Editorial: Going off-grid a luxury

By Eva Bradley

1 comment

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, cellphone reception was not an omnipresent force that went with you everywhere, like your shadow on a sunny day.

It was an elusive and insidious gift from the Age of Technology that arrived quite suddenly one day, but with an inconsistency as frustrating as the price of the service was painful.

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My first taste of the power of the cellphone was as I cruised around in my mother's car on a restricted licence, making sure it was very obvious that I was using her fancy car phone.

Because it was the size of a small tribe of elephants, this was achieved with relative ease.

But what I remember most about the early days of cellphones was filing copy for news stories as I traversed the winding roads of Central Otago while working for One News around the turn of the century (which makes it sound like a very long time ago, indeed).

Getting the story was the easy bit compared to driving to the top of every hill in a 50km radius in order to get enough bars on my Nokia 3310 to call it in.

At some unspecified time between then and now, cellphone reception (and access to the internet generally) has become something we expect.

Going off-grid is a luxury the next generation is unlikely to ever know.
Eva Bradley

Like education and clean water, it is considered by some to be a human right. And so what happens when we find ourselves without it?

The sad reality is that very few of us will ever get to discover this, as the reach of technology extends even to the most remote nooks and crannies of our planet.

And so when I found myself anchored in a quiet cove in Lake Taupo's Western Bays over the holidays, I could not quite believe my luck when I tried to send a text and realised I was entirely without service.

Like so many people, I find the convenience of being able to reach out and be reached at all times entirely offset by the inability to peacefully live in the moment and focus on it.

The 'advancements' of web-based platforms means we are constantly interrupted and distracted by news updates, emails, Facebook posts and other mostly unimportant ephemera that could be attended to at a more suitable time but seldom is because of a growing need-to-know-right-now mentality.

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While my husband seemed wholly unable to comprehend how he might proceed with the next 48 hours of his life, I felt like a prisoner released from a dark cell and placed in front of a beautiful view.

I felt a calm and quiet sense of ownership over my own self again in a way that doesn't happen when you're tuned into the wider world 24/7.

Over the course of a few hours and then a few days, I relearned how to simply 'be' in the moment, and to do slower, smaller things like learning the lyrics of a really cool song, or reading for a whole hour without stopping to fiddle with my phone.

Once upon a time people would have paid extra to ensure they never found themselves in a situation like this.

But so many of us are 'wired' in a literal and thus figurative way that our small bay at Lake Taupo could carry the price tag of a five-star hotel and still be oversubscribed.

Which is of course why I won't reveal the location.

If you stumble across it (or somewhere similar) one day, take the time to enjoy it.

Going off-grid is a luxury the next generation is unlikely to ever know.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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