Dreaming of a lifestyle where you can escape it all? More and more people are willing to say goodbye to the 9 to 5 routine, the commute, and the constant pressures to have a certain wardrobe, car or lifestyle. Living in a more eco-friendly way is another reason to cast off the pressures of modern life: many of our everyday activities waste energy and resources, and returning to a simpler life using fewer resources is much better for the planet.
All of these factors combined, no wonder living off the grid is becoming a more popular concept. Going off the grid means living in a way that is independent from public utilities, such as electricity, water and sewage systems. In more recent years, off the grid living also tends to encompass the philosophy of living in a more economically and socially responsible way.
When going off the grid, it’s important to find a location to settle down where it is realistic and conceivable to generate electricity, collect water and grow food. This means that selecting a place that has a mild climate and fewer chances of extreme weather (hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms) is probably a good idea, since sunlight or wind could be important resources for an off-the grid home.
There are many communities around the world where people can go to live an off the grid life 24/7, or even just go off the grid for a vacation. The following list of places where people can go to see what it is like to (literally) unplug from modern life.
12 Flagstaff, Arizona
Perhaps not a lot has changed since the 19th century, when Americans out East left crowded cities to pursue a new life in the Western United States, building self-sustaining homesteads and ranches on vast spreads of land. Even today, people still move to the Western U.S. to pursue a simpler, off the grid lifestyle. The Western United States is home to many communities that are devoted to sustainable, off the grid living. One experimental community featuring architecture designed specifically for off the grid living is located near Flagstaff, Arizona. Called Arcosanti Ecovillage, this community generates its own power primarily with solar panels, and overall residents of this community strive to leave a minimal environmental footprint. Guests can stay on the site and experience the lifestyle firsthand.
11 Bend, Oregon
Many people head to Oregon when they want to pursue an off the grid lifestyle, as the general culture of the people in this state is particularly open to this lifestyle. Oregon is home to many communities where all residents live off the grid, such as the Three Rivers community near Bend, Oregon. This community has hundreds of residents who set up solar panels, wind turbines and generators in order to provide their homes with electricity.
10 Terlingua, Texas
Texas is another Southwest U.S. location where there are a lot of off the grid communities. Terlingua is an isolated community in Southwest Texas. This is where a family of four (seen above) maintains an off the grid lifestyle, generating power and heat from solar energy and collecting water from the rain. There is also land and ranches for sale in the area that advertise that they are ready for off the grid residents.
9 Finca Bellavista, Costa Rica
Beautiful Costa Rican treehouses speak to the inner child in everyone, and as a bonus, they are completely off the grid. Costa Rica has entire communities dedicated to helping people to live off the grid, including the sustainable community called Finca Bellavista. This community of luxurious treehouses is scattered over 600 acres jungle land. Water is captured from the area's plentiful rainfalls, and electricity is generated via solar panels. The wooden tree houses in the area were constructed from sustainably harvested wood. Some of its residents live there full-time and telecommute to work, while others only spend a portion of the year vacationing there.
8 Findhorn Ecovillage, Scotland
In Scotland’s Findhorn Ecovillage, residents live off the grid in unique round “whiskey barrel” homes made of stone and straw that are powered by wind. This community was established in the 1980s as a sustainable development. The village has many gardens and community-supported agriculture and even supplies organic produce to the local area. Findhorn has its own currency, which allows the village to provide low interest loans to the community. This community has won many awards and is considered an excellent example of a sustainable community by admirers all over the world. Findhorn also provides education to others, locally and abroad, about sustainability and how to build ecological housing.
7 Cayo, Belize
If the cost of property or living in an organized off the grid community in North America or Europe is too high, it might be wise to look into opportunities to live off the grid in Belize. Belize is an affordable country to live and has a comfortable climate. In areas such as the district of Cayo, it is possible to live near picturesque beaches and buy a sizeable home for a fraction of the cost that a similar property would cost in North America. With a culture that is known for being more relaxed and the availability of fresh produce and seafood in local markets, someone who moves to Belize to go off the grid could expect to eat well and live healthy, comfortable life and benefit from the wisdom of the locals when it comes to making do with natural resources.
6 Kolonilotts in Sweden
“Kolonilotter” are essentially “garden communities.” These communes are inhabited either year-round or just in the summer time, when residents focus on gardening. In the 1900s, the Kolonilott were established when the government needed a way to allot land to the lower classes. The land was devoted to gardening, so residents could supply themselves with their own food. Nowadays, the Kolonilotts have become an off the grid lifestyle for many. The homes located on one such Kolonilott, a community called Understenhodgen, are eco-friendly and the entire community is car-free. The community’s own heating, waste recycling and even a kindergarten program are all provided to residents.
5 Fairbanks, Alaska
The 2007 movie “In the Wild” didn’t exactly make off the grid living in Alaska seem too appealing or viable, but nonetheless there are many who move to Alaska to live an off the grid lifestyle. Near Fairbanks, Alaska there are communities of families who live in “dry cabins,” or log cabins that are completely cut off from the city’s water system. Many of these cabins are completely off the grid. Aside from ideological reasons to exist off the grid, there is another practical reason for the cabins to be cut off from water: without a water connection, there is no danger of freezing pipes.
4 Eco Villages in Mexico
Like the neighboring Southwest United States, the country of Mexico is also home to communities of people who strive to live “off the grid.” One eco village, Rancho Amigos, is located in Mexico. This village is self-sustaining. It’s located in a forest, where residents grow food and enjoy beautiful views.
3 Taos, New Mexico
Thanks to abundant sunlight, dry conditions and mild weather, New Mexico is another popular off the grid living location. There is a lot of remote, rural land available for reasonable prices throughout the state. New Mexico has long been a destination and the home of architects, artists, writers and other creative times. Locations such as Taos, New Mexico have been home to architects and artists who have experimented with simpler lives and greener, off the grid lifestyles for decades. The Earthship Biotecture, for instance, are homes that are “off the grid” ready. The Earthship movement was created in the 1970s by Michael Reynolds, an architect who advocated “radical” and “sustainable” living. These homes are designed in Taos to use natural resources such as solar energy, wind and rainwater, allowing residents to go off the grid.
2 Geiranger, Norway
In Norway, traditional sod homes are constructed in some small communities such as Geiranger. These homes, which look like something out of “The Lord of the Rings,” are often built by owners with the help of their neighbors. The homes feature “green” roofs, which means plants and flowers grow on top of the house. This helps insulate the house and provides a unique natural aesthetic. The design of these rural homes is actually quite traditional and has been in use for centuries.
1 Tiny Houses
One way to live an off the grid lifestyle is to have a home so small that it can be moved easily and set down virtually anywhere. Kind of like a camper but built for long-term inhabitants, owners of “Tiny Houses” can take their off the grid, minimal-footprint home on the road with them and settle down wherever there is land or space, such as a friend or family member’s backyard or a rural plot of land. If the house is built small enough, it can pass as a shed, or if it is built on wheels, it can pass as a trailer, therefore it often doesn’t require any building permits. Companies like Tumbleweed Tiny House Company specialize in making these homes. In fact, an “off the grid” life in a Tiny Home has become so popular that there are endless websites dedicated to the movement and plans can be found online for anyone interested in building their own tiny home.