In 2010, the New York Times ran a story about five neuroscientists who took a rafting trip in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah. The intent of the trip was to understand how the heavy use of digital devices and electronic technology changes how we think and behave – and also how retreating from them can reverse the (often negative) effects.
This is is why everyone calls it a vacation – it’s a restorative break from our normal lives.
These days, there are many people interested in off-the-grid living for a wide range of reasons, both political and personal, and the travel industry has caught on. Once isolated to those willing to pitch a tent and fish for their dinner, off-grid travel has become increasingly popular with jungle retreats, luxury resorts, and even trailers that are dropped off at remote locations – just for you to enjoy.
How far you take your off-the-grid travel adventure can range from simply turning off your electronic devices and leaving the car parked in favor of riding bikes all the way to sleeping in a hammock on a sustainable farm, eating only what you help produce, and showering in collected water.
If the idea of being in some remote area and fending for yourself appeals to you, there is still the question of safety. The following are five steps to prepare to stay safe when you travel off the grid.
1. Know your limits
Even if the chaos of your daily life has driven you to want a digital break, it’s important to know your limits. If you cannot live without your news fix, but you can take a break from reading hundreds of emails and tweeting what you had for lunch, factor that in. Leave your laptop or tablet at home, get your news fix at breakfast from a good old-fashioned television station and you’ve made a change you can live with on vacation.
We found some recommendations for how to digitally detox weeks ahead of your vacation to ensure that you really can go (and stay) off the grid for that amount of time (apparently this is incredibly tough for some folks).
2. Pack the essentials
Loads of off grid travelers take themselves to very remote places – often far out of range of good medical care. Sure, you’ll probably spend most of your day hiking, swimming, or even working the fields if you’re contributing to a sustainable farm as your payment for a bed to sleep in, but it still makes sense to wear sunscreen, stay well hydrated with clean, safe drinking water, and eat well.
Perhaps you don’t mind suffering through a headache, but if you cut your finger some antibacterial and a bandage wouldn’t be a bad idea. Take a little time to think about where you’re going, pack a travel medical kit, and don’t let an insect bite ruin your health on this trip.
3. Get the necessary vaccinations
Many off-grid travel locations are in unlikely and remote places. Some of those places can expose a traveler to unwanted and unwelcome diseases that they’re not likely to get back home. Many diseases common in other countries have been virtually eliminated in the U.S. Depending on your vaccination records, you may need a booster or a vaccination you never needed prior.
Do a little research about your destination so you know what items to bring and what vaccinations to get ahead of time. See our traveler’s vaccination checklist for more details.
4. Have an emergency plan
This is the one most travelers – even those not going off grid – forget and it’s unfortunate because some pre-trip planning can make all the difference. Anytime you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be and when you’re expected back. After all, if you don’t show up, help can be sent.
Keep your travel cash and a backup credit card secure in a money belt.
Know how to find medical help at your destination.
Store your travel documents securely and leave a backup with someone you trust.
Have some basic understanding of local laws so you avoid being arrested.
If you’re leaving behind all electronics, find out if where you’re going has a landline, a radio, or some way to get in touch in an emergency. Hint: even a whitewater rafting guide has to check in sometimes. If they don’t, consider the option of taking along a charged cell phone and turn it off unless you have an emergency.
5. Have travel insurance
Travel insurance is even more important when you’re traveling to a remote location where there are few medical facilities. If you are badly injured or become severely ill, you’ll need a travel insurance plan with coverage to take you to safety. Ensure that your travel insurance plan will cover your emergency medical treatment costs as well as your medical evacuation costs before you take your off-grid trip.
A final word about off-grid travel …
Some travelers find it very easy to get into the new no-digital routine, but while you’re traveling off the grid, it’s important to remember some basic safety rules too:
Let someone know when you’re going hiking, swimming, etc. Even better, take a buddy along with you.
Don’t touch the weird looking things. In remote places, you’re likely to encounter plants, insects, fruits, and more that you’ve never seen before. Unless you know what it is, don’t touch it.
Respect the neighbors you do have. Some remote eco-resorts, for instance, are also populated with wild animals, snakes, rodents and more. The best way to stay safe is to respect their space.
See also our 7 Essential Travel Products for Of-the-Grid Trips for a few more ideas when you’re planning your next trip.