Getting Off the Grid

I love an adventure. I decided to get disconnected for 5 days. That might not seem like a long time, but I have not been without the internet for that long in over ten years. It did not seem like that lofty of a goal. After all, I was going away to a place where it was merely inconvenient for me to get connected to the internet. I would have had to drive or walk a half mile away. I still had my phone for contact, which at the time did not get internet connection. How disengaged could I feel? (I have since gone to the “dark side” and purchased a smart phone.)

The first day I worried about my business. Would there actually be people who would forsake my services because I was not readily available? I had left an “auto reply” that explained my intentions. It went something like this:

“I am always up for a new adventure. I have decided to be OFF THE GRID for the next 5 days. I don’t think I have been without the internet for this long since my trip to Peru in 2000. If you need me sooner, please leave a message on one of my phones. Enjoy some time for yourself!” Julie Ann

I edited it several times. I was concerned that I might sound frivolous instead of committed to an exploration of life without the internet. I soon let those feelings go, rededicating myself to the goal of getting away from the vast universe of the “web”. There was nothing I could do once I had traveled to change what I wrote in the auto reply without getting connected. I assured myself that I was stronger than succumbing to that temptation!
The next day at my new destination, I felt a little like an addict. Sitting in a condo in the mountains, I had the thought of checking to see if I could connect from the comfort of my couch. Perhaps a neighbor had the internet I could latch on to? But that would be cheating, right? Who would know? I subdued the urge. Instead, I called my office phone to check for messages. I got the pleasure of returning a phone call and bonding with another human. Someone needed me.

I pondered… “Is being connected on the “net” really about being needed?”

As day three rolled around, I never even thought about what I was missing. Instead I took the time to watch the falling snow and smile, as if it was a specific gift for me on my birthday. I spent time looking at the color of the leaves, the fog lifting from the valleys and listening to a crackling fire. The opportunity was mine because I had more time. More important, I was making the time and learning I could do that anytime I chose to.
The internet affords us the possibilities of reading an email while looking for information on Google to include in the reply, simultaneously. Now, since I was not reading my email, I didn’t have to think of a reply or what I might need to know before I could respond. There is a thin line between how much we want to be available and how much we think we should be accessible. For each of us that is different. How many of us though, while not on vacation, deliberately disconnect, if only for one phone call?

When you are having dinner with your family, do you answer the phone when it rings? How many times a day do you feel compelled to check your email, or do you look every time you are alerted to a new message? What policy do you set for yourself for replying to messages? What would happen if you made it an hour longer…or a day?

Regardless on how you answer these questions, I am willing to bet that you could find a little more time in your day to get disconnected from the outside world and be more receptive to and more grateful of your surroundings. It does wonders for your perspective. Looming issues actually shrink in size and importance.

POSTSCRIPT: Upon my arrival home, although I had many emails in my three email accounts, (Really?), the world did not stop and no one thought I was a flake. I also discovered that when I am inundated with emails, it is much easier to delete some before reading them. (There is that changing perspective on importance) I have to admit that I ended up enjoying not feeling compelled to read and respond all the time. I survived not gaining any new knowledge from an internet search. Above all, I look forward to the next time I create the time to let the life around me seep in a bit more.

Attention media. This article is available for reprint as long as you include the following information: Julie Ann Sullivan has been engaging people with her workshops and interactive presentations for more than 20 years. She speaks to corporations, educators, students and professional organizations about life’s journeys. She is the author of Life Lessons, Shape-Up for Success and Pocketful of Inspiration. Julie Ann lives in Pittsburgh PA with her poodle Lucky. Learn more about Julie Ann by visiting


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