I can't tell you how many times I've heard friends and seen people online dreaming of a simpler life. They talk about how nice it would be to leave it all behind and they post images of cabins in idyllic settings and express their dreams of a simpler lifestyle, free of the stresses of the modern-day rat race. Most of us at one time or another have fantasized about being able to live our lives without having to be shackled to a desk or machine all day, sometimes every day. We experience so many things that add to the this desire for escape: the hustle-and-bustle of urban and suburban life and work, where communting through stop-and-go traffic is a twice-a-day life-waster; crime and other societal issues that we prefer to live with less of or without in our lives and our children's lives; health issues resulting from a more toxic environment and from the processed and fatty foods we consume from the local grocer.
For many the dream is impractical but, for others, the desire to change their lives is compelling. Following, in no particular order, are ten reasons many people give for making the leap from stressed-out, over-materialized lives to lives of sustainablity and peace.
1. Living off-the-grid allows one to be free and to determine one's own destiny. Properly done, going off-grid is as close to being "free" as an American can get. "Close" because one still needs certain things that cannot be self-produced and there may be taxes that have to be paid. But being off-grid is as close to freedom as it gets.
2. A warm satisfaction that comes from living a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle is a reason often given. There's nothing like going to your own garden and plucking a tomato off the vine and there's nothing like producing your own electricity.
3. A desire to have less impact on one's environment and the planet is a common reason for going off-grid. No matter what is causing climate change, the climate is changing and if humans are not directly responsible, then we are at least partially responsible. However, we are not going to just stop using fossil fuels. Doing so would collapse civilization. But we can help mitigate climate change by voluntarily changing the way we live and allowing a slow and steady adaptation to using less fossil fuels and simplifying our lives to include less of the products of civilization, ie: reducing demand for material "things" and using less fuel to get back and forth to work, school, grocery store, etc., we can live without helps to reduce CO².
4. The peace-of-mind that living a simpler, more satisfying lifestyle brings. When one has more time to appreciate the small things, the small things become very meaningful. The very scent of fresh air or of a wildflower can bring on a sense of well-being. Sitting on the front porch learning to play a guitar can be much more fulfilling than watching a crime drama series on television.
5. Growing one's own fruits, nuts, and vegetables, as well raising livestock provides one's family with wholesome, organic food, un-polluted by chemical preservatives and growth hormones found in processed foods can be a compelling reason for going off-grid.
6. The security of living a more secure life away from the issues associated with more populated areas, such as a large city. It's a fact that the more people who live in proximity to you the more crime that occurs. There is also the problem of gangs and other negative influences that affect our children whether in their neighborhoods or in their schools. "Off-grid" usually means rural and rural means that all of the issues of safety we face in cities and suburbs exist at a much smaller scale, or not at all. Living off-grid also means that one becomes responsible for one's own safety. No need to elaborate there.
7. Many people who go off-grid have done so after a lot of planning. This planning often includes, as it should, the advance purchase of a plot of land on which to live. Advance planning may also include the establishment of a water source, most often a well. Most also install a septic system. And, of course, one needs some sort of shelter in place, such as a cabin, mobile home, or even an RV. With good advanced planning and the basics in place, one can live debt-free, which is a major goal and, for many, the very reason for going off-grid.
8. Every American is aware to some extent of how life was during the Great Depression. The nation's economy collapsed and many people who had never experienced poverty became poor and hungry. People in cities found it hard to find a job or something for their families to eat. Going off-grid means self-sufficiency and preparedness. When you produce your own food, water, and electricity, and if you stay well-stocked, and if you are able to hunt, you can weather such an economic downturn.
9. Learning to live off of what land and nature provides you is a great motivation for going off-grid. Hunting, fishing, growing food are all very satisfying activities that go in to living off-grid. Look at those again: hunting, fishing, and growing food. Those are not only life-sustaining, they're also things many people in on-grid lives strive to do for fun! So, being off-grid can also be a fun life while being sustaining.
10. For those families with children who choose the off-grid lifestyle, going off-grid can instill in them a sense of self-sufficiency. They learn to do the things it takes to live off the land and gain a sense of independence and adventure that is hard to come by in the mean streets and school corridors of the Big City. Parents are able to raise their children in a way that is not corrupted or interfered with like it can be in a larger society that often times infuences children in ways that their parents don't agree with or believe in.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Everyone is different and will have many reasons for wanting to escape the rat race. Going off-grid means a very different life for most people and it is a major move and can be scary. But it's up to each of us whether or not it's practical and something we want bad enough. And a closing bit of advice for anyone seriously considering leaving it all behind: Plan like you've never planned before! Don't get impatient; put everything in place first! Do this, and the transition from rat race to tranquil off-grid living will be a smooth and rewarding one.