Ten years ago, my wonderful husband and I gave up a fairly successful life in Florida to move to an off-grid farm in Hawaii. We had a 3-bedroom house, a pool, a hot tub, a beautiful garden, and good friends that lived close by. When I left, I remember shutting my front door for the last time and saying rather defiantly, “Good-bye!” I wasn’t going to miss my hard-to-maintain-white-tile-everything-house, including the floors, or at least so I thought.
Off-grid means that you really have nothing coming in and nothing going out –utility wise. There is no seemingly endless supply of power, no thought to toilets that flush, no garbage pickup, no long hot showers, no washing machine & dryer, no dishwasher, and no high-speed internet.
Today, things have changed a bit as we’ve become more settled in and experienced, but we’re certainly still off-grid.
Lately, I see quaint memes on social media with tons of “likes” of cabins out in the woods where suburbanites and city dwellers can fantasize about living in the great outdoors.
I can really think of more than 10 but here are some things to consider if you truly fancy yourself off-grid, out in the woods or jungle.
Things to say bub-bye to if you truly want to live off-grid:
1) Utility workers. When the phone line (if you’re lucky to have one), water pump, hot water, or solar power goes out or down, guess what? You have to fix it. No more waiting for repairmen! It’s you! Get out of bed and fix the water leak or traverse through miles of jungle in the rain to find the tree that fell down on your tree-strung telephone line.
2) Turn-key power. Flip a light switch to turn on the light? Maybe, but first make sure your power inverter is on and there’s enough solar power to run the lights. When was the last time you checked your battery bank to see if there is enough distilled water in your batteries to keep them charged up and in top shape? Want to make a smoothie with your new, high-powered blender? Better crank on the generator for that one. Don’t forget to check the gas level so you don’t have to fill up the tank before you can finish blending your spirulina and mixed berries.
3) Garbage pick up. Remember when the garbage truck woke you up at 6 a.m.? It’s not ever going to happen again. You’re the newly appointed sanitation engineer! You have to sort, carry and deliver your trash to the transfer station. Better have a pick up truck for that, SUVs can’t really handle it, especially with the windows up.
4) Stain-free clothes. Might as well buy all your clothes at Goodwill or a used clothing store. It will get mighty depressing when you spill hot chocolate on your new, $115 REI shirt and can’t wash it for 3 weeks when you can go to the laundromat. Opps.
5) Quick emergency health care. Usually a hospital, or fire and police departments can be hours away if you injure yourself and you think you might need medical attention. By the time the ambulance arrives, you may be quite ill. A good first-aid kit is a must. It also doesn’t hurt to be skilled in first responder techniques. Also, learn general safe practices like, how to operate a chain saw.
6) Entertainment. If you haven’t yet seen Pink Floyd live in concert, you probably are never going to now. Big name entertainment rarely makes it out to your locale deep in the woods or in my case, jungle. If you have a favorite celeb or like watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” chances are you’re not going to hear who they’re married to or dating and miss the entire future seasons’ shows. That’s okay, because in a few years, you won’t even know who these people are. Big plus!
7) Food and Consumables. Food choices get smaller and you will tend to buy in bulk in order to limit the times you need to drive miles to the nearest grocery store. You will not be able to find foie gras or maybe even your favorite ketchup. The upside is that you can probably grow your own food and it will be more nutritious and taste better.
8) Life without online shopping. Even if you had a good internet connection, maybe from satellite, you’re going to need a post office box somewhere. Chances are the local post office isn’t going to drive 30 miles to deliver your mail, especially if you’re the only one on the route. You’re going to have to fetch your own mail from town and pay a yearly fee to rent a P.O. box.
9) Did I mention the internet? If you’re lucky enough to have a telephone land line…shhh, people under 30 don’t even know what a modem is and computers don’t come with them built-in anymore. Maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to get a cell tower signal. I am…but my neighbor, three farms down the road, can’t get one. Even if you found a service and there is a signal at your cabin, you may find that the service isn’t very good, it’s too expensive, and you have limited choices.
10) It’s a bugs life, or blemish free skin. You’re going to get bit, stung and considered food by lots of creepy crawly things out in the woods and jungle. You will discover new and more dangerous bugs than you can imagine now. Lights in your cabin at night will attract all kinds of interesting creatures. My favorites include the blister beetle that uses acid as a defense mechanism and leaves raised blisters on your skin; and the assassin beetle that will fly at you and repeatedly sting you with its dagger-like proboscis. All of these things hurt and sometimes itch. Scratching your itch can lead to infection (see number 5).
Of course, there are so many good reasons to live off-grid, at least for us, but that’s another story. Much Aloha!