Off the Grid

On facebook today, someone posted a short documentary of a little community of Canadians living off the grid on an island called Lasqueti located between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Although, where it’s located doesn’t really matter. What matters is how they live. (I’ll try and post the link to the article on here, but with my skills at the computer I’m not sure how well I’ll manage. Which reminds me…anyone know of any good computer courses? I’ve had it with my ignorance and want to learn how to navigate webpages and programming like a boss. Oh yeah, back to off the grid living…)

Check me out, I rock. Here is the youtube documentary: 

A few months ago, I would have have watched that video and thought, “Oh! That’s what I want to do! Why can’t I be like them and live off the land in the forest like a fairy too?!”

Okay, well, I doubt they live like fairies. I did not see any of them with wings or magic wands, but maybe they were hiding them for the sake of the documentary….

But I did want to live like that…free from cares and stress and pollution and Big Brother. And I thought, well, isn’t that what the majority of us want? The peace and serenity of nature, without having to deal with big corporations and consumerism and keeping up with the neighbors and, well, BC Hydro? If it wasn’t such a popular goal then there wouldn’t be booming tourist industries anywhere with the sun and a beach. Or the highways would be empty of all but semis in the summer instead of being clogged end to end with holiday trailers, fifth-wheels, campers and motorhomes.

Who doesn’t want to get away from it all? And if you don’t, well, kudos to you because you’ve done it, you’ve mastered the art of living happily where you are at. If anything, please let the rest of us know your secret so we can do the same.

Back to Lasqueti…

BC Hydro does not exist on their island (or any equivalent power company that tends to suck out any extra money you might have every month without so much as a care…thank you new smart meters), nor does traffic (there are no paved roads for the vehicles to drive on). There is one pub and one cafe, one store where you don’t actually buy anything but leave what you don’t need and take what you do (there’s probably another store with a few groceries and toiletry items, but they didn’t mention it so I’m not about to go making assumptions here). There are about 1000 or so wild sheep and 426 people (give or take a few, these are facts from the internet so who knows how accurate they are) and enough trees for everyone to live in the sweet scent of actual cedar and moss, not just the nature-smelling candles.

But here is the thing…they do have power. There are solar panels everywhere. They have running water (well, not everyone) and gas generators; some even have televisions, washing machines and blow dryers. So, it’s not like it’s complete rustic living where everything comes from the land. It just, simpler. And what looked to be a lot harder work. Walking through the forest to get to showers, lighting a fire to have a bath, climbing ladders to, well, I don’t know, tend to your solar panels? But the thing about it is that they provide for themselves, they are not reliant on the government for services and luxuries such as heat and power. They do it themselves. Hell, one woman had a baby all by herself because the doctor could not possibly have come in time.

And that was what struck me; they were self sufficient. These seemed to be people who could easily live on their own, who did not need mainstream society to keep them happy and entertained. I doubt anyone had any idea what kind of jeans were in season, or which jackets and boots were the most popular for the year, nor did they seem to care how expensive their neighbor’s truck was (I bet the majority of them could live years on what people spend on one work truck here) or who had the biggest house or if they were screwing up their children by not putting them in every activity imaginable. These were people living authentically how they wanted to without anyone to bother them about it. They didn’t stop the interview because a text came in, they weren’t worried about the latest technology or which version of the iphone was out, they weren’t concerned about the latest car bombing around the world or what progress was being made in the War on Terror. They had escaped it all.

And that is what I think is so appealing about living off the grid. And then I thought about it for a second. If that is what you’re going for, running off to an island isn’t necessarily the only way to go about it (unless there is a community like this somewhere in the caribbean. If there is, sign me the hell up I’m packing my bags!). My initial twinges of jealousy at these people who’d managed to figure it all out, left as soon as I realized that, I don’t think I’m that different from them. At least, I think I am as close to one of them I am going to get within my own genetic make up (as in, I will still wear makeup and I really do like my car and the internet and the convenience of a flushable toilet). And I am okay with that.

In a way, I think I’ve lived the majority of my life with a similar philosophy as those Laquetians, it’s just played itself out in a different way.

I have never felt the need to conform to a traditional job. I almost did that, and in a way, I conformed to the traditional plan for a job and it cost me a shit ton of time and money. I went to University and forked over thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars for, well, not much more than what I could have done just reading books and scientific journals. Oh, wait, no, I needed that piece of paper that gave me a degree so I could get a job, because those who make the rules in society came from those Universities and decided I needed an official piece of paper because how else can they justify their own savings spent on degrees and fancy pieces of paper if they don’t make everyone else get one too. (Phewf. Quick breath here and…) Not only did I spend way too much of my own, loaned, and parent’s money on a degree but I wasted all the time and money that could have been spent actually building a career. I could have been getting paid to do something in the meantime! Oh, wait a minute, this isn’t a blog about how screwed up our educational system is, I forgot. Where was I? Oh yeah, non-traditional work…

Just like those people living on their own on the island, I refuse to give up my time to someone else, doing what they tell me to do. I will not get a job that requires me to ask permission to pee (Okay, well, not to pee, but to go on holidays or to lake a longer lunch or to leave early or to just plain not show up that day). There was a man living on Lasqueti who moved there 30 years prior because he’d asked his boss for the summer off and was told no. So he quit and moved. As far as I’m concerned, that is the way to do it. At least, I think it is.

If you love what you’re doing, that is great. If you love your boss and love working for someone else, that is great too. Sometimes it’s nice not to have all the responsibility. And if you love what you do, then by all means, keep it up, but if you don’t, well…why not? Life is too damn short to live it a few weeks of the year on holidays, or waiting for retirement or just dreading going to work in the morning. If you can’t wake up in the morning with a smile on your face for what’s in store for you that day, then I say, find a new life! Move to Lasqueti! Or don’t! But just do something!

(Now many people will say it’s easy for me to say this because my husband supports me, but I’d be living like this with or without him. I’d probably have just taken less naps and been a little more self disciplined.)

I refused to work a job I didn’t like, or for anyone else but myself. It’s not that I won’t work hard, hell, working for yourself is hard fucking work, trust me. But there is something so different at being dead tired from working for yourself, whether it be baking cupcakes or making coffee or drawing up plans or writing up projects or just chopping wood, than it is for doing something for someone else. Because you get all the benefit. You don’t walk away from that bitter that someone else has taken all the credit or the profit or whatever else they take. You can sit down and say, “Ah, I did that. It’s all me.” And, what’s even better, is that it’s your choice to do it or not to do it. Because it’s all you. So, if you choose to be lazy that day and not do anything, you can. Only, when winter comes you might freeze to death or your card might decline at the grocery store because you didn’t bother getting your bid in on time or whatever else will happen when you shirk your duties.

There is nothing more freeing than having to answer to yourself and yourself only. And you could see that on the faces of those in the Lasqueti documentary. They worked for themselves. They were free from anyone breathing down their neck. And that man who moved because his boss wouldn’t give him the summer off? He was chopping wood and climbing ladders and washing his laundry while he had a bath…and he was 83 years old with the face of a 65 year old!

Of course, we all live in society and the majority of us aren’t going to relinquish all our worldly possessions and move to the middle of nowhere. But we can stop for a minute and ask ourselves, is this truly what I want to be doing? Or we can put our phones down for a second, get off facebook and twitter and whatever the next new thing is, and just tune to what is around us. Even if it isn’t cedars and birds and feral sheep, there is still peace and calmness in everything around us if we only let it in. If we stop worrying what the next person is up to and how we compare to them, if we stop wondering if our kid is going to miss out on something and just let them play outside, if we stop obsessing over the fact that our holiday trailer only has one slide while our neighbor’s has two. If you can do that, there is no need to run away to an island. There is no need to install solar panels for power. You can have your own oasis in the comfort of your own home, or office or car if need be. If we can escape the pressures of conforming to society by simply closing our eyes and getting in touch with who we are, knowing that every step we take in our day is one that we choose to make, one that brings us closer to living authentically, we have gone off the grid. Because as far as I am concerned, that grid is only what is imposed on us by others and sometimes, ourselves. It’s all the extra stress and pressure we don’t want in our lives. And as soon as we let go of all that, there is nothing but peace, love and happiness flowing in from all sides.

It’s getting away from the shoulds and shouldn’ts, the musts and musn’ts, and doing what we want to do for ourselves and not anyone else.

That’s what I saw in the Lasqueti documentary, and that’s what I see every day when I sit down at my computer and open my writing software or my blog page or just the plain old internet. I’ve carved out my own path and it feels good.

Now, to finish my book so I can pay for a trip to Lasqueti….

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