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Is Living off grid really the dream?

We wanted to know what’s motivating people right now, to take the plunge and live the off grid dream?

Written by Jake and Phil

Ask yourself, could you give it all up, every creature comfort you’ve grown to know and depend upon, and go and live purely off the land?

Could you produce your own food, create your own power, source your own water, and essentially live each day to survive, the old school way?

Over the past year, there has been an increase in people wanting to live off grid.

Communes across the country have reported a surge in people contacting them, wanting to volunteer, or to find out how they can be part of what seems to be a rapidly growing movement.

We don’t doubt there are a number of factors influencing peoples decision to seek an alternative way of living, but we wanted to know what exactly is driving people to go and live the off grid dream?


What does it take?

I have always been fascinated with a different way of living. There’s without doubt something deep inside me, that seeks another way of life. So for me, I can relate to the reasons behind making such a move. 

Never the less, here I am, sat on my laptop, in my centrally heated, double glazed, fully insulated flat, writing this blog before I make my way to bed, to get some sleep before I have to start work tomorrow at 9am.

I’m nowhere near my off grid dream!

So what does it take to grab those… and actually do it?

We asked one of Tinkers Bubble residents, Phil, what it was that motivated him to make possibly one of the biggest decisions of his life, to pack it all in, and go off grid?

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

In physical form I am 34, 6`3″, skinny with an imperial nose. If you were to meet me you would probably find me quiet and reserved unless we were engaged in activities I have a passion in, in which case you may find yourself overloaded with information.
I can never squeeze enough hours out of the day and love to spend them in metalwork, music, working with animals and building/fixing/riding pushbikes (the weirder the better).

How long have been living off grid?

I have been off grid since August last year (2020).
For a good ten years or so I had been reading and researching off grid living and lives lived more sustainably.
Unfortunately despite all my reading and research I never believed it was possible. I suppose I thought it the realm of landowners.
I remember now every story I read described a city-dweller converting to sustainability with the aid of substantial savings or inheritance, something I was unlikely to ever see.
In all honesty, mainstream life was grinding me down at the beginning of last year.
I felt increasingly distant from my food sources, living in a terrace made me itch and I had no-one around me to whom I could talk to about the importance of sustainability and our impact on our environment without hitting a wall of resignation (“what difference will one person make?”).
In one evening of frustration I booked myself on to the Tinkers Bubble forestry weekend, for an escape if nothing else.
Its funny to think now but I so nearly didn’t come.
I was tired. A tiredness more than physical and I wanted to hide from the world, I didn’t particularly relish the idea of a busy weekend with lots of new people.
I won’t spoil how good these weekends are but on the Monday, I got back from the weekend, I gave in my notice to work and to my landlady.
I decided I would pack my life onto the back of a bike and set off to throw myself into this new world I had discovered.

What were you doing before?

Before here I lived up in Harrogate, Yorkshire. I rented a house that kept me close enough to work so I could walk or cycle.
I worked 9-5 as a mechanic at a local family run garage. I spent my weekends cycling, walking my dog in the gorgeous Dales or doing something creative with metal.
I would occasionally get an escape further afield; bike packing in Wales, a winter escape to the Cairngorms or a family gathering in the Lakes.
I was a mechanic for 6 years, before that I ran a café, cleaned schools, worked in hotels, the usual mix of small jobs.
I could do well in academic life, I had A-levels and went to University to study music and I loved to read anything from Plato to Iain M. Banks. And in all that time I never came across what I have here. Purpose, maybe? meaning?

What motivated you to choose an ‘alternative’ way of living?

I’m not sure I would say I chose this life.
I could choose to go back to a mainstream existence but I think I ended up here because, like a scalextric set, I slotted in and some magnet within me keeps me on track (we’ll see what happens at the first sharp corner!).
A life lead closer to the surrounding environment and with a great deal of awareness of the wider environment and conditions was something I always admired and the auxiliaries of life: a job, owning a house, more money, bigger car, overseas holidays never really attracted me.
I had a job to pay for the house that I only chose because it was near work and I don’t like cars (I know, a mechanic that hates cars!).
I liked the idea of travelling abroad but then I would spend a weekend in the dales, just me, my bike and my dog and the clearness of mind that came with that closeness to the earth and the presence of being in the moment was overwhelming.
The motivation, then, must have been an initial push from a life I didn’t believe in but my motivation now, to keep me with the land is an ever increasing understanding of the importance of humans in saving not only the physical environment and the beauty so easily portrayed in a nature documentary, but also a culture that is quickly evaporating.
A culture of symbioses between human and Earth.
We look after her, she’ll look after us.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

When I first read that question my reaction was “pah, ain’t a challenge” but I’m looking back with relief, some challenges have already been completed.
The biggest challenge, and this may be more so for people reading this, was the severing of that life I had lived for 33 years. It wasn’t just that I packed a bag, jumped on my bike and rode into a gorgeous album-cover sunset.
I remember getting in the car to leave the Bubble after that forestry weekend. I did not want to go home. I now had this iron conviction for the direction of my life but I had a life already.
Thinking about it overwhelmed me at one point and I had to pull over and just cry it out.
Getting home I had to hand my notice in at work, a place I really did enjoy working at, and we were a close knit team, I would call us a family. I had to break up with my girlfriend of the time as this was a very different direction to where we were heading. This was also one journey I couldn’t undertake with my partner in crime – my Patterdale terrier, Patty – who now lives very happily with my parents.
And after all that I had to downsize my life to a bike and a bag.
All credit goes to my parents who know me better than I do and weren’t surprised in the slightest. They have always been and always will be the epitome of support.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to purse a similar lifestyle?

Just do it!
Get out there and meet people, get involved in projects and trust in the cosmic slot-car race.
I could have spent years planning an off grid life, saving and researching and deciding how I wanted to do it but within months the plans would have to be changed or adapted. All the time spent working for money is less time spent working on your skills.
I remember a story I was told back ‘Up North’ about a chap who bought a bit of land to grow some veg for his family. Very commendable but he couldn’t understand why the tractor rep on the end of the phone couldn’t stop laughing. She had asked how much land he had in acres. He said “1”. She said “what, 1000?”. “No, 1 acre”. He still spent tens of thousands of pounds on a brand new tractor.
If you are reading this then you are already interested enough to have the drive. As with all the life I am surrounded by it all starts with a little seed and, if you’ve read this far you know one person does make a difference.
Written by: Phil from Tinkers Bubble

Tinkers Bubble

South Somerset's Hidden Gem

A place that’s incredibly close to my heart!

Photographed above is Mike Zair, one of Tinkers Bubble’s founders. Back in 1993 Mike and a few other forward thinking, ambitious nature lovers set up a 28 acre commune, based in Little Norton, Somerset.

The residence live a low carbon existence, and build homes using wood directly from their woodland, cut in their super cool saw mill (powered by a steam train!) and by up-cycling materials many would consider waste. 

If you would like to find out more, click the tab below to visit their website.

Tinkers Bubble needs our help!

Built in 1937, at the heart of Tinkers Bubble is their old Marshall Britannia steam engine. 

This old engine powers the saw mill using steam produced by cogs that have been turning for 84 years, and may be the only remaining commercial portable steam engine in the country.

But she is in need of a bit of TLC. 

Please could you help the residents of Tinkers Bubble keep their engine going? If so, please click HERE to donate.

In memory of Mike Zair

Mike wasn’t just the founder of an awesome commune, Mike also taught me a lot throughout the years. I got to know Mike through my mountain biking.

I was 14 years old when I took a shovel up to the woods to start digging mountain biking trails.

It was Mikes land! Whoops!

But I wasn’t met with a frosty reception, but a want to educate and work with me.

From that day I would visit Mike at the Bubble, I’d see him at the village fates, I’d see him at the pub sharing one shot amongst the group (very rarely might I add), I’d see him everywhere. 

He was a very well known member of the community 🙂

The last time I saw Mike, he was struggling with a back pack full of supplies, a few miles from home. I of course gave him a lift, and made arrangements to visit him seeing as it had been such a long time!

Life got in the way, and I couldn’t visit him, I’d left it to long! 

Mike passed away Christmas 2019.

I hadn’t appreciated until afterwards how much Mike had impacted my life, so I guess this is an ode to Mike, and a nudge to everyone reading, don’t leave things…