The Afar Guide to
Getting off the Grid

We’ve all heard the smartphones-are-making-us-dumber stats. Our cherished devices can impair our memories, reduce our creativity, and disrupt our sleeping patterns. The antidote? Travel—clinically proven to make you smarter (really). The lab-coat set has found that traveling is like Pilates for the brain, making us more creative, more resilient, and better able to problem-solve, even once we’re home. Here, our guide to setting aside the smartphone and picking up your passport, whether that means a 24-7 yoga retreat in the Caribbean, a week in a tiny Mexican town no one’s heard of, or a complete digital detox anywhere outside your comfort zone.

What Color Is Your Carry-On?
There are as many paths to getting off the grid as there are grains of sand on that deserted beach in Costa Rica.
Where We Go to Unwind
Don’t have a destination in mind? Here, a few places to begin.
10 Tips for Detaching From the Grid—and Your Phone
Open your mind, pack lightly, and leave the iPad at home (or at least in your hotel room). The world looks a lot better when it's not pixelated.
Unplug your expectations. Getting off the grid, also means leaving the safety nets behind and, in my experience, usually means you run into more hiccups than following a more established plan. So be ready for anything.
Traveler, know thyself. Do you really want to leave Wi-Fi behind? There’s no shame in a yoga retreat that is just meant for Instagram, or in wanting to send those irresistible Viber fox stickers to your boo.
…And challenge thyself. At the very least, try a one-day digital detox and see how you feel. See our intro if you need a reminder of the benefits of keeping your mitts off the mobile.
Research, research, research. Do your homework to make the trip as seamless as possible. Before traveling to Yelapa last year, I discovered that I would spend an hour in a tiny boat, then need to hike 15 minutes (over cobblestones) to get to my treehouse hotel—so I skipped the suitcase and brought a backpack.
Be safe. Use the buddy system whenever possible and keep your passport, money, and phone on you. Traveling solo? Use Kitestring to keep people looped into your travel plans.
Get (Rosetta) stoned. Getting off the grid also means you may stay in small towns where they may not speak your first language, of course. But try to nail down those basic travel phrases before you arrive so you can whip them out on the fly.
Catch new zzzzs. Part of the fun of getting off the grid is trying out new accommodations. Skip the hotel and explore homestays, book a room on Airbnb, WWOOF it up. But build in at least one pampering night at a hotel at the end of your trip (one of these might do the trick).
Go hands-on. Take a Balinese dance class in Ubud, try a singing lesson Vienna, or tour a shoemaker’s workshop in Mallorca—it’s age-old advice, but taking a class in the local culture is often the best way to understand a new place. And to pick up a new skill or two along the way.
Live local. There are so many fun ways to connect with people in a new city these days. Prefer to eat your way to the heart of a culture? Try EatWith, which allows home cooks around the world to invite you in for dinner. Want a truly local guide? Vayable and even the new Airbnb Experiences pair travelers with locals who have similar interests.
Be mindful. Philippe Brown, founder of bespoke travel company Brown + Hudson, always builds in down time for his travelers. After touring that temple in Cambodia, don’t immediately rush to the next activity, he says. Find the best possible view of it and spend an hour sketching it—even if you’re not an artist. It gives your brain time to rest and absorb the experience. From personal experience, I know that writing letters by hand while traveling has seared memories into my brain in a way that tweeting never has.
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Aislyn Greene, Getting off the Grid Curator

Aislyn is an associate editor at AFAR. She’s a fan of unplugged travel…and of turning to Instagram to juice up her day.