As any person who has any experience living off-grid will tell you, living off-grid is not an instant gateway into a blissful, bucolic life. Like everything else in life, the feeling of contentment or satisfaction comes from living well. It comes to us through the process of struggle and accomplishment. It is a path, not a destination.
When you make a decision to live off-grid, you need to evaluate what you need to be successful. The most fundamental concept for off-gridders to follow is that of pragmatism. In order to maximize your results, you need to strive for maximum results from the effort you put into your off-grid life. To get the maximum results out of your experience (no matter what life you choose, by the way), your best resources are not things that you buy or acquire. Your most powerful resources are inside you. After that, it is your ability to remove obstacles that will make the difference in your success. That means starting from a place that you have fewer obstacles to begin with. After that, your biggest gains will come from “addition by subtraction”.
So what is essential for successful off-grid living? Let’s see. Everyone will have variations of this list but here are what I have learned are some good guideposts.
The biggest factor to your success always comes from within. Your true-north attitude is the one you have when nobody is looking. You need persistence and patience because this is a marathon, not a sprint. You will need to have a love of the physicality of being on this earth because you will get your hands dirty. It is a vigorous life. And while some people might find a love of this lifestyle buried in them after being exposed to off-grid living, most people who are attracted to off-grid living have already had exposure to rural, rustic life at some earlier point. Regardless, it is your attitude that will keep you afloat during the inevitable ebb and flow of good and bad times.
A Master Plan
If you don’t know where you’re going, it is unlikely you will get there. It is imperative that you define what it is you want to do while you live off-grid. And it is vital that you define what you want in concrete terms. Ideas like, “I want to live in harmony with nature” may sound nice, but ideas like, “I want to be comfortable when it’s cold and when it’s hot” are going to be a lot more useful. Another good idea is, “I want to produce 100% of the food my family and I want for the year.” Build your master plan on concrete, measurable goals. The more ethereal, touchy-feely stuff comes as a result of simple, pure accomplishments.
Make a Transition Plan
To make a move to off-grid living, you will need to transition from where you are now to where you want to be. How you do that can make the difference between easing into your new lifestyle or feeling like you’re falling down a flight of stairs. As with any of these steps, be realistic about not only what you are capable of, but what you want to put your family through. Yes, there is a certain about of “jumping into the pool” that’s going to have to happen, but make sure you’ve planned your transition plan to the best of your ability. Here again, seeking advice from people who’ve made the transition is a really good idea. There is no substitute for experience.
This subject is almost a book in itself. If you goof this step up, you are already at a significant disadvantage before you even start. Depending on your reason for going off-grid, you will have certain characteristics in mind when you choose your land. However, there are very pragmatic considerations here that you need to pay attention to. There is no perfect place but some are far better than others. How do you know? By reading up on the subject and asking people who have experience selecting land for certain purposes. Check the recommended reading list below for some good resources. Then join groups of people who are doing it. You are going to get a lot of information and some of it will conflict. Stick with people who have gotten the results you want.
Develop Living Systems
In order to do things you need to in order to survive, it is vital that you develop systems that allow you to repeat success. You need to develop and continually refine how you produce and store food and water, maintain your shelter, and look after the health of your land. Every plan you have will be influenced by where you live and what you’re trying to accomplish. Plans for people living in mountain forests will have to do things differently than those living by an ocean. Concepts like redundancy (for supplies, who is responsible for what, delegation in emergency) are also a consideration.
We’ve Barely Scratched the Surface
Countless books have been write on this subject and I will not try to do anything more than touch on some high points. We will continue to expand on this and other topics as the years roll on. If you have ideas for articles you’d like to see, let me know and we’ll work on them.