Two years ago, I went off-the-grid to Central America and for awhile, folks didn’t hear from me. About the same time last year, I went to Nevada (see Going Off the Grid for a Human Touch), and got caught up in the wonder of my newborn grandson. Well, I’ve done it again and gone off-the-grid for a few weeks in Mexico. Like my adventure in Central America, local cell service existed if you could speak Spanish. Internet is spotty but available … in-between frequent brownouts. My cell phone didn’t have international access and I chose not to rent one locally (because I’m cheap and who would I call in Mexico). When I did find a working Wi-Fi signal, my laptop had issues speaking the same digital lingo. It might have been the dozen rum drinks I had trying to make it work, but I decided the purpose of my visit was to regale in the splendor of unspoiled sandy beaches and turquoise waters (I took that right off the tourist brochure).
A few days passed before withdrawal symptoms set in. Fingers twitched involuntarily, as if searching for something to type. Fitful nights, separated from emergency calls in case something happened to my daughter or if my house burned down. What about all the unanswered email? Will social media followers drop me? Did Tyrion Lannister survive his harrowing boat journey with the scheming eunuch?
All very silly of course, and after a week, the need to feed my media addiction faded. Archived memories of a time when RF signals didn’t typhoon through our body organs like electron poltergeists, had me sigh with longing. Absent the perpetual distraction of media input, my senses had room to feel the silence of where I was. Story plots found pen and paper, like the old days. Still, I knew it was temporary, and I’d be back in the grid soon.
Let’s face it, many of us go ape-shit when cell signal is lost, bang keyboards when the internet goes down. Adolescents enter that special cranky state when cable or satellite goes blank with, “no signal available,” and how does anyone make it through the day without texting?
I grew up in a time of rotary telephones that only needed five numbers to dial (who remembers dialing “two“, and getting the party line). Making calls in a remote hamlet of New Hampshire required operator assistance. It was the age of letters … you know, that form of communication that required penmanship, paper, and pen. Mail didn’t zip electronically through servers, real humans with the Postal Service walked neighborhoods to deliver it. GPS back then was a compass and map. Getting lost meant really lost, signal fire or message-in-a-bottle lost. Complete loss of communication fifty years ago would have been limited to radio, phone, and three channels of television, and even then, a fearful thing.
It had me wondering. What if going off the grid became like S.M. Stirling’s “Dies the Fire“, first in his Emberverse Series where the power goes out, permanently. Makes good dystopian story fodder, or even a better sci-fi plot, where the space ship is power dead, no way to signal, let anyone know I’m stranded … before the oxygen runs out … write my last will and testament on the cargo bay wall with a shipping marker. This is what happens when I’m left to the elements too long.
To be truthful, going off-the-grid is invigorating, even if we know we’ll be back after a few messages from our sponsors. It returned me to a time when it was routine to read for hours on end. Sounds like a cheesy line from an eighties Disney movie, but I listened to the wind. Can’t get that when sounds of civilization and the infernal message chime on my smart phone, compete for auditory reception. My head cleared of twenty-first century chaff and ideas flew on a simple pad of paper. Got this great idea for a new story where aliens save humanity from the edge of extinction. Don’t ask me how crashing beach waves nurtured the story line. Maybe it’s the rare moment where my cranial closet is cleaned out and searching for new stuff to clutter it.
Everyone should go off-the-grid now and then. It clears the head, provided you avoid too many rum drinks.
If you like this post, show the love by liking it back, and feel free to comment with your favorite way to go off-the-grid.
Mary Barberia said:
I agree with you, Dan. We all need to get back to “basics” for at least a week. Our brains rejuvenate so we can actually talk.
Try getting rid of your car for a real invigorating experience! I tried both (not at the same time though). I got off the grid when my phone fell in the ocean during a vacation last year. It was great and made for a better vacation. It was also good to have a new one a few weeks later. Now I got rid of my car (no, not the ocean again), and it is a similar experience. One of having more time to observe the world around us, and being less stressed out.
Sometimes we have to force ourselves to “get-off-the-grid”. Losing the car can sure help focus on that which surrounds us. Thanks, Bart.
Beth LaDuca said:
Dan – really enjoyed sharing your experience with you! Since Michelle and Karen shared at last months GLVWG meeting about allowing ourselves to take time and play, and do the things we truly enjoy but hesitate allowing ourselves time to do, I have taken time every other day to play and look for the things I did when much younger, like ride a spring supported rocking horse. (picture to prove it).
It has truly helped me refocus and allow my characters and setting to create themselves.
Oh, I loved those spring rocking horses. Unseated myself (crashed) a few times by “riding” faster than advisable. Thanks, Beth.