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In this age of social media and instant everything, Dimeji Alara asks, is a holiday a luxury some of us don’t know how to embrace or connect with?

An annual holiday has become mandatory for me in the past couple of years. Whether travelling to a familiar destination or exploring unknown and occasionally risky terrain (yes, it has happened), a holiday is non-negotiable. But just how much of a holiday is it really?

A holiday, traditionally, is a time to disconnect from daily routine – work, home, life – to regroup, recharge and relax. But with 2016 around the corner, it’s almost impossible, even absurd, to put the phone away, much less switch it off. And we shouldn’t even go to that extreme point of no signal…

My best vacations, and there have been many, varied in destinations and experiences, and have all been absolutely memorable, without a presence on social media.

Returning to my second home, Paris, or spending some time with my brother and his wife in Marseille, off time ranges from mild to madness. I’ve been stranded in Amsterdam (it happened once, due to some unexpected issues with my card!), lost money gambling in Monte Carlo, road-tripping through West Africa and backpacking through the Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and then Cape Verde. And I was #socialmediafree.

Now, a decade later, things have undergone a radical change. Fortunately (or not), I can document accurately every second of my experiences and share as little or as much as I want to with my followers instantly, unless I am feeling undecided about the filter.

If there is one thing I do regret about my presocial media days is not having documented my trip through West Africa. It was 2003, before I signed up with Facebook, or any of the other major social media platforms. This trip was a roller coaster ride -the good, the bad and the terrifying. If I were active on social media then the laying down on the grass moments with complete strangers in the middle of nowhere – somewhere in Ouagadougou – looking up at the stars wouldn’t have been complete without a picture of the shimmering stars, while debating which filter to use; and chasing donkeys in the middle of the night between the Burkina Faso and Senegal borders (don’t ask why!) would have earned a major status on Facebook, with or without a photo; even being pickpocketed at the train station in Bamako would have garnered another status update and made for a splendid read; the night I spent at a stranger’s house would have been captured in 140 characters or less – with or without a hashtag.

As much as I regret not documenting some of my most exciting and challenging vacations, I’m happy that I genuinely enjoyed each moment. I wasn’t busy looking for the perfect wall to create the perfect backdrop for my perfect picture, or busy editing the next images to post.

I constantly have to remind myself to disconnect, because I am almost always attached to my phone, losing focus of what a holiday is really all about. We’re so caught up in the trend of sharing every single moment of our lives – from what we eat, to checking in, who we are with, and what we’re wearing – that we forget the reason we all need to disconnect.

So when you next find yourself sitting on the shores of a white-sandy beach somewhere in the Caribbean (or, insert your dream destination here sipping on coconut water (or a drink of your choice), staring longingly at the sparkling turquoise sea and the surrounding picturesque view, I challenge you to switch your phone off, take a deep breath, relish the moment, and enjoy your holiday – that break you genuinely deserve – because social media can wait, and will tick over, without one more hashtag, tweet, Instagram or snapchat insert from you.

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