Living Off The Grid

This summer, I went off the grid. Living off the grid has always fascinated me. For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to give up all the creature comforts we all take for granted, and live a simpler life.

In the rugged mountains of Washington, I made a soft attempt to go off the grid. No electricity. No running water. No bathrooms. I deem my adventure a ‘soft attempt’ because the expanse of a month was all I committed to trying out this lifestyle. This was simply a test to see if my endurance and fortitude could withstand what it took to live such an amazing way of life.

Having designated only a month, I didn’t have the time to fully immerse myself in a complete lifestyle change. Thus, I kept a few luxurious conveniences.

  1. I continued to buy my groceries from local stores versus growing my own veggies, foraging for berries, and fishing or hunting for meat. After all, I do love to eat, and a growling hungry stomach would definitely taint my experience.
  2. Never knowing when an emergency may occur, I also kept my iPhone handy – charging it in my car when the battery signal would glow red.

Setting up camp in the mountains of Washington near the banks of the Snoqualmie River, I was pleased to have such a beautiful and ideal location for our little adventure. Organizing camp took no time at all. Having tented across the United States to get here, we were now old pros and setting up and tearing down camp.

The serenity of our location was a cool salve to our frayed nerves. We’d gotten caught in some crazy wet weather along the way, and were happy to finally have a chance to dry out our gear.

Having none of the conveniences we’d all come to rely on was an adjustment. With no electricity, no running water, and no bathrooms – we quickly learned to make due and to appreciate what we no longer had.

While living off the grid may be a peaceful life, it isn’t an easy life. It wasn’t long before I learned why very few choose to live off the grid.

Bathing:

The simple act of bathing was a time consuming chore. No longer did we have the option to simply step inside our shower, adjust the faucet to find a warm soothing spray, and soap up. Instead, we had two options:

  1. Brave the frigid temps of the Snoqualmie River, and hope we didn’t become ill.
  2. Trek down to the river where we’d fill our water jugs before carefully trekking back up the hill to camp, heating jug after jug of water in a large pot over our campfire, and then using that water to fill a large blue tote that we’d designated for our baths.

When Nature Calls:

Maintaining dignity when nature calls can be difficult in the woods. Admittedly, the girls struggled with this more than the boys. Fortunately, we found an outhouse conveniently located three miles from our camp that we used now and again.

Laundry:

On any given day, my extended family of five can accumulate quite an impressive amount of laundry. Staying caught up is essential if you don’t want it to become an overwhelming chore. Two of us normally head to the laundry mat twice a week when we’re living in our Beast.

Living in the great outdoors 24/7, our clothes seemed to naturally accumulate dirt and soil. Thankfully, we had the river close by, so there was no need for us to wonder how we were going to keep our family clean. Hauling our laundry down to the river, we scrubbed and washed our laundry the way families used to before the invention of washers, dryers, and laundry mats. Clean wet clothes make for a heavy haul when you are carrying them up a steep hill on a river bank. Hanging our clothes on a rope strung among the trees, we let the sun dry them.

Sinking down into my camp chair, I’ve never been more grateful to be done with laundry. Laundry has never been my favorite chore. It isn’t particularly hard – just time consuming. I never realized just how hard it could be. Doing laundry is back breaking work without the convenience of a washing machine or running water and a sink.

Potable Water:

Having enough potable water on hand was a worry I had before we knew where we’d be camping. In preparation of our adventure, we bought six gallon jugs of water from the store in addition to several cases of bottled water. Our plan was to use the gallon jugs for cooking and save the bottled water for everyone to drink. We greatly underestimated how much water we use on a daily basis. Our six gallon jugs were empty by the end of our first day. Shocked, we briefly wondered how safe it would be to use the water from the river, but fear of jeopardizing our family’s health kept us from trying it. Thankfully, three miles away at the campground where we’d found the outhouse there was a water pump that offered potable water. We could use the old water pump to fill our water jugs, and our water would be safe for us to cook with.

Like everything else, filling our water jugs from the old water pump proved to be no easy feat. It took several minutes of us steadily pumping on the old heavy metal arm before the old pump would be primed enough to shoot out water. Replenishing our daily supply of cooking water was a two person job. One person would pump and the other would hold the jug steady under the tap as the water shot out full blast – then they’d switch positions. Pumping enough water to fill six gallon jugs was too much for one person.

It wasn’t what I expected, but things seldom are. Living off the grid is hard work. I never fully realized just what it would take.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the peaceful mornings around the campfire. I loved having everyone take a step back from their electronic devices to talk, laugh, and be with one another. I liked seeing everyone pitch in to complete the daily chores.

Sometimes, reality is a hard pill to swallow, but the reality is – living off the grid isn’t for me.

I prefer the creature comforts of my Beast where I can enjoy a hot shower and a soft bed.

Daily Post: Jeopardize

Camping Adventure: Tenting across the USA

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Day 1:

Here we go. Finally, we are setting off on our tenting adventure. I’m so excited, I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. We pulled out a little after 9:30 a.m. Being a family of five, it takes awhile to get us all bathed and out the door. We also did two loads of laundry and cleaned the Beast, so our RV home is nice and tidy when we get back to it.

Along the way, we stopped at Carroll’s Sausage and Country Store in Ashburn, Georgia. An old fashioned gem, it sells everything from jars of pickled peaches to pecan rolls to thick slabs of peppered bacon. Happy to get out of the car and stretch our legs, we meandered through the store checking out its various offerings. Splurging, we couldn’t resist picking up a pound of their thick peppered bacon and some seven pepper snack sticks. Storing the bacon in our ice chest, we broke into the savory pepper sticks as we got back on the road.

The first night, we stayed at McKinney Campground along Lake Allatoona in Acworth, Georgia. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful camp for our first night.

Pulling in as the sun was setting, we rushed to get camp set up. Trying to figure out our brand new tent was a calamity of errors – we couldn’t find the directions, we find the directions, we didn’t have enough poles, we find the missing poles, and finally success. Our tent is standing. We have a place to sleep for the night. Thankfully, the rest of our camp set up went off without a hitch.

Exhausted after a long day’s drive, we were soon ready for bed. Wanting to watch the fireworks light up the night sky while fighting the suffocating heat of the Georgia summer, we decided to leave the rain roof off our tent. A foolish and reckless decision resulting in a wet soggy morning. Early the next morning, the sky opened up releasing the rains. Scrambling, we packed as fast as we could and headed to the showers. Fortunately, the rains let up, so before heading out I could grabbed some pictures of the breath taking lake.

Day 2 and Day 3:

Getting back to nature is tough. It takes a lot of work to live this way. I don’t think I fully realized how much work this trip would be. I have been a bit spoiled in my Beast.

Shaking off the sogginess of our morning misadventure, we are soon crooning along to my daughter’s eclectic musical tastes. A little Bowie, a little Reba, a little Def Leppard.

Driving through Tennessee and Kentucky, we are awed by their sheer beauty. Tennessee’s trees and mountains and Kentucky’s corn fields are a sight to behold. We’ve spent some time in Tennessee, but have only ever driven through Kentucky. Making plans to come back and explore both in greater depth, we keep moving.

Pulling into Johnston City, Illinois, we are once again shaking hands with the clock. The sun set long ago forcing us to set up camp in the dark. Thankfully, we remembered how to set up the tent, this time we included the rain roof.

Tired and still needing to dry out our gear, we decide to stay in Johnston City for two days instead of one. This would give us a chance to do laundry, reorganize our gear, and just relax a little. Little did we know, what lay ahead.

Checking the weather on Tuesday night, we were supposed to have mainly clear skies with only a 30% chance of rain fall. Not too bad. We could see the clouds begin moving in Wednesday morning as we ate our delicious peppered bacon and some eggs for our breakfast. Smarter this time around, we had everything tucked away inside the car or the tent. The rain wasn’t supposed to stick around, so we weren’t too worried about it. Ducking into the tent as the rain began to fall, I checked the weather again to see when it was supposed to stop. The weather channel had since upgraded the occasional afternoon rain to a full day of severe thunderstorms. Hunkered down in our tent, we were once again at the mercy of the weather.

Thankfully, our tent held up with only a few minor leaks. The storms broke long enough for us to do laundry and for us to cook some dinner. We won’t be able to dry out, like we’d hoped – maybe at our next stop, we’ll find sunny skies….image

 

 

 

Onward, We Go…

imageIt’s still early. I have time. Careful not to wake my sleeping family, I quietly make my morning cup of coffee, grab my laptop, and head outside. I cherish these moments – quiet moments before the people I love most in the world are up and about. It’s the perfect time to sit, think, and write.

We leave tomorrow. I can hardly wait. I’m so excited. I’m almost giddy. We’ve been stationary for a few months now, and it’s making me restless. The road has been calling to me, beckoning.

This time will be a bit different. We are leaving our home behind. The Beast will be secured in storage while we tent for the next month. Taking advantage of the summer months, we are going to get out doors and get back to basics.

We’ve been preparing all week, and we’re almost ready. There are just a few odds and ends that remain. It’s been a long haul, deciding between necessities and frivolities. Yes, I could make do with just a sleeping bag laid out on the ground, but am I prepared for the havoc that will wreak on my back? I don’t think that I am. An air mattress may be considered a frivolity by some,  but I deem it a necessity.  I’m not as young as I once was. None of us are. Traveling with our Beast is a luxury I’ve become accustomed to. It is so much easier just being able to just tighten down the hatches before hitting the road. It may be a little harder this way, but it’ll be fun.

Onward, we go….

U.S.A Traveling Tips and Tricks

 

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I’ve been on the road for a year, but people still don’t understand. I’m often questioned by people in my old life. Why? How? Their looks of confusion and sometimes derision are both amusing and annoying. They can’t seem to understand why or how I could give up my old life to live this way, but that is okay. They don’t need to. My journey is not theirs. However, for those of you who share my interest in living this way, I’d like to share with you a few things, I’ve learned along the way.

  • This is a life not a vacation. 
    • Before deciding to take this step, I read everything I could on the subject of full time travel. Like a sponge, I absorbed information and advice from all directions. It was one of these articles, in particular, that resonated with me. It was about a powerful executive married couple who gave up their stationary lives to travel the world. However, in less than a year, they were broke and working ‘menial’ jobs, so they could eat and have a place to sleep at night. Instead of living within their means, they blew through their money on extravagant activities, four star hotels, and elaborate meals. Bemoaning their new lives, they warned people in the article not to do what they did. No, they weren’t warning people not to blow through their money as if there’s no tomorrow, they were warning people not to become full time travelers. This couple’s irresponsibility served me well. I continuously remind myself this is my life, not a vacation. It is important to budget accordingly. It also made me question myself on my dedication to do what was necessary to live this life. Would I be willing to stop traveling if needed to re enter the workforce, and take on ‘menial’ jobs (as they put it) to build up my travel fund if needed? The answer came only too easily. Unequivocally “YES.” There is no shame in a hard honest day’s work. I’ve done it before, and I’d gladly do it again to be able to be a full time traveler.
  • Cutting costs from the very beginning, we did everything we could to eliminate extravagant monthly bills that would prevent us from traveling.
    • Shopping around, we found a second-hand RV within our means. Paying cash for it up front, we bought it outright. Working together, we invested hard work and sweat equity into it to making it a comfortable, accommodating home that is distinctly ours. By doing this, we were able to increase the value of our RV while saving ourselves from having costly monthly payments.
    • Debt can be destructive to freedom. We avoid credit cards. If we can’t afford to pay cash for what we need, we simply do without.
  • We rarely eat out. Cooking at home is economical, healthier, and simply tastes better.
  • We avoid buying snacks or drinks from convenience stores when filling up our vehicle with diesel. It is an expensive convenience, we do without.
  • We are a family of five which can become expensive very quickly when traveling and sightseeing.
    • Fortunately, the United States has a wealth of free and low cost fun, entertaining, and educational attractions and activities. Doing my homework ahead of time, I google each state we travel in, and notate what is available.
    • I keep my eyes peeled for discounts, coupons, and offers that may make sightseeing more affordable and accessible.
      • The America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is one such amazing deal. For a low yearly cost, this pass provides entrance or access to more than two thousand Federal Recreation Parks and Sites through out the United States. It is definitely a great deal, and has saved my family a ton of money.  Find a Federal Park
    • Get off the beaten path. I love big cities, but small towns have their own distinct charm. Explore what is out there.
    • For those attractions that may be more expensive, we simply do as other families do. We save until we have the money to go. Disneyworld may be the happiest place on Earth, but it is definitely not the most affordable.
  • Campgrounds and RV parks are often spendy. Boondocking is a great way to combat this expense.
    • Wal-Mart’s, Home Depot, and Lowes are usually pretty accommodating if you park at the far end of their parking lots. However, I always call and speak with a manager to receive permission beforehand. There are some cities whose ordinances forbid boondocking.
    • Free Campsite Interactive Map is another wonderful tool, I frequently use. This interactive map is a great way to locate various free and low cost campsites in any area you happen to be in. Providing reviews and coordinates, this map is easy to use.
  • Always be safe. 
    • Trust your instincts. image
    • Do NOT catalog where you’ve been on a map you adhere to the side of your RV. This is a dangerous practice. By doing this you are notifying everyone that you are a full time traveler who has everything you own in your RV (electronics, jewelry, and personal documents). While it is fun to document and record your adventures, just keep it to the inside of your RV.
    • Invest in a weather radio. These radios will alert you to storms along the way that you may not be aware of. There is nothing worse than driving into something you could easily have avoided.
    • Joining AAA is a travel service that is well worth the money. If you have a breakdown on the road, help is only a phone call away.
  • Be friendly and meet the locals. They often know about the best places to go, to shop, and to eat (when you decide to splurge).

I’ve only been on the road for a year, but I can’t imagine going back to my old life. Why would I? This is the life, literally. I may have had a large home with four bedrooms, two and a half bath, but I was never there to enjoy any of it. 70, 80, 100 hour work weeks were the norm. I saw my family in passing on my way to work or my way to bed. Now, I live simply but the rewards are far greater.