Living off the grid means a lot of things to a lot of people.
It is not a completely descriptive term, really. And there is no universally accepted definition. Some people live off the grid by living in their vehicles (which are parked on the grid as a rule) and I have to admit that low-profile living is definitely a part of the definition. Or could be.
Some people live down a long dirt road and have water and power and still think they live off the grid because they raise chickens, grow their own food, work-from-home, school-from-home and have adopted a lot of alternative energy practices. I can’t really call them pretenders, can I? In many ways they are more independent than I am. I shop in town every month and get fuel shipped in by barge.
Even my quasi-role model, Chris Czajkowski, flies supplies, guests and herself in and out of Nuk Tessli now and again. You can be off the grid but it is impossible to be far from it, what with modern communications and the need to get immersed in it now and then.
TRUE living off the grid is impossible for just about anyone but the Inuit, I figure, and even they have to get parts for their snowmobiles. So, really? Who are we kiddin’?
I say all this because the image of living off the grid is something akin to that of Grizzly Adams or Davy Crockett. Urbanites tend to imagine a world of hardship, danger, loneliness and complete self-reliance. And it is just not true.
Yes, it is true that my definition of off the grid living is one of being a smidge more remote than say the person down the long dirt road who enjoys hydro and vehicular access to town. And I don’t really think that ‘camping in your car’ is best described as off the grid living but, like I said, they have some elements. And there definitely is an emphasis on self reliance and independence. But there is no doubt that I am not as Grizzly as many.
Nor do I wish to be.
I guess what I am saying is this: there is a lot of room for different lifestyles and people to join the off the grid movement. There is no membership committee.
Our house has a fridge, a freezer, good heat when required, running hot and cold water and more than adequate lighting. We have computers (three of them for two of us) and a cell phone. We watch Blu-Ray DVDs on a large-ish screen. Our mail comes in three times a week and we can get to our car after a twenty minute boat run in good weather. (OK, even then we are still a long way down a rough dirt road on another island, but at that point we are on a road!).
We even have drywall! Yep, not that dark, natural wood claustrophobic feel that so many remote cabins sport. We boggle our guests with bright, clean walls, hardwood floors, some art on the walls and Eastern carpets. Think West end condo. Kinda. Doesn’t get much more civilized than that, now does it?
Living off the grid does not have to be a step backwards in living standards. In fact, I consider it a step forward. My definition of this progressive kind of lifestyle would include living more naturally, eating healthy, getting more exercise and receiving the magical benefits of living in a natural environment. And I think those are things to aspire to, not regress to. We are also lesser consumers and that, if nothing else, takes pressure off us financially and leaves a smaller carbon footprint on the planet – another good thing.
Admittedly, you do have to be more resourceful and learn new skills. But that is hardly a bad thing. There is a learning curve but it is not like you are going to starve while learning it. Making the transition to off the grid living is different, challenging and sometimes difficult. But it is not only doable it is doable by most anyone.
Building your own place from scratch may be too difficult a first step for those over fifty (although our friend, Max, is building his new place and he is eighty!). It was a close call for us and we were younger by almost ten years when we did it. We couldn’t repeat that performance today. But, after that, just about all the challenges and learning required are within anyone’s reach if you are basically healthy and have the interest.
And money helps. Of course. You can always buy it.
Living off the grid is different, to be sure. NOT crazy. NOT overly hard. NOT impossible for ordinary folks. But it IS different. It requires thinking and living outside-the-box. Literally. The box? The grid? In this sense, they are the same.