Off-grid with intention

Each summer, my partner and I have one week together where it’s just the two of us. No kids. No cats. No work. No responsibilities other than feeding ourselves. We’ve gone on road trips, we’ve gone camping, and we’ve rented cottages. We always bring our hammock along and spend lots of time talking and reading and dozing.

This year, when searching for the perfect spot, we happened upon something different. A cabin in the woods of Nova Scotia that was right on a river. It was more secluded than any other place we’ve stayed but the really unique part was that it was off-grid.

Not only did this mean no lamps to read by at night, but it also meant no ability to charge our devices. We decided not to bring computers and to turn our phones off and only check for messages in the morning and at night in case of emergencies. What happened next was very interesting…

The first thing I realized was that without a phone, I was also without a camera. I kept reaching into my pocket to capture a moment and had to continually remind myself that just being in the moment was good enough. I quickly discovered that I rely on my phone for a host of other reasons: looking up words, checking the weather, planning a route, answering a question, hearing a song.

In the beginning, I felt slightly annoyed at not having access to the technology I have come to rely on, but after a couple of days, I started to relish the slower pace. I’m old enough to remember what life was like without computer, cell phones, or the Internet. I used to look things up in dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias. I would turn on the radio or open the newspaper for the weather. And I put on an album when I wanted to hear a song.

I realized during our off-grid holiday, that there’s a part of me that misses the simplicity of those times. Nothing happened at the lightening speed it does now, but in many ways life felt less complicated. There were less options. Less noise. Less distractions.

Without our devices for a week, I felt a new spaciousness open up that I didn’t even realize I was missing. In this new space, I could let my mind meander beyond all of the tiny and not-so-tiny requests of my time and attention that each email and text and phone call and Instagram image and blog and sales pitch signifies.

At first, this spaciousness felt uncomfortable. Like something was missing. And then it felt familiar. Like an old friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to give up my phone, my computer, or even social media. But I do intend to be more intentional about the time I spend looking at my screens.

Last weekend’s hurricane, which wiped out power and impacted cell coverage in our province, cemented this commitment. Again, I experienced the joy of a quieter, more simple, and less distracted existence.

In the world we’re living in, it’s probably considered old-fashioned to want a break from digital culture and our devices, but I don’t care. I want more time to let my mind unwind. I want more time to drift and dream. I want more hammock and nature and river swimming. I want cookbooks instead of online recipes, board games instead of screens, and real humans, rather than a static photo of an instant frozen in time.

What about you?

Author: Renée Hartleib