Going off the grid for your next vacation will refresh you with more than just a well-deserved break. It will provide you with something deeper, more rewarding, and often mind shifting and soul stirring.
When you go off the beaten track, you inevitably change. What you experience as you skip the crowds and touristy restaurants, is a subconscious information osmosis that provides you with life skills that cannot be taught, and a level of deep understanding that cannot be explained. You enjoy new explorations of place and connections with people, and a changed pace and mental space for reflection, different to your everyday life.
I urge you to travel outside your comfort zone, even if it’s only a little while. Just alter your style of travel slightly and you will be amazed at how eye-opening it can be. Discover the lesser-known, local communities and customs; eat like a local, with the locals. In other words, embrace experiences.
Let’s explore this a little further.
An education for living
Seeking a deeper understanding of other cultures, religions and lifestyles is far more rewarding than sipping a cocktail at the world’s most lavish bar. To have the curiosity to want to understand the world better can only benefit you in a positive way. Often the world is presented in a media bubble that is far from the reality.
Learn for yourself from the locals. Use a local guide as your translator. Ask about the lifestyle, traditions, customs and challenges of the local way of life. Ask about pressures from the Western world. Is tourism positive or negative to their lifestyle?
Travelling through the highlands of Iran, I spent a night with the Shahsavan Nomads who have had very little engagement with Westerners. We felt so welcomed as they were proudly shared their culture and simple, delicious cuisine. We learned they do not use currency but are still on a barter system and, even today, use the stars to guide them when they need to move to greener pastures.
Sit down and listen. As the Dalai Lama has said: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new.”
The more you learn, the more you understand and the more you truly appreciate the world. Having an open mind is essential when escaping off the grid. Allow your experiences to shape your journey. You will enjoy your travels far more if you don’t restrict yourself with preconceived ideas.
Cultural awareness means taking the time to understand the reasons for a chosen way of life without being judgemental. Make this a two-way communication – share your way of life with your new friends. I took a small group to stay in a monastery in Nepal, home to 200 monks.
We sat down with some of the monks to learn about their practices, rituals and beliefs. Our group was shocked when a monk asked why we dyed our hair and said it made no sense to him. Both parties discovered something new about the other.
The simple life
Venturing off the grid often means leaving your creature comforts behind which involves, in some cases, a true digital detox. Stripping back to the bare bones is tough, but then you realise it is okay and embrace the change. On my first journey to India, my mind was opened to a world I didn’t know existed: a world of inequality governed by a system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
But India made me truly appreciative – not just of what I have, but of how little you need to survive and be happy. You immerse yourself into the local customs, savour the cuisine, pick up a few words in a foreign language, and re-engage with yourself and what is important in life.