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Many Americans dream of a simpler life off the grid, but due to work, family commitments or other reasons, not every person can make it happen.
However, for those who do make the move, they often find themselves wishing they’d known more before taking the plunge. Here are some common things many off-gridders wish they’d known more about before moving off-grid.
1. The need for technical proficiency when moving off-grid
Most people moving off-grid rely on an alternative energy source. While the technology for these alternate power systems is continually improving, many off-gridders on a budget have used equipment that’s been around for a while—and these older systems often require some level of technical proficiency to operate and maintain.
One common power source is solar. This technology has become a lot more reliable and affordable over the past 15 years, and is a great choice for off-the-grid power. New systems, properly programmed with sealed battery storage units that require no maintenance, can provide trouble-free power for years. Again, however, many off-gridders have older systems, and maintenance is needed.
Another common source of power is diesel. But while diesel generators are workhorses, the smallest issue can make them stop running. From a frayed electrical wire to broken belt or the fracture of a small metal component, minor issues can cause the power to stop flowing.
Other alternative power sources, like hydraulic or wind, have not smoothly made the transition from industrial strength to single-home size. These systems have a lot of moving parts, and a good knowledge of them is key to keep them running smoothly.
2. Get to know the neighbors
A lot of people escaping the crowding and fast pace of modern society want to be left alone. While some have the resources to live far away from cities on hundreds of acres, most first-time off-gridders live closer to town on a few acres. This usually means that you’ll have neighbors and possibly be part of a community of like-minded individuals. So it’s important to get to know your neighbors and try to get along with them. And keep in mind that while living off-grid in a rural area is your dream, some of your neighbors may have lived there all their lives, and would like nothing better than to move to a city. However, family commitments or destitution may make that impossible. So many first-time off-gridders wish they’d made more of an initial effort to get to know their neighbors and live with them in peace.
For example, often others living nearby used the uninhabited land you just bought. Maybe their favorite fishing hole is now on your property, or they’ve always picked the blueberries that grow naturally in your forest. What happens when they want to continue doing this? One option is to just say no, but keep in mind that this may cause some resentment. More important, however, is that as a first-timer, you may need help from those nearby that are accustomed to living a rural lifestyle. There’s no right answer to these types of issues, but like it or not, you’ll probably have neighbors and at some point may need their help.
3. Bartering basics
Closely related to living with neighbors is the concept of barter. Many rural communities use barter just as much as currency. For example, you may trade 30 chicken eggs for one of your neighbor’s raised rabbits. Or a neighbor will give you a pig if you help clear part of their land.
The key to bartering is having supplies or skills that others need, and the good news is that a lot of products can be made with sources readily available on the homestead. Examples include making candles, making soap, turning wood into charcoal, or tanning. Many first-time off-gridders wish they’d chosen a skill and incorporated the necessary space and other needs into planning the homestead.
No doubt, off-gridders love the life and would trade it for nothing, even though initially they may have struggled in the early years. They simply know life would have been easier at the outset if they’d known more about what they were getting into before moving off-grid.