Both of my parents retired in their 60s. It’s impressive they both worked as long as they did because I have a hard time envisioning myself working full time into my 60s (25+ more years). My dad’s career was not an easy one, especially working blue collar jobs with multiple back injuries. But I’ve learned a lot from observing him, including most recently what it’s like to have an untemplate off the grid retirement.
Out In The Middle Of Nowhere
My dad has always been an outdoorsy guy. He grew up playing on his grandparents farm, fishing in the creek, and learning how to shoot a bb gun. So it didn’t surprise me too much when he decided he wanted to retire in a log cabin in the woods!
Not many people would be as comfortable as he is retiring off the grid, but he loves it. There’s no cable TV or internet access, modern day smart phones don’t get any signal, he goes without a central heating or cooling system, his water comes from a well, and the toilet, aka Johnny House is outside. Since he’s in the woods, he doesn’t even get mail delivery. He has to drive to the post office in the nearest town to pick up his letters and packages.
An Off The Grid Retirement Isn’t For Everyone
Being divorced and having never remarried, you can imagine that my dad lives a very solitary life. It’s a good thing he’s an introvert. Being out in the woods is a natural comfort zone for him fortunately and he likes being tucked away from the crazy people in the town.
If you’re a very sociable and extroverted person, I would advise against an off the grid retirement. When you live out in the boonies, it’s usually difficult for people to come visit. There will never be a direct flight to the nearest town where my dad lives, so I don’t go see him as often as I would if he was just one nonstop flight away.
Another thing to consider with an off the grid retirement are the weather conditions. Since my dad lives in the woods, January can get below zero and July is usually in the 90s and humid. Cold snowy winters for him means burning fires for heat and being stuck up his hollow for days if the snow isn’t melting. I sure don’t have the patience to deal with that!
Simplicity Breeds Frugality
What’s great about my dad’s off the grid retirement is how simple his lifestyle is now. He doesn’t have many bills to pay (for example, no internet or water bills), there’s no foot or car traffic to deal with, and he has very few errands to run. His life is completely different from my San Francisco lifestyle.
Since he lives in a small, modest log cabin, he doesn’t need a lot of stuff. It’s easy to live a minimalist lifestyle when you choose an off the grid retirement. As a result, my dad is also very frugal. He never made a lot of money, and luckily he doesn’t need a whole lot of money to sustain his new lifestyle either.
He knows how to stretch a dollar better than anyone I know too. He only buys what he needs, his car has over 120k miles, he reuses whatever he can, and doesn’t waste anything. A splurge to him is getting 5 dvds for $2 each at the dollar store. One of his highest annual expenses is firewood, and even that’s not too expensive.
Living an off the grid retirement also leads you to be creative and resourceful with what you have. For example, my dad made a cute birdhouse out of a plastic Folgers coffee container. He was thrilled when a mama bird moved in a few days after he hung it up outside and nested.
One With Nature Wildlife
One of the best benefits of having an off the grid retirement is being immersed in nature. The amount of wildlife my dad gets to see blows my mind. He has regular encounters with deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, hawks, woodpeckers, black bears, turtles, foxes, monarch butterflies, cicadas, and tree frogs.
Every time I talk to him he has a new story to tell about the animals and birds he’s seen. It’s pretty cool. His stories are way more fun and exciting than my work stories. I was thrilled I got to see three wild turkeys and a group of 15 deer come through his property several times when I went to see him recently. It was amazing. He’s even nicknamed a few of the deer that he sees regularly based on their personalities and distinct markings.
Being in the woods is one of the best places to unwind and recharge too. Life is simple there and it’s easy to let go of all the pesky things that have been stressing me out back at home. The quiet sounds of the forest are some of the most beautiful to me too. Going for a trail-less walk, hearing the crunch of leaves underfoot and the bubbly sounds of a creek are humbling and pure. The smell of wet moss, clingy to the trees are soft to the touch.
What Type Of Retirement Setting Would You Like?
I doubt I will choose to have an off the grid retirement, at least not to my dad’s extreme. I don’t think I could give up plumbing, and internet access for more than a few weeks. And I certainly don’t want to live in hot/cold extremes without a central air system. But there’s something magical about simplicity and living as close to mother nature as possible. Perhaps this is why camping is such a big hobby for many.
I’d happily retire somewhere like the Bay Area, Tahoe, or a warm place by the beach. But of course, such places are expensive in comparison to the rest of the country and much of the world. Maybe I’ll settle down in a foreign country like Chiang Mai, Thailand where one can live like a queen for $1,500 a month. The good thing about living in San Francisco is that practically everywhere else I plan to retire to is less expensive.
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Updated for 2016 and beyond
Bryce @ Save and Conquer says
I love to go tent camping, as well as stay in cabins out in the boonies for a week or two during good weather. That being said, I would hate to permanently live that lifestyle. I wrote why I’m glad I live now, meaning having modern conveniences, on my blog last November.
101 Centavos says
For full-time retirement, probably not for us. Being the nesting type, Mrs. 101 would draw a very firm line at having decent facilities. For me, a well-equipped kitchen is a necessity. Not that you couldn’t have something like that off-grid, just harder to deal. Cooking on a wood stove can be a pain in the rear. But sure would be nice to get away for a few weeks at a time and totally unwind.
Yeah I can’t imagine cooking on a wood stove full time. That would be really tough, especially for someone like me who is bad even in a modern day kitchen. I don’t think I could live without a microwave lol.
Pretty cool of your dad to live so simply. I’m beginning to warm up to the idea as housing is just out of control here in SF!
I definitely would need Internet access as a blogger at least and an indoor bathroom with hot tub 🙂
He amazes me with how simple he lives, and the fact that he is more at home there than anywhere. It could get hard when he gets a lot older, but for right now he’s still independent enough to be okay.
Ha yeah you definitely couldn’t go without internet access! It’s crazy how spoiled we are with indoor bathrooms. I was so happy to see my toilet when I got home lol.
My wife and I are actually beginning the planning stages of building a tiny house (roughly 200 sq. ft.) We’ll have a composting toilet, running water (hopefully from a well) and solar panels for electricity.
Why tiny? We don’t like to clean house. 😀 Plus, if we can knock out our rental costs and most of the utilities, that frees up roughly 25% of our monthly income. That means we get more vacations/travel, can increase our savings/investment rates. Plus, we’ll get to save even more because we won’t have room to buy more stuff!
It might not be off-grid exactly, but we will be a lot less dependent on others – and it’ll free up a lot of our time and finances for what we want.
Wow that is so cool! I’ve seen so many amazing tiny houses on HGTV. There are lots of ways to get super creative with tiny spaces. Can’t wait to hear more about it!
I completely agree that it sounds enchanting and peaceful, but I don’t think I could go without conveniences, either. I’d love to have a log cabin somewhere to retreat to on occasion, but not as a full-time residence. My boyfriend and I visited his college coach’s B&B one year, which is nestled in the woods with deer passing by. It’s modern, and only about five miles away from the nearest town, but you wouldn’t know it. I wouldn’t mind that.
My parents retired in a very low-cost-of-living area about 20 minutes from the beach. They live close to everything, but it’s very quiet and calm in their actual community. I love going there, as it feels like a mini-vacation. I’ve thought about retiring in other countries as well; I’d like to make sure my money goes as far as possible in retirement.
That B&B sounds like it was a great getaway. I could do something like that for a few months a year. I like how your parents place sounds better though. I love the beach!