It’s always hard to explain to people about leaving the grid behind if they haven’t experienced it. It’s such a different life, with different rewards and different challenges. I find myself either making it all sound like a herculean endurance effort, or some butterfly-filled, free food utopia. Being off-grid is both and neither of these, and a whole lot more. It’s another paradigm.
I could never return to the old ways, to working in the system, to having a boss or contorting myself to fit someone else’s timetable, to the pollution and noise, to the EMFs, to wi-fi, to the awful processed food, to the chemicals, aircon, and concrete. It’s unthinkable. I haven’t enjoyed running hot water for ten years, nor a washing machine, nor a fridge (not that these things are necessarily inevitable if you go off-grid). But despite the seeming lack of comfort, I’m still saying I’d never go back. I miss my land when I’m away just one night!
The trouble is, if you’re in the urban world and imagining life without a washing machine or a fridge, chopping your own wood, and boiling water on a stove, it looks hard. But that’s because you’re in a world that’s completely unadapted to those things, with days rammed full of appointments and rushing and nonsensical bureaucratic duties to the point that spending half an hour hand-washing would be a disaster. My days simply aren’t like that. I get up when I want and sleep when I want. I’m in a world where hand-washing could even be a pleasant diversion. I’m also not having my body and mind continually attacked by noise and pollutants, nor have I been sitting at a desk eight hours a day. You only understand what those things are doing to you when you live in a mud or stone hut without power cables long enough for your body to clean and revive itself.
On the other hand, when people don’t understand why I can’t make that hundredth flipping Zoom call, or why I can’t say for sure I’ll be free at 4:15 pm on Friday, or why I don’t want a puppy right now, it’s hard to explain. These people are flicking everything on with switches. I’m literally building every damn thing I use, from my bed to my water systems to my fire each night. And I’m reliant on the weather to do these things. So if it’s rained all day and the sun happens to pop out at 4:15 pm on Friday, I need to go and find wood, not chat on the phone!
Probably the best way to get an idea of the transition from the system to off-grid is to read my book Dirt Witch, but for a more right-brained approach, here’s a tidy(ish) list of pros and cons. Most of the cons are also pros though, as you’ll see.
“This is such a compelling book, it will make you want to abandon everything you know and commune with the trees and the dirt.” –Luisa Lyons
The challenges of being off-grid:
1. Being off-grid is very physical. You aren’t sitting on your butt all day, you are out there building, gardening, cooking, digging, chopping wood, dragging things up hills, moving rocks, etc. So you’ll get very tired at certain points, especially in the beginning when you are setting up. You need to learn how to pace yourself and manage your energy. Getting a puppy isn’t the best idea at the outset.
2. You are at the mercy of the weather. Climatic forces are the thing you’ll worry about most – not money, not admin, not power, and definitely not critters. Fires, snow and rain can all get pretty dangerous pretty darn fast. Your world and what you can do is entirely controlled by meteorological forces. You will understand what no one down there in the modern world seems to be able to wrap their deluded heads around. Nature is Queen, and we are her subjects. Forget your plans, they count for nothing. You will work with and around the weather.
3. Lack of structure. Some people find the freedom and open days a burden, some think it’s the best thing that ever happened. This does a bit depend on personality. Generally creative types do well when they are free. I have an inexpensive course on structuring your day outside the 9-5 for those finding their days are being frittered, or who feel lost in all that freedom.
4. Possible isolation. Again this is personality. Just be aware you are not in the hustle and bustle anymore, so there’s more space, more quiet time to stop and think. If you are a people-needer then make sure you buy land in places with people around and knit yourself a community.
5. Inaccessibility: You can’t just nip to the corner shop and buy yourself some salt if you run out. When you shop, you need to be focussed about the supplies you need. And when you’re back on your land you have to learn to use what you have well. Inaccessibility means you'll want to be smart regarding accidents too because it’s hard for ambulances to reach you, and hospitals are far away. Remember your first aid, have a decent first aid kit to hand, learn how to use herbs, get on with your neighbours, and be careful when hanging off ladders.
6. Income: I add this a little doubtfully because I notice Westerners worry way too much about two things in their off-grid planning: money and electricity. That’s because in that other world, money and power are crucial. You’re leaving that old world behind though, so what counts there doesn’t necessarily count half as much when you’re in the countryside off-grid. Yes you still need a bit of money to get by of course, and make your life more comfortable, but 300 USD a month per person will usually be enough once you’re set up (depending on where you live it could be a fair bit less). Even so, for those of us who are more happy-go-lucky in the money department (ahem), you do need to consider how you are going to earn those 300 bucks. (see this article for more ideas on that).
7. Iffy internet: I forgot about this one, I’m so used to it. In fact, I’ve enjoyed some better internet connections off-grid, than some people do on grid. But you do need to consider that you’re probably not going to be using Wi-fi. I’ve been on pay-as-you-go metered internet ever since the internet began, and I work online! I actually prefer it because a) I don’t like Wi-fi signals, b) It means I have to be focused with my internet usage, so I don’t get lost on Youtube videos or Netflix for hours at a time. I write and store all my articles offline, and only turn on the internet to upload. For those who want limitless internet, there are off-grid options too, the most cost-effective of which is usually satellite internet.
1. Being off-grid is physical. You will get in shape. Fast. In the longer term, your body is going to thank you. We were designed for working in nature, and our bodies adapt incredibly quickly. You will lose weight while gaining muscle, strength, stamina, and overall health.
2. Freedom. You never have to get up to the sound of an alarm again. You never have to commute again. You never have to take crap from a boss again. You can set your own schedule and make your own rules. You are sovereign of your own life. And yes it is just as good as it sounds. Not a day goes by when I don’t wake up relieved that I don’t have to yank myself out of bed to reach some godawful job that I don't believe in any way.
3. No power or water bills. There are so many aspects to this I love. Obviously the financial aspect is one of them, but just imagine never having to go through the torture of phoning the water company to cancel or change a contract. And just imagine also having the beatific feeling of not funding some ecocidal CEO’s yacht in the Bahamas at the same time.
4. Enhanced creativity and problem-solving ability. Once you’re off-grid in nature you’ll begin to access your inner creativity, and solve all manner of problems you were previously so sure you needed to hire someone for. You start to realise you don’t need to buy half the things you thought you did, and you find yourself tapping into a wellspring of natural inspiration. It’s all very empowering.
4. Nature and wildlife. This is the part of the adventure most moderns are clueless about, and that’s such a sad fact. This is what I do it for! Nature is our home. It is impossible to relay the joy of living amongst all these creatures and observing the ever-changing beauty of the plant life, the sunsets, and the cloudscapes. Poor little rich moderns with their radiation-spewing screens and their soulless shopping malls, always feeling something is missing and never knowing why. This planet is a wonderland, and the ‘wealthiest’ don’t even know.
6. Resilience in the face of societal collapse. Depending on how well you’ve set up your system, and (more importantly) how well you adapt to working with nature, you find that pandemics happen, societies break down, and economies collapse, but not much actually changes for you. If you didn’t have some kind of media harrying you, you’d probably not even know!
7. Clean food and water
I’ve been drinking pure mountain spring water fresh from the source for about fifteen years now. If you like chlorinated, fluoride-treated, Lord-knows-what-esle contaminated mains water, carry on drinking from your tap, but you won’t convince my taste buds or my body that it’s healthier. There’s no comparison. Spring water from the source tastes and feels life-giving. The same, if not more, goes for shop bought vegetables. I still have to stoop to buying some of them, but the difference in quality is astounding. The only way to be sure your food supply isn’t contaminated with pesticides and poisons is to grow it or rear it yourself somewhere clean.
If you want to know more about going off-grid you might like to try my free off-grid prep course. There are five questions you need to ask yourself before you take the plunge.
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