Going Off The Grid, On Vacation

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Taken from his seminal work, Walden, the above quote from transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau speaks to his intention behind his own going off the grid — but not really for vacation. During the time of its publication in the 1850’s, America had undergone immense changes thanks to the industrial revolution, causing many to asses the quality of their lives. Much like today, a return to simplicity and a focus on the essential aspects of life and living became front and center. This is most likely what propelled Thoreau deep into seclusion in the woods to tend to his own land, grow his own food, and contemplate what our numerous distractions are really distracting us from. 

Transcendentalism was a literary, philosophical, and political movement that came to be in the early 19th century, attracting, of course, Thoreau, and finding its roots centered around writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. The movement considered and highlighted individualism and self-reliance and urged people to find “an original relation to the universe,” wrote Emerson. Among its core beliefs, Nature and the individual’s relation to it was of the utmost importance, imperative as a vessel through which to examine life. Becoming independent and introspective within the isolation of the woods became Thoreau’s primary goal with his Walden project, retreating from society’s demands in order to stay centered and expand outlook.

Although the highest technologies of Emerson and Thoreau’s day involved the steam engine and the cotton gin, the same zeitgeist of the times can easily translate to today: the desire for simplicity when feeling overwhelmed by technological advancement. Perhaps you’ve been thrust into a moment away from distraction — that dire suspension in time when your phone suddenly stopped working. You hit a dead zone or forgot to turn the wifi on and for just a moment, your life flashed before your eyes. We’ve grown in to such codependent relationships with technology that even a mere moment of disconnection can feel disastrous — however ridiculous we actually know that sentiment to be. But what if you were to disconnect from the chaos completely, and on purpose? To some it may feel like a long-awaited goal; heck, you may have already tried turning off your phone or email for a few days or deleting all social media apps. To others, it may feel like a death beyond description. But we’re here to show how and why going off grid on a vacation away is not only beneficial to your own health, but to the health of the planet as well.

MAKE THE MOST OF GOING OFF THE GRID

If you’re going off the grid, you’re going to want to commit. You may feel tempted to check an email here, post something there, and revert to habitual behaviors that turn your attention from a stellar stay. But in order to create the most effective journey, it’s best to set an intention at the beginning so you don’t become blindsided. There is the issue of safety and emergency, so it would also be smart to keep precautions in mind should you need immediate contact while away. For the most part, however, make an itinerary for the days ahead and also think and intend on how you can prioritize relishing the moment. Moreover, we know you’re excited to not have to answer to your boss (or in-laws) for days on end; but be sure to research all the ins and outs of the vacation spot beforehand since, well, it may be difficult to deal with being unprepared when you’re plopped in the middle of nowhere.

Those TPS reports can wait – unplug and reconnect with nature

Our own Drew Bayley shared his experiences from a small remote island in Canada on the St. Joseph’s channel in a picturesque cabin. The island — purchased by his wife’s family some time ago — has no running water or electricity, with amenities like the refrigerator and stove powered by propane. There’s also — you guessed it — no wifi. In addition to having more time with family and less time with emails, Drew also noted a genuine and more rich sense of connection with the land (something to make Henry David Thoreau assuredly proud). He reported a decreased sense of dependability, noting how much he realized we think we need, but actually don’t. Just as millions of fascinated faces gathered at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago to witness the wonders of electricity, many of us these days might become fascinated by how much we can actually live (and thrive) without it.

Patiently waiting for the hummingbirds to return

Majestic bald eagle spotting 

OH, THE PLACES YOU CAN GO

In addition to unplugging from the world you’ve grown so technologically accustomed to, seek out places truly off the grid in order to achieve the full experience. That means picking a vacation spot without the resort specialties, the close proximity to others, and yes, often the inability to reach the outside world. What’s more, this kind of travel experience helps your sense of being and also the world at large. If you’re adventurous enough for a genuinely remote experience, an off-grid vacation can be an eco-vacation, often times without electricity and running water. Use this to your advantage by reaping the benefits of the wilderness, finding that close connection with nature, and simplifying all aspects of daily life. In addition to taking in the incredible sights and sounds that simply exist wherever you land, try going out to soak up the locale. Many stays offer excursions and exploring, like biking, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and more. Moreover, see about partaking in meaningful experiences with the local cultures. Often places provide ideas for activities, but researching and cultivating your own can be its own adventure, like cooking classes in Thailand, yoga and meditation in India, religious and historical tours in Greece–the list goes on. Even better–see if you can reach out to locals for activity ideas vs. website research; you’ll most likely find a more enriched and authentic experience.

This helpful site Free House provides listings for a variety of places all over the world that promise zen-like experiences, from the beach to the woods to the mountains and more. You can often search for and find houses that claim to be off-grid and offer scenic, isolated views in the pictures, however end up in a cluster with others on congested roads. Free House provides truly unique and secluded properties, with bucolic feels and hinterland-experiences, aiming to match the traveller to the exact experience they’re looking for. Many of the properties listed operate via solar power and composting toilets, providing a sufficiently sustainable stay. Not all of the homes lack luxury, though, with many listings still providing the comforts of home for the less adventurous. You can peruse other design inspired, remote getaways here and here, ranging from lodges in backcountry Colorado, lake houses in Australia, jungle rafts in Thailand, snowbound cabins in Sweden, and much more.

 

BRING THE VACATION BACK WITH YOU

Okay, so it’s not as if we’re suggesting this next trip be some kind of assignment. We understand that when you really want to get away from it allthe last thing you want to feel is challenged in any way. Perhaps you’re not looking to your getaway to emotionally, psychologically, or philosophically consider stuff. After all, the etymology of the word vacation means “freedom from obligations, leisure, release” and the “state of being unoccupied.” Most of us go on vacation to try to avoid the burden of thinking, endeavoring for a kind of blanket of blankness in which to calmly and smoothly dissolve.

Within that notion, however, may reside the inevitable: we recede from the heaviness of every day life often not only with the goal of escape, but of re-connection–with ourselves, our families, and hopefully the world at large. As our daily burdens grow more pressing, so does a desire to bridge the gap between self and loss of self so keenly felt amidst the overly-occupied. Because of this over-occupation, it’s easy to get lost in the trip as just a “way to get away” or maybe an Instagram-heavy adventure or — the worst — a tourist-trap assembly line checking off notable landmarks and picturesque spots. But going off grid can help to not only create a meaningful and fulfilling experience on site, but also once you return home. Upon your return to the daily grind with the overloaded inboxes and lukewarm burnt coffee and unwanted presidential alerts, you want your trip to the abyss to color your everyday experience with a little more value than before. Soak up all you can on your journey and aspire to bring it back with you outside the bounds of a picture. Think less about what you want to get away from, and perhaps more of what you wish to get in to; not to escape, but to enrich. Trust us — when you have to deal with Janet at the water cooler come Monday, you just may be better equipped to handle it.