It’s happening now…living off-grid on a piece of land on the Balearic Islands with my man and two cats.
We’ve just started life from scratch.
There’s land, water, solar energy, a compost toilet, and an old tiny shed, which my partner is converting into a tiny home, and that’s about it. The rest we make ourselves.
The last weeks of December were chaotic and crazy. We moved all our stuff (which isn’t much) on our bicycles to our new place eight miles further from where we used to live. Even the cats were moved by bike in a trolley. I expected them to be stressed out, but I was the one who was stressed, not them.
The Mediterranean nights are cold now, and as I write this, my partner is working on a rocket mass heater, an efficient and eco-friendly wood burner. Also, the bricks and pipes he purchased were transported by bicycle. Everything we do, is by bicycle; we don’t own a car. You can imagine, it’s a long process.
The sand we scrape from a rock wall, is mixed with cement to paste the rocket stove bricks and to plaster the walls. Some days in winter, sunlight is scarce, so we need to use the solar power wisely, and building with the help of electrical tools have to wait until the batteries are charged sufficiently.
Our new off-grid adventure on the Majorcan countryside is an extreme exercise in patience and perseverance. And it’s way out of my comfort zone. Also, I noticed I can hardly explain this way of life to my family and friends, who live in central-heated houses with beautiful bathrooms and spacious kitchens. Our lives are so incredibly different; I’m still surprised how some of them try to understand all this and think of us as brave people.
Sometimes I can hardly understand it myself. My partner and I used to live in Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, with “normal” jobs as a contractor and jurist, and we were happy in the city. We went to restaurants, to techno parties, and traveled to New Zealand.
We used to make long hours and worked hard for it, like everyone who needs an escape every now and then. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, this structured life can benefit us. It isn’t always easy to let go of these known patterns and start a whole new life—in which we need to find a new kind of structure. We don’t always think about that when starting a new life; we only see the romantic side of it.
Honestly, there are moments I miss my old life, because I knew exactly what was expected from me—in my work and in my relations. There was structure and clarity, the things I needed to reinvent later.
My green, off-grid life feels unknown, scary, uncomfortable, but also incredibly free. Besides, with this lifestyle, we feel we give back to the planet. We make our own compost, we eat plant-based food, we don’t fly much and prefer traveling by train, bus, and ferry, and strive to be eco-friendly as much as possible. So if that means always cycling and sifting sand to plaster the walls instead of buying a big plastic bucket of chemical paint, it’s the way it is. At moments it feels great, satisfying, and even funny, and other moments I think, “What the hell am I doing? Why are we doing this so difficultly? Can’t we just live a ‘normal’ life? Let’s buy that damn paint!”
Yet, I’m dreaming this off-grid tiny home will be warm and sweet; the soil of the land will be rich so we can grow our own veggies; the sun will shine brightly so we have our solar energy, and the water will flow from the shower tap to the growing lemon trees in the garden.
Is it bad when this dream scares me at times, and when I long back to a “proper job” with “proper money” and a “proper home” where I take hot, abundant showers on chilly mornings and flush the toilet with (clean!) water like I always did?
Yes, working on the realization of our dreams is scary and uncomfortable. We might leave our safe occupations, take the leap of faith, and it could be possible we will discover this is not it. It could be it doesn’t work for us. The dream is actually a complex life, which feels insecure and extremely uncomfortable.
But, we will never know as long as we don’t try. It’s actually a luxury to take the time to try and shape the life we desire, to become a writer, to start a company, to travel the world, or to live a self-sustainable life. Because how often do we feel trapped by the choices we have made—the feeling we don’t have time and we can’t change jobs or leave a career we invested so much in? After all, we lose financial security and the job title we tend to identify ourselves with. To leave this “golden cage” behind can take years. I felt it all.
I’m dreaming of this self-sustainable life, and deep down, I know the challenges are worth it. It’s worth the discomfort I have now, the fear I can feel at moments.
It’s easy to forget the uncertainty I felt too when again a project was completed and I needed to find new work as a freelance jurist in Amsterdam. Life is uncertain; we just can’t look into a crystal ball to see the near future. It’s dangerous to look back and think things were easier in the past.
We have one life to grab the opportunities that are waiting for us to be seized. We shouldn’t let them pass when we want to make changes in our established lives that lead us to the roads less traveled.
We may have to live with inconveniences to get us there, but I know it isn’t the end of the world.
“Life is not about being safe and secure; life is about growing, learning, transforming.” ~ Dr. Sharon Blackie