You Can Survive (and Thrive) on a Vacation Off-the-grid

Off-the-grid

What does it mean to go off-the-grid?

The off-the-grid lifestyle includes one or more of the following: an independent or small community-based electric supply, natural gas supply, water supply, or sewer system.

It’s a concept that’s been embraced by those who want to actively protect our environment, but it’s also grounded in libertarian ideas of living independently.  These two seemingly disparate groups agree that society would benefit if we all would adopt off-the-grid lifestyles.

We didn’t purposely choose a vacation home that was off-the-grid.  We chose a vacation home that offered beautiful views of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

View from the deck includes lake, mountains, and a hummingbird

Many Colorado residents are off-gridders, probably for both the environmental and political philosophies previously discussed.

It was not surprising, then, to rent a mountain home with solar power and well water.  What was surprising, was how easy it was to adapt to this home.

 

Saving Electricity

Our vacation home was powered by a collection of solar panels.  Is that enough to sustain a modern lifestyle?

No satellite or cable service for the television meant that we didn’t watch TV.  Oh, and there is no cell service, and sketchy Wi-Fi, in this mountain town.  The previous renters used most of the Wi-Fi allotment for the period.  Consequently, we had no Netflix, podcasts, email, messages … you get the idea.

Since we did a lot of walking and hiking during the daytime, we didn’t miss electronic entertainment. We were too tired to need it.  Playing cards and board games, reading, sipping wine and taking in the views; these became our after-dinner activities.

Rocky mountain tops, capped in snow and skirted by greenery.
Our views from the trail.

Most of the time, we were asleep before artificial illumination was needed.

My son noticed some slight power surges, but I didn’t.  We never ran out of power, and that was with five adults occupying the space.

Two for Number One

New Yorkers aren’t generally thought of a off-gridders, but they are familiar with the “2-for-1” concept when the water supplies are challenged by heat and drought.  In other words, use the toilet twice (“number one” only) before flushing.

We were encouraged to do this, and it really is fairly easy to remember.  You will want to use the toilet lid, though, even if closing the lid isn’t your habit.

Hey, there’s a lid on the toilet for a reason.

photo of slow-close toilet seat
Slow-close toilet sear

It Was, Well, the Water

The water was a less successful story.

It smelled really bad.  Like, rotten egg bad.

Even in the washing machine, clean clothes came out stinky,  The consolation was that, after hanging them to dry, the evaporation of the water reduced the smell to a minimum.

We bought drinking water, and a lot of it.  It dismayed me to see all of those plastic containers. Had we been permanent residents, we could have developed a more eco-friendly approach, such as using a filtered water system.

This was the one utility that really didn’t work well. Pun intended.

It’s Cool; and Warm

A wonderful aspect of mountain living is the climate. It was warm and sunny during the day, and cool at night.  We didn’t need heat or air conditioning.  This is a huge energy saver.

Climate may be the single most important factor in the decision to go off-the-grid. Can solar power alone supply the energy necessary to heat and cool a home, such as ours in the Northeast?

We have months of heat and drought, then months a frigid temperatures.  Our area is famous for strings of cloudy days.  It’s not unusual for us to flip from heat to air conditioning without any transition period in between.

Could our home function as comfortably off-the-grid?

It’s an idea that we definitely should explore.

Conservatism: Isn’t it Ironic?

We recognize that our planet is changing, and humankind has caused changes.

It is unfortunate that our current political leaders have decided to tax the methods of energy production that could affect positive environmental outcomes, in an effort to discourage their use.

It is ironic that the very heart of the off-the-grid lifestyle, with its concepts of independence and conservation, is seen as a threat to the conservative political agenda.

I didn’t intend for this post to be a political commentary, but so it has evolved.

Because, while we were living among the trees, crystal-clear rivers, sparkling blue skies, crisp air, and abundant wildlife, our executive branch decided that asbestos was no longer a problem, and that the solar energy industry should be crippled into oblivion.

Creek water cascades down the mountainside as the snow melts in the sunshine
Snow melt runs clear down the mountain.

I struggle to find the conservative logic in that.

Maybe our off-the-grid vacation was more than just a get-away. Maybe, it was an education.

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9 comments

  1. We have similar attitudes from our leaders here, one of whom famously said, not so long ago: “our future is in coal”. It makes me sick. We live in a country with abundant sunshine and plenty of room, enough to really get solar energy going. Much of the renewable industry operates at a grass roots level. We have solar panels on our house, but without batteries ( which are very expensive) we can’t store the excess power that we make which means we have to use the grid at night time. Sorry, I don’t mean to rant. Your holiday sounded wonderful btw.

    1. I love your comment. The current policies just don’t make sense. I keep thinking of Lincoln’s saying that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. It seems to be well suited to today’s leaders.

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