Thirty or forty years ago living off grid usually meant a pretty basic and rudimentary type of life. A fireplace to heat things up in the winter and candles or oil lamps to light things up at night. Perhaps even a cooler box for perishable foods that would keep things fresh on ice.
In the Northern Hemisphere, in a place like Canada or Alaska, off-grid living was for some, a bit obsolete or an austere sounding way of life.
It was inspiring in one sense and daunting in another, since it meant a kind of regression to a more simple way of living without all the modern comforts. Today however, the storyline has drastically shifted and building an off-grid home is now more appealing to a larger audience, having various new implications and possibilities to be explored.
In the last few decades living off-grid has gained a lot of momentum and has even become a cultural phenomenon. The possibilities and benefits that such a lifestyle offers have become endless. Many factors can explain this off-grid boom such as the countless new innovative technologies appearing on the market related especially to efficient energy production and consumption.
A shift in certain social trends as well as the rising costs of energy consumption has spurred many to look for different living alternatives.
Seeking a Change of Pace
For many, the call to live off-grid has been inspired by the desire for a change of pace. Some have left their busy city lives with nine to five office jobs and opted to withdraw into the woods or countryside and explore a more alternative lifestyle.
Due to the abundance of more affordable energy efficient technology and a vast number of new more natural energy sources, today’s off-grid citizen has the possibility of remaining plugged in and connected to the outside world and of still benefiting from modern comforts.
The actual shape off-grid living takes is now no longer solely dictated by what is available as far as technology goes and has made room for a broader sense of possibility and creativity being steered by each individual’s unique vision.
Some aspire for a holistic ‘back to the land’ lifestyle while others prefer to maintain their ‘city jobs’ but work remotely in a more natural and supportive environment. Whatever the vision, the modalities and possibilities of off-grid living are almost endless.
Having a Vision
When tackling the question: ‘How to build an ‘off-grid home’, and before you jump into the enormous array of technical possibilities that exist, it is important to have a clear vision. A vision can be considered fundamental in supporting a smooth and harmonious process and it is highly recommended to develop one before any stakes get driven into the ground.
Since there are so many possibilies related to the natural surroundings of the site on which you will choose to build, a vision can help enormously to shape the direction you take. You can also avoid, from the very start, many problems and mistakes.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying, that your vision and its related technical plan, will most likely, naturally change and evolve quite a few times along the way. The more you open to this process and the more you question and explore ahead of time, the more this journey can become holistic and fluid, not to mention more joyful.
The ‘Why’ Question
When we take up the question: ‘Why do I want to build and live in an off-grid home’, and explore it more deeply, what surfaces and presents itself will most often naturally steer the ‘how’ or at the very least indicate to you the next step or a good starting point for further investigation.
Many people often underestimate the value of proper reflection and such a practice is often lost in our busy, fast paced lives that seem to demand quick decisions or just going with some pre-established plan. Moreover, due to the advancements in technology and alternative building know-how, the vast amount of possibilities can make your head spin and be quite overwhelming.
Therefore, developing and fine tuning your vision is invaluable in helping you navigate the ‘how’. Quite simply put, before asking ‘how’, explore the ‘why’.
Learning to Use Your Own Innate Search Engine
The ‘why’ question while so simple to pose is more often than not neglected overall and only relegated to very suface conclusions or motives. While the answer to the ‘why” may indeed be in a contant process of evolution, having an initial process to sound things out and explore the question more deeply can be very beneficial.
How you go about exploring the ‘why’ is of course entirely up to you and there are many ways you can go about it. Most of all this invitation is simply to take some time to explore the question. You may want to start by switching off your phone, find a quiet place to sit with pen and paper and initiate a little brainstorming around the question ‘why’.
A question like: ‘why am I inspired to build an off-grid house?’, can be a good place to start. Then you can continue by listing a few of the most important elements you envision being part of your home or homestead. It is often good to also consider what some of your long term projects or visions are, while of course knowing that these can also easily transform and change over time.
Allowing the Process to Flow
It is good to remember that building an off-grid home can invite an integral process and a realignment of your entire lifestyle and therefore all questions and ideas are welcome. In this process it is good not to try and control the flow of thoughts and ideas.
Simply be open to write down any idea as it comes, taking them one by one. Any tid-bits of inspiration, any questions or pondering are welcome. At times, even a seemingly insignificant question or idea can spark a whole new arena of exploration and help further deepen and define your direction, your ‘how’.
Of course, after you’ve worked with your own inner ideas and questions you can also start to look things up online using Google or whatever search engine you prefer. For example, ‘Why build an off grid home’? ‘What are the best off-grid home options’.
At this point you may notice that your process and search will already be more defined and the ‘how to’ question may have already evolved or branched out into a more specific exploration or query.
You may then feel more equipped to navigate the overwhelming bank of information you find when typing a simple ‘how to’question. As you begin to do more research your vision may also be spurred forward and new ideas and inspiration may come resulting an evolving building plan and your overall general direction.
Take Your Time
One of the most important pieces of advice when exploring the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of off-grid living is simply: take your time! As you get closer to making an actual building plan or even when you are about to start the digging don’t be in a hurry.
Most of us live in a fast paced society but when we have a closer look we may realize that the actual ‘fast pace’ is not the issue but rather the ‘rush’ culture that has been pegged to it. An artist, an inventor, an athlete can create, experiment and train all day long at what might seem to be an intense rhythm or pace and yet may never feel rushed or stressed.
That’s because it’s not about how much you do, but how you do it. Learning to give each thing its appropriate time is in itself an art and an invaluable skill for navigating life. Rushing into anything based on some illusive time pressure is usually a recipe for hardship and frustration down the line. Of course we are not saying that there aren’t deadlines at times but it’s always good to be flexible.
In a sense, building an off-grid home is the work of an artists since it involves innovation, creativity and inspiration, well at least all of these elements will make your process and your living that much more rich. However, you may be saying: ‘I’m no artist!’ or ‘I don’t have much creativity.’
The good news is that creativity is something that is innate in all of us and it is just a matter of learning to tap into it. The key in the beginning of this beautiful process is once again to learn what it means to ‘take your time’.
One simple way of understanding it is to see it as a kind of ‘allowing’, to give space and time for reflexion. When we take this time and space, questions are more easily and naturally explored and answers or better questions tend to naturally arise and lead us further in our process.
This may sound like an elevated ideal or a bit too far out there, but it is in fact very simple and only requires an initial willingness to experiment. Allowing there to be time for simple self-reflection and questionning is of course an approach that can be applied to any question and can be used throughout any process or project.
In the above few paragraphs we have not presented a list relating to the technical elements of ‘how to build an off-grid home’ but rather briefly explored a simple way to allow the direction of your project to take its own unique and organic direction while also tapping into the vast array of knowledge that exists on the topic.
This ‘off-grid’ approach to vision creation, as we could call it, can start any time with any simple question. Happy exploration and remember, take your time!