Some Americans dream of living in cozy cul-de-sacs where their kids can safely play in the driveway, block parties are an annual event, and the mail, garbage, and gardening maintenance are someone else’s responsibility. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it's certainly not everyone’s vision of the American Dream.
More and more people are wondering what life is like outside these little neighborhood bubbles. They dream of endless land, growing their own food, supplying their own electricity, living without any sort of government assistance, and gaining a new sense of independence. If you crave peace, quiet, solitude, and a total alternative lifestyle, here are four places in the U.S. where you can truly live off the grid.
Despite being a small chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii’s still actually quite developed, and the majority of locals have all the modern technology that they need and more. That said, there are still opportunities to get off the grid – especially on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Here, the sunshine makes it easy to generate electricity via solar panels and the rainy days fill up the cisterns. However, the amount of sunshine and rain you’ll get varies greatly depending on which part of the Big Island you decide to settle in – the west side is typically sunny while the east side of the island is known for being rainy. (For example, Hilo gets about 143 inches of rain each year.) Additionally, the Big Island’s fertile soil is great for growing fruits and vegetables like taro, tomatoes, papaya, and leafy greens.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from tropical island life is Alaska. While it’s nothing like Hawaii in terms of climate and weather, it’s similar in that it offers an excellent environment for off-grid living – if you’re okay with the cold! Alaska’s wild and remote terrain was made for this sort of independent lifestyle. Acres of untouched land can be snatched up here for much less than you’d pay in most other states, making it the perfect place to resettle if pure nature and lack of civilization is what you seek.
There are also very few state laws limiting what you can do on your own land. For example, you can garden or raise a farm without any sort of permit as long as you provide your animals with warm and adequate housing. Gun laws in Alaska are loose and hunting is a way of life. And all that snow? It simply means water is never a worry. Additionally, there is no income, sales, or state tax which means your money stretches further in the most northern U.S. territory. Life in Alaska may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely an off-the-grid dream location for the intrepid.
Three Rivers Recreation Area, Oregon
If dealing with zoning restrictions, creating a water and food source from scratch, and generally “going it alone” sound too intimidating, don’t worry. There are people who have come before you with the off-grid living idea and created “pockets” of land fully equipped for off-grid living. Three Rivers Recreation Area in central Oregon is a prime example. The entire 4,000-acre community sustains itself on solar power, wind power, and fuel generators. Roughly 80 full-time residents enjoy the rugged and peaceful outdoors provided by their self-sustaining arrangement.
The location is probably one of this community’s biggest draws, surrounded by National Grass Lands, forests and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Residents have access to water thanks to the Metolius River, Lake Billy Chinook, and the commercial well built on the property. Complete with black sand beach, boat launch, mooring area, and recreational building, this community is already fully up and running. Enjoy complete privacy in the picture-perfect nature, embark on hiking, fishing, and hunting trips, or socialize with the other members in the communal areas. How you live is up to you. With roughly 600 properties ranging from multi-million dollar abodes to simple cabins (some of which are for sale now), your off-the-grid home is literally ready and waiting!
The lack of government and state intervention makes Missouri a shining star when it comes to off grid living. In fact, the state laws here seem to encourage this type of lifestyle! Want proof? Building permits are not required in most of the state’s rural areas. This makes throwing up your own little off-grid dwelling a simple bureaucratic process. And – in contrast to nearly everywhere else in the U.S. – having your own septic system and well is not required.
Missouri does experience all four seasons; however, winters tend to be milder than other Midwest states. Additionally, the rain and snowfall mean sourcing water is not a problem. General laws that need to be taken into consideration before going off-grid match up nicely with Missouri state laws. For example, homeschooling regulations are very relaxed (parents aren’t required to notify the state of homeschooling). Lastly, rural Missouri offers great farming and gardening opportunities. Raising livestock and growing your own produce is completely legal and the temperate weather and open spaces make it ideal.
About the authors:
Sarah Etinas is a Hawaii local and full-time travel writer who has written for Time Out, Honolulu Magazine, and The Culture Trip amongst others. When she's not writing, Sarah practices what she preaches by traveling to new destinations, hiking to beautiful waterfalls, and exploring her home.
Fiona Mokry is an island-life loving Dive Master, traveling the globe and exploring as much of the world as possible. When she’s not scuba diving, she’s writing about her adventures and sharing them with others.