Get Off the Grid


Patagonia winds whisper to me like it was yesterday.

How I crave to be in the mountains walking up and down rugged landscapes, hoping to see yet another breathtaking view, some aspect of the world I never expected, and breathe in the clean cool air.

To be surrounded by nothing except the stunning wilds, untethered from the Internet, no cell phone, just an occasional group of people, most of whom don’t speak English or give a damn about me. Ah, heaven.

This was freedom, the ultimate escape from reality.


I spent two weeks walking through parts of Patagonia, and even Ushuia, the end of the world on the Beagle Channel. That’s the port where ships leave for Antarctica, the southern most city on the globe. It was incredible, the best vacation of my life.

Jonathan Franzen dubbed this type of escape a Robinson Crusoe fantasy, one he attempted but failed to enjoy, thanks to the presence of satellite technology tethered to the outside world. Fortunately for me, Argentine wireless networks didn’t like the great outdoors.

But who knows, that may change in the near future. Perhaps soon even the most sparse areas will have wireless access, either wifi or cellular.

Then escaping will be a real task.

Luxury of the Future

The real luxury of the future will be getting off the grid, to be unfound.

There are vacation companies and resorts that take your cell phone and Internet access away from you when you check in.

Protecting privacy might require enforcement. Creating an off the grid zone is the privilege of the truly wealthy.

I was at a sports marketing event recently. We discussed the phenomena of athletes and errant tweets, both on their own part as well as their “fans” who often embarrass players in an effort to capture them in the limelight.

We thought an athlete’s inner circle needs to ensure people who attend private parties and events check their cell phones at the door, just like they would weapons.


Recently, I had a vacation short in South Beach. It was fun, but I made the mistake of staying tethered to the world. Tweets, pics, Facebook, blog, etc.

I regret that. Deeply. It was a wasted opportunity to unplug and break free of the echo chamber.

Getting off the grid is the greatest luxury I can give myself. Using the time to enjoy new experiences with those closest to my heart, I gain perspective, and can create anew.

What do you think? Is getting off the grid becoming the ultimate luxury?

27 Replies to “Get Off the Grid”

  1. I love the opportunity when it arises to get off the grid. I’ve done it a few times now and it is very refreshing albeit for relatively short periods of time. I think you may be right though for extended periods of time, it may just be a luxury for the wealthy or the truly blessed.

    1. I do feel for those of us that work online, it truly is a luxury. Perhaps the rest of the world sees us as silly!

  2. I have a new mission: to be unfound for periods of time. I was blessed to have met an online friend from India IRL yesterday here in Canada, and the experience made me remember to slow down, experience the moment fully and remember that, regardless of how much we know or experience, the world is a huge place of new things to savour, not just consume. Cheers! Kaarina

    1. This is a good mission. It delivers perspective. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on impact…

  3. I do think it is. I was thinking this just yesterday. I was partnering on a pitch (final stage, keep your fingers crossed!), and one of my partners greeted me as I walked up, asking how I was. I looked at him and said, “I would really like to be on a beach right now.” I meant it… and for me, that means no cell phone, no email, no Twitter, no FB… except for posting fun pics of vacation, etc. – but only what I want to do personally, nothing to do with blogging, ec. But then… is that really off the grid? Or is it just *my* version of being off the grid? I still don’t know.

    1. Yes. I am really starting to think about a low-cost way to do this that doesn’t cost me a month. Can you say West Virginia?

      On the grid question, sounds like the premise for a novel. Promise not to steal it. ;)

  4. Luxury implies something we have to stretch for. But in our society getting off the grid is actually accessible to everyone, all the time, whether in Patagonia or Poughkeepsie. Perhaps you’ve just forgotten about this, Jeff, or perhaps your real commitment is to promises you’ve made family, friends and work relationships. But if you think about all that getting off the grid brings you in terms of peace of mind and self-awareness, I hope you’ll agree it’s not something to save for the occasional vacation!

  5. As you know, this is something I struggle with as my job requires me to stay online pretty darned regularly, but I have been longing for a time when I can, like Kaarina said, just disappear for awhile. Maybe I will try it soon and freak everybody out :)

      1. Some do, some are so absorbed in their own social media adventure they don’t even notice.

    1. Nothing wrong with a planned vacation. And I found out after Patagonia, that it only took two weeks to get everybody back on line in my community…

  6. I was in Arizona last week for a few talks, and I had one day off – Sunday – before a new client meeting on Monday. A whole day and I was staying at a wonderful Kimpton resort in Scottsdale. I took one of their cruiser bikes into town to a real (and awesome) bookstore and got myself some fiction to read by the pool since I didn’t think to bring any with me.

    I then found a fantastic spot in the shade, near a waterfall and settled in with my book. And kept checking my phone. :) and I just wanted to tell everyone – see where I am?!?!?!?

    It is soooooo hard to stay present sometimes. :) But you guys know me – I’m all about the balance so support this message wholeheartedly.

    1. Sounds delightful. I just wrapped my writing for the morning, and about to hit my links for Monday. I think I’ll do the same, perhaps even turn those phones off.

  7. I turn off the notifications on my phone so that I don’t check it constantly. But like Ms. Clayman my job requires me to be hooked up to the collective so I spend more time online than I sometimes like.

    But there are many occasions where I toss the phone in the glove compartment and drive. Moments of freedom, but certainly not as freeing as those in the pix above.

    1. I am in the same situation. I really need to plan this, and then truly do it. Turnt he phones over to a trusted custodian ;)

  8. it’s almost summer, which means pool/beach time. which means…laps! no notifications can happen in the pool for the 30 – 60 minutes I swim :) (Apple: don’t you dare invent a waterproof iPhone). that’s as off the grid that’ll I get anytime soon. at least until I’m on that flight to Thailand :)

    1. One of the reasons I love bike riding. Check phone, and you die! LOL.

      Now Thailand sounds interesting!

  9. You “never come down” when you stay tethered. That’s why I like vacationing in Mexico. I intentionally unplug my devices…expect the iPad for Pandora.

    Whenever I’m stateside, I’m checking email, social networks, RSS feeds/Triberr. Every “ding” I hear spikes my blood pressure.

    I’ve also set the Do Not Disturb on my phone/iPad between 11p – 7a…trying to find some calm amongst the daily storms.

    Like you, I definitely love the mountains. Living in Denver, I have a smile on my face every time I see those Rockies on the horizon…yet I haven’t visited them since last September!

    1. Ah, what a great place to live. Estes Park is one of my favorite places in the world, and to have it so accessible. This makes me want to go to Harpers Ferry soon. Hope you are well!

      1. We tend to favor Breckenridge, and we checked out Steamboat Springs and Buena Vista for the first time last year (and we’ve lived here for 13 years). We live in a beautiful state! Washington state was also beautiful because it had lakes and two mountain ranges!

        Doing very well…trying to get this kitchen remodel done before our youngest graduates high school and runs off to college in California!

  10. Of course it is and will be, ironically enough. The deal is the phone. I do not use it or make myself available to anyone that way. I see the problem as that full time availability…I do not offer that any day of the week…and less when I travel.

    1. I agree. It’s funny, I often comment late a t night or the next day here, for that same reason. I think I owe it to my clients and family to be present for them first, then my online community. Then I go have fun, but I do tier these things.

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