Off the Grid Living: A Workout In Lifestyle
Off the Grid Living: A Workout In Lifestyle
By Anne Foy
As a big city girl, living in the countryside is like a novelty to me. While I thrive on the energy of bright lights and big festivals, from time to time I like to escape into the wilderness and reconnect with nature in a way that even urban parks can’t fulfil. These coveted retreats are my semi-sabbaticals when seeking the kind of inspiration that swept away the imagination of Keats and Wordsworth, proving to be critical downtime for detoxing myself from the endless stimuli of modern life. It’s a kind of lifestyle which quite naturally appeals to all of us at one point or another, and ultimately becomes the place we wish to make our home. For me, the countryside is a physical and spiritual space which allows me not only to reconnect with my mind and body, but my values and lifestyle. And that’s why heading off into sun-soaked forested green space and living off the grid is something which appeals to me so profoundly – it’s a great way to lead a happier, healthier life while practicing a lower-impact, sustainable lifestyle.
A Separate Space
I’m not going to say that you can’t live off the grid in an urban area, and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s a polarised “all-or-nothing” endeavour. You don’t have to forgo your internet, for example, which is an endless source of information and connectivity and a huge asset to many off the grid advocates. You may be limited in what you can or can’t do to your property depending upon building regulations which apply to your area, like constructing a drastic re-haul of your home’s plumbing and electric. But since more than half the world’s population now lives in cities, local, regional, and national governments are putting in place schemes which help people to improve their home’s energy efficiency, and this is the first step to living off the grid.
Ideally, your venue of choice will be in a rural setting, but one which isn’t too far away from a hub if culture, entertainment, shopping and career choice is important to you. The more off the grid you choose to live, the more you will connect with a “natural” lifestyle, and the bigger the vegetable plot and the clearer the sky, the better. You will learn to redevelop an intimate relationship with the earth around you, respecting the time and craft which goes into cultivating food and acquiring sustainable resources. Your livelihood – at least vital parts of it – will thrive on this relationship and the successes and challenges it brings.
Living off the grid affects your lifestyle in many ways. One of them is that it will inevitably improve your nutrition and fitness. Having a small plot of land or greenhouse to grow your own produce and keep livestock is a great way to save money on your groceries, motivate physical activity, and enjoy delicious, healthy food without chemicals or pesticides. It can be a difficult venture depending on the soil and climate, but with a few tips and tricks you can create a rich and varied garden throughout the year, even during the harsh winter season. If you live near a rural community which networks neighbouring organic farms, you can enjoy from some of the best organic produce at the local farmers’ market. It’s one of the best ways to save on food as well as promote sustainable economies and eco-friendly industries on a smaller scale.
And what about your fitness? That’s the easy part, although it’s tempting to simply lay back in the sweet-smelling grass and contemplate dandelions just like the Romantic Poets for days on end (but don’t worry, you will have plenty of time for that). Living off the grid comes with its own set of responsibilities which will keep you on your toes, like cultivating your own food and maintaining your home. Renovation alone can be a huge exercise workout in itself, from installing greywater systems (which recycle shower and sink water for irrigating gardens and flushing toilets) to creating your own make-shift wind turbine or solar panel (for the technologically inclined) and the regular, day to day upkeep of collecting resources and keeping things in repair. But most of all, from simply taking yourself away from the many stresses of everyday life, you can readjust your focus and engage in some serious ecotherapy – a principle which has proven to be mentally, physically and spiritually rewarding. You can savour that morning run, that afternoon yoga session on your patio, and evenings out on the lake that much more when those opportunities are literally on your doorstep.
A Bright Future
You don’t have to live entirely off the grid to enjoy these benefits, but the sheer scale of this lifestyle presents more opportunities for healthy living, and it only makes sense that what naturally benefits the body, mind and soul will benefit the environment as well. You don’t have to be a hippy or even a reader of Thoreau; many locations around the world – like Scotland, for instance – have developed completely self-sustaining communities comprised of a diverse mixture of professionals from various backgrounds and age groups. Like much eco-conscious living, it’s about inclusivity, so just about anyone can fit in. And really, now is the time to start looking at the possibilities of self-sustaining communities before it’s too late.
Living off the grid isn’t for everyone. But it doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment – it can be a weekend away in a delightful glamping site which is certified as an ecotourism destination, or a few months voluntouring abroad. It can be working in an urban garden, or simply trying out some freshly-made goods from the nearest market. If each one of us could find a way to incorporate a little off the grid living into our regular lifestyles, we’d probably make a bigger difference than we could ever imagine. And for those of us who do want to go all out and live in a gorgeous monolithic dome with geothermal, wind, and solar energy, hydroponic gardens and greywater systems, then I say: go nuts!