An off-grid vacation : A tent is a reminder of our unanswered travel

Updates from :  The Hindu

A few days ago, I was forced to answer a question that I thought I have been successfully evading for months now. The question was: Could we take our tents and go somewhere this weekend?

When I moved to Stuttgart last year, I carefully packed our blue tent, somehow stuffing it in my luggage and carting it between continents to come, live with me. It has found a comfortable home in our cold and dark cellar. A simple two-person pop up tent, it was bought at a sports store in Bangalore, when we thought we would go on camping trips around the city. We didn’t. Conversely, it largely served as a sleeping tent on our terrace to escape the mosquitoes baying for our blood on summer nights during electricity blackouts.

The blue tent is the remainder of our unanswered travel desires. But what does it entail to go camping in open grounds in Germany? My Google results are inconclusive and it makes me weary to think that we could end up in jail for camping in the open. There are designated camping grounds open during summer in Germany, of course, but they are largely dedicated to trailers. With hot showers and clean toilets, the prospect just doesn’t cut it as a wild camping vacation. After all, what’s a camping vacation if you can’t perform your ablutions in the wilderness and go looking for a wild stream first thing in the morning?

From where I stand, off grid travel looks bleak here.

The same day, I came across Nick Rosen, author of the book Off the Grid, who pioneered the art of living off-grid, thereby giving rise to a large community of followers. Rosen came upon a beautiful coastal village called Deià on the Northwest of the Spanish island of Mallorca when he was travelling and decided if he wanted to settle down, it would be in Deià. Naturally, not all dreams come so easily to fruition. Rosen couldn’t afford a property in Deià because it was a rich millionaire’s enclave filled with beautiful villas watched over by olive groves and grand views of the Mediterranean.

“The only thing I could afford was a small shepherd’s cabin high up in the mountains,” he says. He eventually bought it, but not with the intention of going off the grid. This was before solar panels and wind turbines were popular and Rosen admits he was using his car batteries at one point to power his home. Looking around for ways to charge his laptop, he researched and found out more about solar panels. From then on, things started to fall in place quickly.

“So, there I was up in the mountains slowly adding things like an extra room with an outdoor kitchen, and on the roof of the kitchen, a water storage tank worth storing 40K litres of water. I even have a flushing toilet because the water from the tank is down the hill to the toilet,” he says.

In an off the grid house, one needs to be mindful of little things. In Rosen’s case it’s his solar power supply — for instance, he says he won’t turn the washing machine on when there is another kitchen appliance running, for fear of running out of power. He makes coffee on a butane gas stove or on wood fire (and sits outside every morning and considers the view over coffee).

“All in all, you’re responsible for your own life and your own existence. It makes you much more aware of the world around you, Nature and its processes. You become much closer to Nature. A beautifully, ecologically complete life I’ve got there now.”

It’s all dreamy and enchanting, the prospect of off-grid travel and living. Meanwhile, I’m googling camping vacations in Germany as my deadline to decide on a camping weekend in end October approaches with the somewhat unmissable efficiency of Deutsche Bahn — the German train service. Admittedly, it’s not a winning prospect. If nothing comes through, I plan to camp in the wheat fields in my backyard, freshly tilled after the harvest, surrounded by trees with fall-coloured leaves in shades of turmeric yellow and blood orange and sandy brown. We could always walk back home in the morning for coffee.

The writer is an independent journalist who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, and often writes stories that intersect food and travel

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