The following story was written by Rachel Belle of KIRO Radio
You hear a lot of people talking about unplugging when they're on vacation, but a new tour company called Off The Grid makes sure you stick to your word. They offer phone-free excursions for people who need help being more in the moment.
“All of our trips are phone free,” said Off The Grid CEO and founder Zach Beattie. “So you show up, you actually put your phone away with a group of up to 30 other travelers, and then you have a really social, disconnected experience for usually about a week. So you get to explore a cool city without any pressure to be plugged in and have lots of face-to-face interaction.”
The first official trip is to Lisbon in July and if you’re wondering how you can get by without your phone…
“When you arrive you actually get this big backpack full of gear,” Beattie said. “You get a burner phone, you get a journal with a bunch of prompts in it for writing. We’ve got a couple of books we really enjoy that we added in as well, a couple of disposable cameras and an analog watch. So you have all this stuff that you can use when you don’t have your smart phone.”
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“In the mornings we’ll say, ‘These couple hours are reserved for journaling or for coffee and conversation,'” he said. “So you’ll randomly get paired up with somebody in the group to go grab coffee. Everything we do tries to drive toward that same goal of being in the present moment and try and get some techniques that you can bring home with you.”
Cameras are welcome, but some people who’ve signed up for upcoming trips want to disconnect so completely, they’re not interested in taking photos.
“When you are worried about the perfect shot or the perfect framing of this experience or you start thinking, ‘I wonder how this is going to look on Instagram?’ Or, ‘I wonder what I could caption this when I share it on Facebook,’ that takes you away from the moment,” So all the little side thoughts of capturing the experience are not the same as having the experience. I think people really get caught up in the capturing rather than the having.”
Off The Grid hires a professional photographer to capture the trip, so you can still get some photos even if you don’t take your own.
Beattie says people of all ages have been applying, and most have one thing in common.
“What I hear from people when they apply is they say, ‘I have a really stressful job, I have to be plugged in 24/7, I sleep with my phone, I check my email first thing in the morning and I just need a break. And I don’t think I can do it by myself,'” Beattie said. “A lot of people will say, ‘If I wanted to do this, why don’t I just put my phone away and I can just travel solo and just not bring my phone?’ I say, you know, if you can do that, more power to you. I’ve tried to do that, it’s really tough. Having a bunch of people around you has proven to be really really helpful.”
Beattie quit his job in tech to start the company, after being burnt out from sitting and looking at a screen all day. He had recently taken an unplugged trip with friends and liked it so much he thought others would too.
“A lot of people will say, ‘Zach, why do you hate phones so much?’ I definitely don’t. I think phones are really powerful tools, I love my phone. I’d prefer if it was used more like a car. You park it when it’s not used. You respect it but it’s not with you all day. You use it when you need it.”
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