Enjoy Getting off the Grid in Northwestern Wales
We live in a constantly connected world. For most Americans – and westerners in general – microwave towers and wifi make sure we’re never really unreachable.
Admittedly, that’s not news. You’ve probably just read those words on a laptop, tablet or smartphone that proves the very point that serves so poorly as a major bulletin. You are always on the grid. Right now, I am not – and it’s an eerie experience. It does grow on you, though.
I’m working a travel story taking me through a summer in Wales. This stage finds me in the minuscule northeastern Welsh village of Llanarmon Oyffryn Ceiriog, Llangollen, Denbighshire. I can stand in the middle of the little town’s roundabout, under its one lamppost, and see the entire village – including The Hand Hotel (my current accommodations).
Llangollen is surrounded on all sides by rolling hills populated with grazing sheep. I could stroll up those hillsides, enjoy a hike on the local common or stop for a pint back at the Hand. But, no matter where I go, I will not find wifi and my smartphone will go on plaintively searching for anything resembling a signal. There’s nothing. No international roaming. No 3G. Nothing.
Now, I’m not deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. There are landlines. I can find a telephone to reach past those sheep. If I’m injured, the locals will find me National Health Service care. I have laptop here in front me as I write this, so But, there’s no email. No texts. No web. No Facebook. No Twitter. What I know of the world outside the village today is only what the BBC deems fit to tell me on satellite TV.
Some might expect a sort of panicked withdrawal to sit in once awash in online silence. But, those folks would be wrong. It’s miraculous. Once the realities of a place force you to pick your head up out of that screen, you’re forced to watch that sunset, to realize how green that field is, to smell how the wild flowers brush past your nose when the wind is right.
For today, I don’t know how many millions of dollars whatever Barack Obama had for breakfast costs and how that improves the lives of third world refugees. I can’t tell you the consistency of little North West’s most recent movement. I can’t name which disadvantaged NFL star stabbed an elderly nun in the face. I don’t know how I’m scoring in “Ker-plunk with Friends.”
If I want to plan the next stage of my trip, I use a map. If I want to see how I should dress for the journey, I look outside. If I want to find someplace to eat, I go for a walk. This is how people used to live – connected to the world.
Looking around Llangollen, I see intelligent, happy and polite folks going about their quiet village lives without missing the noisy, constant cyber noise of the wifi stew the rest of us usually live in – floating around mentally mushed like overdone potatoes.
Since being off the grid usually means you’re finding yourself in a remote, rural location, a beautiful, green world awaits outside. WIth no device to keep your company pull your head down into business, that fresh air and every activity out there beckons you. I took a long walk through the village and along the local river before jumping into my Peugeot and sampling the rolling countryside. Wales has the most beautiful terrain in the entire UK, but more on that later.
This morning, I’ll pack up and head south east – toward towns built on tourism. The world of wifi will descend on me again, and I’ll get back to honest work. Still, for a day, it was a treat to escape the grid. I plan on doing it again very soon. Maybe you should do the same – whether in beautiful Wales or elsewhere.