Guest Post: “Going off the Grid” by Micky Siamendes

Since Khodovarikha is up and running in SL, I keep coming back to it. Some of my friends call it “the depressive sim”, and it has already become a running gag when I’m being fed up with something on SL I say “I need my fix of depressive sim now” and head over to Khodovarikha.

But actually I feel that for me Khodovarikha (much like Furillen in the beginning) is a place that gives me peace of mind. It is a place that gives me a feeling of “going off the grid” even while being on the grid.

And then I think about the times in my life where there was no need for being available 24/7, for having cell phone, tablet, laptop, PC, TV and and and. A childhood where you said “ok I am out now mom” and then you were not seen till dinner time. Today parents control their kids with Whatsapp every 30 minutes. Today if you don’t answer a call instantly you get a message “are you ok, why don’t you answer?!”. Today your boss expects you to be available even outside your working hours, I have friends who even take their business cell phones with them on vacation. How can they recharge their batteries then?

I realize that on one side I am a real tech junkie, but on the other hand I also have a strong desire to unplug the whole shit and do some “digital detox”. Watching that movie about Khodovarikha (“Arctic Limbo”) or other movies I have seen recently, for example a documentary about the Russian river Yenisei and the people living along it, I feel something resonate in me. A desire to go back to a more simple life. A desire to sharpen my senses again for the basic things in life. A desire to not be driven by meetings, appointments, obligations constantly.

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I watch kids walking into lamp posts on the streets because they can’t take their eyes off their phones, and I think about my childhood where we built treehouses instead or caught fish in the creek and grilled them over a campfire. I watch adults in a restaurant, sitting there, each one staring into their phones, and I think about evenings with friends, when we cooked together and shared a laugh and some anecdotes.

Being the tech junkie I am, of course I googled about “going off the grid”. And I came across a book: “Off the grid – inside the movement for more space, less government, and true independence in modern America” by Nick Rosen.

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The author created a website as well. It’s sort of a come together site where people can meet others who want to unplug, with tips and tools and interesting articles about that different kind of life style. Here is a YouTube video about it.

There are many different reasons why people wanna go off-grid. For some it is an ecological choice or the desire to be more in touch with nature, for others it may be a financial necessity, because they can’t afford the life within society anymore.

I found the following in a review about Rosen’s book on the “mother nature network” website: Rosen says people go off the grid for a variety of reasons, and they vary how deeply they go off-grid. “You can’t get off all of the grids all the time,” he says. “It’s a question of which grids you choose to get off of and in what way and for how long.” Some people live off the grid part of the year for leisure purposes, taking a few months off from their jobs so they can live in a more relaxed manner. Others get themselves off the public electrical or water systems but still participate in what Rosen calls the “car grid” or the “supermarket grid” or “bank grid.”

 “The best way to get off-grid is to go off with others in a group of families, so each have half an acre and share resources and skills,” Rosen says. “One is tending livestock and one is growing vegetables, while a third is looking after the power supply for everybody else.” Rosen says his own ambition is to create an off-grid village of 300 or so homes in his native England, provided he can find a local zoning board willing to allow it. “I think there’s a huge demand for off-grid living that can’t be satisfied because the places where you’d want to live off the grid are the places you can’t get permission to do so,” he says.

Rosen says most families could go off the grid with as little as a half an acre, “as long as it’s the right half-acre.” Ideal locations would have some woodland, an area for agriculture, enough light for solar power and a good source of water, either a well or a stream. “The era of 40 acres and a mule has been replaced by the era of a half an acre and a laptop and a solar panel,” he says.

 And I think to myself – yes, that would be it: I wouldn’t wanna live like the Amish, neglecting progress and modern technology and be stuck in the era of horse carriages. No, not at all. But I would be all for growing my own food, producing my own power, live a naturally more balanced life, where I get my daily exercise working my fields rather than on a treadmill in some gym. And I would rather sit around a campfire at night with a dog at my feet listening to the crickets, than watch stupid crap on tv or going to some tie affair.

I think the basic longing behind going off the grid is a longing for inner peace. At least in my case it is. Get out of the hamster wheel, find my inner balance again, enjoy and live every moment of my life, and go to sleep with a peaceful mind that is not processing the schedule for the next day already.

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Slava has somehow done just that by choosing the Khodovarikha life. He has what he needs, even means to keep in touch with the world if he feels like it. And although his life to some of us must seem terribly boring or lonely, it is not for him. His life is simple but fulfilling for him.

I remember when I was young, I used to say that I didn’t want to possess more than what I could fit into my van. That would always give me the freedom to pack up fast and leave whenever I felt the need or wish to do so. Well, that didn’t work out, today I need a huge moving truck to relocate my stuff. And if I am really honest, then about 50 % of it is unnecessary dead weight, things I hardly ever use.

Maybe I am not really ready to go off the grid totally. But I – and we – should keep our minds and hearts and senses open for the “real things”: It is different to turn the pages of a book instead of swiping across a Kindle. It is different to listen to a live concert of a Philharmonic Orchestra instead of listening to a MP3 on the cell phone. And an apple picked off the tree outside your home tastes different from one that has been shipped around the world …

We should all unplug from time to time … turn off our devices and do some digital detox and practice a little awareness for the world around us. Facebook will still be there tomorrow or in one week or in a month, so will Second Life … and hopefully Khodovarikha for my off-grid time on the grid…

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