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Living Off the Grid in Alaska

by ATJ Posted in The Alaska Experience Blog |


Deep down, many of us share the same secret thought: What would it be like to chuck the city life, disconnect from the “real world” and live totally off the grid? Alaska is the perfect place to give it a try. With so much frontier left untouched, Alaska is ripe for making a go of it. Taking a seasonal job in Alaska is the perfect way to save up some money to launch into a life in the backcountry. But how do you get started? What does it really take to live off the grid? Here are six things to do to get started living independently on Alaska’s frontier.

Simplify your life. A streamlined, quiet life without all the stressors and clutter of city life sounds pretty nice to most of us—but the catch is, it takes work to get there. In order to survive in an idyllic cabin in the woods, you have to first be able to fit all the stuff you need in that cabin and adjust your energy demands to fit your supply. Maybe that means cleaning out closets and paring down your wardrobe to a few super functional items. Maybe that means weaning yourself off the TV, since you might not have enough energy to be running a home entertainment system. You probably won’t be getting any cable, anyway. Sounds pretty peaceful, right?

Suss out your water supply. If you’re not hooked into a municipal system, you’ll have to figure out where you’ll get your water, and how you’ll treat it. Will your place have a well? Rain buckets? Does a stream run alongside it? Figuring out where your water will come from will help you decide how—and whether or not—to treat it or filter it. It will all depend on the particular spot where you decide to settle.

Hook up your own energy. Want electricity? Unless you choose to live by firelight, you’ll need some sort of self-sufficient energy system. The good news is, home systems are more accessible and affordable than ever. Some people choose wind-power systems, some opt for solar. Which one you choose might largely depend on which of those two natural resources you’ll have more access to where you choose to settle. For example, if you’ll be living somewhere with super short days during the winter (like Alaska), solar power might be a problem. Some people hook up a combination of the two.

Nail down a food plan. Here’s the thing: Living off the grid usually means you can’t just stroll over to your neighborhood supermarket every day. Even if you decide you don’t need to be completely self-sufficient, you’ll have to plan ahead to make sure you have what you need to survive far away from conventional food supplies. Maybe that will mean buying in bulk and stockpiling. Maybe that means starting your own subsistence garden. Or raising a few animals for eggs, milk or meat. The easiest way to transition is slowly, instead of trying to do a whole slew of things you’ve never done all at once.

Figure out waste disposal. Sure, it might seem simple to figure out your energy, food and water supplies. But what will you do with the waste you produce? Odds are, you won’t have a trash truck coming by once a week. Or a sewer line hooked up. Thankfully, composting toilets aren’t too difficult to set up, and with a little creativity, lots of household trash can be reused or recycled, if not composted. It just takes a little planning and execution.

Set up a PO box or UPS Store box—if you want. How off the grid do you really want to be? Even if you don’t have Internet access or phone service, you can still go old-fashioned with a PO box or a UPS Store box. They’ll hold your mail in town, so you can receive packages and pick them up when you want—no home mailbox needed.

The beauty of life off the grid is that it can look however you want it to look. You can go as simple and homespun or as luxurious as you want—it just takes some work and preparation. And few places offer such beautiful opportunity to try it out as Alaska.

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