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How To Explore The Possibility Of Living 'Off The Grid' In Your 20s


No one likes the rat race, but most of us put up with the routine of waking up, going to work and heading back home to watch some TV or fiddle on our laptop.

Yet some enterprising individuals are “going off the grid” and living meaningful, interesting lives, without the creature comforts of modern civilization.

The Huffington Post estimates that about 750,000 Americans live off the grid, meaning they've disconnected themselves from community-provided power, water and the other services we receive by being part of civilization.

How dedicated each person is to becoming independent varies, but many grow their own food, treat their own water and patch up their clothes themselves.

Why do they do this? The answer is different for everyone, but sometimes, responses will include ideological commitments, such as a desire to live closer to nature or a belief in the imminent collapse of society.

Then again, sometimes, it is just a classically American desire for independence.

If you may be interested in living off the grid, then here are a few things to consider about what this lifestyle is really like:

Understand the sacrifices.

Going off the grid is not for everyone, not by a long shot. And while the idea of living with nature may be interesting, there are plenty of stories out there of people who failed because they did not prepare themselves for what this lifestyle is really like.

As an example of this romanticism, this article about living off the grid paints a ridiculously idealistic picture, while casually mentioning that “for a few 10's of thousands of dollars you can be living on your own land, in your own cabin, and doing your own thing.”

While living off the grid can save you money over the long term, since you learn not to waste your labors on frivolous things, it requires a major investment upfront. Basically, it should absolutely not be done without a healthy savings account.

Living off the grid will not enable you to completely escape the burdens money imposes on us.

For example, one thing that requires a major upfront cost is power. While some individuals forgo electricity entirely, most people who go off the grid rely on a combination of renewable solar and wind energy. This can even allow you to stay in telecommunications contact with civilization using a cellphone booster or a laptop.

At most, you want an emergency generator. However, these systems cost thousands of dollars to install, and you'll have to pick out a suitable location for your home to get the most out of any renewable system.

There are also other early problems, like designing a proper home, zoning legalities and handling authorities, who may not take to your new lifestyle kindly.

It takes real hard work.

The hard work at your office job is likely nothing compared to the work you do living off the grid.

Just look at the example of “Dorothy” from Engadget. Dorothy went from working as a chief executive to chopping her own logs to burn for heat and cooking her own meals.

And if you think cooking is annoying to deal with in your regular life, imagine what it's like when you have to seriously work to merely heat the stove.

But that hard work is uniquely rewarding in its own way. Ever since the dawn of the industrial age, theorists have talked about how all men lose pride in their labor because the labor just becomes a commodity.

Compare that sort of labor to what Dorothy does when she chops those logs up. She works, not for society, for the government or to pay off some wealthy creditor, but for herself. And there is a real pride in the sort of work living off the grid can give her.

It offers a new kind of enjoyment.

While you have to work hard to live off the grid, there are distractions in this particular lifestyle knows.

Sure, you can't go out to fancy restaurants. But you can enjoy nature, spend more time with your loved ones and even have a moment of quiet — something that can be hard to do with a mobile phone constantly buzzing next to you.

Maybe you think that the people who go “off the grid” are crazy, but you have to credit their tenacity, independence and sense of spirit and adventure.

Combine those qualities with sound financial and material preparation, and you have someone who can make it by themselves.