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Homestead Guide: Pros and Cons of Living Off-the-Grid
Our ancestors spent much of their time on farms and nature, so it makes sense there is a part of us that wants to live off the grid. Although fun, many modern cities are overly populated, exhausting, and simply overbearing. And sadly, many people who would like to leave and begin a homestead are tied to their jobs and social circle, making it hard for them to leave cities. Still, if it’s a chance you choose to pursue, it can be immensely rewarding. To help you make the right choice, we compiled a list of the pros and cons of living off-the-grid.
Previously, we created a checklist for homesteaders looking to go off-grid, but in this article, we will cover the advantages and disadvantages of living off-grid. Now, let’s begin by going over ‘what is living off the grid?’
What is Living Off-the-Grid?
It depends on who you ask, as the reasons people cut their ties with cities vary. Many people in the modern homestead movement want to live a more traditional lifestyle on the land, away from technology and the stress of cities. Others choose to live off-grid for preparedness reasons, securing their livelihood in the case of an SHTF scenario. But everyone agrees that off-grid living requires you to be disconnected from public services and are responsible for sourcing your own energy, water, heat, and sometimes, food source. In fact, becoming an off-grid homesteader can provide a more sustainable lifestyle as you rely more on renewable energy and waste reduction.
In contrast, living “off-the-grid” is living “on-the-grid.” This is typically associated with living in an urban area, where you have the luxury of modern conveniences and never have to worry about sourcing utilities. However, in the event of a natural or human-caused disaster, you may have difficulty accessing basic supplies for survival.
Advantages of Living Off the Grid
If homesteaders could sacrifice city privileges, then off-grid living probably has a lot to offer. Here are some of the advantages of living off-grid.
The most convincing reason to move off-grid is freedom. When you choose to live in a low-density area, you are not compelled by societal norms to change how you act. If you are homeschooling, you can develop the curriculum you believe is best for your family. You can design and build your home as you wish. Through experiencing prolonged freedom, you can learn about yourself and develop core beliefs. Living on the grid, we are constantly being influenced by media, neighbors, and family. However, by making the transition to off-the-grid, you will have the space and time to nurture yourself.
Still, in North America, it is difficult to be completely disconnected from laws and rules. Although you may want to build extra floors or patio space, you will likely need a building permit from your county. Additionally, some counties are restrictive about the number of animals you can have on your property. Know that enforcement and laws change from county to county, but it is important to know the local laws before deciding on a place to settle.
For less restrictive areas, consider relocating to states that are friendly towards homesteaders or, if you have the means, a country that allows for more flexibility.
Far from the crowded streets, city smog is no concern for homesteaders. Instead of automotive and industrial emissions, you’ll be blessed with the fresh breeze of the virgin natural settings.
Additionally, since you’ll be depending on your muscles for most of the work, you can benefit from daily exercise and movement. Regular movement and exercise will help you age gracefully and keep your body in optimal form. Long periods of time sitting in chairs are associated with mobility and posture issues, as well as shorter life spans. Additionally, seeing nature is associated with better mental health and happiness. This is probably because life is experienced more vividly and is appreciated more as opposed to repetitive work in an office where the years seem to fly by, and each day is no different from the last.
Fresh and Natural Goods
Air quality and a stress-free lifestyle aren’t the only health benefits of off-grid living. Since food influences overall health, and many homesteaders choose to start a survival garden, let’s talk about the quality of food.
While organic produce is expensive in the city, it’s a staple and affordable in virgin landscapes. And if you are picking it from your survival garden, it is much more rewarding enjoying the fruits of your labor. Additionally, if you live in an area that naturally grows herbs and other edible plants, you can benefit from the increased nutritional value since wild plants are more nutritious the cultivated plants.
Eating fresh organic produce is better for your body than the food items frozen and processed that are available in grocery stores. That’s because you get to use natural fertilizers and pest control methods. Not to mention, sticking to seasonal produce ensures you get the most nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables.
When you decide to live off the grid, know that you will be relying on yourself to source most of your resources and complete chores. This may sound overwhelming, but it is actually liberating.
If you are growing survival crops in a garden, you are able to produce your own food despite global food shortages. As well as save money as produce becomes more expensive due to food inflation.
As we have seen in recent years, public utilities can do harm to the community. For instance, Flint’s water crisis led to serious health damage to the citizens who couldn’t find a convenient alternative to lead-polluted water. And when the Texas electrical grid shut down because of cold weather, people froze in their homes. Taking ownership of your utilities means cleaner drinking water and a secure energy supply, and you can save money from lower utility bills.
Self-sufficiency is a step towards freedom. When you are no longer connected to on-grid amenities, you are more prepared for SHTF scenarios.
Lower Anxiety and Stress
Stress is synonymous with modern living. And it makes sense; everything from traffic jams to unbearable workloads, deadlines, and gossip increases our stress. Unfortunately, people get trapped in the rat race because they have to pay for their soaring rent, food, and entertainment bills. Even if they would like to leave, it’s hard to make the leap.
However, those brave enough to make the leap will surely find less stress and anxiety. Not only is the cost of living lower in rural areas, but being in nature is associated with lower stress and anxiety. More significantly, physical chores will relieve stress, unlike nine-to-five workdays. And after a long day of hard work, you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.
Disadvantages of Living Off the Grid
Indeed, off-grid living isn’t as glamorous as it may seem on social media. Expect to work hard, learn useful skills, make mistakes, and challenge yourself regularly.
Here are some rational considerations to determine if an off-grid way of life is right for you.
Steep Learning Curve
The transition from on-grid to off-grid will require us to relearn how we do certain activities. Plus, living off the grid requires a whole new set of skills. For a new homesteader, learning everything from gardening to construction to doing laundry to storing food long-term will be necessary to survive on your own.
You may spend months learning to manage electricity through solar panels or finding the best way to source your water supply. These are some of the early obstacles a new homesteader may face. However, you will develop confidence with time. If you ever talk to an older homesteader, they know in their gut what to do. This is because they have spent decades learning and refining their skills through trial and error.
Lots of Work Is Involved
When you decide to live off-grid, you will have to give up modern-day conveniences. For instance, when you are short on cooking supplies, the nearest grocery store may be quite a distance from you. Additionally, public utilities like electricity, water, heat, and even television cables may not be connected to your property. But this is expected when you go off-grid. Fortunately, we can survive without public utilities, but it will take lots of hard work.
When it comes to energy, you can rely on batteries, generators, or by installing more sustainable equipment like solar panels or small wind electric systems.
For storing water on your property, there are several solutions you can rely on. You can harvest rainwater, install a septic system, use wells, use a hand pump, or buy water in bulk and store it on your property.
As for heat, the old-fashioned way is the best way. You can heat your home through a wood stove or furnace or use a heat pump. These methods would also help reduce your utility bills.
High Upfront Cost
The high initial cost of building a house off-grid can be almost equal to the cost of city residences. Between moving construction supplies to your remote area and paying for labor, the initial cost to get settled will seem high. However, over the long run, your utility bills will be lower, your taxes will be lower, your cost of living will be lower, and you will be doing all your own chores, so you will be able to save money over time.
Don’t let the initial cost dissuade you from making the transition off-grid.
Part of the reason people decide to stay in cities is because of their social circle and family. And for a good reason, we are social creatures who need interaction with other people to be happy. In truth, one of the biggest challenges with living off the grid is loneliness, especially at the beginning.
However, you can form a new community with like-minded locals. Chances are, people living nearby your homestead may know the local plant life and have years of knowledge that can help you with your transition. People in rural communities are generally friendly and are more than happy to help other people as well as barter if you have items worth trading.
Additionally, the loneliness is difficult at first, but with time it becomes easier. After the initial transition from city to rural area, it is only natural that we get a bit homesick. However, as you make your property into a home, you will start to be happier and at peace.
Limited Public Service
Cities thrive because their population density offers more services and convenience at hand. City entertainment options, shopping centers, and restaurants are great in doses, but they are just ways for people to consume, spend money, and distract themselves every weekend. Cities also offer better transportation infrastructure, but this means you can spend hours in traffic or in a crowded subway.
A life off the grid provides more time for creativity, self-expression, and the freedom to experiment and find interests. Additionally, you will save countless hours and stress by avoiding congested roads and trains.
Admittedly, one of the major downsides of homesteading is the lack of reliable network connections and distance from the nearest healthcare services. The convenience and ease cities offer do beat the options available in rural areas. However, internet connectivity is improving, and rural communities are looking to provide high-speed fiberoptic internet to their residents. Additionally, we should be doing medical check-ups on a regular basis, but you can learn the basics of first aid to treat minor injuries.
In summary, you should consider moving off-grid if you are seeking freedom from society, self-expression, and a more traditional lifestyle. It is expensive and requires a lot of hard work, and you need to make a full commitment to making sure your homestead is a success. But if you pursue the endeavor, your younger self will be happy. The decision to start a homestead means you’ll learn many practical skills and are building a home that can be passed from generation to generation. Starting a homestead will be a challenge but a fulfilling one that will yield many benefits over time.
You should NOT move off-grid if you are attached to modern amenities and city life and are not willing to put in the effort to learn new skills. The main challenge of homesteading is that you deserve what you produce because it’s dependent on your effort. If you are not a self-starter and are unmotivated, going off-grid is not the right decision for you.
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