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5 reasons why you should try an off-grid holiday

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pebbles make ripples

Lianne Bell

8 June 2017

Everyone should live off-grid at some point. Not only did I reconnect with nature but it lifted the haze that had been induced by city life, says Lianne Bell from Enchanted Rebels, who spent a few months living on a permaculture farm in Portugal. This is the latest in our #pebblesmakeripples guest feature series.

When I arrived at A Quinta (which means literally the farm) in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal I was a frazzled, burnt out, borderline alcoholic. After several years living in London I’d decided I was done. I was bored, I was tired, I felt like I was stuck in the mud, some days it felt like I was sinking.

I’d never considered a volunteering holiday but since I would be going travelling alone it seemed perfect. I found the project through Worldwide Organic Farming (WWOOF), their holidays have become more popular in recent years due to their affordability and a growing interest in sustainable living. You volunteer your time in exchange for food and accommodation which makes it extremely easy on the wallet.

5 reasons why an off-grid break might just be what you need (it was for me)

Embrace the digital detox

I picked A Quinta for three reasons. Firstly I had never been to Portugal before, secondly, they had lots of animals and thirdly, there was no Wi-fi. I’d begun to feel suffocated by my phone and was more than happy for it to be a glorified alarm clock for the next two months. It would seem I’m not alone in this as a 2016 OFCOM report found 59% of us admit to being addicted to our phone, and that's just the people that will admit to it. We all have that one friend in denial who sits on their phone throughout dinner.

Discover why permaculture is so powerful

Permaculture is a framework for creating ecologically sound ways of living. It can be used anywhere from small allotments, urban dwellings to regenerative projects. It is a constantly evolving framework as it works with nature and in turn we figure out the best way for nature to work for us. Like most things to do with sustainability, it just makes sense.

A Quinta is inhabited by a family of four (including two boys aged 8 and 10) and up to ten volunteers from every corner of the world. Our duties were shared equally although some people had certain areas of expertise and strengths such as carpentry, gardening and animal management which they chose to focus on. I hadn’t done any gardening since I was a kid and when I arrived at the farm I’d never even heard of the word ‘permaculture’. But I learnt that I love it.

Learning about smallholdings is just one aspect of an off-grid holidayThe happy smiley faces of a good job well done. What an off-grid holiday is really like

Up to 10 volunteers get stuck into learn about how to run a smallholding

Use it to try out a different way of living

The carefree, easygoing nature of the farm allowed me to try out a number of completely alien things. I learnt how to build a flowerbed from scratch, I harvested lemons and made fresh lemon curd, I mastered the art of cobbing. I learnt not to panic when a herd of horses are hot footing it down the main road into the village and I learnt how to cook for 14 people without an oven.

Every meal time was a little bit like Ready, Steady, Cook, surveying the day's harvest from the garden and scrambling around in the larder to see what could go with it. I had only recently got into cooking - at university it was a running joke that I lived on turkey dinosaurs and potato waffles. I’d love to say it was a vicious rumour but it really wasn’t.

But I loved cooking with people from so many different nationalities as everyone fashioned some sort of traditional dish from their home country. We had an abundance of blackberries so I made an apple and blackberry crumble which went down a storm.

A Quinta in Portugal takes 10 volunteers at a time to learn about permaculture

Give yourself the space to just stop. Leave the phone at home.

Appreciate the slower, smaller things in life

The days passed quickly as there was so much going on. But the evenings are when it all slowed down, I mostly spent them lounging on the terrace gazing at the stars. Without TV or Wi-fi I rekindled my love of reading and rediscovered board games. We spent almost every night nestled on beanbags, watching stars shooting sporadically overhead, playing Trivial Pursuit. And do you know what? It was awesome.

An off-grid farm holiday means hanging out with this lot, how can you refuse?

How can you resist a holiday with these faces?

Get some perspective on your actual life

Trying out a life off-grid made me realise I wasn’t quite ready to give up everything about living in a city just yet. I had swapped evenings at the theatre and dinner in Soho for weekends at the beach and afternoons spent swimming in snake infested ponds and as much as I was thoroughly enjoying myself I was beginning to appreciate London in a whole new way. It took me two months and a whole load of reflection to realise that maybe London and I weren’t headed for a permanent break up just yet, perhaps we were just on a break.

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