Unplugging at Sea: How I Learned to Love Living Without Internet


Lizette Nolasco

Voyagers on Semester at Sea played board games to pass the time on the ship.

It took only seven days to break my cell phone addiction.

Just seven days without internet into what became a four-month, 13-country Semester at Sea, I broke my addiction. Turns out having no internet will do that. The sudden disconnect was exactly the kind of interruption I needed. Gone were the days of endless draining scrolling, instead I was soaking in the exuberance of life and new experiences. It was the antidote to my online dependency.

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, my friends, family, and I upheld a strict protocol where we stayed home whenever possible for safety. This contributed to a full-fledged internet addiction after scrolling nonstop through social media as the only form of communication with friends for over a year. There were moments when dissociation from mindless scrolling became so severe that I occasionally felt lost without my phone.

On January 5, my life took a drastic turn as I boarded the MV World Odyssey ship in Naples, Italy, by myself, knowing no one before embarking on my voyage on Semester at Sea, a study abroad program that travels to 13 countries via a cruise ship. There was no WiFi access, and students left their phones in their cabins and disconnected from technology throughout the day. Instead of scrolling through a feed and getting to know people through their picture-perfect online presence, there was an actual human connection with others who were unafraid to be their true selves.

Instead of spending days with my face glued to my screen, I was exploring ancient ruins, making new friends, and embarking on daily adventures.

I am grateful for this drastic turn of events because as I returned home from my semester abroad, I felt disgusted whenever I used my phone and would leave it off or at home often. It felt like being on the internet was a waste of my time, and I’d learned to live life happier without it. Staying home and indoors made me restless, and there was a strong urge for outdoor adventure like I had on my time abroad.

Prior to the voyage, there were Facebook pages and group chats with everyone on board the Spring 2022 voyage available, but my desire to meet others in person was more important than viewing their online presence and making assumptions based on their social media, so I never once looked at the pages.

This decision paid off as the relationships created with those on the ship became deeper than bonds with friends I’ve known for over a decade. Due to the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone on the ship was eager to make connections, and we instantly formed lasting bonds.

We went on amazing adventures together. We rode creaky, possibly unstable, cable cars in Portugal; visited a collapsed mine in Sweden; had our Indiana Jones moment in Cyprus exploring the Tomb of the Kings; dove into freezing waters in the Baltic Sea; and avoided rabid monkey bites in Gibraltar. When we weren’t visiting new countries, we played board games and talked for hours every day, bringing us closer together as a community.

Being without any form of internet connection for months was a blessing. As the semester continued, voyagers noticed that they were living less for Instagrammable moments and more for the experience itself.

I anticipate to continue this lifestyle, my mental health has never been better because of this disconnect. Instead of browsing for hours like before, my days are spent hiking, walking, connecting with friends in person, and going to the beach. Where there was emptiness from scrolling, there is now a sense of fulfillment in releasing the grip of technology and embracing the present moment in the natural world.