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The reMarkable II and Light Phone II for Distraction-free Travel

reMarkable and Light Phone 2

Technology can be a blessing and a curse, striking a balance between being glued to our screens and Luddite dreams of a cabin in the woods with no electronics. The reality is that our always-on society has yielded a step function in efficiency, communication, and accessibility. However, it has also ushered in a new level of angst, obsession, and distraction. The average American smartphone user spends four hours and twenty-five minutes daily on their devices, and 56.9% admit they are addicted to their cell phone. For those who understand the mechanisms of addiction, the smartphone becomes a challenging habit to break, further exacerbated by the army of behavioral psychologists and machine-learning specialists that work for the app companies to keep us doom scrolling our life away. Is there another way? Enter the reMarkable II and Light Phone II for travel.

If you would prefer not to spend an entire two months of your 2024 glued to your phone, there are a few tools that can help break the habit and allow for deeper work and better connection with your travel experiences. My screen time report showed I was spending two hours and fifty-six minutes daily on my iPhone, which is less than the average. But that took me months of dedicated work, including removing dozens of apps off my phone and, towards the end, removing social media apps altogether. What was left was a lot of time on iMessage, phone calls, and podcasts, yet the persistent desire to check my phone remained. I was ready to go cold turkey.

Even while working, it was a struggle. My attempts to write (a part of my job that I love) were interrupted by checking my phone or opening a new browser tab on my laptop to check LinkedIn or the Wall Street Journal (it is worth noting that the WSJ is considered one of the least biased news outlets available, along with Reuters and a few others). Even researching a topic could lead to clicking on an ad or a rabbit hole of clicks further and further away from completing a task that I genuinely enjoy. It started to feel like my phone and laptop were out to get me, but I finally realized that I was the problem all along. Maybe I needed a few tools to help break the cycle.

Disconnecting to connect deeper.

The reMarkable II

When first unboxing the reMarkable II, their attention to detail was evident, with minimalist and recyclable packaging and the anticipation that comes from slowly diving through various layers of progressively thinner materials until the final sleeve and screen protector are removed. Once in the hand, it looks impossibly thin and feels heavier than expected. The push of the power button wakes the custom Linux operating system and 10.3-inch monochrome digital paper display. The calming effect is palpable, with no notifications filling the screen or audible beeps and bongs as email piles up or likes and retweets reverberate against my attention span. There is just silence and nothing to do but write, type, or read.

The reason why I selected the reMarkable over other devices like the Kindle Scribe is because of the keyboard folio. For example, the keystroke latency with the Scribe is unusable from the first clause, the device slowly trailing the inputs with a distracting delay. After 30 years of typing, I achieved 100+ WPM speed, so the delay was a non-starter with the Scribe. Thankfully, the reMarkable exhibits no notable latency and happily keeps pace with my first draft flow. The keyboard is not quite as fluid as my Macbook Pro, but it feels at home to the fingers, with sufficient stroke depth and responsiveness to be natural. The only thing that took some adjustment was the loss of keyboard shortcuts that are just part of my muscle memory. The folio retains the impossible thinness of the reMarkable, yet works in each configuration, from handwriting meeting notes to converting with a flip of the cover into wordcount bliss.

The more I used the reMarkable, the better I adapted to the workflow. My first concern was, “How do I reference specifications and product details for technical articles?” I solved this by pulling a few foundational sources on the product, like the manufacturer’s website, press release, and spec sheets, then uploading the webpage to the reMarkable cloud via the Chrome plugin. They sync almost immediately and are available for reference while writing, but keeping the walled garden of the distraction-free workflow intact. It became a change in mindset, focusing on the first draft and allowing for blank spaces in the copy where further research is required.

While deciding if I wanted the reMarkable, one of my concerns was the need for an eReader app like the Kindle. However, it proved to be (mostly) unfounded and again shifted my mindset. The reality is that most new books I read are consumed either as an audiobook or as a hardcover to sit with the physical copy and take notes (90% of the books I read are non-fiction). Despite this, I am reading on the reMarkable far more than expected. I am downloading first principles volumes from Feynman, Marcus Aurelius, and Smith (the Wealth of Nations provides thoughtful insights into the current global economic structures). I could find all these books with a Google search and instantly sync them with the device. The eReader experience has been positive, but it would be a genuine advantage to have access to a Kindle app to read the dozens of volumes I have in that library.

reMarkable and Light Phone 2


After a month of use, I have integrated the reMarkable into my daily routine and start each morning with the distraction-free bliss of producing my goal of 1,000 words of content a day. By comparison, these first drafts are completed in about half the time I would take on the Macbook Pro, though I usually yield a more complete draft in that time. There are also the intangibles of using a device like the reMarkable, which feels akin to consuming a whole-food healthy meal—my neurons lighting up from the creative engagement. In much the same way that cutting out added sugar makes our body healthier, fewer social media and communication distractions do the same for our mood and mind.

$629 | remarkable.com

reMarkable II Specifications:

– 10.3-inch paper-like display

– No glare or backlighting

– Distraction-free with no browsing, social media, or notifications

– Syncs over Wi-Fi with my Macbook, iPhone, and iPad

– .19 inches thin

– Available keyboard folio

– No-charge marker magnets to the device (although it isn’t particularly secure)

– Marker is tilt and pressure sensitive for drawing and sketching

– 403 grams light

– 1.2 GHz processor running custom LINUX

– 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage

– USB-C charging and connection port


– Elegant eWriter and eReader display

– Two weeks of battery life

– Distraction-free writing with the keyboard folio

– Premium materials, construction, and design


– No screen tap feature to move the keyboard cursor

– Some awkward key placement and shortcut issues

– Limited eReader titles (Kindle app would be welcomed)

The Light Phone II

My experiment continued with the Light Phone II, a minimalist monochrome mobile phone that calls, texts, and performs several other basic functions. In recent years, the dumb phone has gained momentum as a way to disconnect from persistent notifications, app use, and doom scrolling.

The Light Phone was launched initially in 2015 on Kickstarter and took approximately two years to deliver to backers a locked-down and leashed variant that promised an escape from the smartphone. The first variant received mixed reviews but was fortunately replaced by the standalone replacement, the Light Phone II. The second version launched in 2019 to significant acclaim and resolved nearly all of the limitations of the first model. It would accept standard SIMs, has 4G capability, can play music or podcasts, and even provide turn-by-turn directions. It is sold in a US and International network variant.

The appeal of the Light Phone was three-fold for me, with the forced minimalism being the most salient, followed by the compact form factor, and, ultimately, the elegant design. Through no fault of Light, the setup was more challenging than expected, as my iPhone is an eSIM version, so there was no way to swap SIMs. The eSIM has a security advantage but certainly complicates shifting back and forth between distracted and disconnected. So, the swap took about two hours between driving time and getting the SIM configured in the AT&T store.

Once the Light Phone was set up, the adjustment period began. Just leaving the parking lot, I came to terms with the lack of Google Maps, so I drove to my next destination from a foggy memory. Then came the compulsion to check email, DMs, the WSJ, or even bank accounts. I was shocked at how often I grabbed my phone looking for a quick answer to a question (exactly how long does a Baobab live?) or a dopamine hit. Wow, I realized just how much constant connectivity had affected my behavior. The next step was getting used to texting on the small screen with big hands—it was workable but slow, which, oddly, I was okay with. I had suddenly joined the green bubble outsiders.

The experience with the Light Phone started as an experiment but morphed into one part digital detox, equal parts defiance. Nearly everyone in my personal and business circle was bemused by the effort, some suspicious, others annoyed. I was more challenging to get a hold of, as I slowly stopped checking my phone every 10-15 minutes (on average, Americans check their phones 58 times daily). The annoyance with my choice varied, with some frustrated by my inability to open links (usually to nothing significant) or others bummed that I could not view photos or the recent meme. For me, however, it was starting to become bliss.

With each new obstacle, I found a solution. For example, links and images are emailed by Light to the account of your choice. You still get to see them, but when you want to, and even more beneficially as a batch. The Light Phone also lacks a camera, so I was forced to bring a proper mirrorless with a prime lens in my bag: the right tool for the job. There were fewer photos of my food during the experiment, but all of my other images improved, and I focused more deeply on the act of capturing a moment or creating content for my job. With no social media, my use of Meta products declined rapidly and ultimately became something I only checked on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To solve the social media challenge and any other apps I needed (like Google Maps or Uber), I used my iPad Mini. It is too big to carry in a pocket, and the camera sucks, so it worked without ruining the experiment.

As the weeks passed, using the Light Phone became a surprising joy, and it mostly sat quietly as communications shifted to email or phone calls. My time with coworkers, friends, and family became more intentional and present. My 18-year-old nephew found the phone hilarious but kind of “cool” and nicknamed it “the potato.” I could still listen to the music (mp3 format) or even my favorite podcast, and it has a calculator, notes function, and alarm. The navigation app works in an emergency but crushes the battery, and the phone gets hot. My only real complaint is the plastic around the buttons is too thin to provide long-term durability—it cracked on both sides within about a week. The other interesting outcome was the nationwide Presidential Alert which came through in Spanish and completely locked up the phone (this has since been fixed in an update).

For domestic travel, it works fine, and I enjoyed it on trips to Utah and points further afield. But for international travel, I am still determining if I can stomach the risk. The first issue is that a second LightPhone must be purchased with international network capabilities, including new numbers with each country (as you purchase SIM at the border). There is also the reality of remote international travel, where hailing an UBER, using a translate app, or iOverlander, etc., is not just a luxury. Of course, it is possible to drive around the world without a phone at all, but it is surprising the complexities and obstacles that add to the process. A simple example is the number of services we purchase and scan with a QR code or barcode on the screen before boarding a plane or even processing an eVisa.

After six weeks of using the Light Phone II for travel, I can describe it as the most wonderfully awful device I have ever used. To their credit, it does exactly the job it is supposed to, and within about a week, I stopped reaching for my phone at all. My life had an extra splash of calm and (real) connection while using it. A few days before returning to Africa, I stopped by the AT&T store with my iPhone in tow and switched everything back over. With the eSIM activated, the wundardevice buzzed to life, a brilliant screen of 16 million possible colors and an unlimited number of ways to occupy my time. With the first text, the reply read, “Your blue dot is back, YAY! (followed by a long string of emojis)”. Maybe the blue dot is really just the blue pill.

$299| thelightphone.com


Compact, simple, and elegant design

E ink display is distraction-free and gentle on the eyes

It does the job of removing smartphone distractions


Unpredictable battery life reduces confidence

There is no combination international/domestic version

Lack of USB-C charging (micro USB is a known mechanical failure point)

Case cracks at buttons even with normal use (like in a front pocket)

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Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and include three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar travels include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. He lives in Prescott, Arizona IG: @scott.a.brady Twitter: @scott_brady