How to travel off-grid

Richard Mellor

It’s hard going without electricity, email, smartphones and civilisation in general—but doing so may bring perspective, renewal and a healthy dose of serenity

What does it mean?

Technically, going off-grid means travelling beyond the reach—or simply not using—public utilities such as electrical power, phone signal, water supply, gas and even sewage. In other words, its a synonym for being self-sufficient.

A similar, but more millennial, more holiday-minded interpretation has off-grid travellers chiefly eschewing electrical power, phone signal, gas and also shops, plus determinedly leaving their digital devices behind.

 

Why do it?

Draw the lines where it suits you; the key point is to have a break from your normal luxuries—and pressures.

It’s healthy to be reminded of all the at-hand facilities we so lazily have—being without them for a time is likely to induce some perspective, and some gratitude. 

Phones and laptops can also be hurtful: whether it's the addictive quality of email and Instagram, or simply the amount of time we spent hunched over screens whose graphics exhaust our eyes. Some freedom from that bondage can only be a good thing.

 

Consider camping

Camping offers the simplest way to satisfy most off-grid criteria, as well as a reliably rustic, back-to-nature experience. Escaping phone signal is difficult – very little of the western world is unconnected these days – but finding campsites using solar power and composting loos is not.

To further escape society’s clutches, opt against taking any food from local shops and perhaps vow to do some foraging, or to sign up for a course. 

You’ll be surprised how many plants, fungi and berries are edible. Just be sure to check the local rules first, and to research what’s safe and in season.

 

Get crafty

Additionally, you might sign up for lessons in – or intend to practice—other survival skills that us 21st-century types have little reason to use. Fire-building, say, or navigating with a compass. Shelter construction. Water-gathering.

Less useful in a bushcraft sense but just as wholesome is stargazing. Go somewhere remote and you’ll benefit from the lack of light pollution to see dazzling displays above. Practice spotting a few rudimentary constellations, and notice how your eyes adapt to the darkness.

 

Digital detoxes

Some hotels run digital detox breaks. These aren’t the true essence of off-grid, but they will force you to ditch the smartphone and to respect that out-of-office auto-reply for once.

Even if you’re not heading to such a place, try and do without your tech. Failing all else, bring your gadget but only with a little power; leave back-up battery chargers at home. That way, it’s there if you really need—perhaps solely as a comfort—but only with very limited usage.

 

What to leave behind

Instead of that phone and/or tablet, bring a paper map, a book, a simple camera and perhaps some pens and paper. Your bag might be heavier, but your spirit will be lighter and you’ll be far more present.

Not being so reliant on your gadget should also force you to speak to people—asking locals for directions, say, or getting restaurant tips. 

Read more: 10 Hacks for travelling lighter

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