I have learned quite a lot in these few short months of living off grid, experiencing the ups and downs of the camping lifestyle and all it has to offer.
First and foremost, I have learned how little one needs in order to be truly happy. Though it took some time to adjust to this radically simple lifestyle, it is free from much of the stress and many of the worries so prevalent throughout a ‘normal’ life in society.
I am content with the few possessions I have, while nature provides me with most of my fuel for heat and cooking as I have a wood stove, and oftentimes water as well. I sleep comfortably on a cot, my tent has always kept me both warm and dry, a solar-charged RV battery typically supplies me with more electricity than I use (laptop, coffee grinder, blender, lights, re-charging phone and various batteries), and a portable camp shower ensures I can regularly shower so long as I have water and my wood stove setup to heat the water.
Below is a video tour of my off grid setup at my very first campsite, in southwest Montana last October, when I first left my life in a house in Bozeman for this experiment:
My only recurring bills have been for my cellphone and auto insurance, and having an IPhone provides me with internet access anywhere there is cell coverage. Although as I have learned, at least in the western US where I’ve been traveling, cell coverage is not always available, particularly in the areas where ideal free campsites are available.
The downside to this is frequent extended periods of time without internet access (at least without long drives to nearby towns), but the upside is learning how refreshing and peaceful being disconnected from the outside world can truly be! After adjusting to the feeling of being ‘cut off’ from the outside world, I actually came to appreciate the extended time periods with infrequent internet access. I learned how much more at peace my mind naturally became without all of the unnecessary excess chatter from the news and social media and advertising and everything else, and felt much closer to nature when nature was my main source of entertainment.
In some places, however, particularly in Arizona and also near Moab, Utah, I was blessed to good have cell service right at my campsite, which is nice for being able to make posts and watch YouTube videos, and do research on topics of interest. The best investment I found in this regard was a wireless keyboard, which basically turned my phone into a functioning mini-computer, and made writing lengthy blog posts and articles quite doable.
I have come to conclude that at least for me, simplicity is a cornerstone of a life of freedom and true happiness. One cannot enjoy true freedom if they are immersed in a complex stressful life, nor tied to the world through hosts of attachments. Obviously if I was still deeply attached to the things I left behind to embark on this journey, such as my business or house, then I would be utterly miserable. I didn’t become happier because I had less things, but because having become unattached to all those things already, I finally made the decision to leave them behind in order to make a leap into the unknown.
I have learned the importance of following one’s heart, as that was really the driving force behind this lifestyle experiment, though it took me a while to finally listen to my heart and take the leap of faith into the unknown to discover a way to live off grid. I was tired of the life which I had become miserable living, but until I made the firm decision that I was going to move on, I stayed ‘stuck’ in that life. As soon as I decided I was ready to move on, despite having no plan whatsoever accept to sell my business and leave the housing situation I was in, things just began to fall into place and ideas came to mind, and the next thing I knew I was preparing to hit the road living in a mobile off grid setup.
I also learned that it is possible to live relatively comfortably off grid for a relatively small initial investment, compared to the price of purchasing property and building an off-grid house. I met quite a few others living the camping lifestyle while I was in the southwest, and saw quite the variety of different setups, all with their own benefits and downsides. Most people doing this long-term are in campers or vans it seems, understandably. However, despite the downsides of a tent, there are benefits as well.
Being a large canvas tent fitted with a wood stove and a cot, it is absolutely a pain to take down when moving from one campsite to the next, and obnoxiously time consuming. This is where a camper or van would come in handy, particularly when arriving to a new campsite in the pouring rain or dumping snow! On the other hand, it was much cheaper than a camper, and stays nice and warm in the winter with the wood stove without the extra cost of propane. For me, it was just the way to go to test out this lifestyle based on my own circumstances and finances.
Nature offers an ever-changing array of beauty anywhere one goes, and often times plenty of peace and quiet. When peace and quiet is lacking, it isn’t nature’s fault but rather all the people enjoying nature (or often enjoying their very loud and noisy big boy toys which aren’t very ‘natural’ at all).
From the thick mountain forests of southwest Montana to the desert landscapes of Arizona, every landscape I have traveled through and camped in offers its own unique natural beauty. I never imagined how beautiful the desert could be, or how excited I would be to camp in a mountain forest after so many weeks living in various desert areas and grasslands.
It’s been really nice seeing much of the western part of the country I hadn’t seen much of before and to experience life in all these different landscapes.
I also found a deep peace and harmony about nature I was able to tap into, something that I think it takes an extended time of living so close to nature to really get completely in tune with. This was a really enlightening experience, as it further highlights the insanity of human society as it currently exists.
There are no wars or forms of slavery in nature, no televisions programming everyone to think so alike and yet be so divided against one another. There is no greed nor creatures striving to climb to the top of any corporate or societal ladder in nature, just everything living in a peaceful balanced harmony. Yes, animals hunt and are hunted, but only out of pure necessity and survival; never for pleasure or profit or to simply gain more control. And the animals that become prey are never enslaved first as happens with factory farming; they are free until the day they die.
Yes, humanity has so much to learn from nature that would be to our benefit, if only we were willing. Unfortunately, I have witnessed how this human madness even encroaches into the great outdoors of nature, from those destroying sparse high desert forests by cutting mature live trees for firewood, to incessant littering of even some of the most remote areas which I did my best to cleanup in the places I passed through.
I personally have learned to live more in harmony with nature, particularly with spiders that continually made their homes in my tent. Eventually, seeing that my efforts were fruitless, I stopped trying to vanquish them and accepted them as welcome visitors; they mainly hung out at the top of my tent far from me, taking advantage of the rising heat. One day early on in this journey I just decided to just leave them be and not harm them, in hopes that they would return the favor and not bite me; and so far despite having dozens of spiders coming in and out of my tent I have yet to receive a single spider bite!
Mosquitoes on the other hand do not seem to return such attempts at peace, and I must say have absolutely no concept nonviolence! Unlike spiders, these are not welcome visitors in my tent, which thankfully with its screen doors and windows serves as an effective safe haven, and is practically the only way to avoid their attacks at this time of year.
One of the biggest downsides of this lifestyle for me is having to constantly pack up and move from place to place, particularly once I’ve found an ideal slice of nature to call home - peaceful, quiet, near water, with plenty of firewood nearby and a mix of plenty of shade and sunshine. And although I have found my share of campsites I was plenty happy to move on from, I’ve also been blessed to have found several places that were as close to perfect as they come, that I was in no hurry whatsoever to leave behind. A few of these spots were also remote and devoid of forest rangers and I was able to stay three to four weeks despite the general 16-day camping limit.
I have been forced to learn to live in the present moment more so than ever before, and have thus learned the power of the present moment through experience like never before. It is definitely true that a large amount of human suffering is caused by living in the past or planning and worrying about the future, when all we really ever have is the constantly unfolding present now. Living in a generally more relaxed, natural and peaceful environment has really showed me how much I personally made this common mistake in the past during my busy life in society. I believe that learning to live fully in the present is one of the most important and beneficial lessons the average person of western society can learn.
One of the coolest things I think about this journey is all the wildlife sightings and encounters I’ve had. Although not overly numerous, I have had a decent share of wildlife run-ins, and seen several animals I had never seen before including javelinas (little wild pigs). My favorite such experience, however, was the pack of Mexican wolves I ran into in New Mexico on a walk near my camp one day, which Dakota found and flushed out of the brush, and which thankfully had no inclination to attack me or continue chasing Dakota after they saw me. I wasn’t frightened of them at all, even though there were at least four standing only a short stone’s throw away, all around me. My first view of them had been Dakota chasing one of them it looked like, followed by two others chasing her, and then at least one more ran into the open before they saw me. My only worry had briefly been that they were going to hurt Dakota, but as soon as they saw me they stopped chasing her and froze, just staring at me. It was a very enchanting moment, and they are such beautiful creatures; unfortunately I didn’t have my phone or camera on my to get a picture...
It is definitely a lifestyle well suited for dogs, and my high energy border collie pup Dakota has really loved living out in the wild. Countless hikes and mountain bike rides and deer to chase have kept her happy, and me well exercised; and occasionally we have run into some friendly dogs for her to play with as well, but not nearly as often as she would like.
All in all, it’s been quite the adventure and learning experience, and while I am most certain I have no desire to do this for the rest of my life, I am also in no hurry to get back to a ‘normal’ life in society. The most difficult part about sustaining this lifestyle for me is getting work, mainly because I can’t leave Dakota in my tent or hot car all day while working a job, which really limits my money-making opportunities. Thankfully, while it isn’t much, I have been able to at least make a little money via cryptocurrency on Steemit and now Hive, which has helped keep me going. One thing is certain, no matter how much money you have saved up, it will eventually run out!
For now I have enough, and try to continue to stay positive living each day in the moment , not knowing what the future holds. Having become accustomed to such uncertainty at this point, it has become easier for me to trust the flow of life without having any sort of long-term plan. It is a challenge at times, but also greatly rewarding in so many ways; and I would definitely recommend giving the camping lifestyle a try, as an alternative way of getting off grid and attaining financial freedom, at least for those free spirits who feel that such a lifestyle sounds like it could be fun. It is definitely not for everyone, and not necessarily something to make permanent, but it has at least for me been quite the adventurous learning experience, definitely a very viable option for those who enjoy traveling and camping.