Living Off-Grid, Really?!

Reader Contribution by Aur Beck and Advanced Energy Solutions Group
article image

My name is Aur “DaEnergyMon” Beck, and I have lived off-grid with solar electricity as my source of power for 18 years. Growing up, I had unique parents that decided to live off-grid in a low-tech way and we moved to what I’m told it is the poorest County in Tennessee to set up a homestead.

I grew up with wood as a cooking source and heat, candles and kerosene lamps for light. We grew our own vegetables and we had chickens and goats for dairy. It was a very simple life. We didn’t shun society in any way; we just picked and chose what parts of society we wanted to have inundate our lives. 

My dad decided that instead of working his whole life and saving up enough money to retire, he would retire while he was young and able. Basically my dad decided that instead of saving up enough money to travel he would live in vacation mode. He just simplified his life and somehow he convinced my mom to do the same.

My whole life, until I was about 20, consisted of us (my parents and myself were joined with 3 other siblings over the years) traveling by drawn covered wagon through a recorded 14,000 miles across 24 states. I have lived in 34 states and 4 countries now, where having “lived” somewhere consists of staying there for longer than 2 months. I have visited 45 US states and 9 countries that I can remember. 

In between trips where we worked our way around the country, we would homestead through winters in places with nicer winter weather — places like Alabama or Tennessee (where it also has a lower cost of living) and including one winter in Israel.

We always had horses, of course, but also cats, goats and chickens. Growing up low-tech made life fun, with a fire — either camp or woodstove — for cooking and heating, with candles, kerosene lanterns, or battery-operated devices for lighting, and with going to town once a month for groceries and laundry. 

During the winters or between horse-powered trips, we almost always had a basic workhorse truck and would have a telephone for earning money/business. The phone would only be on the hook 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for work calls.

I remember once when we parked our bus-home in the back of a field and needing to run over half a mile of phone line to the bus for our phone. I now find it hilarious that we had a phone but no running water or electricity while we were living in the bus. 

We had gotten the old bus that was partially converted into living quarters with shelves, bunk beds, etc. It even had a wooden roof on it that kept it much cooler in the summer. We added a wood stove, propane gas stove, and a sink, but no running water, and we had no continuous refrigeration — well, no refrigeration except for our coolers. When we went to town, we would buy ice which only lasted a few days. Rarely did we use our coolers for more than a few days as ice was expensive.

Besides food and occasionally propane, our only other expenses were truck expenses like gas and insurance and our phone bill, but both of those would earn us money. Growing up low-tech off the grid has made me appreciate my life. I have learned and studied and installed solar for a living. I have known since I was 15 that solar would be my life and passion. 

As time has gone on, it has become easier and more affordable to live off-grid without sacrificing comfort and conveniences. Since I have grown up without “modern” conveniences, I don’t know any better but I could see it being difficult for people used to having it all to be able to learn about living off-grid.

The living off-grid mentality is about not wasting, learning to use electricity when the sun shines, designing your life and systems to be more simple and lower tech. When the power goes out or when camping, people shift their mentalities to an off-rid mentality. 

Of course, this is living off-grid to the max without conveniences, but learning to not waste makes it so we don’t have to worry about making or finding the energy to run things.

The living off-grid mentality for me goes beyond just electricity but into my whole life. As such, I am going to provide to you a series of posts on how I grew up, how I now help people design off-grid lifestyles, and what I think are ways we can all simplify our lives. 

I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there. Stay energized.

Aur Beckhas lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous and a talk show cohost at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on theLiving Off Grid, Really!?!?Facebook page.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.