3 things I learned after traveling without Aro over the Holidays

January 4, 2023
Heath Wilson

This Christmas break our family did something quite unusual… we traveled. This was a BIG step because we love the tradition of a Christmas Eve service followed by waking to “Santa” followed by our standard Christmas lunch of chicken and dumplings. But this year, we decided to travel and we were excited to do so. We surprised our kids two days before departing to a snowy destination.

Between the six of us, we had eight suitcases (and carry-ons). Frigid weather (-46 C when we landed) and a couple days skiing justified our overpacking. Note, I wore the same black hoodie every day so not sure why I needed 3 additional hoodies. Anyway…

Normally, I travel with an Aro. It’s not easy and frankly, it’s not meant to be a mobile solution, but I typically and carefully pack a carry on with an Aro.

This time though, I chose not to. This is the first time our family has been without an Aro in 2 years!

Here are the three things that I learned:

1. I am WEAK.

And still trying to better my relationship with my phone. James Clear in Atomic Habits writes that “environment is stronger than willpower” and I experienced and witnessed that first-hand. Without an Aro, we easily fell back into old habits… keeping our phones in our pockets, mindless glances, laying them down within easy reach, sitting them on our bedside table. All things that I did previously to Aro suddenly resurfaced. That said…

2. We are CHANGED.

Because of Aro, our family has developed a strong habit of not having our phones with us when we are gathered in a circle. That circle is usually family dinner but, on holiday, we had opportunities to gather around in the living room, or in the hotel lounge and we were very good about enjoying that time without our phones. Honestly, the activities during the week were fun, but the times we got to talk together, uninterrupted as a family were priceless. Our kids are now 16, 16, 14, and 12 which means the conversations are richer and funnier than ever. I’m so grateful that we’ve developed a digital muscle to have phones down and eyes up when we gather in circles.


This is a bit ridiculous, but I was disappointed not to receive Aro “credit” for our intentional family time. Without an Aro, I lost my streaks, I didn’t complete my Aro circle… it felt like I wasn’t earning credit for my intentionality. I know that’s a bit ridiculous, but I’m wired that way. If I forget my Garmin watch on a run, I go through a debate about whether or not to run since it won’t “count.” That’s just how I’m wired. Note, you can enter manual sessions in Aro, but I like the frictionless experience of dropping my phone in Aro vs manual entry.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the week for me was that Aro has become part of the Wilson’s lifestyle and, without it, something is missing.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my 14-year-old son asked shortly after unpacking, “Dad, where is the Aro?”

That question will stick with me for some time and I don’t plan on leaving my Aro behind again even if it means a 9th checked bag!

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