Living “Off-The-Grid”

Humans instinctively fear change and ostracization almost more than “predation”!  Belonging to the tribe, means looking and acting like the tribe. This is how and why the marketing gurus at smart-ass phone, automobile, clothing, furniture, jewelry and nearly every other company in the world have managed to convince four generations of Americas (and now the world) that they must buy and replace products to impress others, OR RISK OSTRACISM! Think of the way you look at a “goth”, someone whose skin is different than yours, “hipsters”, someone with a rusty old car and people who dress “differently” than you!


Moon Unit Zappa had a novelty record in the ‘80’s, mocking the way “Valley Girls” talked. Nowadays, it seems every woman & girl under forty ends a sentence inflecting a question!  In “green” documentaries, we have even heard female PhD's using that irritating Valley Girl cadence! Most of this is unintentional and even subconscious, they, we, are just trying to fit into the tribe and avoid ostracism!


Being different from the tribe or troupe, invites ostracism or at least ridicule. So for millions, the first checkbook (with its overdraft loan shark fees), credit card, new car, designer clothes and even career path, is dictated by their desire to NOT stand out from the rest of the tribe.


Taking these steps that we have done, is frightening on these levels and more! Out here, our very safety is threatened by wild animals; plants & insects that either bite, sting, or stab; weather, heat and distance. But although different, it is no more dangerous than going out on a city street at night in reality. But you are familiar with that city street. The desert is scary….. At first!


Living off the grid takes a lot of knowledge and skillsets. You must adjust from doing things when you want to, to when you can. An example would be laundry. Washing machines are powered by motors. Motors use a lot of electricity. Many folks do their washing in the evening, after work and dinner, when it is dark. Out here, there is no sunlight for your solar panels. Doing this uses stored battery power, so it is best done in the afternoon, not when YOU find it convenient.


While there are not “blackouts” per se, if a component fails in your system, you have to be able to repair or bypass it. Shopping is something you can no longer do daily, or on a whim. For us, unless we want to pay tourist prices in Terlingua/Study Butte, shopping is a minimum of a 130 mile round trip. We do this 2-3 times monthly, though the goal is once. Vehicle fuel has to be watched carefully. When the low fuel light comes on, it is too late.


Family members can laugh at you. Robert’s brother is very amused that we once lived in a “worthless swamp”, now in a “worthless desert”. But he has never smelled the desert after a rain, or watched the sunset over pristine mountains, or sat out in the darkest sky in the lower 48 states and contemplated the Milky Way, or walked easily through the desert, lit only by the intense light of the full moon.


This life is a life of change, the other “tribe members” don’t generally understand it and ostracize those living this way through their laughter, condescension, or contempt. But it is a life where you own all you have and thus are in control of your life. Having $500 in your wallet means nothing if next week you have a $600 car payment or a $2500 mortgage to pay. A thousand dollars in our pocket, means more that a million dollar net worth that is subject to the whims and vagaries of a stock market, real estate bubble or Middle East sheik.


Freedom isn’t free. Both as a political phrase and a lifestyle choice. But while we can be slaves to the maintenance of our home, we can also do without for three or four months if money gets tight. Try doing that with your car payment!


But the real satisfaction comes from knowing that your home is doing nothing, or at least VERY little to waste the planet’s resources, or pump greenhouse gasses into the air. If everyone who COULD live this way (because many urban dwellers cannot), did live this way. America would not need to import oil (we don’t now, we just sell ours overseas for more than the cost of what we import, but that is a political thing for others to address), import beef, vegetables, fruit and jobs to other countries. AND, it all costs far less to do than to continue to follow the tribe, fearing change and ostracism!



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