Recently, the New York Times ran a story about five neuroscientists who took a trip to the Glenn Canyon National Recreation area in Utah with the goal of studying how the heavy use of digital services and other technology changes how we think and behave. At the end of the trip, all five scientists were singing the praises of Off-the-Grid Travel.
Great premise, I thought. Off-the-Grid travel just might be the next big thing. It’s exotic, exclusive, difficult to achieve. It won’t be long before Abercrombie & Kent will be offering Off-the-Grid safaris. I should do something about this for No Crowds.
Two days later, I am in Hertfordshire, what Wikipedia calls “a non-metropolitan county in the East region of England”. Hardly the wilds of Utah, but for a committed London girl, a great place to perform her first experiment with Off-the-Grid Travel.
My ground rules were simple:
1) Leave electronic devices at home
2) Drop off daughter at Lacrosse Camp in Hertforshire at 9:00 to be picked up at 4:00
3) Find something to do for 6 hours
And here’s the thing, without devices or any forward planning, I had an absolutely splendid time for the next 3 days.
On day one, I took a walk and stumbled on Rothamsted Research, a huge agricultural research center that is also the oldest agricultural research station in the world where scientists have been tracking environmental changes over the last 150 years. The center includes a beautiful 17th century manor house that is used to house the scientists and students.
On day two, I ended up at the home of the playwright George Bernard Shaw in the tiny village of Ayot St Lawrence. Run by the National Trust, Shaw’s Corner (pictured above) is a great time warp. Much of his books and papers are there, including his Oscar for My Fair Lady. About that he had this to say. “I won’t say I’m insulted because no doubt they meant well, but I don’t work for competitions.” Who knew?
On day three, I pulled out all the stops and followed a sign to Hatfield House. For the last 400 years, the estate has been the home of the Cecils, one of England’s foremost political families. It’s a grand Jacobean place filled with inspiring stories and objects and one of the finest houses I have ever visited.
For three days, just like the neuroscientists in Utah, I wandered around and discovered things. It was fun. I paid attention to what I was doing. Twitter, Facebook and No Crowds did fine without me and I without them.
Off-the-Grid Travel. It really could be the next big thing.