LAST week I had the rare experience of living off the grid. Okay, so it was for one night only. But 24 hours was an eye-opener.

My daughters and I were kindly given the opportunity to stay in a house at Aramoana Beach in Central Hawke's Bay.

Pre-warned there would be no electricity, my three young ones voiced vehement objection to the spectre of a powerless house. Thing is, they were as surprised as I was that it was very little trouble. A gas Primus burner and we had all we needed.

And there were novel adaptations. The best of which was taking an old galvanised watering can, filling it and leaving it to swelter in the coastal sun for the afternoon.


Five hours later and the kids had a warm shower to wash off the sand and surf. No solar panels, inverters or batteries in sight - just a metal heat-conducting garden implement that hasn't changed much in form since its 17th-century beginnings. It makes one wonder whether we overly subscribe to public utilities - and under-subscribe to solar energy.

Either way, the best thing about our predicament, sans power, was you could disappear.

There's something anonymous about leaving the grid. Even better, there was no cellphone coverage.

For the entire time, the top left of my cellphone simply stated "No service". For me, it may as well have read "Hallelujah".

Heading home, we had to drive for 20 minutes to get coverage. Near the Tamumu Bridge, my phone beeped with a litany of messages that had, until then, cached somewhere in the digital ether. I counted five texts and two phone messages demanding urgent attention.

It made me realise that holidaying isn't really about escaping stress, it's about stalling it for a few days. Still, that's good enough for me.