and I do have an emergency Pay as you go phone. We keep it in the car for emergencies. We don't use the phone much and only us and our close family members have this number.
The no cell phone challenge
Try it, for one week. Turn off your cell phone plan. Put it in airplane mode or turn off your cellular data.
Only call people when you have a planned call. And minimize use of the phone as much as you can.
It will be weird, and you will be tempted to turn it back on but seriously just try it out.
Write a comment below to create a public commitment.
And once you spend the week without a cell phone, you may just end up never going back…