When was the last time you went off the grid? Truly offline and in the moment?
Since I got my first cell phone at 12 years old, I have been plugged in. I haven’t spent more than 24 hours off the grid… until last summer. I spent 7 days on a sailboat and completely disconnected from everything except for my crew and the vast ocean around us.
It was isolating. And it was the most connected I’ve ever been to my reality.
That trip was incredibly challenging, but so worth it. I came back online with a completely new understanding of what connection means. Out in the world, I am surrounded by people… constantly ‘connecting’ with others on social media. But after taking a closer look? I was alone. I wasn’t invested. I wasn’t present. I wasn’t building connections. I wasn’t giving time, heart, or attention to my friends, family, and relationships.
I was as alone in a sea full of people as I was out on the ocean alone with the stars.
Sad, isn’t it?
We spend so much time just waiting for life to happen around us, waiting for the phone to ping and let us know what our network is up to somewhere else in the world, instead of living in the moments that we are in.
Full disclosure: I am guilty of this. First degree, pre-meditated, put me away for life guilty.
My phone is rarely more than an arm’s length away. It’s my closest intimate relationship. It’s the first thing I think about in the morning, and the last thing I think about at night. It sleeps in my bed with me. Hell, we often go to the bathroom together. We’re inseparable.
Does that sound familiar?
Let’s have a look at our interactions. When we’re out at dinner with friends, our thoughts are drifting to the phone on the table next to us. We’re waiting – consciously or not – for that little buzz to let us know we can continue that other conversation we’re having. Or the other 5, 10, or 20 conversations.
What about the person across the table? How often do we give the people that we are around our full attention and the respect that they deserve? How often do we put a pause on what else is happening in our lives to really be present with the people we are with?
The Off the Grid Challenge is about making a choice to be present. Choosing to be off the grid and in the moment. Look, I know that driving off into the woods for 5 days is not necessarily realistic. So let’s start small…
The Off the Grid Challenge
Go for a walk …without your phone.
It seems so simple, doesn’t it? It is. Just do it. No, you don’t need music to go for a walk. Wouldn’t it be funny if you could be entertained by what is actually happening around you? Let’s get wild here. What if you had a conversation with a stranger?
Do it. Today.
Leave your phone in the car.
Next time you’re meeting up with a friend… leave your phone in the car. If you’ve made plans to do something with someone, give them your focus, your respect.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re out at dinner with friends and someone picks up their phone, it triggers a reaction where you and the others around you also pick up your phones? It’s a thing, and it sucks. The next time you’re out at a restaurant, look around the room. How many people are actually there? Present. Communicating. In the moment.
Imagine a dinner out with a group where not a single person brought their phone to the table. Imagine having a truly engaged conversation with your friends. The ones in front of you. What would that be like?
Stop sleeping with your phone.
Why do we this this? Seriously. It is the death of restful sleep. So here’s a good way to start. Set an alarm on your phone right now to remind you to put your phone away at 9:00pm. Put in on a charger in a different room. Don’t pick it up until after breakfast the next morning.
My morning coffee and breakfast allows me those few moments of peace to reflect, to thoughtfully prepare for a day that is intentional and focused, and gives me some last moments of being present before the mayhem begins.
Leave your phone in the other room.
Whether you have guests over or are cooking dinner for yourself or your family, leave your phone in a different room. How many messages do you get in the evenings that are truly urgent? How many actually need an immediate reply? Is there anything really more important than spending quality time with the people in your home?
Plan an off the grid trip.
Yep, this one takes a bit of effort. But the greatest moments in life don’t come easy. Go to a spot where you couldn’t get WiFi even if you wanted it. Go alone or go with your nearest and dearest.
If you’re a kiteboarder, go to Nitinat Lake. Any weekend in the summer, and especially Windfest weekend.. this is a place where you will get a new understanding for what being present is. There is NOTHING to do here. Just kite, sleep, and hang out.
Can’t find anyone to go with you? Go it alone! I’ve made the journey to Windfest at Nitinat twice on my own, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a magical place where you can have downtime, tent naps, sit by the water and read, go for walks in the woods, and turn strangers into friends. I spent many hours at Nitinat Lake sitting by the fire talking about life and laughing over beers on the beach. Friendship happens quickly at Windfest. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from consciously putting the phone down, the times that I’ve chosen to truly be present are the times that are the most memorable. They are the times when I’ve made the closest connections. Fact: These moments would not have happened with a phone in my pocket. I know that.
Sometimes it takes a week of bobbing around at sea, too far away from WiFi to even comprehend. Others all it takes is a few days in the remote wilderness of Canada.
But what if all it takes is just leaving your phone at home today? Putting the distant rest of the world from your mind… and allowing yourself to be blown away by what you see.
Start small. But start now.
Share this blog with your friends and get them in on this challenge. Let’s see how much fun we can have together. Truly together.