We take a look at off the grid travel options you can take with your family. From completely off grid tours to guided hiking retreat packages, choose the excursion that suits your adventurous nature.
Long before we became off grid homesteaders, my wife Wendie and I would take long road trips to discover America. We weren’t traveling to all-inclusive resorts but instead connecting with the past that the food made this country great. The more unusual and forgotten, especially the budget friendly ones, were always at the top of our list.
Each excursion had a theme that guided our route. Our first was a search for the best dill pickle in America (Farmer’s Market, Baltimore). Another, the best finger-licking regional foods (Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, BBQ, Memphis). Our next trip, scheduled for this summer while the kids are away at camp, will be America’s greatest off the grid travel experiences.
I suppose it sounds like a simple proposition. Get a cheap tent, pack up some organic bug spray and head out to the national parks. That, sadly, is no longer a pursuit either of us are entertaining. We are both approaching our 50's and sleeping on the ground isn’t something we’re in a rush to experience again.
No, instead we are seeking that ancestral connection with the land that provides some semblance of comfort. Think of cots nestled in a comfy glamping canvas tent deep within the Smokey Mountains. Maybe there’s someone else running the camp stove, ready to serve charred rainbow trout and biscuits. At hand is a creek-chilled bottle of local wine.
Off the grid travel doesn’t have to mean roughing it all the time. We’re on vacation after all and are looking forward to a little relaxation and comfort.
Off the Grid Travel
Our off the grid travel experience starts with a far point, where we decide the furthest destination we will be driving to. This lets us to choose a northern route and southern route, one going out and one coming back.
We won’t be travelling the same road twice, so we complete a comfortable yet erratic oval during the journey. There may be one or two stops planned before we climb behind the wheel of our truck, but for the most part we play it by ear.
Our most memorable adventures seem to stem from conversations along the road with strangers. At a lunch counter in New Orleans we learned about an alligator farm worth a visit. In OKC, it was a steak house in the Stockyards. We take each trip with a desire to experience everything we can, and sometimes that means going off the beaten path.
America has a great network of roadside rest stops. As a kid, I loved one particular Stuckey’s truck stop that had a prairie dog town behind it. You could toss a bit of hamburger bun over the fence and watch the little buggers snatch it up. I think this upcoming trip will be just as much a connection with my childhood as a bonding moment with Wendie.
An off the grid travel experience for us means being disconnected from the world, so no using cell phones, laptops, tablets or what have you. We would take our old 35mm camera along if it were a simple thing to get the pictures processed, but a digital SLR isn’t really cheating. If there is an emergency, the kids can get a hold of us as we will have the phones, just not as something to while away the time.
Off Grid Tours
Of course, the idea of an off the grid travel experience doesn’t have to always derive from a wild road trip. In fact, with the rising interest in glamping, the practice of experiencing the great outdoors in a glamorous camping environment complete with silk cot sheets, crystal chandeliers and crystal wine glasses, there are plenty of off grid tours offered by outfitters across the country.
When choosing one, keep in mind your destination and what experiences you want to fulfill:
- Mix camping with white water rapids by booking a long weekend on the Colorado river. Local guides teach you to paddle while setting camp in gorgeous locations from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains all along the depths of the Grand Canyon.
- Explore nature at its most raw by contracting a storm-chaser company in tornado alley to get you closer to a twister than you ever thought possible.
- Choose to hire on at a working dude ranch or cattle drive, where you can spend two weeks on horseback, marveling at the limitless stars in the night sky and eating just as the cowboys along the Chisholm trail.
Off Grid Hiking Retreat
One of the more pleasant surprises we have found along the road is the proliferation of short, mile-long or so hiking trails attached to state rest stops. In fact, one of my favorite little loops here in New Hampshire is off a stop not far from our homestead.
Local hiking clubs keep the trails groomed, and there is often a reason for the trail to exist in the first place. Whether it be a part of the Appalachian trail or the old Mohawk trail, tired drivers can refresh their legs with a short walk through the woods, learning about local history.
If this is more up your alley, consider an off-grid hiking retreat. But don’t just jump on the first hiking outfitter you come across online and book a trip. A little research can help you skirt a not-so-pleasant experience. Have some questions prepared for the outfitter company before sending your credit card information:
- Be honest with your guide concerning your hiking prowess. Doing the Phoenix Trail loop in the White Mountains is one heck of an experience, but if you aren’t up to climbing 30-foot ladders on a sheer granite-faced wall with an 80 lbs. pack, you’re going to have an unpleasant two-day hike back down to the parking lot.
- Ask about your guide’s licensing and experience. It may give you a warm and fuzzy to help train an inexperienced guide, but many of these trips aren’t safe without someone who seriously knows what they are doing.
- Concerning packs, ask if you will be carrying your own gear or will the guides be providing some relief in that area. If they do carry some of your gear, make sure you tip accordingly.
- Ask about possible weather conditions. You should pack for every event but know what is more likely to occur can help you prepare even more.
Best Off the Grid Vacations
We decided long ago that we weren’t going to be those people who only wanted to experience the publicized ‘best’ of anything. Of course, we look for a great time, but hearing that something was voted ‘The Best,’ tends to have us thinking about marketing and advertising gimmicks.
We know there are countless fantastic experiences waiting out there for us, and none of them start by Googling ‘The Best.’ So, for us, the best off grid vacations and destinations are going to be the ones we discovered on our own, through happy wrong turns or word of mouth.
To date, here is a short list of our selections for best off the grid vacations:
- AirBnB definitely tops the list for affordability and variety. Simply use a search for ‘Off the Grid’ or ‘Off the grid travel’ in your parameters along with a general location and watch the listing erupt.
- The National Parks. Back in the day, we had our share of deep-woods, federal-land camping trips, though now we tend to bring along the RV. Book early for the busy season and bring the family.
- Hawaii has incredible surf, seascapes and off grid cabins right along the shore all across the Big Island. A quick search will find you a yurt, geodesic dome or platform tent complete with solar and composting toilets to match your off-grid vacation needs.
As you can see, off the grid travel can be much more than pitching a tent in the middle of the woods for a few days. With a little sense of adventure and creativity, you can be comfortable and well looked after. The travel and tourism industry have recognized the wants of their customers and is reshaping the way America vacations. For your next adventure, try off the grid travel.
Have you ever had an off-grid travel experience? Please, join the conversation below with your story!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
WT Abernathy is an off-grid homesteader, college professor, father and husband living in New Hampshire. He blogs about homestead life with a blended family, gardening and DIY projects at Unexplained Underfoot Objects.
*Note: All photos in this post are courtesy of WT Abernathy