Would you consider travelling somewhere with no wi-fi or GPS? Or no mobile phone signal at all? How about living there? In the first episode of series four of our podcast series, The Rough Guide to Everywhere, we explore the sleepy mountain village of Green Bank, West Virginia, USA. This small, intriguing town in West Virginia is unlike any other: mobile phones, digital cameras and even microwaves are all banned.
Wondering why? Green Bank is home to the National Radio Free Quiet Zone, where scientists monitor the goings-on in space via huge, white telescopes. With vast stretches of open land and low light pollution levels, Green Bank is the perfect base for this kind of activity – but the monitoring programme requires minimal radio wave levels – so most electromagnetic and radio broadcast equipment is banned. Needless to say, the pace of life in Green Bank can be… slow.
In this episode, Aimee White speaks to two of Green Bank’s residents, Bob Sheets and Diane Schlou, about what life in the slow lane is really like and why people choose to relocate to a communications black hole.
Aimee also speaks to Andrew Phelps and Paul Krantzler, two photographers who visited Green Bank, who share their experiences, including having to use cigarette lighters as torches and the sheer level of quietness in town. Which led us to thinking – with social media now such a large part of showing off our latest trip or inspiring our next one, photographs stored online and GPS map-tracking devices navigating our way from A to B, could we survive a trip without our phones? Could you?
Thanks to Bob Sheets, Diane Schou, Andrew Phelps and Paul Krantzler for taking the time to talk to us; and to our producers Alannah Chance and Femi Oriogun-Williams of Reduced Listening.