Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cabin Life: The Decision to Live ‘Off The Grid’

There’s a half dozen black capped chickadees hanging around the cabin now. They finally found the bird feeders, though the blue jays have been scarce. One of the jays was hanging out in an apple tree this morning, but I haven’t seen them at the feeders in a few days.

I was recently asked why I decided to live off the grid. Long story short: It’s free and I can’t afford to pay rent. But when I really think about it, this has been a long time coming.

The idea of being self sufficient has always appealed to me. I just couldn’t afford to buy a piece of land to do this on, and until this winter, I had never been lucky enough to have someone just offer to let me live in a place for free. When Amy asked if I wanted to stay out here, I didn’t even think about it. I just said yes.

I’ve usually moved around a lot, mainly because I get restless, and the grass is always greener somewhere else. In 2006, when I moved to Florida, I was in desperate need of a change. I had battled depression most of my life, and Jacksonville seemed like a good escape. Eventually, I manned up and sought help for my depression. And part of my therapist’s plan was to help me realize that I could do what I want with my life and not be afraid of the consequences. After all, it was my life to screw up.

The more I thought about this new, happier phase, the more I knew that I couldn’t keep living in Florida. I gave up two jobs, health insurance, vacation time, a pension, lots of friends, and agreed to a long-distance relationship all to move back to the mountains and work a seasonal job with no benefits so that I could hike and play with my dog Pico. I knew that I would be broke and I didn’t care.

I think that’s why I am adjusting so well to living off the grid; because I’ve been mentally preparing for it for years. And now that I’m actually doing it, I couldn’t be happier. Sure, I’m broke, single, and have to ask friends if I can take a quick shower at their houses (They always say yes!) but what could be better than having an adventure like this? When I look back twenty years from now, I know that this time will have been a major turning point in my life.

The experience I’m having is already shaping the future me. I’m making plans for a cabin of my own, looking for land, and reading and taking classes on farming, homesteading, food preservation and draft horse handling. I’m not shy of hard work, and when I can afford some land, I plan on building a log cabin and living off the grid. But, since I’m not the Unabomber, I will also have solar panels, running water and indoor plumbing. Plus I’m pretty sure the Unabomber didn’t have a blog.

Justin Levine is living off the grid in a cabin in the Adirondacks with his dog Pico and blogging at Middle of the Trail.

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.

3 Responses

  1. limblips says:

    I applaud you living “your dream”. I would love to do the same but I have to ask a few questions: Without any income or benefits from employment how will I get medical attention if I need it? What about food? Do you forage and hunt for it? Without earning any type of retirement points, what will I do when I become too old to “live off the grid”? It would seem to me that all of the above are answered with the words “government benefits”. Since you choose to live this way (enviable as it is) I suppose I will have to give up my desire to live as you do and continue to work so I can supoport both of us in our future years.

  2. John Warren says:

    Wow. Limblips, you certainly have made quite a few assumptions. Ever consider learning the facts before making judgements? Or is that something the rest of us have to do for you?

  3. Pete Nelson says:

    Hey Limblips:

    I admire your life as a taxpayer and worker, a paragon of society. I aspire to that someday but right now I spend too much time on my new land, which incidentally has no medical services, running water or electricity either. Oh well.

    But I have a few questions for you: what kind of car do you drive? How much gas mileage does it get? Is it a Prius or a Lincoln Navigator? How far do you drive it? Was it made in America? Do you pay your taxes on time? What’s your tax bracket? Do you use public water and sewer? What goes down the sewer? Is your trash collected? Do you recycle? Faithfully? How much do you use the health care system? Every needed emergency treatment?

    Tell me, Limblips, in the spreadsheet of your life, taking all this and much much more into account have you paid more to the world or taken more from it? I’m sure you’ve done the calculations.

    Tell you what, since I know most suburanites, town or city dwellers have impacted our natural world adversely more than helped it, I’m left with no choice. I‘d like to live like you do but I guess I’ll have to spend as much as time as possible off the grid, living with the land, not feeding at the trough of our public service infrastructure, to make up for your excesses.

    You know, Limblips, I apologize. This is an ignorant commentary and all these questions I asked you are none of my damned business.

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