Off-grid living is deeply ingrained in the fabric of the American experience. For the first hundred-plus years of our history, the West was an untouched landscape. Gathering your things and moving to the frontier, while challenging, allowed people to reinvent themselves, giving birth to the American Dream concept.
Therefore, it's no surprise that this is still an attractive concept today. Plus, it can be all too easy to feel as though we're missing out on some of the simplest, best pleasures in life with all the pressure of the modern world.
When was the last time you just sat and listened to the wind? Or soaked in the powerful rays of the sun? These joys are always available to us. Yet, our busy lives cause us to ignore them and also generate stress and pain. It is, however, possible to adjust your lifestyle to incorporate this beauty and simplicity.
Off-grid living gives you the chance to make this your whole reality. Like all good things in life, creating this takes time and effort, and it's often not straightforward. It's easy to get overwhelmed by everything you need to do, which often stops us from even trying.
Just remember, this is possible. All you need to do is start. Once the ball is moving in the direction of your dreams, there's no stopping it.
We wanted to make it easier for you to take this all-important first step, so here are six steps to help you start making your dream of living off the grid a reality:
Living life off the grid is liberating and beautiful, but it can be tough. Making the transition from how we live now to living utterly free from the rest of society is a complicated process. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is become firm in your resolve of living off the grid.
For those who are just beginning this journey, this is an opportunity for you to consider if off-grid living is for you. Sometimes we dream about something focusing only on the good things without considering the trade-offs. This will only lead to frustration.
Having a firm conviction that this is what you want will be extremely helpful since it will keep you on track when obstacles inevitably emerge.
One way to do this is to be very familiar with what living "off the grid" exactly means and the many benefits and downsides it brings.
This way, you not only know what to expect from your off-grid life, but when something does come up, you can accept it as merely part of the process.
It's essential for those new to this concept to have a clear understanding of what it actually means to live life off the grid.
In general, living "off the grid" means disconnecting from society and living on your own. It is an exercise in self-reliance and self-sufficiency focused on showing that you can survive entirely on your own and live off the land. Typically, this involves the following:
Living life in this way fits a more purist definition of living "off the grid."
In modern times, other definitions of off-grid living are less extreme.
We've broken down the different versions into three groups: going green, dropping out, and disappearing. Here's a bit more information about each:
If you choose "going green," then your life before and after the transition might not be all that much different. Sure, there is a fair bit of pride in knowing you are free from fossil fuels and other connections to society, but there is a lot more to be gained by taking this further.
As we discuss the benefits of living off the grid, keep in mind that they are likely to be more fully experienced by those who adopt more of a "dropping out" lifestyle than one focused on "going green."
Now that you have a clear idea of what living off the grid means, here are the main benefits of this lifestyle:
Based on these points above, it might seem like living off the grid is the solution to all our problems. Perhaps this is true, but off-grid living isn't for everyone. Before you embark on this journey, know that there are some trade-offs, such as:
As you can see, you should consider the downsides of off-grid-living as "adjustments" rather than obstacles. Switching to this lifestyle is a big change, but most people have radical transformation as their goal.
If this isn't your goal and you are instead just looking for simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint or get more in touch with nature, it might be best to go another route or test things out differently.
For example, consider spending a week hiking in the woods or go on an extended camping trip. See how this type of life works for you and if you're ready to undergo the metamorphosis that off-grid living can produce. If you've done this and still feel like this is for you, then go at it with your eyes wide open, fully ready to embrace the challenges that might emerge.
Another question you'll want to answer is whether or not you wish to belong to a community. There are lots of groups living in the United States and other parts of the world focused on helping one another live off the grid.
For many, this is a nice mix, as it allows them to embrace an off-grid lifestyle while also participating in a community.
If this interests you, then do some research to see if there are any groups near to where you are trying to live off-grid. Each one is different and has different things to offer, but if this is your path, you will surely find your people.
Once you've committed to living off-the-grid and know which type of off-grid lifestyle you want to have, it's time to start thinking about the particulars.
Since you're at the beginning of this journey, these things (steps 2-5) don't need to happen in the order we've presented them. You should be looking into them at the same time to help you make informed decisions. If you want to make your dream of living off the grid a reality, then you'll need to start making some serious plans about where you're going to do it.
Living off the grid usually requires you to have your own land. You could rent, sure, but this would make it so that you always had a financial obligation to someone else, which would make it difficult for you to disconnect entirely.
There are some areas where free land can be had, such as Bureau of Land Management Areas (National Forests, National Recreation Areas, National Wildlife Sanctuaries, etc.). Still, there are usually limits on what you can do on these lands.
For example, you can't build any permanent structures. If you're looking to be a bit more nomadic, then this might work, but buying land will be the solution for most.
This is one of the initial expenses we talked about earlier, which is why it takes time to transition to off-grid living. You will need to save up to buy some land.
How much you need to save depends entirely on how much land you want and where you want to get it. You should be able to get it relatively cheap since it doesn't need to be connected to any services, but still expect to pay 100k or more for decent land.
When shopping around for land, things to keep in mind include:
The land you choose to live on is arguably the most crucial part of this process. As a result, this decision cannot be rushed. Remember, you're at the beginning of this journey. Take your time, explore different places, and wait for the right opportunity to come. This is a significant change. Rushing it won't help but being patient will help make sure your dream becomes a reality.
Next to land, the biggest thing you need to consider is power. Of course, you could try and live without electricity and go old school, but this doesn't make sense for many people, especially if you're living in a cold climate.
Most people who live off the grid tell you that the biggest challenges when adapting to this lifestyle revolved around their power systems. After all, unless you're an electrician, when would you ever work on these systems?
The best thing you can do to get started is to spend some time researching the many different power systems out there (wind, solar, biomass, hydro, etc.), as well as their many components (batteries, generators, converters, etc.) This will help you not only figure out which system is best for you (which will help inform your decision about land), but it will also prepare you for the challenges to come.
Of course, nothing can prepare you for everything, but reading and practicing now can only help. You may even want to see if you can take a few classes. In short, the more information you can gather about this now, the better you will be later on.
At this point in the process, you will also need to start thinking about shelter. In general, you have two options: build or buy.
Building a shelter is undoubtedly more "traditional," but it also requires you to have a lot more skills. If this is the path you want to go, then start thinking about what type of shelter you want to build and do as much research as you can into the process. If you do go this route, then you may find that you want to do this over time.
You may buy your land and build your shelter while you're still living on the grid, allowing you to take your time with it and address any concerns before you're living on the property.
Buying a shelter is going to be faster and requires less work. You could buy a prefabricated home, such as a tiny house, already outfitted for off-grid living. Or, you could buy a van and move around. Another option is to buy something like a used shipping container and convert it into a home.
In reality, the sky's the limit when it comes to shelter at your off-grid living site. However, it's important you start visualizing it now so that you can take the steps you need to take to make it a reality.
Growing food is an integral part of living off the grid. In general, doing this isn't "hard," but it does take some practice. You can read and watch all the YouTube videos you want on this, but there's no replacement for actually doing it yourself.
Therefore, we recommend you just start. Find some space to create a small garden and practice. It's likely going to be a few years before you can really begin living off-grid, so become familiar with this work as soon as you can. Add to your garden each year, and maybe start setting goals like "this year, I will not buy any tomatoes." This will help you see the project not just as a hobby but rather as practice for the future you've always wanted.
As you can see, there's a lot that goes into living off the grid. It's not a change that happens overnight. Most people spend years, if not decades, preparing themselves to make the switch.
This isn't meant to scare you off. Instead, it's meant to encourage you because if you want this to be your reality, then all this means is that you have to start now. There are many steps involved, and you will need to learn and unlearn a lot about yourself and the world.
If you remain committed and begin working on the initial things we've outlined here as soon as you can, then before you know it, you will have turned your dream of living off the grid into reality.