Lessons I learnt living off-the-grid in the middle of nowhere

As part of my voluntary placement with Raleigh International this year I got to live in a remote village, without access to my phone, for 2 months. Here’s what I learnt from the experience.

Big respect to the sun

sun-rise-mist

Keep it on the down-low because this is the kind of world-empowering knowledge that starts wars… but it turns out that everything we use to survive is regulated by a giant ball in the sky known as THE SUN.

That’s correct. The thing that most of us can see rise every morning and set every day is giving life to everything we touch. And we don’t even say hello to it.

Accept I do now. It gave me strength as I drank chai tea at 6am and looked at it rise through the mountains, preparing me for whatever lay ahead. It taught me something important – any scary or challenging situation you’re in is temporary, but a new day rising is guaranteed. Never take your new day for granted.

HELLO SUNSHINE, THANK YOU FOR TODAY!

People have amazing stories

When you don’t have Netflix, or podcasts, or Facebook, or Pinterest, or access to a local newspaper, or any media, you’re left with two things – nature and people.

People are pretty awesome. We’ve all taken a set of wonderfully unique steps to get to where we are today and every step has a story.

Some stories are small and some stories are huge. Some are told many times, and some are beyond our wildest dreams. Some are expected and some are very much out of the blue (like someone you’ve been friends with for a month suddenly telling you they’re married).

During my time with volunteers and fellow villagers I had many morning digs, slow afternoons and spontaneous nights listening to people sharing their story. Stories of bravery through difficult times, of happy memories being re-lived, of political views from passionate beliefs, and of small things that happened that day.

Many, many stories which could have gone un-heard if we went back to our rooms to watch Netflix.

We’re nothing if not resourceful

When you want food but you don’t have a car, or a main road or a bus to your local shop, you do what needs to be done. Here I am carrying 18 eggs, crisps, juice and tomatoes for an hour through the forest, over rocks and downs steep banks. And in case you’re wondering, having eggs was the equivalent of ordering Dominos – so those things had to make it back in one piece!

eggs

During the end of our stay our daily work started to reduce and the team were getting a little restless. Amazing things started to be born out of boredom. We had evening meals, dancing by the fire and skill sharing sessions. But my absolute favourite was a bespoke edition of Cards Against Humanity that featured scenarios and people from our trip that only we would find funny.

When you’re given the freedom and necessity to conjure up new ideas, trust me, you’re capable of anything.

You might know more than you think

I don’t know about you but in my ‘real world’ in the UK I rarely have a meet-up with friends where our phones aren’t within reach, or actually being held. Our phones have become our security blanket.

When was the last time you had a conversation and something came up that left you feeling baffled? You can’t remember because you looked it up and the feeling evaporated before it had a chance to even exist.

Access to instant information is BRILLIANT, don’t get me wrong. But if I’m in a situation where I don’t know something I don’t even give myself three seconds to figure it out. I’m straight onto Google.

This is not only messing with our memory retrieval skills (probably, I don’t know I’m not a scientist), but it means we have far less of those joyous moments where we surprise ourselves with our own knowledge.

Next time you’re meeting your friends try challenging yourselves to turn off the phone and have a real human brains only rule? You might be surprised with what you didn’t know you knew and I bet you pay a bit more attention to what the human faces are saying.

We really don’t need ‘stuff’

I’ve written about this a few times now but I really can’t tell you how freeing it is to realise that we don’t need ‘stuff’ to be happy. Every day all day the media is telling us that a couch, a kitchen, a coffee machine, a handbag or a pair of jeans is going to improve our lives.

Imagine a day where you’re not being told by anyone what you need. The only voice you have to listen to is your own and the only things you have are essential. Suddenly you have empowerment over where your mind is. You really start to think about the things in life that actually make you happy and time kind of slows down.

You’re not thinking about what you don’t have any more, you’re thinking about everything you’re grateful for. Like the big ball of fire in the sky and the people in your life that make you smile. Time becomes the most precious thing, and the only thing you can’t buy.

Take your time

Time.

It’s something none of us have right? Because we’re all busy. And busy people are successful people.

Nooooooooooo!

Happy people are successful people.

Are you taking the time to do the things that make you happy? In a world where we’re encouraged to think we don’t have any time, we rarely stop to consider the idea that we might have some. When we can get milk delivered to us in a few hours, a pair of shoes delivered the next day, an Uber within five minutes, and a meal within three, we get trapped in ‘instant’ mode.

Some things, like the really important things, take time. Don’t feel guilty for using it on what brings you joy.

Convenience isn’t always convenient

There’s a theme here, and the theme is ‘be grateful for the little things’.

When you’re having to ration a jar of chocolate spread between three people over a month, and it’s the only sweet thing you have access to, things can get a little ‘heated’.

But the joy of that tiny spread of chocolate on a piece of leftover roti is the kind of joy that takes you back to being a kid. A time where you weren’t old enough to get whatever you wanted and you had to wait for your ‘ration’.

I think it’s good, as adults, to go on a fast of some kind every now and then, just to remind ourselves to appreciate those small joys that we’re so lucky to have.


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