As a sociologist, I’m fascinated by reasons people could have to move off the grid. We’ve moved to our off-grid home with solar power and water from a borehole just a few years ago, and we meet so many people who don’t understand…
The funny thing is - even people who do live off the grid (“like us”) often don’t understand why we’re doing it. That’s because there can be so many different reasons for taking this crazy step into adventure; I will list a few in this article, but know that many of these motivations can overlap…
I have written about off-grid living several times before. I wrote about things to consider before moving off the grid, about things we should have done before we took the leap, about how we got started with off-grid solar (and you can too!), about ways to make a living when you're living off the grid.
One thing I didn't touch yet - because it's such a complex subject - is reasons people might have for living off the grid...
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So why do people want to live off the grid?
Most off-grid adventurers have more than one reason for taking the leap into the unknown. It is usually a combination of one of the following...
1. The independence of living off the grid
Imagine… living off the grid, being the only one responsible for your own comfort and more. An off-grid home or property creates the kind of independence not many other lifestyles can; no need to rely on others when it comes to your basic necessities.
People who live off the grid because they love the idea of independence, often also have their own vegetable garden and maybe animals to sustain themselves. We have two separate veggie gardens, which could keep us fed all year if I applied myself a bit more - and our chickens provide us with daily fresh eggs, and the occasional meat (from excess roosters).
The best thing about living off the grid as far as I’m concerned, is the absence of regular bills. There’s no electricity bill, no water bills, no connections we need to pay for every month…
Granted, we do cheat a bit - we have monthly bills for phones and internet. Could we get rid of those? Of course… but we’re in a position of luxury where we don’t have to. I’m able to use the internet for my job, and my family can call me whenever I want.
2. The technical challenge of off-grid homes
For many men (and some women), the technical challenges of solar power and water management are the main reasons for starting a new life off the grid. I know it's the case with for DIY-man!
Before we moved here, my dear husband spent countless hours researching and calculating where and how to get systems that would work optimally in our specific situation.
Even now we live and we’re fairly happy with our system (if we could do it again, of course we would change a few things) - he still spends a fair amount of time helping others designing their systems and finding the best ways to make things work for them.
We’re meeting lots of others like him: a few of his closest friends are almost obsessed by anything to do with machinery and making off-grid systems more efficient.
Take one quick look at Aidan’s website and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about: the Ruff’s off-grid dream clearly has a prominent role for systems and gadgets. The whole website feels like a boy’s playground :-)
3. Preparing for disaster by moving off the grid
When preppers or survivalists talk about “going off the grid”, they mean it in a slightly different way. Many people are preparing for a catastrophe of some kind, that would devastate civilisation as we know it. War or societal collapse, a meteor or tornado; some are more likely to happen than others, but there are so many different scenarios for this…
This is the idea behind some homesteads - 100% self-reliant homestead living.
How good wouldn’t it be to be all ready for that - with a house that functions even when power centrals are down, and abundant water even after the city’s water reserve has been bombarded?
4. Living off the grid as a necessity
Sometimes people want to live in a beautiful spot… and the only way to do this, is by living off the grid, and arranging for their own power and water. It often costs far more to connect to mains water or power, than it costs to dig a borehole or install a solar system…
We have several friends in this situation - and although I understand their situation (they’re not into the whole technical challenge of off-grid systems and couldn’t care less about preparing for disaster or not getting monthly bills) - they are often the ones who understand our reasons the least.
As far as they’re concerned, only crazy people would choose to go off the grid, when it’s perfectly possible to connect to the power grid or mains water! They might be right - but I’d rather be crazy, than to loose our little off-grid island ;-)
5. Going off the grid - and dropping out
Ever wanted to disappear from civilisation? The internet is full of articles on how to do that. It’s not a new thing either; people would be dropping “off the grid” before there even was a great to drop out of!
Some articles I've read about dropping out are clearly aimed at dodgy types - like "Josh" in this article, who had so much credit card debt he decided to disappear rather than paying them off.
Dropping off the grid is not just for criminals and religious extremists - the most amazing example of this that comes to mind, is the story of the doctor who was declared dead in Spain, but turned up 19 years later - living off the grid in Italy…
The story of "Steve" and "Dorothy" is fascinating as well - their main goal in life is to get as far away from society as they can.
6. Going off-grid - and going back to real basics
We’re sometimes told we don’t “really” live off the grid, as we still have electricity and water. Pardon me?
Some people believe that “living off the grid” means you’re not supposed to have any connection whatsoever. No elaborate solar system to provide in all your electricity needs (which also means no phone or internet), no running water, nothing. For instance, it's the story of "Dorothy"...
Although I do understand the idea behind this (it’s like camping for life!), this is not for us. And if you’re contemplating a move off the grid and think it’s the only possible way… know that that’s not the case! It's just one of the many misconceptions about living off the grid.
7. Going off grid - for a greener and more simple life
Let’s not forget this option - many people just want to live off the grid in order to get closer to nature. They also want to lower their carbon footprint and minimalise their impact on the environment…
I’m not sure “going green” is a good argument to go off the grid. Building a new house in the middle of nature has a huge impact on the local environment - especially if roads are going to be laid (or used more often) so the inhabitants can move around.
However, it is true that the environmental footprint is often smaller for people living off the grid. We’ll produce less waste (probably because it’s such a hassle to do something with said waste!), consume less energy (even though it’s renewable), and be much more conscious of our environment than the average person elsewhere.
There's also the big attraction of the simple living movement. Doing more things yourself, cooking from scratch, growing your own food - the more technology is at our
Other perks of living off the grid
There are a few unexpected byproducts of living off the grid though… They are often not the main reason why people will start the great off-grid adventure, but they help!
It’s so quiet and peaceful out here.
Even though we’re not that far from “civilisation” (only 5 minutes by car to the next village), we have stunning night skies - and often the only things you hear is crickets, or bees, or birds - depending on the season, and the time of the day.
Living off the grid can boost your confidence
From being a little city girl, I now own and manage an off-grid olive and almond farm with alpacas and a guest house. When there’s a problem with heating or electricity, I (kind of) know what buttons to push, how to turn on the generator or change gas bottles. I’ve chased away wild boar and stood guard against foxes (not always as successfully, sadly). I’m doing things I couldn’t imagine doing just a few years ago… Really, that confidence boost is worth a lot.
Off-grid living reconnects our bodies with nature
I’m not a very woo-woo kind of girl, but it astonishes me how much healthier our life out here is. Yes yes, there’s still coffee and alcohol and cigarettes if you bother to go to the shop for them - but at the same time, there’s food from the garden or from local friends.
But more importantly, living off the grid makes our bodies and minds respond in a more natural way. We get tired when it gets dark, and we wake up not long before sunrise. We get to take a break if or when we feel like it - and our bodies reward us with superior health.
Are we becoming supermen? Of course not - as I’m typing this, DYI-man is in bed with the flu. He got it from the friend who picked olives with him, and I might be next…
The off-grid community
The most unexpected aspect of living off the grid, is the close connections we make with other people living in the same or similar situations. Other off-grid adventurers are becoming like family - we always know who to call when we’re in trouble or in need of a chat.
Like minded souls can even be found (plentiful) online - where Facebook groups are the new way of communicating and forming a community with one thing in common - we’re all nutters on our big off-grid adventure :-)
If you’re living off the grid in Spain (or have plans to make that move some time soon), you might want to come and join our merry company - click here to take a look!
Do you live off the grid, or are you planning to make the move some time (soon)? Which ones of the reasons I listed applies best to your situation?