Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cabin Life: What Is Living Off The Grid?

I had a great trip to South Carolina last weekend for a friend’s wedding.  Shorts and flip flops all day was a nice change from the jeans and sweatshirts our weather has required.  And for some reason, this trip has caused me to think a lot about what it means to live off the grid.  Maybe it was all that time spent on planes breathing recycled air.  

I’m not sure, but I do know that I consider myself off the grid with no running water, electricity or even indoor plumbing.  But I have cell phone service and my blog has a Facebook page.  How off the grid is that?

As I think about shaping my experience, which in the near future means buying land and starting to build my own cabin off the grid, I’ve begun to wonder if living off the grid means giving up modern amenities.  Should you be able to drive right to your house, or hike in?  Can you live on a major road and listen to traffic all day, or do you have to be isolated?  Can you buy imported foods or do you have to suffer a life without Guinness?

I’ll tell you one thing:  there is no way that I am spending the rest of my life without indoor plumbing. I don’t think off the grid means no hot water for showers, but is it too much to ask to have a hot tub?  What about a wood-fired hot tub that only burns wood taken from my land?  Is that still off the grid?

One of the things I’ve learned in this whole experience is that I don’t mind living simply.  I know now that I can live without a lot of things that many people consider necessities.  I’ve often read about other people who live off the grid, but seem to give up nothing.  They have every modern convenience, along with a room full of deep-cycle batteries that eventually become hazardous waste.  I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, and I think it’s up to each person who decides to live this way.

I know what I want out of living a somewhat unconnected existence.  I like being able to keep in touch with friends and family and don’t want to be disengaged in that way.  What it means to me is that I try to be as self-sufficient as possible, while not becoming the Una-bomber.  I want to get some land that can provide the logs for a small cabin, one that will have a nice bathroom with hot water.  I want to raise most of my own food and rely on wood, solar and wind for the meager electric and heating needs I will have.  I also want a hot tub.  I’ve always wanted a hot tub.

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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.

5 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    Sounds good Justin. I think everyone’s paths are somewhat different towards self-reliance. I’m interested in doing something similar that would include a small farm as well. I think going off the grid is conceptually about becoming more of a producer and less a consumer. But by all means, have wood fired hot tub! I know my wife would love one.

  2. Bill Ott says:

    If you have to ask what “off the grid” is, you are not off the grid, because if you were off the grid, you would not be asking what off the grid is. You would not even be gridding with us. You can be off the grid in the center of a mental institution, namely Cleveland Ohio, or on the grid on a mountain top where there is a grid signal. The longest I ever went without grid contact was 11 days, and I yearn for more. I am degridding in a day or two, and if tragedy befalls me I will be degridded permanently with no final grid.

    Bill Ott

  3. Bill Ott says:

    I must modify my grid comments with this: You are living a life I envy.

  4. Mightymike says:

    Who cares what it means? Why ask why?

  5. rdc says:

    Thanks, I enjoy your work. I am so ‘on the grid’ that I have criss-cross marks all over me. And yet if you walk out my back door it’s miles to the next road. You should check out Forrest Hartley’s work in the Glens Falls Post Star. He seems to be a man who is adept at finding his own way.

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