Whenever I tell people that I left my job in the US and now live off-grid in the rainforest of Costa Rica, I get some interesting responses.
Most raise their eyebrows - a combination of surprise, maybe a bit of intrigue, and normally a pretty large lack of comprehension. Some have expressed their concern that it was irresponsible and short-sighted to give up a salaried job with benefits and a retirement plan (oops? 🤷🏻♀️). Others question what its like to live off-grid in a remote location, and wonder how its possible to live without access to modern conveniences.
But still others are curious and excited about the idea of living off-grid, and are eager to learn whether or not it is something they could do, too. I might dare say that a few are even inspired when they hear about those who’ve given up everything to pursue a more authentic and autonomous way of life.
Although not a new concept by any means, off-grid living has been gaining momentum and attention over the last decade. For many it has become a pipe dream to take the road less traveled - to pack up, move somewhere beautiful and remote, simplify, and live off the land. Some are really drawn the notion of "sticking it to the man" so to speak, and becoming as self-sufficient and independent from the craziness of the modern world as possible.
WHAT IS OFF-GRID LIVING?
In its most simple definition, to live off-grid means to be independent of one or more public utilities.
Of course there is a whole spectrum of off-grid living. By this simple definition, off-grid living doesn’t have to be remote and rural, and you can essentially live in the middle of a suburban or urban area and be living partially off-grid. If you use solar panels on your home and you’re not connected to the electrical grid, you’re off-grid in that sense.
At the other extreme, there are many people who live off-grid in a very rustic sense - without having access to electricity or running water, and preferring to inhabit remote locations where they rely on themselves to provide nourishment, shelter, warmth, meet their hygienic needs, etc. Even rarer are those who are disconnected from the financial grid and do not rely on banks or credit cards.
MODERN OFF-GRID LIVING
There’s a common misconception that to live off-grid means to live primitively, to have to use outhouses, cook over a fire, do laundry by hand, take cold showers, sit by candlelight after the sun sets, sing "kumbaya" around the fire (Matt's favorite), and to live without connection to the outside world.
Sidenote: I've done all of those things and they're very grounding and so much FUN with the right attitude! Aka why people go camping.
Our goal in designing and building The Fusion Home was to create an opportunity to live a more autonomous and self-sufficient life surrounded by nature, but without sacrificing the conveniences or comfort of the modern world. We feel very fortunate that we have achieved what we like to call “modern off-grid living”.
At The Fusion Home, we have all of the creature comforts that we need and then some - electricity, ceiling fans, plumbing, flushing toilets, hot water, a washing machine, a fully functional kitchen, a plunge pool, an LED projector which lets us use our lounge room as a big-screen movie room, and what we consider to be a million dollar jungle view.
While we do live in a relatively remote location (the way we like it) and have to hike up a steep hill for 10 minutes to get to our home (yay, exercise!), we rely solely on alternative energy for electricity, and natural sources for water consumption.
Because of our location in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica our home does not require any additional heating/cooling technology. Our windows are made of screens vs glass, and the fresh air circulates nicely through the home.
We're working on growing as much of our own food as possible, but can still easily out-source anything that we really need with a little bit of planning.
For us it’s a beautiful balance which affords us all of the advantages of living off-grid, but without the huge amount of labor that can often be involved. We don’t have to spend the majority of our time breaking our backs to meet our basic needs, and as far as comfort and ease of living goes, our home is not much different to many modern homes in developed parts of the world.
Ways we’re still connected to the grid:
- We have access to wifi (obvi) and we connect to that grid quite frequently.
...but, I haven't had a cell phone in years, so that counts for something - right?
- While we grow a good amount of fruits, veggies, and herbs in our yard, we still rely on the larger community for much of our food supply as well as hygienic needs. We go grocery shopping, currently maybe 1-2 times/month. We make most of our cleaning products from vinegar and essential oils (which we out-source), and we still purchase products like biodegradable soap, shampoo, and detergent from stores. In the future we want to learn to make our own!
- We’re still connected to the modern financial grid - bank accounts and credit cards, yaaay. We’re working on relying on each less and less by keeping only small amounts of money in the bank and reducing what we purchase using credit cards (and reducing what we purchase in general). I would love to not have any credit cards in my name one day. It's a work-in-progress. We also pay taxes, and I don't see us disconnecting from that grid anytime soon. Can't win them all.
- We are connected to the owning-a-vehicle grid. If you've read some of our other blogs or follow us on social media, you might know that we have an old camper van that we are working on converting. Right now we hardly ever use the van because it's in a very torn-apart phase. For grocery shopping or running errands we get rides and carpool with fellow community members (gratitude shout-out to James, my grocery shopping buddy!)
^^Full disclosure, the van conversion is happening with the dream of embarking on an epic road trip through the Americas. So, while we're able to toot our own horns (ha) about not relying much on a vehicle for the time being, in the future this will change as our van will literally become our home on wheels. Our intention with this adventure is to do it in as an environmentally conscious way as possible, and to off-set our carbon footprint as best possible. A lot to consider.
WHY OFF-GRID LIVING?
People choose to go off-grid for many reasons - financial, environmental, spiritual. More often than not it is a combination of reasons.
For Matt and I, the intrigue of off-grid living started with being curious about alternative lifestyles (as a result of becoming jaded by the modern world), and when we each separately found out about the Finca Bellavista community the curiosity piqued and a spark was ignited.
From there, other reasons we love living off-grid include:
Being able to disconnect from the modern world and detach from much of the systemic nonsense, including the emphasis on consumerism, competition, fear based media, and all of the distractions that come with modern living.
Becoming more self-sufficient. Not relying on the electrical grid or public utilities, and learning to grow some of our own food has been liberating and so much FUN! There is a real sense of freedom and sovereignty that comes with this lifestyle, and its empowering.
Lowering our carbon footprint by utilizing alternative energy, not using a car very often (for now), drastically changing our diet and (nearly!) eliminating meat/dairy consumption, and living more in harmony with the natural world. Score.
Goddamn peace & quiet (joking... sort of). But in all seriousness, while we do enjoy being social, we're both pretty introverted and need lots of time to ourselves and away from the energy of others in order to re-charge and feel our best. Having the space to do just that is a big plus of living off-grid in the jungle!
Having more time to explore new passions. For me that's been permaculture design, meditation, yoga, gardening, plant based cooking, and writing - among other existential witchery. For Matt it includes researching the latest energy efficient technology, creating and managing this beautiful website that you're browsing right now (as well as the Fusion Home Facebook & Instagram pages), and ripping out the insides of our camper van.
Enjoying the financial benefits of no monthly utility bills and very few recurring costs associated with owning a home, as opposed to how much we would be paying renting or owning a home in the "real world". Also, not going to Target every weekend because I'm bored, or stopping at the Dunkin' Donuts drive-through on the way to/from work has been great financially, and has also helped to reduce my carbon footprint. Yay.
OUTSIDE THE BOX BENEFITS OF OFF-GRID LIFE
Our off-grid journey started with the concept of building a badass modern house in the middle of the jungle with solar electricity and rainwater catchment. But, it has evolved into something so much more - more than I could have ever expected!
Living “off-grid” isn’t just about the freedom and financial bonuses that comes from disconnecting from public utilities or relying alternative energy sources, although those things are certainly a wonderful part of it. This lifestyle extends far beyond the physical realm, and beyond what most people probably think of when they imagine off-grid living.
For us, living off-grid means living with wild hearts. It means rebelling against the traditional system, against what is "normal" and expected in today’s society, and
unplugging from the what-is-being-fed-to-us grid and plugging into our internal wisdom grid. It means slowing down, being true to ourselves, and listening to our inner voice. It means rejecting the idea that security and prosperity come from having a "real" job, a mortgage, a retirement fund. It means living a life less-ordinary, maybe a little more risky, but far more rewarding.
We spend our days more connected, more present, and more creative than ever before.
I'll also add that I've disconnected from the stress/anxiety/hustle-bustle/need-to-be-in-control/need-to-be-perfect-and-liked-by-everybody grid that I had been very connected to in the past.
Now, instead of spending so much energy worrying about everything and everyone, I dedicate much of my time to quieting my mind, connecting with my higher Self, and experiencing deep gratitude that I'm able to live this way.
One of my favorite quotes seems relevant here, so I'll leave you with this:
"Normality is a paved road:
It's comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it"
-Vincent Van Gogh
or any of the other rental homes at Finca Bellavista. If you have at least two weeks and really want to get your hands dirty, check out the Finca Bellavista volunteer program!