No Power - No Problem

 photo by Magnus Bråth

Nicole is completely off grid in British Columbia

I dropped off the power grid fifteen years ago and have never plugged back into it. It didn't happen out of personal disgust with the utilities company, nor because of a violent urge to “go green”--the cabin I rented in northwestern Canada was simply past the reach of power lines. Having to choose between creating my own miniature power grid with solar panels, batteries, and a generator at the expense of a couple thousand bucks or keeping my money and doing without, I chose to do without. And what I discovered wasn't a life of hardship—I found out that living without electricity is not only incredibly cheap, it also instills a great sense of freedom.

Appliances and electronic gadgets not only suck power out of the socket, they have the same effect on my wallet. First they have to be bought, then they break down and need to be replaced, and the whole time, I need to cater to their electricity addiction. Being able to unplug, period, freed me from that cycle. My home wasn't filled with the constant noise of the radio and hum of a fridge, the glow of my laptop, lights being switched on and off, and the phone ringing (there were no phone lines or cell phone signals at the place). My home was filled with peace and quiet.

Having no source of electricity at home didn't turn me into a stone age hermit. Since I worked in town, I had access to phones and the internet there. It dawned on me that it's possible to make use of even more things. So I bought a little AAA and AA battery recharger to plug in at work—this enabled me to keep my headlamp supplied with power throughout the winter. Not only that, I could even indulge in listening to the odd music CD at home now (remember personal disc players?). Because the batteries didn't last very long, listening to music became a real occasion. I now knew and savored the luxury of having music.

There was obviously no washer and dryer at my place, but doing laundry was easily done at the laundromat in town. Making do without a fridge and freezer was a more tricky issue. I was able to share freezer space with plugged-in friends, and a camping cooler underneath my floorboards did an okay job at keeping groceries fresh. When it was really hot, I simply bought groceries more often. And substituting kerosene lamps for light bulbs was a no-brainer. More luxury crept into my home in the form of a wind-up radio, but since it requires physical effort, my radio program consumption went the way of music: it became a conscious choice, and I would actually listen.

And so it went for seven years, until I dropped even further off the grid by moving to a fly-in location. Check back here for tried and true tips for living the good life, unplugged.

Written by Guest Blogger — April 24, 2014

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