How we ended up living off the grid in rural Spain

How does an ordinary girl who’s living a standard life in Amsterdam with a normal job, boyfriend and two apartment cats end up living off the grid in Spain on an olive and almond farm?

Many people ask me why I chose to switch up my life from ordinary to alternative, and how I succeeded in doing just that.

I have to admit; I kind of enjoy telling the story over and over again. I made a video about it a few weeks ago, (which you can watch below) and now I’ve decided to put it down on paper as well.

My husband and I used to joke around about moving off the grid, herding goats and living self-sustainably somewhere abroad. But somewhere along the way, these jokes turned into plans, and the plans eventually became our reality.

Turning our dream into daily life did not happen overnight though. Making the move essentially came down to three key factors:

1. The financial aspect
2. The dream
3. The right mindset to approach our off-grid goal.

First step: Secure an income by working remotely

The first factor that came into play was starting up my online business and being able to work from wherever I wanted. I had a job as a personal assistant, which turned into virtual assistant work. This enabled me to work from home, abroad, cafés, parks - anywhere with some peace, quiet and a decent internet connection.

In the beginning, it was quite a shock to me that working like this was even possible. After I became self-employed, I travelled to France for a couple of weeks, followed by road-tripping across the USA and Canada with my husband. Being able to take my laptop and go to the park or visit my parents in Belgium and work from there was a huge change.

I was able to work whenever I wanted, from wherever I wanted, and that gave me the freedom to explore and travel.

Although I wasn’t making enough money to pay for our lifestyle in Amsterdam, I was making enough to pay for a life on the road. With this in mind, I realised that a different way of life from the one I was currently living was possible.

Step 2: The vision that got us to take action

After returning from the USA, we realised that one of the things we really enjoyed while travelling were the big open spaces, and being surrounded by nature. Back home in Amsterdam, we felt cooped up in our tiny apartment. And when we went outside, there were people everywhere, not even a bit of solitude.

So we decided to get out of the big city.

I had always been interested in living simply and making time for the more important things in life. Self-reliance, growing my own food and raising animals were things that I wanted to try.

My husband was working in the corporate world at the time, and he wasn’t really feeling it anymore. He got right on-board with my off-grid idea, and this was when our jokes started taking on their new form in the shape of plans.

Plans such as drawing our ideal home and figuring out how we could make it work financially. We began looking at properties online and investigating our options more.

Watching Grand Designs, visiting Earthships in Valencia and the Netherlands, getting a Permaculture degree with Geoff Lawton, researching USDA zones in Europe while looking at rainfall and sun hours...

That was FUN!

And eventually led us to think we really wanted to start our own off-grid project in Spain…

Step 3: Changing our mindset from “What if we fail?” to “What if we succeed?”

I know what you’re thinking - everyone has dreams and ideas and plans, but not everyone can turn them into reality.

We almost fell into the second category when we started thinking about the potential for failure. The “what ifs” and “buts” and the questions about whether it was worth risking it all were very much present in our minds.

What if we invest all our savings into a project that didn’t work out? What if we lose two, or even ten years of our lives trying to make this work? What if we just fail to turn our dream into a reality? These were the questions we kept asking ourselves.

At some point, as we began to shift our mindset from “What if we fail?” to “What if we actually succeed?”, and things began to change as we looked at our situation from a different point of view.

Instead of asking ourselves what would happen if it all fell through, we started asking what would happen if we didn’t give it a go? What would our lives be like if we didn’t at least try? What would it look like when we were living our dream life?

Picturing ourselves making it work and living off the grid, raising animals and growing our own food is what finally made us take action.

Looking for properties abroad

After we had made sure we were able to make the move financially, after we imagined our dream and made a conscious choice to act on it, how did we end up here living on a mountain in rural Spain?

When we decided to relocate, our initial idea was to move to somewhere nearby, Belgium or Holland, for example. However, to buy our own piece of land would’ve cost us a small fortune. And even if you end up buying land in the countryside, you’re never more than a few minutes away from a town or city.

The next thought we had was to move to France. French is my native language, and so I thought it would make sense to relocate somewhere where the language didn’t pose any issues. Just as we had started looking for our ideal property though, I spoke to a friend who was already living in France. He was complaining about the weather there during the winter, the near-constant rain, the lack of sun, and the fact that the solar panels weren’t providing enough energy.

That was when I started seriously considering Spain. The winters here are nicer than in France, and there is more sunlight. We began searching, and came across the property where we are now living, in Matarranya. As we were going to see it, we drove through a green and luscious area with trees, flowing water and mountains. That’s when I decided that this was the off-grid living that I’d had in mind.

Moving into our new home

So that’s the story of how we ended up here, living off the grid in Spain. We fell in love with the landscape. We fell in love with the people here. And we fell in love with the property we ended up buying and making our home.
One of the first things we did when we moved was to restore the little shed that came with the house. It used to be a stable for a mule and a horse, but we decided to overhaul it so we would have somewhere to live while our house was being renovated.

It might sound crazy, living in a done-up shed, but the reality was that we didn’t need that much inside space at all. We spent most of our days outdoors, enjoying nature on our own piece of land.

Once we moved into our newly-renovated house, we knew that we had made the right decision for us.

Three key conditions for going off-grid

If you’re thinking of moving away from the big city and starting an alternative lifestyle off the grid, there are three things I believe you need to make it a success.

The first, as I mentioned, is that you need to be secure financially and have a stable source of income. You shouldn’t rely on finding a job when you move, because not having enough funds can really slow down the process.

You need to plan realistically. Changing up your life on a whim isn’t something I’d recommend. You should have a sound plan in place and know that this is what you really want.

You have to be patient when it comes to finding a place to live and keep in mind that you are doing this because this is your dream.

Things go wrong here just as they do everywhere else. The difference is, when things don’t go as planned, I can always go and sit outside with my chickens and alpacas. The pace of life here is very different from what it was living in a small flat in Amsterdam. And for that, I’m grateful every day.

Are you living off-grid yet?

Do you have your own property or piece of land off the grid yet? Maybe you’re fed up of city living and are planning on moving and starting your alternative life?

What is your dream life, and what steps are you taking to make it a reality?

We’d love to hear your story in the comments below. Let us know what kind of life you are living and if you have any plans to change it up. As always, if you need any more information or have questions about living off the grid, comment below and I’ll answer it as best as I can!