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Where is the world’s first phone-free island and why is it banning smartphones?

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At the beginning of summer and the tourist season, social media users will struggle to answer the eternal question: If you haven’t posted anything about your vacation, have you really gone?

The answer is, of course: Yes, you were, you probably had a better time because you didn’t “stick it” all over Instagram.

While it may be hard for some to resist work emails and updating social media while on vacation, the island of Ulko-Tammio in Finland is urging visitors to ignore their phones and enjoy nature, reports CNN.

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 Scandinavian country that has been named the “happiest country in the world” for six consecutive years 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 off the coast of Hamina, will be a phone-free zone this summer,” says Mats Selin, island tourism expert at Visit Kotka-Hamina.

“We want to encourage holidaymakers to turn off their smart devices, stop and really enjoy the islands.”

One of Finland’s 41 national parks, Ulko-Tammio is uninhabited by humans, but is home to many rare birds and plants that visitors can see while walking along the eco-trails or from the island’s bird tower.

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

However, officials at Parks & Wildlife Finland, the company that manages the island, hope the campaign will lead to tourists going off the grid and engaging with the flora, fauna and other visitors.

“Turning off the phone, exploring nature and meeting people face-to-face will definitely improve your mood and well-being,” says Sari Castren, a psychologist and head of research at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. “We spend countless hours on social media, so taking a short break from it means you have more time for new experiences.”

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

Islands like Ulko-Tammio in the eastern Gulf of Finland are usually reached by private boat, suburban ferry or water taxi – just don’t tell anyone you’re using your smartphone to book them.

Photo: visitkotkahamina.fi

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