Ask 20 different people why they chose to live off the grid and mostly likely you will get 20 different answers. This is because living off the grid means different things to different people. The reasons people choose to live off the grid are as varied as the people that make this choice. In many ways, your rationale and your personal goals for choosing this option will be a deciding factor in the type of off-grid lifestyle you develop.
Although some of the best experiences in life are the result of a spontaneous decision, the choice to live off the grid should not be one of those times. This lifestyle should not be approached with a cavalier attitude. In this particular situation, that kind of quick decision making has the potential of producing a lot of hardship and frustration. However, with a little forethought and planning, living off the grid is something anyone can achieve.
There are many, many reasons to live off the grid. The following discussion is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just what I consider to be some of the best reasons to live off the grid.
True self sufficiency refers to the ability to support yourself or produce that which you need without outside help. Eons ago the entire population of the world was self sufficient. But in today’s developed world, the largest percentage of people live in urban areas and have no real concept of self sufficiency.
The term self sufficiency can also be applied to such things as renewable energy, sustainable living, homesteading, survivalism, simple living, and “green” living. Self sufficiency and self reliance go hand in hand. Think of true self sufficiency as a sort of personal or collective autonomy.
The whole basis of self sufficiency is independence. The average modern-day person simply works a job in the hopes of earning enough to buy the things they need or want. This makes them completely subject to the system that supports them. By taking steps to be self sufficient you can free yourself from such dependence and restore a sense of autonomy that is difficult to find in modern society.
Your aim does not have to be true self sufficiency. Learning how to produce 50% of your electricity needs or grow 50% of your own food is a big step in the right direction. Just doing this would make you that much less dependent on the infrastructure to provide all of the needs for you and your family.
There is a lot of talk these days about “green living”. This term simply refers to developing a lifestyle that works with nature and not against it. More specifically stated, green living is a lifestyle that brings into balance the conservation and preservation of natural resources and habitats. Green living embraces practices which have little or no negative impact on the environment.
One of the first and most important lessons you will learn about living off the grid is how important it is to conserve your available resources. When you are responsible for producing and managing your own resources, you will learn to make the most of what you have and adapt to using less. In many ways, using fewer resources means less work.
A perfect example of this is to look at your water usage. According to the USGS, the average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. Imagine living off the grid and heating 80-100 gallons of water/day. You would either spend a lot of money on propane or some other solid fuel, or you would spend all of you time chopping wood.
Obviously the best solution is to simply use less water. This is in fact my personal solution. Living off the grid full-time I use less than 5 gallons of water per day, which includes cooking,washing dishes, and bathing.
We live in a society and culture of rampant consumerism that is structured to keep us spending money. We are bombarded with advertisements bent on convincing us that buying things will make us better, happier, and healthier. We enslave ourselves to deep personal debt and then work endless hours to support that lifestyle.
One of the biggest things that can cripple your happiness and the ability to lead a fulfilling life is a crushing load of debt. With zero debt, your stress level is dramatically reduced and your personal freedom is increased exponentially. Day-to-day decisions will are much easier. Having no debt will allow you to devote a lot more time towards the things you want to do instead of working just to pay bills. Being debt free minimized trading hours for dollars.
In fact, being debt free will make living off the grid much easier. It is almost a necessity in order to simplify your life and relieve the economic pressure that so many people live with everyday. Living off the grid is a very economical lifestyle which enables you to maintain your debt free status with ease instead of constantly working to support your debt load.
My best advice is to get out of debt and stay out of debt. For a little more discussion on this topic, read the article. Why the 30 Year Mortgage Is Not Your Friend
Living off the grid and being self sufficient does not mean going back to an existence where you grub for your food with primitive implements. It actually means moving forward to a life that is a lot more fun than your office cubicle. It means a life that can bring great challenge and success as well as abysmal failure. It means acceptance of complete responsibility of what you do and what you do not do.
Living off the grid does not mean going back to a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it means endeavoring for a higher standard of living where you live life in pleasant surroundings on a day to day basis. It means having a strong connection between work you perform and the outcome you produce. It means having greater peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment rarely seen in modern society.
There are also several other hidden benefits to living off the grid. It can produce the type of personal freedom that most people only dream about. It can actually result in a lot more free time to pursue the things you love. Furthermore, living off the grid forces you to engage in critical thinking and problem solving. This in turn develops a strong sense of self regard and confidence, the ability to adapt to new surrounding and situations. It also develops your sense of purpose and develops stronger “mental fitness”. This even leads to more positive and productive personal relationships.
Living off the grid and self reliance necessitates some sort of food production. Besides providing for yourself, the other obvious benefit is that the food you produce is organically grown, freshly preserved, free of preservatives and various other chemicals. Producing your own food is just another step toward reducing your dependence on the public infrastructure.
Your method of food production will be dictated to some degree by your geographic location. For example, colder climates necessitate different gardening methods than a warmer, more humid location.
Pick your location carefully and do your homework prior to making your move.
Living off the grid and being responsible for producing and managing your own resources such as food, power, heat, and water, can be a lot of work at times. More than likely this will require varied sorts of physical tasks in the open air. Although this is a bit more trouble and effort than simply turning up the thermostat or flipping a switch, such a lifestyle will give you more exercise, keep you fit, healthier, and most likely in a better state of mind. This in turn leads to improved mental fitness.
Part of the philosophy of sustainable living is having a lifestyle that leaves behind as little environmental damage (small carbon footprint) as possible. It is about taking the resources that you have and using them wisely, stretching them as far as possible and achieving as much as possible. It is about using energy sources that are renewable. It is even about making appropriate consumer choices. Sustainable living is about producing more than you are consuming. It is about simple living that creates a balance between our social, economic and natural systems.
For example, it is possible to live off the grid and perfectly match your on-grid lifestyle. You could construct a massive solar grid and produce as much electricity as you want. However, be prepared to spend a lot of money. A much better solution would be to conserve your energy usage and derive that energy from renewable sources. This is not only more economical but also sustainable.
Many people who live off the grid do so in owner-built green homes. Often times this means not being connected to the public infrastructure. The result is that you are not paying for electricity, water, or sewer, and maybe not even gas. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out how much money you would save if you did not have these monthly expenses and were not paying a mortgage.
I will admit that my off-grid cabin is not truly self-sufficient. I am not a purist because I do purchase propane, kerosene, gasoline and oil. The propane is used for the cook stove and grill , which is much more efficient that generating enough solar energy for the same purposes. The kerosene is only for emergency lighting, which I almost never use. The gas and oil is for the chainsaw (cutting wood) and the ATV, which is truly my workhorse on the homestead. I also use a generator to run power tools which again is much more efficient that using solar electric for the same purposes.
That being said, my “utility” bills cost me about $10/month, if that. I have no monthly electric bill because I have a solar electric system. I haul in water and purify it. I use a composting toilet. Propane is used for the cook stove and one 100 pound propane tank, which is a cylinder about 12 inches in diameter and 4 1/2 feet tall, lasts about 9 months. I use a wood stove for heating at least 6 months out of the year. When I have the wood stove fired up, I also use it for cooking and heating water.
For the sake of comparison, many of my friends are dearly acquainted with utility bills ranging from $250 to $400 a month and more. These are the same friends that thought I had finally “gone over the edge” when I was in the process of building the cabin.
Personally, I think I made the better choice.
In today’s world, instant gratification is the norm. You can have anything you want with a telephone call, a click of a button, or the flip of a switch. Our daily needs and wants are easily accessible 24/7. But, what if you had to learn to provide many of those things for yourself? Is this possible when you are living off the grid?
While growing up with two working farms in the family, self-sufficient, self-reliant living was nothing we ever discussed. It was simply the way we lived. We raised cattle, pigs, chickens, and rabbits for meat. We also planted a large garden every year and what we did not grow we traded for with local farmers. We hunted, fished, gathered wild berries, nuts, and other fruits. We canned vegetables, fruits, froze and dried meats.
To live off the grid and be self-reliant obviously requires possessing a lot of varied skills and knowledge. In my opinion, a lot of those skills have been lost in our modern culture. But the good news is that these can easily be learned. It just takes some time and dedication, sometimes trial and error. Once acquired, those skills are yours for life and you can pass them on to others.
Imagine the confidence you would have if you possessed the ability to provide even 50% of your needs. Imagine your level of self confidence if you actually managed to live off the grid.
At the most basic level, what you need to survive is food, water, and shelter. Obviously if you are going to live off the grid, it is imperative that these basic needs are accounted for.
Most folks that live off the grid engage in some sort of home food production. Depending on your geographic location, this will necessitate some gardening, hunting, fishing, and possibly foraging. Then of course you will need a means of properly preparing and storing food for future use.
Potable water is also imperative and access to such will be a big deciding factor in where you choose to live. You may need to drill a well, haul in water, or collect water from a stream. If a stream is your only source, you will also need a means of water purification and storage.
Having proper shelter to protect you from the elements probably goes without saying. But, do not forget that this includes having proper clothing. Again, your geographic location and climate zone will dictate what your basic needs will be. Your location may also dictate a means of heating and/or cooling that shelter.
Truthfully though, for the sake of long-term comfort and happiness, if you plan to live off the grid long term, you need to provide much more than just the basics. If your basic needs are covered, a survival situation should not be an issue. Although I am not an apocalypse-thinking kind of guy, I do not completely dismiss the possibility of those types of scenarios. But, based on my experience, there is a more likely scenario versus the apocalypse. For example, an interruption of the local infrastructure due to a major storm or natural disaster resulting in a loss of all of your basic utilities and a loss of easy access to food and water. Depending on where you are in the world, this may mean complete isolation, albeit temporary.
The very nature of living off the grid means that you have to supply and manage your own resources on many levels. Part of your strategy should be to stock up on extra supplies. Keep a larger woodpile than you need, store extra purified water, keep extra matches around, etc. If you happen to be living in a rural or remote area, this is a very practical thing to do.
In my opinion, there is no better long-term survival strategy than managing your own resources. If something unexpected were to happen, you are far more prepared for a survival situation than the person who manages their survival based on a three day bug-out bag. What happens after three days?
During the years that I have lived in my off grid cabin, there have been 10 different times when the local infrastructure suffered a major interruption due to a large storm. Many local people were without basic utilities for up to a week in the dead of winter. Mean while back at the cabin, my life never skipped a beat. Okay, except for the time I got 8 feet of snow which made it difficult to get to the woodshed.
I hope this post has been informative and gets you to thinking about living off the grid and starting a great new lifestyle.
Go off-grid and live well,
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team. We always respect your privacy. Your information will never be shared.