You know, when I first started Off Grid World I thought I’d be living off grid soon. I wanted to move off grid. I was fed up with the current system, was in a financial bind (homeless), and had no where to go. I was living with friends, separated from my girlfriend and my daughter, and needed to get up off my ass and do something that could provide a solid foundation and stable life for my child. I had a big plan on how to do it, how to make the move off grid, to live sustainably, generate my own power, build my own cabin and grow my own food. Now (2017), 5 years later I’m still not off grid. I ask myself why that is and many reasons (or excuses) pop into my head. It’s been a long tough road and I probably could have moved off grid a many times, really anytime during the past 5 years but it’s not that simple. At least for me, it was not as simple as I thought it would be. I’m writing this for multiple reasons, not the least of which is I’m kicking myself for letting the many opportunities slip through my fingers.
Somewhere along the line I lost track of my goals. I let the business dictate to me what I was going to do.
I did well. Very well. I pulled myself out of the financial hole and out of homelessness. I sold everything I owned (had no choice because I needed money to survive). I the saved money I made, did odd jobs, and traveled over 5000 miles to be with my family.
I pulled myself up by my bootstraps all the while going through unimaginable depression. I had literally lost everything near and dear to me. The relationship with my girlfriend, whom I was going to marry was over. I was separated from my daughter by thousands of miles. Lost my business, my car, and all my belongings. Belongings, material possessions really mean nothing in the scheme of things. Losing everything taught me that’s it’s just stuff and it can be replaced. What cannot be replaced is family. I lost sight of my goals due to a bad relationship. It took years, but things crumbled slowly around me, and within a few years everything collapsed.
Then I was alone, broke and homeless. It’s not a good feeling. You don’t know what you’re going to do. Panic creeps in and you have to do everything you can to hold it together and not lose your composure and sanity. When you lose everything and hit rock bottom it’s very difficult to find the strength to move forward.
I moved from California back to my home state of Florida. I had family there and I had a plan. I would sell my childhood possessions and raise enough money to move to South Dakota where my daughter was.
So I set to work. I stayed with a childhood friend after deciding not to stay with my family. I won’t go into detail about that because it’s very personal and it hurts to think about, but suffice it to say my childhood was not a happy one. The abuses I suffered in my household were not something I would wish on anyone. I thought I could suck it up and swallow my pride, but my family didn’t. They never changed. I did, but they were stuck in their little toxic world of negativity, contempt and disrespect.
I was an outsider in my own family and never felt like I belonged. The abuse I suffered under my father’s hand was unimaginably painful, both physically and emotionally. But, I still loved my family very deeply. They were after all my family. You can’t replace family. Right?
My parents were not in good health and I made the decision to forgive them and my sister for how they treated me. I wanted to say goodbye to them. They of course didn’t realize that was the reason I went to them. After a long and painful process and much thought I had made the difficult choice to cut ties with them for good. I was a father now, and after a lifetime of abuse and toxic negativity I could not subject my daughter to that. I would not. I refused to allow my daughter to be a part of their lives due to their lifestyles and negative attitudes. I did not take the decision lightly. I wanted desperately for my family to be whole, to be accepted for who I am, rather than being ostracized, alienated, and abused. I promised myself I would never put my child in that situation. So I went to my parents place gathered all my belongings that were stored there in their garage for years, and started selling them off to raise money to make the move.
It took 6 weeks but I did it. When I was done I had enough money to start a new life. During that time I tried to make peace with my family, but they just didn’t get it and refused to change for the better. I told them how much they hurt me, how alienated they made me feel with their harsh words and judgement. We didn’t discuss the abuse because it was just something we didn’t talk about. They have always been very critical of the things I did. Probably because they did not understand who I was.
I made the visit as pleasant as I could. But things were not good. They just didn’t understand. My dad was a construction worker and it’s all he knew, and he resented me for not going into the construction trade. He was also Army Special Forces and taught me from a young age to hunt, fish, camp and survive in the wilderness. He had a dream of having a cabin in the mountains one day. A humble place where he could live off the land and live out his life in peace and enjoy nature.
Amazingly, through all the toxic negativity he had and the abuse he inflicted on my and my sister, somehow he taught me the value of life and an appreciation for nature and the natural world that transcended money and what it could buy. Material possessions meant nothing. He taught me that everything in life can be replaced but family, and that family is the most important thing in life.
Which is why it was extremely difficult for me to make the decision to cut ties. It seems bad from an outside perspective, to turn your back on your own family. I struggled with the decision for over a year, but it had to be done. It had to be done because of the one thing my father taught me that is most important about family. You must protect them.
My daughter was my family now. She comes before everything. It would be irresponsible for me to allow her to be subjected to my parent’s and sister’s toxicity. Words cannot describe how bad it was, and I refused to allow my daughter to be exposed to it, even for a moment.
So, I said my goodbyes to them, packed my things into two bags and got on a bus headed for my new life and my baby girl. Nothing would stop me from providing for her and protecting her. Nothing could keep me from giving her a good life.
After 3 days on a bus I arrived in South Dakota. It was a long rough trip, but I was here.
I started my new life. It took 3 months to find a good job and I lived off the money I saved. I rented a little cabin by a lake and it was good. Then I found an apartment. I had my own place, transportation, a stable job and was making a decent living. I had reconnected with my daughter and things started looking up.
After 6 months I had started a new company and was doing well enough to quit my job and work full time on my own business. I bought a new (used) Jeep and hired some people to work for me. Things were going very well indeed.
Then slowly I got complacent. I started drifting back into the system. You know, the system of material things, money, big screen TV, Xbox, video games, the latest cell phone, fancy dinners out, lots of money spent on things that don’t matter. Somehow along the way I let myself get pulled back into the system and then slowly I started losing sight of my original goals to move off grid.
Business was good, life was good, I was making great money, had a successful business, had lots of things, but I still was not happy. Something was missing. So I decided it was time to start dating again. After my breakup it was over a year before I felt like dating anyone. I felt I needed to focus on my life and build a stable foundation for my daughter. So that’s what I focused on. That’s what I did.
But that nagging feeling kept creeping back in. That I wasn’t doing enough to make my life and that of my child’s more fulfilling. I had a stable income, a good apartment, a nice vehicle, food on the table, and all sorts of material things. I thought I was doing it right, that I could just fill the void of unhappiness in my life with things. I bought my daughter all kinds of toys and nice clothes (at the discount store of course). But none of that made me happy. We were stable. My daughter was safe and in a loving, caring household. But even that wasn’t enough to make me happy.
Why!? Why was I feeling this way? We had everything we needed and more. Everything was great. Why was I not happy? Was I expecting too much? Was I not doing what I was supposed to do? What was the problem?
Then I figured it out. I was not happy because I lost sight of my original goals. Not the stable foundation of course, because I accomplished that.
My original goal was to build my own off grid homestead. To make the move off grid and live sustainably. To build my own cabin with the natural materials on my land. To grow my own food, fruits and vegetables and hunt for meat. To teach my daughter the value of life and an appreciation of nature like my father taught me. I wanted to live off the grid and provide that for my daughter, but I was not moving forward toward my goals anymore. I became stagnant, stuck in the quagmire and muck of the system of consumerism.
Over time I became less and less happy. Even resentful of the situation. A situation I had to admit, if I was being honest with myself, that I put myself in. I had no one to blame for my unhappiness but myself.
I let the business go, I let myself go, I let everything go. I stopped working toward my goals because I was lost and couldn’t decide what to do. I was slipping, and I continued to slip into the place that I once pulled myself out of. What the hell was my problem!? Why couldn’t I find the motivation anymore? Where did it go?
I didn’t like being stuck in a place I didn’t like. I resented having to be here in South Dakota. I wanted to be somewhere else. I hated it. I resented it with a passion. Though beautiful, SD is not really a place I wanted to put down roots. But I had to be here because it’s where my child is. Everything I was doing I thought I was doing for her. In the beginning that was true. But after I reached the goal of providing a stable home for her, I got sucked deep into the consumer system again and lost sight of my path.
I let myself slide so much it put me in a bad financial position again. So bad that I’m probably going to lose my apartment, and all my things. Things that really don’t matter to me, but it’s the loss (maybe) of a stable home for my baby girl. I have no one to blame but myself for that. It’s tough to admit your faults and bad decisions. I got carried away and let everything go. Now I’m in danger of losing it all. Again.
All because I was not happy. It was stupid. It was irresponsible. Here I am. In that place. That place that I once pulled myself up and out of. A place I thought I’d never be again.
Why am I saying all this? Why am I writing an article and publishing it publicly for all to read?
REASON 1: For my daughter. For my family. For our happiness. For our health. To provide my family with the true things that really matter. Stability. Sustainability. Long term.
REASON 2: Because I’m done! I’m done playing the game. I’m done with the system. I’m done with living paycheck to paycheck. I’m done with consumerism. I’m done with material things. I’m done playing the game that everyone wants the world to play.
REASON 3: Because I hope that my story will motivate and inspire people to do the same. To motivate others to make the move off grid, to build a new and better more fulfilling life. To inspire others to create a sustainable living system that their family can benefit from.
I pulled myself out of homelessness and helplessness to build a wildly successful and profitable business. I worked hard and built something that has inspired millions of people all over the world.
I also wrote this to apologize to my people, subscribers, followers, fans, and the millions of people that have enjoyed my writings and the writings of others on OGW over the years. I’m sorry I let you guys down. I stopped caring. I stopped working hard. I didn’t do what needed to be done. I failed to provide the information and delivery of the content as I originally planned, and all because I felt sorry for myself and got lost in the system. For that I apologize. Sincerely and from the bottom of my heart. I pledge from this day forward I will never go down that road again.
I call myself a “Wannabe” because I wanted to move off grid but didn’t because I got caught up in the system. I failed myself and my family in that regard. I lost sight of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.
Off Grid World is the foundation of my original goals. It’s a mechanism of communication and inspiration. Full of motivational stories, ideas, designs and goals for living sustainably. I created Off Grid World to help others make the move off grid. I created OGW to share my ideas and dreams and to educate others. To share inspirational stories of others who have made their living off the grid.
We should all live off the grid. Sustainably. Grow our own food, build our own homes, and share our stories with others and teach them to others so that they may also be able to achieve their own off grid dreams.
I created Off Grid World to help people achieve their off grid goals and to live the sustainable lifestyle.
I’m going back to my original goals.
I’m going off grid!
Story by Eric Wichman
Founder, Off Grid World
Thursday 10th of August 2017
I would love to hear about your solar system for the RV. does it power everything? Can you run your AC full time and still watch tv 24/7 without interruptions.? Also, I can only assume you use propane for your stove and heat?
Saturday 13th of May 2017
Well said, Eric. To lay that all on the table like that takes guts. I have known you for I think 25 years now and you always manage to come out on top. Just remember, how would you know where the top was if you had not started from the bottom? We must push ourselves forward. We are human. We make choices. Some good, some bad. However, we may make mistakes, but we never fail. We only learn new ways that do not work. Failure is an option for some but not for me and it shouldn't be for you. We can only regret the things we have not done. Things we have done are experiences and these, good, bad or ugly, made us who we are. We are either a product of our environment or our environment is a product of us. Either way, it is by choice. We spend our lives thinking we are looking for things... The right job, the right home, the right husband or wife. The fact is we are looking for something that we never seem to find and that is ourselves. Who are we? Why are we here? The answer is actually very simple when you know where to look. The question is......
Saturday 13th of May 2017
We don't mind at all -- happy to share what we've learned given any opportunity. Please feel free to edit if you want and share as much as you want to. JIM & ANNIE
Off Grid World
Saturday 13th of May 2017
Sounds great, will do! Thanks!
Thursday 11th of May 2017
========== Years ago I was a prepper too. I had bought in into one particular scenario and all these variables were supposedly coming to a head and (like Y2K), the world as we knew it was coming to an end. This guy had all the charts and all his doomsday scenarios all mapped out and I had bought every word of it -- hook, line, and sinker. But the prophesied day of horrendous chaos came and nothing happened. That day was no different from a thousand days before it; indistinguishable from thousands of days since. And I was DONE. Not only DONE with accepting someone else's version of reality and how to protect myself from it, but DONE with *any* individual, group, or agency who stands to profit from the promotion of FEAR -- just done with the whole notion of it. ========== I can relate to much of what you've written in this piece. I've lived through very similar situations myself. I think, too, that when we spend too much time trying to please others (or at least doing what we *think* will please them), we set ourselves up for ultimate failure. Only when we are true to our own personal vision and stay the course regardless of what anyone else thinks can we be assured of a successful outcome. At some point I made a decision to surround myself with people I love and (perhaps more importantly) people who at least seemed to love me and the rest of 'em could take a flying leap off the nearest cliff -- so-called friends, family, whomever. They were dead to me. And because they were dead to me, how could I possibly get upset about anything they did or didn't do? I have never regretted that decision. ========== I know that the typical "off grid" bundle is returning to the land, growing your own food, raising some domestic livestock, hunting and fishing for what you can get, etc. And I've no particular issue with any of these chores as long as they work -- I'm a huge fan of whatever works. But the big problem with all of these typical approaches is they require a major investment in land and infrastructure = which is a major investment in the dominant paradigm as it now seems to me . . . little more than perpetuation of the status quo. We working-class Americans, on average, spend nearly 50% of our income on a sheetrock box in which we sleep, take a shower, and cook some food to eat -- mostly so we can get up early the next morning and put in another thankless day of work for the Man. When you get to thinking about, it's almost criminal! Plus, on average, that box won't be paid for until we're 55 (if we're lucky and hop on the treadmill when we're 25). ========== I'm suggesting there is a cheaper way to live and live quite well. We call it "seriously offgrid on a shoestring." It's the way we've been living fulltime for 18 months now and we plan to keep on living this way as long as the powers that be will let me keep driving. We've actually lived this way for 23 months because it's how we lived the last five months while we were working at our jobs -- before I retired and my wife just quit her job. There are people living this life for $500/month and some couples do it for $300/month. I took the 25% cut and retired early at 62 (my wife won't be eligible for early SS until Feb 2020) but I also got a pension after 15 years working for the State of Idaho as a carpenter. So we currently live -- and live well -- the two of us -- for about $1,650 per month. And, trust me, we could live on a lot less if we had to but we eat fresh salmon as often as we want, we eat well, and we like wine so we buy it. I hope to get back into making our own homemade wine as I had that down to a fine art for about $1 per bottle. We also have two large cats who travel with us so we cover their minor expenses as well. ========== We live fulltime in a 1994 33' fifth wheel that we bought in 2015 for $4,200 and we tow it with a 2000 F350 (7.3 diesel and 4WD) that I bought about three years before I retired so it would be paid for when we hit the road. In 18 months, we have only spent $150 for a place to BE -- and every dollar of that was discretionary. We already had four RV/Marine 12-volt batteries and early on we paid $1,350 to get our initial solar system up and running in one day. Our guy (Solar Mike at The Sun Works near Niland, CA) provided all the equipment, materials, and labor and we lived with that system fulltime for 14 months -- a 420 watt PV panel and a 100 volt/40 amp MPPT charge controller. A few days later we bought (less than $200) a 300 watt pure sine wave inverter from the same guy but I installed it myself. We live as if we are plugged in 24/7 but we almost never are. Since then, we've made a few other upgrades to our system but it was perfectly adequate already . . . which is to say the additional money we've spent has been purely voluntary and truth be known it was quite a chunk of additional change for only a tiny bit more functionality. ========== We almost always get our water for FREE and we never pay more than $5 to dump our holding tanks. More often than not, we're able to dump them for FREE in various places as well. Because I was 62 (now 63), we paid $10 for what we call my 'geezer pass' and that gets us (*and* up to four people in our truck) in FREE to any of the 400+ national parks in the US. We typically find a FREE spot to camp close to whatever park entrance and then do multiple day trips to explore, hike, ride our mountain bikes, and check out the park. So far, we've been to Joshua Tree, the Grand Tetons, Petrified Forest, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Arches NP -- all FREE. Of course, we spend some money for fuel to make these trips but we return each evening to our paid-for RV with all the comforts of home. I do miss my girls (hens) and having a garden (and I could still do those things if I'm willing to get creative enough) but those are small sacrifices to make for a life of unlimited liberty and virtually zero stress. We take our house with us wherever we go so it's never a burden for us to spend a few days with family or friends. ========== There may come a time when it's no longer this much fun to travel and move about all over the west like we do = north in the summer months and south from Nov until May. When and if that day comes, we'll buy a small lot up in the mountains somewhere and convert our fifth wheel into more of a cabin with a snow roof and a covered porch. In southern AZ, there are many RV parks where one can get a special six-month rate (about $180/month with full hookups and for $100 more total (for the year), you can leave your RV there during the off season (when it's so HOT that most mortals bug out and move north). This reserves your spot and preserves your investment in shade awnings, carport, etc. So we could buy another used fifth wheel and just leave it in southern AZ = all set up and ready to go and just drive a small car back and forth. Living in the mountains is easy when you're retired because there is no commute. One can make a grub run every week or two and life is good. And then we could have chickens and a garden again -- at least during the summer months -- maybe loan our hens to a neighbor while we're gone during the winter months? Or take the girls with us -- like pets -- that would be fun :) ========== If you're interested, here are two recent 15-minute videos about us and our rig: Interview With Us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzwDLJ09E3c&t=109s&spfreload=10 More About our $4,200 33' Fifth Wheel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2yYBVajVrQ&t=116s We also have our travel blog = sailingondryland.com ========== JIM & ANNIE (currently living for FREE and loving it on BLM land near Moab, UT) PS ~ Which reminds me -- if anyone is looking to work a few months of each year and make enough to goof off the rest of the year, McDonald's here in Moab is hiring for the summer months = $12 an hour to start. ==========
Off Grid World
Thursday 11th of May 2017
Awesome story, Jim! I would love to publish your story on the blog and share it with my people. I know they would love to hear about your adventures and your off grid journey. Do you mind?