A Week Off the Grid

I spent a week off the grid, sort of. As a Floridian, I love the natural springs we have here and if you haven’t been I can’t emphasize enough how much you are missing out. A few weeks ago some friends and I went to spend the day at the spring, brought inner tubes, a packed lunch, waterproof pouches, and sunscreen. We spent the morning swimming around and enjoying the cool water, and watching it flow from the head. After lunch, we decided we’d float down the natural lazy river one more time and go home. We get in at the mouth and swim through the current, and as I get to the end I turn around to my friend and they say “Hey, where’s your phone?”So I look down to where the waterproof pouch was sitting securely on my neck and there is no phone to be found. I look back at my friend then down at my neck again and then begin to feel that oh so familiar “oh shit” feeling. So my friends and I try to dive and look around the rocks, we try to use an app on the phone to find it and after a bit of searching it becomes apparent that we’re not going to find that. The kicker is the key to my car that we all drove here in today was also in that waterproof pouch. With a lot of problem solving and some help from friends that weren’t with us, we have a plan for someone to bring us my spare car key in about 5 or 6 hours and I tell the springs about my missing cellphone.

Did my friends all get a nice crispy sunburn since we locked everyone, but mine’s phone in the car along with all our water and food and sunscreen? Yes, they did. Was anyone angry or annoyed? No honestly, and that’s what’s funny. All of us being born past 1997, means we have grown up with technology since we were in middle school at least, and have had phone since then. I cant remember the last time I was incapacitated in this way of being without a phone or a way to contact anyone. We had to ask others at the spring to use their phone since we didn’t have one. We couldn’t check the time. We didn’t know how far away our friend was with the spare key. We were stuck.

That stuck forced us to be so present with each other. No one checked their phones for the time, we played silly games you would on the playground like would you rather or never have I ever. We laughed a lot, both at our predicament and at each other. And do you know what everyone said when we were finally relieved to be in the car on the way home, they said they were honestly glad we all were forced to be off our electronics so completely and so totally in the moment. The way the situation was out of our control forced us to submit to the helplessness, and we chose to do that rather than worry about what we were missing or what time it really was or how long it had been without our last sunscreen application, not that I am endorsing sun poisoning.

The thing was, after I dropped my friends off and they all had their phones back I still didn’t have mine. It took a week for me to get a new phone. A week of me taking my laptop everywhere and using friends’ phones like it’s a landline in 2004. I say that I have been striving for mindfulness in my daily living, but I don’t think I realized how much my little dopamine square, or cell phone, was taking me out of the present. That phone can take me anywhere, to see what old friends are doing in their lives, to read an article about a terrible tragedy, to watch a silly dog video, or watch my favorite artist’s recorded performance. And though none of these things are inherently bad, they have nothing to do with my own senses, my own present moment, and what is literally going on around me.

I felt more on edge and nervous throughout my week, wondering what I was missing, who’s calls and texts I was missing, and how to set my alarm in the morning on my laptop. But when the day came and I got home and my phone was sitting on the front porch, I felt so relieved and excited, but also I didn’t want to open it. A part of me had so accepted the disconnection and found a freedom in it in the last week that I wasn’t really able to appreciate until that freedom was gone because I had to turn my phone back on again. In all those moments I spent worrying without a phone I robbed myself of the freedom of sitting in the disconnection that I didn’t realize how much I had loved until it was gone. Mindfulness is a word we throw around a lot of in pop psychology, but this is why it is so beautiful and important. We can savor the moments that we are having versus the ones we’re looking forward to or have already had when we sit in the current moment versus every other one.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness or want to talk to a mental health counselor, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.


Arielle Teets