Stargazing, searching and wild swimming helped me relax

After a few hectic months of work, I decide it’s time for a break.

Over dinner, my friends and I chat about travel and what life was like before the technology explosion. The topic comes to mind as I recently read that 5 billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – use the internet daily, according to DataReportal’s Digital Around the World report.

Knowing that we are included in this figure makes us worry about the negative effects the internet and social media have on our physical and mental health.

In an effort to combat waning concentration and creativity, we are making a pact to take a digital detox. Soon enough, we’ll put internet-induced stress behind us as we embark on a long weekend trip to Morzine in the Chablais mountain range, between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc.

We ask our hosts to hold our cell phones hostage

On arrival at The Farmhouse – a boutique hotel that forgoes television – we ask our hosts to take our mobile phones with us for the duration of our stay.

Once we explain our intention to break away from today’s modern life, they stop looking confused and rejoice. We settled in for a relaxing evening of wine, cheese and moments of iPhone unplugging in Morzine’s oldest building.

James Clark

The farmhouse, Morzine – James Clark

A local guide, not Google Maps, leads us to our temporary camp in the mountains

The following afternoon we meet mountain guide Hervé Le Sobre who works with the local company Alpi’ Rando Raquettes. His calm nature encourages us to silence as we climb a sunny mountainside in an area called Zore.

We continue along the path through valleys covered with purple asters, yellow alpine flowers and pine forests with trees that look as tall as the mountains.

As we approach what we think is the top of the mountain, we see a goat antelope with short hooked horns, and a couple of large marmots rushing into the forest.

If you are familiar with the mountains, you will know that what looks like the top is very rarely the top. There is always another peak waiting for you right in front of you.

An hour later we arrive at a secluded spot in the mountains where we camp for the night. As we chat happily, Hervé prepares a barbecue to make sausages and the vegetables we gathered earlier that day in the vegetable garden in Saint Jean d’Aulps.

James Clark

Picnic on the mountainside in Zore. – James Clark

After we have eaten and embraced the relaxing atmosphere of the mountains, Hervé begins to tell us stories about the local area. My personal favorite is the one about a mountaineer who found a treasure chest of emeralds, rubies and sapphires on Mont Blanc. Many years later, he received half of the money collected from the sale of the gems.

It is a cloudless night, and the sky is free of light pollution. Hervé highlights some fantastic constellations. As we listen to his stories, we begin to relax even more. It feels like time stands still.

Around 11pm we decide it’s time to sleep, so we climb into the hammocks set up in the trees for a night under the stars, with the sounds of the forest keeping us company.

We wake up with a relaxing dip in Lake Montriond

After a sleep interrupted by the fierce wildlife around, I mention to Hervé that we have no plans for the day. Our only goal is to disconnect from technology and be outside. He drives us back to The Farmhouse to collect our swimwear and we head over to nearby Lake Montriond.

The lake is a huge outdoor playground surrounded by dramatic mountains and forests. We jump at the chance to swim among the rainbow trout in the sharp water.

I feel completely at peace when I venture out further – one cool, fresh stroke after another. It’s a great way to start the day and I follow it up with a jog around the lake.

If you’re less keen on the cold water, you can hire a wetsuit from the Buzz Performance outdoor center before leaving Morzine.

James Clark

Morzine – James Clark

A catered lunch brings some surprise guests

Later that morning we meet our local host, Véronique Fillon, for a walk through the mountains to La Tapia at the Col de l’Encrenaz. As the sun warms our faces, Véronique talks passionately about the edible plants along the route. We resist picking mountain spinach, nettles, dandelions and fruit as our host’s husband kindly prepares lunch for us in their cabin.

We come to wild garlic pesto on bread served at our outdoor table, while cows, marmots, the couple’s two dogs and the occasional walker pass by.

Then we are treated to péla – a traditional regional dish made of onions, potatoes and melted cheese, salads – along with salad and charcuterie. Local produce and herbs fill each dish, resulting in a taste as fresh as the mountain air. Food certainly tastes better when you don’t tweet what you’re eating

We feel refreshed when we head back to The Farmhouse to spend time in the garden. A short walk into Morzine lands us at La Chamade, recognized as one of the 100 best restaurants in France by Tour des Cates 2022. The wine and cheese taste delicious consumed with our senses instead of our phones.

I leave Morzine feeling refreshed and reconnected with nature.

I decide to reduce screen time at home

Now that I’m at home, I still pick up my phone and answer emails regularly, but I limit social media to 10 minutes a day. I’ve even taken the bold step of deleting two out of four social media accounts, and most importantly, I don’t miss them.

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