One of my friends critiqued the book and chastised me for not having set the stage more. “You should have written more about why you actually bought property where you did and stuff and why the hell you would do such a thing.  I wanted to know your motivation other than mid-life crisis.”

Well, I won’t bore you with what such an answer would include but, because some others have asked questions of a similar vein, I will answer it briefly  Firstly; why out here?

Well, you already know that half the answer was to get away from the rat-race.  But, why here?

Canada is a big country and has some lovely spots.  One can choose from many ideal spots in just about every province.  But Canada is also bloody cold in a usually long winter and huge swathes of the country are under the control of bugs.  Mosquitoes run Winnipeg. And most of Saskatchewan. And bugs, in general, control all of Ontario. Frankly I would prefer to be governed by the Taliban rather than insects although, to be fair, I would chafe under either. But with bugs, I would also itch and not be able to concentrate.  I hate bugs.

So that leaves just the coastal regions.  And, already living on the west coast made that choice much easier.  But I do like PEI and Nova Scotia.

The west coast is all quite beautiful but it, too, suffers from being in Canada and even the coast can get cold, wet and miserable.  In fact, it is not called the rainforest for nothing – it is all granite, rain and trees. The only part of western Canada that is habitable by my standards is the giant bath-tub ring around the Gulf of Georgia.  That deep tub of water exerts a temperate climate on all the land around it for at least 20 or so miles.  Go up one of the deep fiords/inlets to the head and you can actually feel the gulf’s loss of tempering influence.  Go to the northern part of Vancouver Island in high summer and bundle up – it is freezing!  To my way of thinking, the Gulf of Georgia is ideal.  The rest of Canada is mostly harsh.

The bath-tub ring is really very, very temperate and, in some parts, quite warm and sunny. Comparatively speaking, anyway.  So much so that cactus grows on mid-tub Savary Island.  When we lived in Tsawwassen, we received twice the sunshine and one-third the rain that Vancouver experienced and North and West Vancouver receives that difference again. Thirty inches of rain in Tsawwassen, 60 in Vancouver and 90 in North Vancouver.

Oysters are like climate canaries for us (not such good fliers but better fryers).  They grow and thrive until about 10 miles north of Campbell River.  North of that, it is too cold for them.  If it is 20 degrees C around Powell River, it is 10 to 12 in Port Hardy (if it ever gets that high!).  I have been in a t-shirt and warm heading north in the boat and, over a five mile stretch, felt the temperature drop a significant 5 degrees (C) requiring the adding of another layer for warmth.  The ‘temperate line’ is clear and distinct even if it does move around a bit with the seasons.

So that is why we chose ‘here’.  But why did we choose to go at all?  Like I said in the book, mostly for adventure, mostly to relieve boredom, mostly to learn and experience life in a more grounded and visceral form.  To feel alive, to be more independent, to grow as human beings.  To get out of the pressure cooker.  All that and more.  But mostly just personal reasons.  Randy’s you-tube ‘Leaving’ says it best (link on the side of this blog).

But here’s the surprise: I really don’t think a person has to live remote to be off-the-grid.  It helps your concentration and defines your activities more clearly but being isolated from society is impossible.  You are included in society one way or another – usually, too many other ways for my liking –  but you will always be connected in so many ways that OTG is really an attitude, an idea, a lifestyle more than a defined fact.

Being OTG is really just a mind-set rather than a location.  A woman in a suburb in Coral Springs, Florida opted for living OTG and was persecuted by the local government for it – thus proving the validity of her choice in the first place.  But she proved the point well. She went OTG in a suburb!  Growing or foraging for your own food, unplugging from the umbilicals of modern life, generating your own power, practicing conservation and living as if you were in the land of plenty rather than scarcity is all it really requires. Want to try living OTG?  First find your inner Luddite.

Harder to do in the city.  Easier in the forest.

Just to be clear: there is a built-in irony with the exercise of moving OTG.  You go to get in touch with nature, your own body and mind and to live with less.  But to do that, you need to connect to the knowledge base of society, usually hire others to help and you buy prodigiously to live minimally. Worse, the more you live OTG, the more ease and comforts you try to acquire so as to be able to enjoy yourself more.  This trip we bought a toaster! And I have a barge bringing me more tools!  My first project this summer is to finish the lower funicular (to assist with the loading process).  I may be living OTG but it seems I am trying to build the equivalent of a grid in the process.

So, what is my point?  OTG is not revolutionary.  It’s just a small change.  A modification. An adjustment.  You are not shedding your skin or undergoing metamorphosis.  Basically, you are just moving house to a better neighbourhood.  Is it worth the effort?




10 thoughts on “On/Off

  1. The Gulf of Georgia as the best place in Canada to set up remote housekeeping is an interesting choice. I love the area. I’m sure that you are aware that it takes mucho guts to dive into the deep end as you two did. The confounding aspect of this adventure/journey is the out of bounds aspect of living outside of most folks comfort zone. Most folks do not think that they are up to the task and fear that if they were living as you both do beyond the urban pale, such a life would be purgatory.


  2. I know. I have seen and heard the reaction. But it is not true. We have a fridge, a flat screen for Netflix and hot running water…even dry-wall and nice floors. This ain’t hell! Yes, it is a change, a difference, an alternate lifestyle, but it is not much more of a shift than going vegetarian or getting married. Way less than converting to Islam and dressing for rebellion in all-black. Plus our climate is way better. I confess to having basked in the image of mountain-man-going-feral but the truth is much more pedestrian. We are normal. The house is normal. Our diet is normal. Ok, maybe a little extra scotch but basically normal. Actually, it is better – more fresh and local.
    To my way of thinking, THIS is the comfort zone and what you are referring to as the ‘comfort zone’ as it is usually conceived in the city is getting increasingly and noticeably UNCOMFORTABLE. I honestly think I am just telling it like it is.


    • Total agreement.
      When people hear that I plan on retiring back to PEI “off the grid”I get blank stares and the inevitable, “What about the brutal Winters?”.
      I’m retired and wont have to worry about commuting.The entire provincial population is less than 150,000 people.in an area about 100 miles long by 25 miles wide.(Lower Mainland to Hope). Blessed solitude with minimal annoying people.
      You dont have to be a feral, dirty fingernailed, luddite to live “off the grid”.
      Just self supporting. ie Solar power, wind power, a garden, perhaps a fish pond, perhaps some animals,
      Sounds a lot more appealing than having your car broken into for the 7th time and hearing about ANOTHER shooting in the Lower Mainland.
      A couple of more years and I’m gone from the rat race.


      • I agree. It is hard to imagine NOT having 24/7 access to milk and bread and pop-tarts but, really, it shouldn’t be such a leap. Everyone has gone camping and, except for the lack of showers and shelter from the storms, it has generally been pretty good. Right? Well, this is the best of both worlds – not the worst of them. the only real leap is the first one. After that, it is literally a walk in the park.


        • It’s all about capacity. Over the years I’ve seen people impose a ceiling of expectations that becomes a self imposed limitation on future success. If you think you can not then you will not.


  3. I’m thoroughly stuck into your book and am absolutely fascinated. We’ve recently acquired an unplugged cottage in Ontario, on an island. We’re considering what needs to be done to actually live there. Year round is someone we consider but not without challenges. Hovercraft to access during freeze up/ thaw but… Breakdowns int he middle of the lake? Yikes. So, maybe travel for a few months of the year.
    I must have missed something in your book, though. You tie your boat up at the dock but unload at a rather precarious sounding beach. What did I miss about why you don’t unload at the dock?


    • The dock (safe place for the boat at rest) is not mine. Belongs to my kind and generous neighbour 300 yards away who is there only half the time. So, I tie up there. But the distance is too far and difficult – all over a giant granite ridge – to carry stuff. I ‘drop’ at the beach (rocky) in front of our place and use a funicular to lift stuff up the 75 feet (elevation) or 125 feet (distance) to the house deck (picture of house on back cover hints at it). The hardest part of the schlep is the distance from the beach to the lower end of the funicular. I can’t really have a dock – too exposed. But I only have to schlep (now) once a month or so so it keeps me (well, Sally) fit.


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