In part 1, I covered my fear trifecta of judgement, misunderstanding, and shame for living off grid. I also mentioned my prior experiences living minimalistically and off grid, and how my life shifted since embracing this “lifestyle”. Living off grid is no trendy lifestyle for me – it’s the only way of life I can honestly live, one in harmony with nature and self.
To continue, part two involves more details of what this life looks like. There is still some hesitancy to share so deeply, but I’d rather give courage roots to grow in place of fear. I also want to say “thanks!” to everyone who reached out to let me know how helpful part 1 was ^.^
In my heart, I knew all along I wanted to recreate living simplistically. I was swept up in feeling I had to have a lot of stuff to adult right in America. But, given how I lived in Jamaica, I knew there was a way “third” and “first” world could meet.
Not all people who live off grid are minimalists. Not all minimalists live off grid. For us, living off grid and minimalism go hand in hand. We still have wanderlust and if we ever want or need to leave at random, we want to be ready to go in no time without a lingering thought of what’s left behind. It helps that I’ve had some experience over the years in letting go of stuff.
When I moved from Florida to California, I got rid of a quarter of my belongings, but I all but added more stuff after living in Cali. When I moved into a van, I minimized again. This time it was very difficult and I was left with about a fifth of my original belongings. While being a truck driver a year later, we added a little more clothing for the various weather of 50 states. When we moved to Hawai’i, we let go of over half of our things again. As we’ve lived here, we’ve gain more, but we’ve kept it as minimal as possible to mostly essentials.
Tree House Livin’
Our current off the grid rental home is incredible. We live in the middle of a Ohia forest surrounded by fruits trees like guava and bananas. In the morning, the birds sing and in the afternoon it’s a chorus of (mating?) conversations. From dusk until dawn, the coqui frogs, who sound like crickets, take over (also mating?). The house was built around two Ohia trees by our off grid savvy landlord, which means we pretty much live in a tree house! It’s painted green on the outside and all three rooms are their own vibrant color (orange, blue, and yellow). As I mentioned in Jamaica Accent, it was quite normal to have multicolored houses back home, which makes this diverse color palette feels extra homie. The road to get to our place is bumpy as hell, but it’s a price worth paying for seclusion, nature immersion, and damn good rent.
We have an outdoor kitchen downstairs/on the first floor. Because it rains so much, using non varnished wooden utensils produces mold, but materials like silicone does well in such wet weather. Sometimes the mosquitoes get a little crazy and there are some rats to contend with, but keeping everything in a secure bin ends the problem. The kitchen came with a propane outdoor stove/grill, a standard sized fridge (which uses some fancy dual system I can’t explain, but I know it means it uses little electricity), and a few other kitchen utensils. Our water comes from the rain, which oxygenates the body better, and it gets stored in a water catchment. We have an outdoor shower that comes with heated water by propane. Lately, however, we’ve been enjoying cold showers, which increases mood and boosts blood circulation. The only water we pay for is the one we drink. We also have an area for composting. This feels really good knowing most of my “trash” becomes food for the trees.
Our electricity is entirely solar powered, but we have a generator as a backup. We don’t use the generator often unless it’s been overcast or raining for several days in a row, which has happened about 2/3 times in 6 months. The electricity easily powers the fridge, internet, lights (which uses negligible energy) and I can charge my laptop several times a day without running out. It’s wonderful to rely so heavily on nature for power and water. When we lived in a van, we had to drive to Starbucks almost daily to charge our electronics.
Now for the stuff you’ve been waiting for: how do we take a shit(take mushroom). I’m gonna stand on a soapbox for a sec as this is the part most people from “developed” countries can’t even with, though poop phobia is real to many people anywhere.
I grew up with an outside pit toilet. It wasn’t always the most fun experience given the cockroaches, frogs, and lizards taking refuge in the outhouse watching me do my biz, but it wasn’t a big deal. Here in America and other “developed” countries, when we need to take our number twos, we bring our phones or something to do to pass the time. Okay, so why are we so scared of our own poop? Instead of eating better to have better bowel movements, we buy Poo-Pourri or the cheaper version is to pretend it isn’t happening. Why don’t we really care where it goes? We are the only animals in the world who are fancy poopers. Most fruits and veggies are grown in compost which is animal poop, but that’s okay as long as we don’t think about it? Most of us are fine cleaning a baby’s poo-poo platter and picking up after pets’, but our own?
Let’s. Just. Not.
But I say, let’s. Or well, that’s all I wanted to get off my chest before telling you we have an outdoor toilet, or rather, a bucket in an outhouse. Visitors beware, haha. It shouldn’t make me chuckle as much as it does, but it’s funny from this side of life. We do the do and cover it with soil (though you can get fancy with worm aided composting) and give it back to nature. She naturally decomposes it and on with our lives we go. The weather in Hawai’i is also said to decompose the matter faster than average. And so ends this “TMI” conversation.
Our second floor has two rooms surrounded by big screened windows – that means they do not close. At first it felt strange, like I was always being watched, but we’re in an actual forest and elevated enough for maximum privacy. I love the constant flow of fresh air. Hawai’i is said to have the best air in the world. This feels like the lazy way to always be outside. Whenever I look out, all I see is green or sky. We can see the sun rise and on clear nights, the moon lights up the entire place. I can’t imagine living with open/close windows again. We sleep and lounge in one room and use the other for art, yoga, and other everyday needs. We even have a hammock! Upstairs is a bedroom. To get to it you have to climb the ladder. It’s not screened, but we added a mosquito net over the bed. Eventually we stopped sleeping up there, mostly due to nighttime bladder inconveniences, aka utter laziness. It’s our guest bedroom now because it’s cool to climb up the ladder to get up there – just maybe not every day for me.
When we first moved here, the adjustments were challenging. The unpaved road was uncomfortable and I worried about our car. It felt as if there were too many mosquitoes to ever be comfortable with and now we barely notice them. It even felt more chilly than I expected of an island (it still does sometimes, but it’s not as bothersome; Hawai’i has many micro climates and we happen to choose a higher elevation that’s cooler and rainier).
We didn’t realize how much electricity and water we callously used before and now we rarely get too low on either because we are conscious consumers and nature always provides. We had to adjust to not having certain amenities (I still miss you, Whole Foods), but we gained Farmer’s Markets, which means the freshest, most organic produce without the extra cost. Plus, we can buy plants and grow our own food in the front yard.
I’m not suggesting living off grid will somehow magic anyone’s problems away. It can be an uncomfortable adjustment at times because of the initial unknowns. If you go on Youtube, you’ll see many youngsters moving here and leaving in less than a year because they can’t handle what it really means to live off grid: to each their own comforts. We all have problems. I simply choose mine to be these. I feel even better living out here as is given what happened recently with the government shutdown, 5G towers popping up, having experienced the stress of utility bills, etc. Something about this just feels better. Since I’m harming no one and leaving less of a footprint on nature in the process, I’m further elated to bask in the bliss of this life.
There will eventually be a part 3 to this tale later in the next few months as our life evolves. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the off grid life, let me know!