Getting “Off the Grid”

Last week, my family and I headed up to the mountains of Vermont for some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Here in New England, my children have an entire week off from school every February over Presidents’ Day, and my family looks forward to this break every year. After loading up our van, we drove three hours north with great anticipation. We settled into our room and immediately loved the remote location where we could see the majestic mountains and towering pine trees from our windows. We spent most of the week relaxing by the fireplace, playing games, and watching movies, but we didn’t spend the whole time indoors. With the unseasonably warm weather, we also played snow football, sledded down rolling hills, and hiked along wooded trails with many breathtaking views including the stunning Quechee Gorge. We had a wonderful time hanging out together, just the four of us.

Whenever we have an opportunity to get away like this, I often use this time to get “off the grid” for a while. This means I take a complete break from all my electronic devices. So for three days, I turned off my phone, computer, and tablet - no texts, emails, or internet. It was a great opportunity for me to take a break from the outside world. Instead of spending so much time on my devices, I chose to focus on other things like reading, writing, and spending time with my family. This experience of getting “off the grid” reminded me of how easy it is for my life to become consumed with technology. Often, I check my emails, respond to texts from family and friends, use social media, and read the news to be sure I’m up on world events. These activities can even pull me away from doing things I enjoy, causing quite a distraction. But these three days of no technology reminded me, once again, of the benefits of taking a break from my usual routine as well as the importance of establishing boundaries with my electronic devices. Technology is necessary for certain things, but it can easily take over our lives without us even realizing it. Getting “off the grid” is one way for us to see the impact technology is having on our lives first-hand.

Our remote location and time away also enabled me to enjoy our nature hikes even more. Somehow, my senses seemed even more acute to the world around me. I heard the crows cawing loudly in the trees, felt the brisk winter breeze upon my bare cheeks, and smelled the lingering scent of the damp earth that was hidden beneath the snow. Taking a break from my usual routine and focusing my attention on the beautiful world all around me, I felt the world around me change. The views were breathtaking with mountains looming in the distance and picturesque woods all around me. As we walked over a small bridge and heard the soothing stream rushing beneath our feet, I realized serene places like this exist everywhere. I’m just usually too busy to notice. These beautiful mountain paths had shown me that when I take a break from my life, I can see it with new eyes. The busyness goes away, and I no longer miss the things that are right in front of me. I see the beauty of nature and the quality time with my family which, of course, is the most important thing of all.

As I stood in the massive shadows of the mountains, I realized that we, as humans, are here for such a short amount of time. The Green Mountains of Vermont were formed millions of years ago, and they are not going anywhere. They see the sunshine and the rain - the calm and the storm - yet nothing brings them down. They are mighty and powerful. Standing in their strength, they simply allow the world to happen around them as it will, never questioning their role here on this earth. As humans, however, we often try to control the world around us. We try to make things happen in our lives, always striving to achieve more. Yet sometimes, I wonder if when we do that, we completely miss the point. We are so busy striving that we forget to simply “be.” We forget to stand in our strength and trust in our purpose for being here. Looking outside of ourselves for validation, we try to weather the storms and forget that our greatest strength comes from within. When we believe in our own purpose and remember who we truly are, we can make the most of whatever time we’ve been given, no matter how short or long that time might be.

This week, spend some time “off the grid” and away from the busyness of the world, even if it’s just for a little while. Do you notice anything new? Are your senses more attuned? Do you feel any differently? When you slow down long enough to pay attention to the world around you, it is a good time to evaluate your life. Are you appreciating all the things you’ve been given, or are you just rushing from one thing to the next? Are you constantly distracted and out of touch? Through quieting your mind and reflecting, you begin to see the world in entirely new ways. You begin to feel your inner strength and believe in your purpose for this life. You allow yourself to stop striving and to simply “be,” making the most of your life. Then, when you return to the busyness of the world, you can remember these lessons you have learned from your time away. Nature and the mountains can teach you many things, and when you take these lessons to heart, carry them with you, and return to them as often as you can, your world will never be the same. 

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