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European tourist island declares itself a phone-free zone

As summer approaches and tourism season begins, social media users will struggle to answer the age-old question: If you didn’t post about your vacation, did you really even go?

The answer is, of course: Yes you did, and you probably had a better time for not plastering it all over Instagram.

Though it may be difficult for some to resist work emails and updating social media during vacation, the island of Ulko-Tammio in Finland is urging visitors to ignore their screens and enjoy nature.

Claiming to be the world’s first phone-free tourist island, Ulko-Tammio is located in the Eastern Gulf of Finland, a national park in the Nordic nation that’s been named “world’s happiest country” six years in a row and, somewhat ironically, is home to Nokia, the brand behind the world’s best-selling smartphone of all time.

“The island of Ulko-Tammio, which is located off the coast of Hamina, will be a phone-free area this summer,” Mats Selin, an expert in island tourism at Visit Kotka-Hamina, said in a news release.

“We want to urge holidaymakers to switch off their smart devices and to stop and genuinely enjoy the islands.”

One of Finland’s 41 national parks, Ulko-Tammio is uninhabited by people, but is home to many rare birds and plants, which visitors can spot on a hike along the island’s nature trails or from the island’s bird tower.

Participation in the digital detox for tourists on Ulko-Tammio is voluntary and, since the island is covered by a functioning mobile network, the temptation will be ever-present.

However, the staff of Parks & Wildlife Finland, the company that manages the island, hopes that the campaign translates to tourists unplugging and engaging with the flora, fauna and fellow visitors.

“Switching off your phone, exploring nature and meeting people face-to-face are bound to boost your mood and well-being,” Sari Castrén, psychologist and Research Manager at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, said in a news release. “We spend countless hours scrolling our social media feeds, so taking a short break from them means you have more time for new experiences.”

Visitors can spend their phone-free nights on the island in tents or in a cabin maintained by Parks & Wildlife Finland.

Islands such as Ulko-Tammio  in the Eastern Gulf of Finland are typically accessed via private boat, commuter ferry, or water taxi – just don’t tell anyone you’re using your smartphone to book them.

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