Wanting to change, yearning, feeling, dreaming. These are all necessary stages in thinking that everyone undergoes when they embark on a journey or adventure or a learning and personal growth quest. It does not start with the first step, it starts with the first thought. It takes several steps from there to get to the first well formed idea. The first real-action step is a long way off. You have to mentally remove yourself from where you are, imagine where you can go and then start taking the necessary steps to make it happen. Motivational speakers call it visualization but they can say that because the people they are talking to have already moved through several stages simply to get themselves into the audience.
Visualizing is several miles down the road from the initial feeling.
I started my change virtually the day we returned from the grand family vacation. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time but, I followed that odd personal urge, that itch, that je ne sais quoi feeling and the path started to become somewhat more clear. NOT actually clear, more like straining to see through a dirty window. It took me close to five more years before I took the real first step that was conscious, intentional and in the direction of my vision.
And I still had no clue.
To be fair, I was still half dreaming, half planning, half learning, half doing even when we started. I am inclined that way. I like the dream stage. I was committed to change but it was not until the house in the cul-de-sac sold and we had no home that I was really totally committed – to getting a new home at the very least. I was totally committed to NOT camping, that was for sure. I hate camping. And even though I knew the new home was off the grid, I had no idea what that really meant I was committing to even as I was building it.
Sal was even more naive than me. She did not spend much time in the dream phase, she was too busy keeping the family, our house and the home together while I wondered off in search of something I couldn’t describe. She got on the train well after it had started to leave the station. Sally somehow imagined that going to live off the grid was just some kind of modern, hip phrase, like yuppy or baby boomer or dinks. Or maybe some kind of mid-life phase that could eventually be integrated into ordinary life. She knew it was NOT that but it was some kind of cottagey, fun, country-thingy that we could play at for awhile to see if we liked it. She imagined a new all-jean wardrobe. She bought ‘kicky boots’ for the photo ops. She thought that the lifestyles section of the newspaper might do a feature on it. She did not look back to see that most of the main bridges to our old life were slowly burning. She didn’t have a clue.
I honestly do not think Sal had really committed until we were half way through building-to-lock-up and I was noticeably fading fast. It was not until she looked at the boat shed as her very likely winter home that Sal got fully onside. Sal glimpsed her future as a west coast hillbilly and was not amused. I am glad she clicked into gear. She became the primary driving force for the last and hardest stage of our transition to really living off the grid. The house would not have made it to lock-up that first summer-ending-in-October without her indomitable spirit.
Sal is not a dreamer. She lives in the real world. She does what needs to be done and doesn’t like to see a job unfinished. She could see that I was running on fumes half way through and kicked it and me up a notch. When the going got tough, Sal got going. And when Sal got going, the job was well on the way to getting done.
And most of that story is in Our Life Off the Grid – an urban couple goes feral.
But, eventually the initially thrilling adventure part ends. Eventually you get to where you wanted to get. Eventually, you think, you will be done. And, once you are firmly entrenched off the grid, you realize that is not so – this story never ends. We finished stage one. Almost. We still have a few things to do but that is unlikely to ever change. A large part of living off the grid is working a never ending chore list intended ironically to build things to make the chore list easier. Like I said, a never ending story.
But we have been here almost twelve years by now (and will be by the time second book gets printed). We have graduated from freshman. We are sophomores now. We are no longer planning and constructing, we are no longer dreaming and hoping. We are actually living the dream. We are here even if here, like the universe, is ever expanding. We are doing what we planned to do even if we didn’t have a plan or a clue. For a minute or two around the seven year mark, it felt as if we had arrived but we have not.
We just got past the first barrier is all.
Getting to the front door of the university is not getting the degree. And getting a bachelors is not becoming a doctor. In fact, we are really starting our lifestyle learning phase now. And like all unconventional lifestyles, all learning and growing endeavours, that statement can be made every year. We learned to build. We learned to do what we needed to do to be able to live. It was great. Woohoo. The first seven or eight years was a book. It was change writ large – for us, anyway. It was a real, bona fide, risk-taking adventure. But we have really just arrived. A different kind of adventure now awaits.
Phase ll – the learning years have been formally imposed and, looking back, they probbly began maybe a year or two after we moved in. I am not really sure when the climb up the steep cliff began to flatten out. But there is no doubt, the journey continues but the steepest part seems over. There is still so much to do, so much to build in the way of add-ons and supplements, systems and conveniences, routines and work. And so we are still hiking up hill. But the path has leveled out some. Longer stretches are straighter and easier. The footing is better. We didn’t see the actual transition from trying to live off the grid to actually living off the grid but we are. There is a huge difference. And we have no idea how far we still have to travel. But it is clear there is more to come.
We are still much alone in the wilderness, after all.