Have you ever wanted to be free of the stresses of your present life? Ever considered breaking out on your own and living independently of the public utilities and other so-called modern conveniences that seem to keep you chained down?
What’s keeping you from realizing your off-grid dream? Sometimes, it may be your career or misplaced notions of duty and responsibility towards society standing in your way of personal freedom.
Visions of living in penury and in crooked little houses with no creature comforts may be acting as a deterrent to others. We are social animals, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean we have to live close together in congested cities and stick to specific roles like ants in a colony.
Fear of the unknown is so real that even the drudgery of a 2-hour commute to work and spending almost all your monthly check to pay off bills and mortgages can be strangely comforting. It does take some courage to leave the well-oiled machinery of social life even with all its downsides. However, the benefits of living life unchained from the 9 to 5 grind are immeasurable to many.
Not sure where to start? Here are some very good reasons and tips that may help you to take the plunge into the unknown.
1. You can be your own boss
Being your own boss is not about being the head of a large business. The official commitments can still tie you down, leaving you little time to spare for the people and activities you love. You are your own boss when you can live life on your terms, spend plenty of time with family and friends, and take off for extended vacations when you feel the urge. It is a dream for many, and remains so all their working life.
You can change all that when you chalk out a truly independent life. It is not all that difficult today, as many who have shifted to off-grid lifestyle have proven. Meet up with these brave people if you need reassurance. Talk to them about how they make a living and how much freedom there is in living with fewer bills and other constraints.
2. You can have a debt-free life
Many of you may have started out in life with educational loans, only to be saddled with more debts as you started to earn. To have a place to live, you either had to rent it out or buy a house by taking out a hefty loan. Before you can pay off the mortgages, you may feel the need to upgrade to a larger house to accommodate your growing family. Then you spend the rest of your life in debt. We find it hard to believe that there could be such a thing as a debt-free life.
Imagine building a small house on your own in a piece of land you own. You can add to it whenever you feel the need, but without incurring any debts. You will be free of the stress of making enough money to pay off debts. Any money you make can go towards funding travel or other activities that you enjoy. You can even save up a bit for exigencies.
You can turn this dream into reality. Downsizing is a definite step you can take towards freeing yourself from debt.
3. No need to work all day to pay the bills
Between working full time to have a decent salary and paying off all the bills and mortgages, you may rarely get time to live life. In fact, it is possible that you end up thinking that life is all about slogging all day and paying the bills. A lucky few may land careers that they thoroughly enjoy, but the majority are sticking to their jobs because they have to. How else can they find money to pay for housing, electricity, water and fuel?
If you didn’t have to pay for these utilities, you could get out of the job that you don’t enjoy, and spend your time doing something that you do enjoy. Off-grid living avails this opportunity.
You are no longer dependent on a water supply because you have your own private source of water. You dispose of your own waste in an environment-friendly way and have no need to be connected to the sewer lines. You are relieved from power bills since you generate your own with solar panels and use alternative fuels or wind power to make up any deficit.
4. Work hard, but work for yourself
You might have seen pictures of some people living in ramshackle huts somewhere out in the wilderness and lazing away their time. It is their free choice, but these images have caused many people to associate off-grid living with laziness. But it is far from truth.
Most off-gridders are industrious people with a definite mission. They work hard; but they do it for themselves, and at their own pace. You may not have targets and deadlines dictated by someone else, but you will make your own. Having a definite goal helps you focus on the important things.
5. Sharpen your skills to increase earning potential
You might have already acquired some skills for making a living in the modern society, but you may need to have a different set to make things work while living independently. It would be perfect if you could completely do away with cash, but unfortunately, you do need some. The good news is that you can make money living off-grid. You don’t have to aim for a huge income since your living expenses are very low.
Consider turning hobbies into money making ventures. It could be anything from painting and sculpture to making herbal cosmetics or organic food products. You will have plenty of time to try your hand at composing music or writing that novel you have always wanted to. You can even sell useful practical knowledge of off-grid living to those who toy with the idea. There are many options, but you may need to sharpen your skills or learn some new ones to make the best of it.
6. Cut down unnecessary expenses
Reducing your current living expenses to the bare minimum can give you a very good idea about what you can live without. Get rid of club memberships and credit cards you rarely use. Opt out of going to gym and playing golf; get your quota of exercise from outdoor activities that cost you next to nothing. Hiking, biking or playing basketball or other such games with your kids or friends can be just as enjoyable.
7. Get rid of unnecessary items
To some people, this is the hardest part. Too many possessions can stand in your way when you want to downsize, not to mention shifting to off-grid. You don’t need fine china and expensive furniture to entertain guests in your new setup. Assess just what you need, the essentials.
Get rid of non-essential possessions by donating them or selling some stuff through yard sales, eBay or Craigslist. Take some pictures of sentimental stuff and gift some to loved ones who would value them. This purging will not only lighten your load, but may even provide you with some handy cash.
8. Get into the money-saving mode
The very idea of going off-grid is to live inexpensively, but you do need to have some cash in hand to buy land and to set up your establishment. Start saving money exclusively for this purpose so that you can make the transition without much trouble.
The cost of off-grid living depends on the size of your establishment and what facilities you consider as basic. The initial costs will be offset by lower running costs in the course of time, but you do need some startup cash.
9. Quit some expensive habits
Smoking and drinking are not the only habits you can quit and save some money. Habitual shopping, partying, betting, eating out and expensive beauty therapies should be avoided.
10. Travel to less populated areas
Before you zero in on the right location for the off-grid homestead of your dreams, explore your options by traveling far and wide. Get firsthand experience of different places by making several road trips. While mountainous terrain or wooded areas appeal to some, others prefer the plains which offer an open feel.
11. Rent out a cabin
If you want to get a good feel of living away from civilization before making a decision, you can rent out a cabin in the woods for an extended stay. Most of these rental accommodations are equipped with basic amenities that may be different from what you may have in an off the grid setup. But you will come to know exactly what you would miss about city life.
12. Find the best way to learn
This includes learning how to grow vegetables and rear animals, water management and responsible waste disposal methods. If you are not sure of a perennial water source, it pays to know how to harvest and store rainwater and how to conserve it as you go about your daily chores. Making compost with almost all the agricultural waste, curing manure, and implementing natural pest control will make your off-grid living both sustainable and environment-friendly. Check books out of the library, attend workshops, practice in your own backyard, whatever it takes to be prepared. Be sure that all members of the family understand what it will take to be successful off-grid.
13. Master necessary survival skills
When you live far away from the support systems that city living offers, you will have to rely more on your personal skills. Picking up essential survival skills and practicing them while camping out in the wild can give you the confidence to venture into off-grid living.
It is essential to know how to use some basic tools and weapons. If you intend to grow vegetables and fruits, you may as well teach yourself some food preservation techniques like drying and pickling, which are more cost effective than refrigeration. Learn to make wine and vinegar and to preserve vegetables and fruits by pickling and drying.
If you plan to keep goats (here are 20 reasons why you should), cows, and chickens for milk, meat and eggs, make the best of it by learning to make yogurt and cheese from fresh milk and live culture, and to cure meat and dry it for later use. You can also learn how to use herbs to heal yourself and your animals of common diseases and injuries.
14. Initiate some dietary changes
Most people opting to go off the grid aim for a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. That includes sticking to a natural diet and avoiding processed foods. The dietary changes are best initiated before making the shift so that all the members of the household get used to them.
Your diet is the most important criteria when you decide on the foods you want to produce. For example, cow manure can be great asset to your vegetable garden, but if you’re vegan, and do not utilize milk or consume meat, keeping cattle is a waste of precious resources.
Grain based diet is not sustainable unless you undertake large scale agriculture. On the other hand, you can have a nearly self-sufficient homestead in as little as 1-2 acres of land if your diet consists mainly of vegetables and animal protein.
15. Build a tiny abode from scratch
There are ready-to-move-in off-grid abodes in the market. But nothing can match the joy and sense of achievement that building one from scratch can provide. If you have a small plot of land, build a tiny house to start with. You would need some woodworking knowledge and tools, but it is not too hard to execute a simple structure if you have people to help with the heavy work.
16. Be on the lookout for land going cheap
Once you have decided to go off-grid and have a general idea where you want to live, watch out for properties that are going cheap. You can get more land for bargain prices if you’re patient. Auctions, estate sales, foreclosures and owner-finance deals can help you get the land you need for a good price.
17. Gain some practical knowledge about alternate fuels
Besides water and food, fuel is one thing that you cannot do without. You need it for cooking and heating, and for running the refrigerator and other electrical appliances you count as necessary. A wood-burning stove may be the cheapest option, but propane fuel is a much cleaner one. Solar power is something you should definitely have, but you should look at the feasibility of wind and hydropower too.
18. Learn to build and install solar panels
Being able to use solar power to meet at least part of your energy requirements is a great asset whether you are connected to the power grid or not. Learn how to build solar panels from components.
19. Explore communication possibilities
When you’re in a remote location, communication is of paramount importance. Satellite communication has made things a lot easier than before; it can help you stay connected to your extended family and friends in the cities. It can even help you shop for essentials. However, satellite connectivity may not be great in some areas.
There are some radio-based local communication systems available in most places. They are essential for receiving weather forecasts and warnings of local problems.
20. You don’t have to be a social recluse
Escaping from the hustle and bustle of city living need not necessarily mean cutting off all your social ties. We can maintain our connections to friends and family over the Internet and social media and on occasional visits to town. You will have unique stories and experiences to share; they might even inspire the city folks to come out and visit your place and have a taste of the rustic life.
21. Education can happen outside classrooms
Children’s education is another issue that can trouble wannabe off-gridders. Homeschooling can take care of young children’s needs. Older ones can teach themselves through online classes. The practical knowledge they gain from working the land, growing food, rearing animals, making useful things with their hands, handling communication equipment and alternate fuels is something they will never gain from a classroom. Remember that self-reliance is the most important lesson you can teach your children.
Off grid living may not be for everyone, but unless you try, you will never know whether it works out for you or not. Don’t be afraid to take the leap. You will always wonder what it could have been like if you don’t at least try. Set a goal for living off grid for at least one year and do a total assessment after this time. You may be pleasantly surprised at how easy a simple, yet fruitful and fulfilling life can actually be.