Outside and Unplugged: Off-the-Grid Retreat Ideas to Escape Your Digital Life

Inspiring locales to rehab from your tech addictions and reconnect with nature.

As appealing as it sounds to unplug from all your electronic devices for a week, it's hard to imagine a "convenient" time when this could happen while still maintaining obligations and responsibilities in the real (digitally-obsessed) world we live in.

off-the-grid retreats

Sometimes its hard to put our tech down, and experience beauty and wonder sans camera lenses. Photo: Dan Hawk/Unsplash

But now is a better time than ever to digital detox for your mental health and overall wellness. With Google searches for "smartphone addiction" hitting an all-time high in the first month of the year, and the habit-forming nature of social media platforms likened to cigarettes, 2018 is being touted by many health and wellness experts as the year of the tech diet.

Major companies – even within the tech sector – are starting to recognize our reliance on devices isn't healthy, and specific retreats and programs to counterbalance culture are cropping up globally, like London's It's Time to Log Off, and major hotels like Westin Paris and Mandarin Oriental New York pioneering some truly innovative – albeit a bit pricey – digital detox experiences.

We all need ways to disconnect from technology and reconnect with ourselves, sans a 24-7 revolving feed of everyone else's lives.

What if the next trip you took doubled as a way to unplug from all that digital chatter and actually spend time outside, uninterrupted by the constant dinging of your iPhone or emails looming in your inbox?

If that sounds as glorious to you as it does to us, then let this list of off-the-grid destinations inspire your next "MindCation."

New York, Boston & DC

off-the-grid retreats

Getaway’s tiny houses are just the right balance of rustic and modern. Photo: Getaway

City dwellers, we know you need this.

After we stumbled upon Getaway's tiny-houses-in-the-woods concept (fulfilling all our Henry David Thoreau travel fantasies) we were excited to learn they are also for wanderers on a (sort-of) budget.

For about $100 per night, Getaway promises a modern, light and airy space where you can recharge in nature, lock your devices away (there's a cell phone lockbox in each tiny house) and rekindle your connection with what really enlivens you. That sounds like exactly what we need right now.

Getaway founder Jon Staff grew up living in everything from Airstreams to boats, and was naturally drawn to the tiny-house movement and the rugged woods, hailing from rural Minnesota and eventually attending Harvard Business School. His story alone is enough to inspire the minimalist-seeking explorer in all of us.

The original Getaway retreat, which was birthded in 2015 in the New Hampshire woods, has grown to 43 tiny houses in the Boston, New York, and most recently the D.C. area. Take a spin through Getaway’s options here.

Joshua Tree

off-the-grid retreats

The desert is calling. Photo: Andreas Selter

If you want to get out into the raw outdoors, Joshua Tree is one of the best places to go off-grid.

So many places to camp, as well as cozy cabins, await you.

Plus, there's something so ultra-spiritual about the desert. Joshua Tree is widely-recognized to host a myriad of wellness retreats, including Vipassana Meditation, which requires you to remain silent for an extended period of time, as a way to get back to your "true mind." Retreats usually stretch about a week.

While most of us aren’t at that level of dedication, if you’re looking to renew mind and spirit, try a "Sound Bath" at the Integratron.

You won't need your cell phone here. Plus, it won't work anyway.

Originally created in the 1950's by self-proclaimed "UFO-logist" George Van Tassel, this structure’s perfectly-constructed symmetry reflects and amplifies the gentlest of notes resonating from crystal bowls, each designed to connect with and activate energy centers in the body. Beyond its out-there origins, the Integraton today produces an unreal and ultra-relaxing sound experience that has been touted as "naptime for grown ups in a sound sphere."

The sound baths sell out about a week in advance, so make your reservations in advance once you have that camping spot locked in.

If you need to spend some time in nature after your sound bath, nearby is Giant Rock, which is essentially just what it sounds like. Check out this spot, hike around and enjoy eerily quiet solo desert time, with some equally hair-raising stories to accompany it.

Keep in mind, you truly are off the grid out here. Save your directions ahead of time, because you won't be able to rely on your phone in a pinch.

Maine & Georgia

off-the-grid retreats

Disconnect to reconnect. Photo: Disconnection Retreats

There are so many places to unplug in Maine. Why? You’re in the middle of a forest, no matter where you go. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but take it from any Maine native, if you are looking for an amazing place to unwind in nature, where cell service is just as spotty today as it was in 1998, Vacation Land has you covered.

That's why it didn't surprise us when our search for digital detoxes landed us in Southern Maine, with Disconnection Retreats, an all-inclusive program designed specifically for the mindful outdoor adventurer.

Founded by two friends, Crystal Seaver and Kait Johnson, the retreats are a glamping experience in the Maine woods designed to disconnect you from your day-to-day to discover presence through nature, real life human connection and mindful movement. The four-day retreat offers go-at-your-own-pace trail running and yoga, plus locally sourced feel-good food. Did we mention you get to stay in a one-of-a kind yurt? Sign us up.

Next year, Disconnection will offer a second excursion to Great Barrier Island off the coast of Georgia in April. Rates and dates for 2018 can be found at DisconnectionRetreats.com

Northern California

digital detox retreats

The magic of trees for as far as the eye can see. Photo: Sergei Akulich/Unsplash

There's perhaps no better place than Northern California to find refuge among endless, massive trees. The rough wilderness found here evokes a special connection to nature that we can't quite put into words.

In Santa Cruz, a unique place called 1440 Multiversity exists, offering up educational and restful retreats that focus on living more mindful lives. Just opened last year, and nestled as a hideaway among the redwoods, the campus offers everything from yoga classes to hikes on its 75-acre property and wooded trails.

The mission statement is all about an immersive experience, "setting aside daily urgencies and dedicating uninterrupted time and energy to focus on more important, but often more elusive, priorities." Yes, please.

We also like the option of staying in one of the modern "asian style" pods on campus, a shared living space that costs about $140 per night, per person. You can choose to stay for a weekend, or extended timeframe, with a multitude of classes and class series offered throughout the year.

If you are looking to explore even further north, Camp Grounded, an outdoor-focused "summer camp” experience for adults, offers a couple retreats per year in Mendocino, California.

Big Sur

off-the-grid retreats

Camping amongst the redwoods in Big Sur is just about as spiritual -- and disconnected -- as it gets. Photo Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Although technically a part of Northern California, we felt Big Sur deserved its own section. When it comes to disconnecting, this location is the Holy Grail.

The beauty of this destination – beyond the jaw-dropping views around every single corner – is that just about anywhere you go in Big Sur is off the grid. Cell service is practically non-existent, internet is spotty at best and there are many, many options to get outside to camp and hike.

Esalen is a world-renowned retreat that offers up just about anything and everything needed to disconnect from the daily pressures of life and do something for your own personal growth. Yoga, hiking, cooking and a range of daily workshops are just the tip of the iceberg here.

If you’ve always dreamed of staying in a yurt, then Treebones Resort is your spot. Elevate (literally) your experience by opting to hang out in the nest. Overnights are allowed in this piece of art, but only if weather conditions allow for it – you are, after all, spending time in a giant, open-air camp spot, a stone's throw from the wildest coast California has to offer.

For those looking for a more introspective, spiritual experience, check out New Camaldoli Hermitage. With 360-degree views of the Big Sur coastline, the minute you step foot on the grounds (you can walk the grounds without booking a stay here) you'll understand the meaning of "peace and quiet."

In fact, you might even think you've stumbled upon an abandoned village at the top of this very steep, winding road. Keep in mind that everyone here talks in whispers if at all, so respect the tranquility of this one-of-a-kind location if you decide to go.

Mexico

digital detox retreats

Our cure-all: solo sunset strolls. Photo: Eddi Aguirre/Unsplash

Do not discount the power of a day trip.

For those living close to the border and in need of some disconnect time, Rancho La Puerta is a hop, skip and quick bus ride into Mexico.

Take a day-long trip to The Ranch, and sign up for yoga classes, an outside hike and healthy cooking workshops, where you can handpick your own ingredients from the gorgeous campus' organic gardens. The day rate also includes roundtrip transportation to and from San Diego.

Venturing beyond the 24-hour trip, continue your travels to Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, just 90 miles south of San Diego. Recognized as an up-and-coming wine country, this is where slower days and spectacular scenery meets modern B&B’s and a smaller, “less commercialized” version of Napa Valley, including some amazing farm-to-table dining experiences.

Although accomodations – like this eco-friendly architectural masterpiece – can run on the pricier side (read: future #travelgoals), there are some economical and stunningly gorgeous options.

Had your fill of wine? Find the beach, just a 10-minute drive through the valley’s rolling hills.

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