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Mechanical timepieces, transistor radios, and paper guidebooks: Digital detox requires getting back to basics.

“Sorry,” I said, pulling my noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones wirelessly from my ears. “I didn’t catch that.”

“Mandatory call-in on the 12th, Gibson,” she said.

I pulled up Calendar on my Apple Watch. “No good,” I replied. “I’m taking PTO that whole week. Gonna get away and unplug.”

She guffawed. “You? Unplug?” I laughed along with her, mostly because one of my phones was tickling my right kidney. “A hundred dollars says you won’t make it a day and a half.”

My bluff called, I doubled down. “Let’s make it two, and I’ll go a full five days without logging on.”

“I want this in writing.”

“No need,” I said, tapping the temple of my Google Glass, which I was wearing underneath my Instaglasses. “The video’s already in the cloud.” Behind me, the SSD in my shockproof ultrabook clicked ominously from its spot next to my iPad.

I opened my Macbook Pro and started shopping. I knew, deep in my heart, that I could unplug, if I could find the right gear.


1. I’ll need to write things down, but none of that Moleskine hipster nonsense for me—mostly because I’ve forgotten how to hold a pencil. I’ll be toting the battery-powered Astrohaus Freewrite portable sort-of typewriter thingy ($500; pictured above), so I can write down all the wisdom I collect during my unplug. (I’ll upload it all to the cloud when I’m back home.)

2. Since I’ll be dining in some restaurants during my trip, I’m going to need a camera. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 ($180) actually makes physical photos right after you take them, and they all have that cool border you see on Pinterest a lot.

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Designed to “help smartphone addicts cope with withdrawal symptoms,” the Substitute Phone features stone beads that mimic touchscreen actions.
3. I’ve noticed that my thigh tingles about every 40 seconds, at which point I habitually reach into my pocket to check for phone alerts. To satiate my Phantom Phone Syndrome while I travel, I’m carrying a Substitute Phone by designer Klemens Schillinger ($230). They’re like fidget spinners for the tech-obsessed.

4. Music will be difficult without my Pandora playlist, but I see that I can still buy a portable radio (and I am told there are still radio stations). The Sangean SR-35 ($20) actually tunes using a dial instead of digital presets, so I’ll be able to pick up news, sports, and the colorful local music scene.

Watchmaker Seiko has been providing precise mechanical timepieces to Japanese railway conductors since 1929.
5. I’ll need a watch, though I’m not really sure what for since I’ll be missing all my conference calls anyway. But the Seiko railroad watch ($268) has some nice heft and is magnetically shielded to stay accurate—which is important since it can’t automatically sync to precise Internet time like most modern time-telling devices.

6. To pass the time, I’ll pack away some analog versions of some of my favorite digital pursuits. I’ve sourced an unplugged Kindle, and I’ve even managed to find an offline version of one of my favorite strategy games, although it’s sold out at the moment.
Since it debuted in 1936, the “A-Z Street Atlas” has achieved mythic status among Londoners as well as tourists.
7. The place I’m going is full of twisty lanes and dangerous cul-de-sacs. Without the benefit of Google Maps and Waze, I’d likely get turned around without some sort of wayfinding. Luckily, the London A-Z Street Atlas sells a printed-out version ($10) of its app, so I needn’t fear getting lost in the digital wasteland of Shoreditch.

>>Next: The Best Notebooks for All Types of Travelers