How Can I Enjoy Being Off the Grid?
September 3, 2011 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm being forced off the grid, and I'm waiting to hear back from a couple of job interviews... how can I put this out of my mind?

My girlfriend likes camping. A lot. I'm more of an avid indoorsman. We've had a big trip planned to go portaging across Algonquin Provincial Park for five days next week.

I've been in the midst of looking for a new job, and I've interviewed with a number of employers, a few of which are supposed to get back to me next week.

I'm DYING to hear back from any of them... and I'm worried that if I don't promptly respond, they'll move on to someone else.

I will have no access to the outside world at all, and I honestly haven't been "disconnected" for more than a day in YEARS and I'm feeling very anxious about it, primarily because of this timing.

How do I cope with no access to e-mail or a phone for five days? (obligatory #firstworldproblems)
posted by smitt to Grab Bag (18 answers total)
Call them all and explain you'll be out of touch for a few days.

Many people find off-the-grid experiences to be uncomfortable, but profound. I think you will not regret it if you prepare for it.
posted by michaelh at 8:38 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there zero coverage? Can you check in periodically, or get a friend/family member to check your email/phone/voicemail for you?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:54 AM on September 3, 2011

Forward your email to a close friend who you trust to write for you in your stead.
posted by straight_razor at 8:54 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's something odd about this question. You claim you want to "put this out of your mind." That's usually what people want to do when they are preoccupied with something that's not a real problem, but then you describe this as a real problem. So which is it?

Then you say you are being "forced" which leads me to believe that you would like us to tell you you should postpone the trip so that you have backup to convince your girlfriend. You're not being forced in that you can always choose not to take this trip if it's a real problem you're facing.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:54 AM on September 3, 2011

When in this situation I'd set up an auto reply on my email and change my outgoing message to something like, "I'm on vacation and will be out of touch form X-date to X-date. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you on X-date. Thank you."
posted by bswinburn at 8:56 AM on September 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

If you've already been through interviews, the employers will likely have a sunk cost (time, opportunity) in you if they want to pursue you further. If you put an "out of office" response on your email and record a special voicemail greeting saying that you're out of touch until the following week, they are not going to give the job to someone else.

Unless you're waiting to hear back from McDonalds or are waiting on a day labor gig outside Home Depot, applicants are not so fungible that employers will just move on to the next person if they can't get hold of you for a few days.

Go on the trip. It will be very Zen. Be in the moment. The future will still be there when you get back.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:59 AM on September 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Admiral, I have to disagree. In this market the easiest path is the one typically chosen. If they are expecting an immediate reply, and don't get one they could just assume that there is no interest. I would prepare a canned out of office message, and have the email forwarded to a friend whom you will call once or twice during the week. Then if something happens you can either have the friend send your reply ( You may have to figure out how to get the correct FROM address in the email), or you can call the employer and tell them you have received the information, and that you will get back to them as soon as you return. Going cold turkey could cost you an opportunity.
posted by Gungho at 9:08 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Obscure Reference: Sorry, I'm definitely not asking to have anyone suggest I postpone the trip. That won't happen. It's a group trip, a total of 18 people are going together.
I say "put it out of my mind" because I'm the type to tend towards anxiety, and this will just churn on my mind (as it's been doing all week) even though I know that I'm just being impatient, and there's really nothing I can do but wait to hear back.

"Forced" is a bit harsh, I shouldn't say that. It's important to my girlfriend that we do this together, and it's important that I go. I meant "forced" in that there will really be zero option for me to check anything while I'm away.

I think I'm going to send a few polite "thank you for meeting with me" e-mails, explaining that I'll be away for five days and will be able to respond on the following Monday.

I totally didn't think about setting an auto-response on my e-mail account, so I'm going to do that to.
posted by smitt at 9:17 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you should try to find someone who can answer your phone and emails for you. Can you arrange a way for your friend to contact you if you get an offer?

If I was interviewing applicants and got an "away" message or no reply to a phone call, I'd move on to the next one.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2011

Put an "out of office" autoreply that says "I am camping from [date] to [date] and will have no access to email or telephone at all during that time. I will respond to all messages immediately upon my return on [date]." Do the same for your voice mail. However, be selective in setting rules - you don't want to send that message to a burglar.

I think you have a risk that employers won't get back to you IF they don't understand that you really are completely incommunicado. But if they do, they will most likely wait the maximum of five days to hear back.

If you're uncomfortable with this, I suggest appointing a friend as a "personal assistant" to take calls and answer emails on your behalf. Or, if not a friend, you could hire a virtual personal assistant for five days.
posted by tel3path at 9:22 AM on September 3, 2011

Auto-response can be highly annoying, be careful. I agree with the "trusted friend" approach.
posted by fake at 9:35 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your plan to send thank you notes explaining that you'll be away is the right way to go. The last two people I hired had exactly this situation - they were unreachable for a week or two immediately after the interview, but they'd made it clear in advance and it was not a problem at all.
posted by judith at 9:49 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might consider mentioning a little detail about what, exactly, you're doing. A 5-day portaging trip sounds pretty cool, and that it's been organized with so many people is not only relevant to why you're obligated to go, it shows that you have good social connections and are not a flake. A guy going on a 5-day portaging trip? When he's not really an outdoorsy type? Shows a certain degree of lack of fear. It might make me want to hire you more.
posted by amtho at 10:05 AM on September 3, 2011

(obligatory #firstworldproblems)

First of all, it's a problem, and losing a job opportunity isn't trivial wherever you live, so don't apologize for the question Secondly, can you set an out-of-office reply on your email so that people will know why you aren't responding? Also change your voicemail message on your phone: "Hi, you've reached smitt. From September X to X, I will be camping and unable to receive phone calls or check voice mail. Please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I return." No one is going to move on to a job candidate they like less if they can't hear back from you for a few days - not when they know that it's not simply you giving them the cold shoulder.
posted by Dasein at 10:11 AM on September 3, 2011

Definitely send the thank you notes explaining where you'll be and why you won't be able to get back to them immediately. And set up your email for autoreply and a similar outgoing voicemail message to reinforce this/remind them. This sort of thing happens all the time. If your respective employers have a professional and collegial attitude toward their employees, they will be reasonable and understanding. You should relax.

Moreover, my experience with jobs and search committees is that the wheels of the hiring process grind exceedingly slowly, and there may even be a chance they won't be able to get back to you until after you've returned, even though they told you next week. (Of course, I work for the state. YMMV.)
posted by tully_monster at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2011

oops, that should be "prospective," not "respective." Where is my brain today?
posted by tully_monster at 10:37 AM on September 3, 2011

Any reason you can't just bring a cell phone? Chances are you'll find a few places where you can at least check email or voicemail. I do that while camping all the time, and say what you will about "off the grid" but it eases my mind greatly.
posted by mmoncur at 11:59 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could rent a satellite phone with 100 minutes of connect time, starting at $38 + shipping (various options), and forward your contact phone number to it. There remain large swaths of Algonquin Provincial Park that are out of cell phone service range. Acciordingly, just for safety in a party that large, some one should have a sat phone, and perhaps extra charged batteries.
posted by paulsc at 12:15 PM on September 3, 2011 [11 favorites]

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