Off the Grid in Berlin

I consider myself a novice travel blogger / social media poster, and general all around lover of traveling and exploring new places.

Just recently, in October, I spent a week checking out Berlin and its many sights, museums and various neighborhoods.

Like many people, I was fascinated by its tumultuous 20th century history, and was curious about why it’s dubbed the hipster capital of Europe and positioned to surpass London as the new start-up capital of Europe. Along with the fact that it’s the cheapest European city to visit, I booked a trip there with the exciting plan of picking up some new followers on social media by my hourly travel postings along the way. And I also wanted to just do a solo trip, which I like to do every few years, since I’m usually hosting groups on active tours around the world as part of my fitness and health business.

The very first morning of my first official full day there in Berlin, I lost my phone. IT’S GONE.

Well, this has never happened to me before. I was a little panicked, but I called my carrier T-Mobile from my hotel and they disabled my phone in case it got into the hands of someone with nefarious intentions. I was reassured that since I had insurance on the phone it wouldn’t be a big deal and I’d get a replacement phone in no time. When I called the insurance company to make my claim, I was told they don’t ship the replacement phone overseas though. Ugh, that’s not good at all, I still had 7 days left and really, really, really wanted my cell phone… a cell phone… a device that plugs and connects me into the world with my “friends” and “followers” on social media and beyond.

So after the initial shock wore off that I’d be without a devise for a week, far from home, in a city I’ve never been to before (just like I was when I travelled in the 80’s and 90’s, but back then there was no shock), I was content to know that at least I could log into my email on the hotel lobby computer every day and stay connected with my business and pending matters. WRONG. YOU CANNOT JACK. My email account noticed I was logging in from a different location and wanted to verify it was me by sending me a text msg to my cell phone. “NO !!!!”, was the cry heard around Berlin at that moment from me.

Now a new reality set in, harsh as it was, I was without a cell phone for a week AND without access to my emails. “I have people I need to respond to” I thought. “What if there’s an urgent email that needs my attention?” I nervously pondered. “My email makes me feel important and complete”, I justified. After a few deep breaths, I was left with the cold hard fact: I am going to be unplugged and off-the-grid for a week in Berlin and there’s nothing I can do about. That’s just the way it’s going to be. But why did this have to happen to me? (Why not, who are you anyway, someone more special than anybody else?) I’ll have to make the best of this unexpected situation and try to enjoy this week that I had planned out. Travel is full of uncertainty and a seasoned traveler knows how to adapt and be flexible and not get disappointed, I kept repeating to myself.

I admit, the first couple days were a little challenging. Well, actually a lot challenging.

I definitely felt like I was going through withdraws and I was constantly reaching in my pocket where my phone would have been, only to touch the device less and empty, lonely pocket. I thought about my cell phone and my email accounts at least every hour that first day in Berlin, while rigidly sticking to my sightseeing plan and walking the Mitte (middle) district of the city.

The second day, I thought about my cell phone and my email accounts after the full complimentary breakfast buffet at my hotel, and maybe once right after an awesome delicious traditional German lunch in the newly trendy Prenzlauer Berg district, and then again when I was buying a pair of black jeans (I love the European “cut” of their pants) at a department store in Alexander Platz. So basically about 3 times that day I thought of my cell phone and emails. I definitely still somewhat cared about them.

By the third day in Berlin, from high up on top of a building lookout point in Potsdamer Platz, I saw the most wonderful panorama view of the entire city of Berlin glistening in the autumn sunshine. And it was at that moment, as the crisp breeze whisked through my hair, that I was liberated and cured of my attachment with my technology and devises. From then on, I thoroughly enjoyed my sightseeing and exploring of that dynamic city and never thought about my cell phone or email ever again. I became totally decompressed, at peace, in the moment, and I got to notice and experience little things along the way that I’d probably have missed if I were posting, texting or whatever on my cell phone between major sights.

Like when I walked through the Tiergarten park and noticed every yellow and orange leaf that fell gracefully from every tree and descended silently and whimsically through the air to land softly on the ground. Wow, did I just write that?)

I loved this new Jack-he felt like the old Jack (well the younger Jack) of the 1990’s when I went on trips. It was that pre-technology feeling of living life without all your “friends” and “followers” and job being constantly there at every turn, and at every step along your way. (Disclaimer: I love and am grateful for my social media friends and followers and my job!) And, after all, this was a scheduled solo trip. “This is about your experience Jack, this is about your connection to this city this week, you’re on a European urban adventure, and you’re free to be free” I told myself joyfully. It was almost a sense of being relieved of duty from social media postings and responding to people online.

It was as though I had been let go from a job and received a great severance package of a European city vacation to go with it.

It’s common to fast from food on occasion for health reasons or for religious reasons. Sometimes we might abstain from something to make us a better person to ourselves or to others or the community. Well, after my off-the-grid week in Berlin, I ask; why don’t we fast from technology once in a while for those same reasons? Certainly “health” is a valid reason to do so. It’s not healthy to be constantly squinting into a cell phone, it’s not healthy to have your cervical vertebrae in a forward tilted position most of the day while checking a devise, it’s not healthy to be attached to your job/work emails 365 days a year. We need that separation in our lives. That chance to experience everything and anything around us more deeply, a chance to rest that part of our brain that’s always thinking and strategizing about our technology and connections, a chance to re-connect spiritually or emotionally with who we are, and the courage to just be. Just be a tourist, just be a mother/father, just be a student, just be a person shopping or walking in whatever town or city you live in…just be yourself.

The feeling of being liberated from the unnecessary burden of technology is a pretty nice feeling to have in 2015, at least every once in a while.

My week in Berlin of all places, was indeed a reawakening for my body, mind and soul.


Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach
“Get Fit with Witt”
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* New Book “From Passion to Purpose”

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