Looking to really get away? Remove the Bluetooth headset from your ear, step away from the keyboard and book a room — or a rondavel — at one of these off-the-grid destinations.
THE AFTERNOON RAIN HAS CEASED, leaving behind a shadowy sky over the Costa Rican rain forest as we enter the second-floor bar. Overhead, candle chandeliers flicker, fending off the impending darkness. In the middle of a high-ceilinged aerie, a family gathers around a table to play Scrabble. At the bar, my wife and I trade adventure stories with a Danish father, who has brought his daughter to Central America to experience the remote jungle, and with an American couple who live four states apart and occasionally rendezvous at escapes like this one. The conversation swings from close calls in the wilderness to the allure of places such as this, the Pacuare Lodge, which is situated so deep in the Costa Rican jungle that we had to raft intense rapids to get here.
We’ve come for the adventure and for the singular beauty of the natural oasis but also for the disconnection. We’re off the grid. There is no phone, no Internet, no television, nothing to distract us from the experience of this place. Most of the resort is without electricity, save for a few suites and one tiny lightbulb inside the closet-size wine cellar. (Going off the grid is no reason to go without a nice Châteauneuf-du-Pape.)
Nature’s rhythms dictate our days and nights. We arise with the light and, when necessary, a soft call from one of the staff members outside our cabin. Our days are mostly unscheduled; we can choose to zoom through the jungle canopy on a zip-line adventure, hike to a small waterfall, or spend hours doing little more than inhaling and exhaling. After dinner at the lodge’s open-air restaurant, we navigate the path back to our cabin using flashlights and slip under the sheets. There’s no noise, literal or metaphorical — nothing but what writer John McPhee calls “the stillness of original time.”
As people have grown increasingly overscheduled and constantly connected, many of us yearn to flee to places like the Pacuare Lodge, where we can indulge in a simpler way of life, if only for a few days. In the last decade, backcountry lodges and eco-escapes like this one have proliferated, giving travelers ample opportunities to get away — not just physically but also mentally. There are options for every taste, ranging from the austere to the positively luxurious. Some are free of even basic amenities such as electricity or running water. Others offer considerably more frills. But all are devoid of modern distractions in order to encourage more peaceful and invigorating pursuits.
One option for an off-the-grid excursion is “glamping,” or upscale camping. Canvaschic at Mille Etoiles, located in the South Central region of France, is considered one of the poshest glamping destinations in Europe. Guests stay in one of 12 hand-stitched canvas yurts and are treated to meals prepared by the proprietors. The camp is perched on the edge of the Ardeche Gorge, which is home to eagles, wild boar, beaver and other wildlife.
Joanne Cottell was drawn to Canvaschic because of the chance it offered for her, her husband and their two daughters to turn away from the television and reconnect with one another. She initially approached the idea of camping with some trepidation, remembering a previous trip spoiled by bugs and rain-sodden sheets. But after ferrying from the family’s Channel Islands home off the Normandy coast to the French mainland and then driving nine hours to the campsite, she was surprised to find what she describes as “a small haven of tranquility.” Their yurt came equipped with comfortable beds as well as rugs, cushions and throws. During the day, the family hiked near the gorge to sun, swim and enjoy the stunning views. They reveled in the experience of being together, enjoying nature without the discomforts of traditional camping.