Brad Waters, a licensed clinical social worker, takes an in-depth look into the lives of two neighbors living off the grid in Michigan’s upper peninsula in a recent article for Psychology Today. And it’s fascinating.
The Jungwirths and the Larsons live three miles apart. Both neighbors live miles way from the nearest power line, making their existence without any electricity. No microwave, Internet, you name it. But the Jungwirths sometimes do run a small TV with power from solar panels. Waters, who is a life and career strategy coach-consultant, even wrote in his article that he had to communicate with Charlie Larson by exchanging letters via snail mail; John Jungwirth on the other hand had a cellphone.
Although many would balk at such an existence without the use of modern technology, Waters reported a drastically different perspective from the off-the-grid households:
“It keeps my brain healthy. It’s a paradise,” Jungwirth responded, when asked about the psychological impact of living off the grid. “It’s nice to be alone and have time to think, but when you don’t have many people around you do relish people.”
A typical Thursday for Larson includes traveling to town to pick up mail and a few groceries and visiting with family. It takes a few hours to drive back to his cabin where he tends his cactus collection, weaves tapestries — the fiber is homespun and the loom homemade, Waters includes — and grinding grain for breakfast.
Off the grid to the Jungwirhts also means a life without medical insurance too. According to the article, Jungwirht hasn’t been to a hospital for care since 1988.
“We’re experts with infections and skin abrasions, tinctures for colds. When you don’t have insurance, you really pay attention,” Jungwirht said. “Connecting to others is real insurance.”
What does it take to go off the grid? Mother Nature Network recently reported Nick Rosen, founder of the Off-Grid website and author of “Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America,” saying it doesn’t take much.
“As long as it’s the right half-acre,” that’s about all you need, Rosen said. By right he means, hopefully with some woodland, space for farming, light for solar power and a good water supply.
“The era of 40 acres and a mule has been replaced by the era of a half an acre and a laptop and a solar panel,” he said, according to MNN.
He acknowledged it can be still be a lot of work though, even on a small plot of land.
Rosen too discussed why people decide upon this sort of lifestyle. Reasons included environmental consciousness, finances and “loss of trust in the government and social networks to look after us.” The latter is one of the biggest reasons he said people are going off the grid today.
Why did Larson, who has lived this way for 26 years, choose it? After waiting for weeks to get his reply letter via traditional mail, Waters recorded this account:
“When I was in junior high, my great uncle and my grandfather took me to stay at a camp which is down to my East about 4 miles or so,” he wrote. “After staying there that night I always wanted to live out in the woods. Just getting up in the morning and smelling all the clean fresh air was enough to hook me. Everything was so sweet and fresh smelling, and you could detect the different odors throughout the day and into the evening. All different, telling you the time of day or night. No rush to get things done, but things do get done. You enjoy doing them and at a slower pace but satisfying one.”
Read more of Water’s article in Psychology Today about the two households living off the grid here.