When we tell people that we live off-the-grid, the first questions we always get are logistical… Do you have solar? (Nope) Do you have running water? (No, we have a well with a hand pump) Do you have an outhouse? (NO, we have an indoor humanure toilet) Do you have propane refrigerator, stove and lights? (Negativo, we have a cookstove and battery-operated lanterns) They stop for a little bit to take it in… and then they ask. Why? Why would you choose to live like that?
That is a hard thing to answer…it was a multiyear process that took many twists and turns. Ultimately the husband and I lost the desire to live the American Dream. No longer were we excited to climb the social ladder; savings and insurance did not make us feel safe; we were not excited to buy more stuff. The American dream felt more like purgatory than something to work towards. Working a full-time job for the next 40 years, looking forward to the weekends and a few weeks of vacation did not feel like the balance we wanted for our brief lives……in other words, we were having an existential crisis.
Economically, it is hard to exit the rat race. With a mortgage, a car and the rest of what it costs to “live” in this country, making a significant lifestyle change is nearly impossible. However, we were over it, and finally in 2007, we sold the home we had fixed up over the 7 years we lived there and made a profit. We were in our late 20’s, debt free, without any responsibilities and some money in the bank. We sold off most of our stuff, quit our jobs and drove from Minnesota to Belize where we rented a house and spent the next several months plotting and planning our next move. We came up with several ideas from buying a triplex and living in one unit, to running off to live in the woods.
We came back to Minnesota and rented a horrible basement apartment as we tried get the next phase of our lives started. I was reading more and more about homesteading and living off-the-grid. The husband wanted to live as rustically as possible (picture the book/film “Into the Wild”) and it took me a while to figure out how to create something we both would be excited about doing. Finally, in June of 2008, we bought our 7 acres of boreal forest and started building an off-the-grid homestead.
We are now 10 years into this adventure and to the surprise of most people we know we LOVE it! It is definitely not a fairy tale. The husband and I have a million unfinished projects. There is an endless learning curve (we had to build a second house and garden. The first one really didn’t work right as we didn’t know what we were doing!). It is really cold here and the mosquitoes are almost UNBEARABLE! But, at the end of the day we feel a great deal of fulfillment and freedom having no mortgage, working part-time and gaining self-sufficiency skills.