Off The Grid

Over spring break, a few weeks back, I went to Mexico with a bunch of friends. More importantly, I spent several days without checking email or browsing the web. And I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really didn’t miss my lack of connectivity. At least for the few days I was on the trip.

We started off in Cabo San Lucas, which was fun, but fairly touristy (and did have plenty of access to email and the internet, though we tried to avoid those). The real trip started after that, when we rented a couple of four-wheel-drive vehicles and drove for 6 hours into the wilderness.

One of the 4WD vehicles was a 1970s Toyota Landcruiser, which was great off the road, if somewhat loud…here’s a video of one of the better dirt roads we were on:

LandcruiserBaja from Sandeepr on Vimeo.

We diverged from the highway just North of La Paz, and spent 3-4 hours on progressively worse dirt roads, driving with the desert on one side of us and the Sea of Cortes on the other. We passed small fishing villages, other campsites, and went up and down steep hillside roads.

Our reward: a pristine cove completely to ourselves.

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That’s when it struck me—I didn’t remember the last time I was completely off the grid. There was no way to call, text, e-mail anyone, or browse the web.

The first consequence of this stunning lack of connectivity was that any arguments had to be settled the old-fashioned way, without someone instantly pulling up Google or Wikipedia on their smartphones. It was like being back in the…90s.

The second thing I noticed was how much more time I had, without the constant intake of news to read or respond to in some way. It helped that camping outdoors meant I was waking up at sunrise. And between fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and just chatting with friends our days were pretty full.

Bereft of the constant stimulation from my computer or smartphone, I started peering at every random plant, creature or rock that caught my attention.

It was also interesting to sit around the campfire at night, and get caught up on stories, since we were all seeing each other after a long time. (These stories only occasionally involved Charlie Sheen…).

Now I’m back of course, and fully immersed in the digital world again. But I’ve been trying to ease my brain back—part of it clearly wishes I was still lying on a beach, staring out at the Sea of Cortes. On the other hand, it does feel quite refreshed, and I’m trying to not let it get too distracted by the fire-hose of information that’s available online.

So I have to admit I’ve been logging in to social media sites a little bit less, refreshing my favorite news sites slightly less often, and only checking email once every few minutes rather than every 10 seconds…baby steps…

On the plus side, I’ll be going out to a desert field site this coming Thursday to watch lizard researchers at work (near Los Banos, CA, slightly closer to home).

I’ll be recording video and audio for my various multimedia projects this quarter, and with some off-roading and hiking required to get there, it sounds like I’ll get to relive a bit of spring break again.

Update: Thanks to the wonders of Google Earth I was able to find the exact cove where we camped. Here’s a short video zooming out from it:

Baja Campsite – Google Earth from Sandeepr on Vimeo.


About SandeepR

I’m a freelance science writer based in New York City. I can be contacted at gro.wsan@rpeednaS. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Here are my clips, resume, portfolio and photos I’ve covered a variety of science and technology topics for outlets such as, Popular Science,, Nature News, The Verge, and Backchannel. I’m particularly interested in life sciences and technology and the intersection of the two. I’m also trying to cover more news related to India, particularly environmental issues and new advances in tech/research. I received a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology from Stanford University, and also studied Science Communication at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I’ve interned at a number of magazines and newspapers, and worked as a science writer for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for two years.
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