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French Polynesia is the perfect place to unplug and unwind

An Amlotte is surrounded by fish near Hotel Kia Ora's overwater bungalows. (Jeff Amlotte/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By AN AMLOTTE | LOS ANGELES TIMES Published: December 16, 2015

“Hey, I just realized this doesn’t have auto-correct,” my husband, Jeff, said as he was scribbling on the first page of the journal we had just purchased at Los Angeles International Airport.

Our adventure without smart- phones, tablets and computers was going to take some getting used to.

The decision to forgo connectivity on our second trip to the South Pacific hadn’t come easily, because our phones are our constant companions. But after recently spending a few hours gardening phone-free, I realized how much I had enjoyed that little break, and I wanted more.

I proposed an unplugged vacation. At first, we weren’t sure we could do it. He had doubts; I had anxiety. Dozens of what-ifs tumbled through my head.

But the desire to be free of the constant pull of calls, texts, emails and social media proved stronger. We wanted a real getaway.

We were headed to the beautiful atoll of Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia, a one-hour flight northeast of Tahiti. Two years ago, we had honeymooned on nearby Bora-Bora and loved it so much we wanted to come back to see more of the islands.

The Tuamotus form the largest chain of atolls in the world, and because the islands sit low in the water, it was easy to get that end-of-the-world feeling we wanted. Rangiroa had been a contender for our honeymoon, so it was at the top of our list for this 12-day visit in October.

We decided to stay at Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa, located on the northwest part of the atoll, between the Avatoru and Tiputa passes. It was renovated in 2011 and offers a range of bungalows full of creature comforts. We had trouble choosing just one, so we decided to start our vacation in a garden villa with a private plunge pool and finish in one of the over-water bungalows that are typical in French Polynesia.

We expected the highlight of our unplugged vacation to be the three nights we planned at Kia Ora’s secluded satellite property: the Kia Ora Sauvage, five bungalows without electricity on a remote islet on the south side of Rangiroa. What better place to leave behind the world of electronics and just be together, enjoy life and all that tropical nature has to offer?

Without electricity or cell towers, we’d have little use for our devices at Le Sauvage. But we needed a plan for the rest of the trip. Simply turning everything off wasn’t going to work. If we had our devices, we would use them. We had to go a step further and leave them home. After a solemn turning-off ceremony, we tucked them away the morning of our departure.

It was the right decision, and much easier than I thought. Soon, we began to see the benefits of unplugged travel. Imagine going through airport security without having to pull anything out of your carry-on or pockets. Just take off your shoes and you’re done. No chargers, cables and endless accessories to pack, no frustration about spotty Wi-Fi.

But the best part came when we were on Rangiroa. At home, my phone charges on my nightstand, and it’s usually the first thing I reach for in the morning. It easily eats up half an hour of my time even before I start my day. Without screens, there is just nature. Without electronic distractions, all we had to do when we woke up was kick back the covers and fulfill the promise of the day ahead.


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