Off The Grid: What Living Without Internet For 3 Years Taught Me about Living Fully and Connecting With People

Imagine coming home after a grueling day at work. You’re tired, hungry, and all you want to do is pop a frozen meal in the microwave and watch an episode of Narcos.

Except you can’t. Six months earlier you decided that you weren’t going to pay for Internet so that in situations like these you wouldn’t be boring.

This is exactly what I did for three years while living in Spain, and it turned out to be one of the most game changing decisions ever. My life took a 180.

And the best part? You don’t have to get rid of your Internet to learn what I did.

Insight #1 – Get over being shy with low stakes small talk

 Whenever I used to be out or at an event, I would either whip out my phone and pretend like I’m busy or make a beeline for the food as an excuse not to talk anyone. It didn’t take long before I started noticing this tendency to avoid conversation and decided to do something about it.

But where to start? What I found was that service people – baristas, servers and waiters, bartenders, etc., were both unintimidating to talk to and helped give me the momentum and confidence to start conversations with other people.

Because the stakes were low (it’s totally normal to talk with service people, you can even ask them funny questions or experiment with different conversation topics), I would regularly talk to service people and got more comfortable talking to strangers. This was the biggest “hack” that improved my conversations with people and made me a more outgoing person.

Also, I became friends with a bunch of people who worked in my neighborhood and it was hard to go anywhere without having a conversation on the street or someone shouting “Hey Ian!” at me through their shop.

Insight #2 – Simply spend more time outside the house

 In my case, I tried a bunch of new hobbies. It was like throwing darts at a dartboard. I joined sports teams, tried salsa dancing, did yoga, worked out in the park, played chess against old people in public squares, and went to meditation retreats.

The interesting thing was that I only stuck with one or two of these hobbies, but the friends that I made by going to salsa a few times and playing chess are still my friends to this day. It was like a flywheel; the more time that I spent out my apartment doing things, the more people I would meet, the more friends I would make, and the more I would get invited out again.

Insight #3 – How to not be needy

 We’ve all known someone who wants to hangout on Tuesday, doesn’t seem to have anything going on Thursday, and also is interested in what you’re up to on Saturday.

Don’t be that person.

When you have no Internet, though, it’s tempting to want to hang out with someone everyday. What else are you going to do?

It’s often tempting to want to hit everyone up all the time and hang out. There are two awesome ways to handle not coming off as needy.

The first is to diversify friends. Maybe you hang out with your friends from yoga after yoga class, and then with that girl or guy you met at the coffee shop the next night. Maybe you hang out with people from work once or twice a week. Be careful, though, if you find yourself initiating all of the conversations and asking people what they are up to, you might need to take a good look in the mirror.

The second is to not interview other people. Often when we meet people for the first time, it’s easy to ask a ton of questions. Instead, try asking deeper questions about what the other person is interested in and why (always “why” or “how come” – this is key for connecting with people), but balance it out. Share your own opinion and experience so that the conversation isn’t lopsided.

Insight #4 – You don’t need to drink or go to clubs to meet people

 Whether it’s a romantic interest or just wanting to make friends, it’s easy to use drinking as an outlet to meet people. What I found, though, is that if I was both a) doing interesting things during the day and b) making friendships and relationships doing those things, then I didn’t have to go out meeting girls at bars or making friends at parties.

In fact, I was able to connect with people in a much deeper way and make lasting relationships. Don’t get me wrong, parties are great and drinking is fun in moderation, but with my entire social life turned inside out, I wasn’t desperate to meet new people in the same old places.

Instead, it seemed to happen so naturally just by doing awesome things.

Action Steps

  • You know that dancing class you’ve always thought about going to? Find out when that is and put it in your calendar
  • GO
  • Talk to one or two people either right when you enter or within a minute of the end of the class.
  • Repeat


Ian can be reached at . He responds to every email 🙂


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.