Disconnect to Reconnect

I just returned from a weeklong trip through the country of Cuba. Living off the grid has taken on an entirely new meaning to me.

Take a moment and think—
What does it mean
To have fresh water to drink?
To splash on your face, brush your teeth
And hydrate your body with its exquisite embrace?
A daily ritual some might accidentally
Take for granted
To have water at your fingertips
And to your lips
To restore your body in big thankful sips!

When I left for Cuba, it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t have access to email, text messaging, or any WiFi for that matter. Data didn’t work on my phone the entire time I was there and online access wasn’t easy or convenient. You have to log on at an ETECSA telecommunications centre or a hotel which has WiFi accessibility, plus buy a card to access in the first place.

I love being in constant communication with my Boyz and staying on top of current events, but these past two years I’ve found myself on my phone and computer more and more while writing and launching this website and my poetry books.

Now that my Boyz are grown men and so close to each other, I feel like they have each other to call if either needed help in any way. Because of this, I worried less about my off-line status and decided after my first day there that I would put the phone down and disconnect. I’ve been desiring a digital detox of sorts for awhile now, but haven’t pulled the plug—until the situation presented itself. This included using the phone’s camera, too.

What I learned from not having WiFi for a week is how simple people can live. Either by choice, or necessity.

It was a blessing in disguise.

No longer controlled by the urgency of the moment, I had a lot of time to observe and reflect while surrounded by beautiful people and scenery. I watched those around me who seemed to not have much to do, but realized this leisure time gave way for creativity and deliberateness of thought. A little more space for daydreaming.

When you tuck your phone and laptop out of sight for a week, you become overwhelmed—by a feeling of peace. You notice the birds singing and the rain on the roof, and your focus is spot-on as you engage more meaningfully in your surroundings with all your heart.

One afternoon we stumbled upon a guitarist on a restaurant patio whistling as he strummed. I most likely would have pulled out my phone and recorded this priceless moment, only to later discover that the picture was shaky and the sound quality so bad that it wasn’t worth reliving, or even keeping.

Instead, I watched and listened with all my senses—no screen in between. I was living in the moment and feeding off his energy and the energy of the restaurant, instead of trying to capture it. There was a bougainvillea behind him with the sun streaming down. It was the sweetest sound on earth!

Art, music, color… is EVERYWHERE. You have to be present to see it. If you’re consumed by tech and the self-imposed responsibilities of being connected, you’re going to miss all the beauty that surrounds you.

Another unintentional disconnect-to-reconnect was that you can’t use credit cards in Cuba, only cash.

I was reminded of how simple and efficient it is to pay for something as you use or need it. You become more aware of what you’re paying for when you only use cash, which frees you up to be more in the moment. I believe you value and appreciate it more this way, too.

I bought a copy of Outdoor Life’s Live Off The Grid upon my return to Florida. And though I’m very happy and grateful to be back safe in my home country, my perspective has shifted and curiosity piqued. I detoxed on technology and “stuff” in general in a major way. I learned a lot from this freedom from the norm and the idea of loosening  our ties to modern consumer culture.

oudoor life live off the grid homesteading ideas disconnect to reconnect digital detox simplify

There’s a current homesteading trend and desire to live off-grid, as more people are moving to a more simple lifestyle.

It’s a HUGE lifestyle change to truly live off-grid in the traditional homesteading fashion. The idea of living in a lil’ farmhouse in the woods with an organic garden and chicken coop in the back sounds dreamy at times, but what does that really mean? I was witness to Cuba’s lack of access to clean water and am incredibly grateful for modern plumbing, municipal water treatment and supply, water quality and strong water pressure for showering!

I’d like to bring the essence of what I learned in Cuba back to my everyday life in a way that’s practical and realistic and found a wonderful definition by Abigail R. Gehring of what this would mean:

“Homesteading is about creating a lifestyle that is first of all genuine. It’s about learning to recognize your needs — including energy, food, financial, and health needs — and finding out how they can be met creatively and responsibly.” (Pacific Standard Magazine)

Most people opting to go off the grid aim for a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. That includes sticking to a natural diet and avoiding processed foods.

Outdoor Life’s Live Off The Grid offers some great tips on fresh water collection, gardening, cooking outdoors and a long list of helpful, creative advice. My favorite section was on cold climate gardening and planting all sorts of nut trees.

It was incredibly serendipitous that the final touches were being made on my Simplification Poetry in Motion video at the same time that I took a much needed break from technology. It was waiting for me in my inbox upon my return to the Miami airport, along with a double rainbow!

Simplification Illustration by Kimberly K. Taylor-Pestell

My takeaway from this experience is to embrace inspiration from what’s all around you. When you’re not looking down at a screen, you look up! And when you remember to look up, you stand taller, breathe deeper and take it all in. Everything. There’s not a lot required to have beautiful moments and maintain health, if you are so fortunate to have it.

Take regular breaks from technology to check in with your emotional self and take care of your soul. Tune into the the beauty of creation. Spend more time outdoors. Do what you can, when you can. Be mindful of how you use your resources. Practice in your own backyard! Whatever it takes to create change.

“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you. And all the things you do.” — Coldplay