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Finding Your Oasis
Nothing worth having comes easy.
Recently, John and I have stumbled into some interesting conversations with random people in public places. As you know, we don’t get out too often and we’re both introverts so “finding ourselves in conversation with strangers” is a rare phenomenon. Lately, though, we’re having some heavy discussions about the state of the world in the plumbing aisle of Home Depot. Just picking up our mail finds us hearing a neighbor’s fervent opinion on their right to bear arms.
It seems that the so-called silent majority is becoming less silent. I, for one, am glad.
As the conversation unfolds, we mention the fact that we live off grid. At that point, their eyes light up and they start to share their dreams...
“We want to move off grid, too. I just want to live in a place where I can pee outside and no one is there to be offended.”
You’d be surprised how many men associate peeing outdoors with ultimate freedom.
But even stronger than the desire to pee with abandon is their desire to leave our state.
You see, we live in Washington and our governor is
despised unpopular. Voters tried to have him recalled, to no avail. He’s still there in his little office making rules based on the opinions and votes of one county - more specifically, one city - Seattle.
Seattle used to be beautiful. We used to visit often and stroll the parks, explore downtown, stay up late to watch the July 4th fireworks - we never worried about getting mugged after dark walking back to our hotel. It was a different place back then. Sadly, that city is gone.
I watched a documentary about Seattle a few years ago called Seattle is Dying. In it, KOMO news anchor Eric Johnson examines the impacts of drugs and homelessness on the city. At one point, he asks viewers what percentage of those he interviewed on the street might we assume are on drugs. He reveals finally that, of those he spoke with, 100% were addicted to drugs.
One hundred percent.
That was back in 2019 and things have only degraded as hard drugs have been effectively legalized.
Seattle isn’t an isolated case, though. We see the same issues in Portland, LA, San Francisco, New York - frankly, across the entire country. Some cities are more troublesome than others - like Chicongo, for instance, which certainly seems to rank highest with murders and outright lawlessness.
Getting back to those random conversations… When we ask these strangers in Home Depot - or wherever - where they plan to move, their answer is usually vague.
“Oh, Idaho, Montana, or maybe South Dakota… We’re just getting out of here!” Clearly, it’s a loose plan, with more ire than substance.
By the way, no one ever says, “Chicago.”
They follow with, “When my son graduates, we’re going to…” or “As soon as I retire in three years, I’m gonna…”.
It’s all I can do not to grab these these folks and shake them, “Don’t you see how quickly things are falling apart? Will you even have a retirement account in three years?!”
But I’m an introvert. A polite introvert. I don’t grab them, shake them, or even question them. At least not out loud.
Instead, I mention a book they might find helpful: Strategic Relocation by Joel Skousen. In the book, Skousen evaluates every area of the United States, as well as some other countries, for safety, security, constitutional protections, taxes, cost of living, and so on. It’s a start, if you’re looking for your oasis.
We didn’t use this book when we were looking for property because we didn’t know about it. Turns out, we picked a pretty great place anyway - even according to Skousen - but we were definitely steered by unseen hands.
I think that’s the key: divine intervention. Eyeroll all you like, but during our search we experienced help that just can’t be explained otherwise. We felt tremendous synchronicity, kismet - whatever your preferred word - when thousands of tiny moments coalesce and gel perfectly.
I’ll share some of the milestone events, but every day small things, too, confirmed that we were walking our “pollen path”.
“Oh beauty before me,
beauty behind me,
beauty to the right of me,
beauty to the left of me,
beauty above me,
beauty below me,
I am on the Pollen Path.
In the house of life I wander,
On the pollen path.”
Navajo Ceremonial Chant
We started looking for property in 2020 after the masking and lockdowns began. I remember feeling an extreme heaviness as I looked around at everyone dutifully wearing masks - even alone in their cars, or on a bike or walking their dogs. Alone and masked. How bizarre.
I felt like I was watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers. People adapted to the new normal so quickly and without question. Ironically, the masking revealed more than it hid. Who knew so many were so gullible.
We already lived in a small town near a larger city and we had good jobs which, at the time, we’d planned to keep. For that reason, we decided to look for property within a 10-hour driving radius of our home. That would allow us to work on the new place on weekends and, once John started “working from home”, even more often.
From the beginning, I think we and many others had an open window of opportunity to relocate. Like so many, we already owned our home (well, the bank owned most of it), and our equity was substantial. In 2017, John and I had bought “the worst house in the best neighborhood” and made it beautiful. Our sweat-equity added value to an already appreciating property long before the scamdemic hit.
We refinanced that home at an extremely low rate in 2020 and extracted the equity to buy a second property. Honestly, it wasn’t much, considering we were buying a home with acreage. We went out looking with $150,000 in our pocket. In our region, that doesn’t buy a lot so our expectations weren’t high.
All we wanted was a simple place that we could own, debt-free, that also had the basics (water, flat land, privacy).
In retrospect, that was asking a lot.
If you’ll remember, in 2020 the government was printing money like mad and handing it out to anyone with a pulse. Correction: FEMA is still handing $9,000 to families of people who “die of Covid” so I guess, technically, you don’t even need a pulse.
Anyway, the government created “free money” and dropped interest rates to rock-bottom. Folks were buying homes, refinancing, buying cars, going on vacations, buying toys… it was a party, man!
Oh, wait. I’m sorry….
I mean, it was a pandemic. A deadly serious, scary, worst-thing-ever pandemic.
Now, back to reality…
The 2020 lockdowns made looking at properties interesting, to say the least. Most businesses were closed, as you probably remember, which means there was nowhere to stop and eat. Nowhere to eat also means nowhere to pee, since even gas stations were “pay at the pump only”, offering no open facilities.
As liberating as it is for men to pee outdoors, it’s still a challenge for women…
I found some relief by using hotel lobby restrooms, although most hotels were keeping their doors locked, too. Back then, customers had to call from the parking lot for staff to unlock the doors when checking in. Fortunately, John and I are good at blending in so we’d catch someone exiting a side door, politely hold it open for them, then slip in and use the lobby restrooms.
Attitude is everything!
I never dreamed I’d have to be clandestine just to pee but that’s where we found ourselves in our “land of the free” and “home of the brave”. Moments like that only reinforced our desire to leave.
Admittedly, I entered our search with a deep sense of desperation. I understood how the crisis would unfold (and is still unfolding - nothing is over). That urgency made most properties look way better than they actually were. With my natural tendency to see potential on overdrive, I believe God saved us from some serious missteps.
In June 2020, our offer on the place above was accepted, pending having the well water tested. In fact, we were in the middle of cleaning up when we found out the water was “horrendous”. That’s the word they actually used in the well report.
“Horrendous. Never seen iron levels that high.”
We soon learned it was for the best. While we had been away from the property, the existing solar system (which wasn’t much) had been stolen. We learned from locals that some addicts frequently stayed nearby with their grandmother whenever they were “laying low”… People in that area were frequently robbed.
Like I said, God saved us from ourselves more than once.
The next few weekends were a whirlwind. Things at work had intensified for both of us. John had been
voluntold mandated to work at a mobile jab-clinic doing maintenance and it was pretty clear other mandates were on the horizon.
Once again, we loaded up the Mini with maps, snacks, and our dog and hit the road (along with a few ferry boats).
An aside: When you’re looking for remote off-grid properties, a lot of realtors don’t take you seriously. Most people who want to live off grid don’t have money (let’s be honest) and most people who have money don’t want to live (or even be) off grid. In fact, most banks won’t lend money to buy an off grid property, despite their pro-environmentalist public-face.
Like bankers, certain realtors shy away from our kind of buyers. They’ll sort of tell you how to get to a property, but you’re on your own to get there. That can also work in your favor, as it allows you more freedom to explore the area.
Important to note: don’t go sneaking up on an off grid property! Ever! If you can do a drive-by, great. If you can’t see it from the road, be sure to call the realtor first.
John and I made a list of properties we found online and then set about hunting them down. On the weekend of July 11th, while searching for one property, we ended up looking at another that was nearby, even though it was out of our price range.
The property was way, way down a dirt road that was off of a long dirt county road. When we reached the gate, it was closed and locked - when did that ever stop us? Actually, we’d gotten permission in advance from the realtor to go look so we climbed over the gate and walked up the hill.
Even before seeing the house, we fell in love with the land.
Wildflowers bloomed in every direction, the air was scented with sweet sage and the only sounds were birds and crickets.
When we reached the house, everything was overgrown and abandoned, but it was still, by far, better than anything seen yet. We tried the door and, of course, it was unlocked so we went in and snooped. It wasn’t perfect, but it was everything we wanted and more.
It was also beyond what we could afford… we could dream, though, so we continued to poke around.
Suddenly, an old farm truck came roaring up the drive! Startled, we froze in our tracks. I mean, technically, we had permission to be there, but did the guy behind the wheel of the truck know that? He looked angry.
We smiled (blend, remember?), quickly explained that we were serious buyers and that our realtor had sent us. After awhile, Noah (that was his name) calmed down actually gave us a tour. In the end, Noah turned out to be a really nice guy. He had built the house himself and he and his wife had raised their three kids there. It was obvious how much he loved the property so, for us, offering him less (a lot less) was out of the question. We had no desire to insult him. Besides, he told us he already had an offer and was waiting for a guy from California to see it in person.
We thanked him and left, despondent. It was great. It was perfect. And it was too expensive.
The next day, we looked at another property and actually made an offer. The interior was unfinished and the land wasn’t as flat as we would have liked, but it had uninflated potential and was in our price range. Nearly. It was $20K above.
This time, we used a wonderful realtor who offered the sellers less than we had suggested. The sellers accepted the offer and even agreed to finance the extra $20K directly, something we hadn’t even asked for. We were amazed.
We closed on the house August 10th and John took a week’s vacation to do some repairs and install a solar system. Since I had to be at work, he went there ahead of me.
Sitting at my desk a few days later (August 13), out of the blue I suddenly thought about insurance.
The whole month had been a whirlwind. Usually we’re on top of these things, but I couldn’t remember whether we had added the new property onto our home insurance. I called John and asked him to do it. I was busy at work and I also really hate doing that sort of thing…
John was dealing with a leaky pump that was flooding our new bathroom so he won the who’s-busier contest. I called and got the new house covered. No big deal.
That weekend, me and Brisket drove out. It was as beautiful as I remembered. What a view!
We spent the weekend making lists and plans about how we’d finish the house, where the greenhouse would be, what kind of new pump we’d be buying… we investigated how to get rid of the bats that were pooping all over our windows and deck… all that fun stuff that comes with a new house!
It felt so wonderful, after all our searching, to settle into a place that was ours - remote and definitely off grid.
Then, everything changed.
The planes started flying by in the morning and, because we had no internet or radio, we had no idea what was happening. We were busy, after all, making lists…
It was afternoon before we saw the smoke coming over the hill behind our house. Quickly, that smoke grew into a full-fledged fire headed straight for us.
Being so very remote, no one came to evacuate us. There were no sirens or alarms. Just smoke and then, suddenly, fire. Finally our good sense kicked in and we got the hell out of there!
We threw some of our things into the trailer and, with John in his truck and me and Brisket in the Mini, we made our way down the mountain and into town. The smoke closed in around us as we drove. The hills glowed behind us.
On our way into town, the dirt roads were lined with folks looking up toward the blaze - people watching their homes and everything they owned burn. It was devastating.
Days after the smoke cleared, we went back up to see what was left. Well, the solar panels survived but that was all.
Overall, we felt lucky to be so relatively unvested, compared to so many others. We didn’t have animals to lose; we hadn’t spent years bringing plans to fruition. We had a whole other home to go to. We felt sad, but we were also filled with gratitude. Gratitude and exhaustion.
Our gratitude increased when we called our insurance company - remember the insurance? I’m convinced that God planted that thought in my mind exactly when he did for a reason and I’m so glad that I acted on it! That one phone call ended up saving us and increasing our budget beyond what we initially had to spend.
The whole thing was both a tragedy and a miracle. We took a small break but by the end of August, we were on the road again, maps in hand. The world hadn’t stopped being crazy and our plan remained the same. The houses we were viewing now were a little nicer than the ones we’d seen before (bigger budget) but, still, not without issues.
Meanwhile, the available pool was shrinking as more people were looking to “get out”.
We made several offers and each one fell through.
In early September, we made an offer (contingent on having the well checked), only to have the sellers take the property off the market with no explanation.
Next, we made an offer on another property only to have the VA tell our realtor they couldn’t find the paperwork (what?!) so they were taking the property off the market.
It was getting ridiculous. There weren’t that many off grid properties within our 10-hour radius in the first place. We started to question whether it was meant to be.
Meanwhile, life went on. The craziness continued in our community and at our jobs; there were now lines outside our grocery store, since only so many people were allowed inside at a time. Rules were being created about who was essential and who wasn’t. I actually carried a printed letter from work claiming I was essential, just in case I was stopped by the Covid-police on my drive to work.
Things were bad (for anyone sane).
As John and I sat slumped in our chairs sipping coffee and commiserating, I scrolled though Zillow one morning. Pausing, I read a property’s description aloud:
Off-grid paradise on 40 certified organic acres. Rolling hills, aspen groves, flat land all in your own little valley. 2 bedroom 1.5 bath, sleeping lofts, septic, drilled well w/ 1500 gallon buried cistern. Large barn with 16 foot ceilings, finished 400 sf office/workshop. Solar power w/ batteries, inverter and hookup for generator back-up. Small orchard - pear, apple, crab apple, sour cherry trees. Private, safe and peaceful. Secluded with 12 miles of gravel road leading to this serene retreat.
“Where’s that?” John looked up.
“It’s a place we’ve already seen.” I answered, grinning.
“I don’t remember anything like that…”
I handed him the phone. “It’s the one we loved but couldn’t afford.” I smiled, “But now we can.”
“It’s still for sale? I thought he had a buyer.” John scrolled through the images.
“Guess it didn’t sell after all. I think we should call. Do you still have Noah’s number?”
John read the description again and then started dialing.
Noah remembered us right away. Fortunately, the house had survived the fires (it’s only a few miles, as the crow flies, from our home that burned) and it was still available. He asked if we wanted to see it again.
“No, we don’t need to see it again - we’ll take it!” We jumped in with both feet.
We set a date to meet at the courthouse and transferred the deed on September 11, 2020.
From the time we began searching to the time we bought our home was only five months. It’s incredible to think that all those things occurred in such a short span of time. It was exhausting, discouraging, exciting and amazing.
We continued to drive back and forth between the two locations for eight months until we sold our other home in May. It only took a few days to sell and they offered more than asking price. Very soon after, we both “retired early” and committed fully to this property and lifestyle.
The vax mandates happened shortly after we left.
“It’s always better to jump than be pushed.”
I suppose I’m relating our story of relocation to inspire anyone who may have missed the boat two years ago, back when property values were high, interest rates were low, and the recession was “transitory”.
Apparently, the house we sold has continued to increase in value. Could we have waited and held out for more money? Sure, but that wasn’t our goal. Greed can easily turn into a stumbling block.
If our jobs hadn’t been a factor in 2020, we might have looked for property across the entire country but, looking back, I’m not sure that would have mattered. It would have made the search more difficult, for sure.
A lot of people are trying to decide where to go based on politics (red state vs. blue state), but that can flip. As we’ve seen, it only takes one city to control an entire state. No matter what state you move to, eventually something that’s important to you will be made illegal.
The goal is to create so many tedious rules and laws that each of us is made a criminal.
For example, rainwater catchment is illegal in some cities, and then there’s eminent domain. Governments are taking land to install solar and wind farms for the “greater good”. Even now, Ford is taking Tennessee farm land to build an EV manufacturing plant. Government cares as much about “environmentalism” as the banks do; it’s a convenient excuse to steal land.
The end goal is to round everyone into 15-minute “Hunger Games style” cities. No matter where you move, there will be push back until that goal is achieved. Prepare accordingly.
I’m not sure there is a one “safe space” out there, and there’s certainly no utopia. Still, some locations are better than others. Do your research and make the best decision for your circumstance.
If moving is on your heart, don’t delay. More important than anything, pray. Don’t let fear or other people’s opinions stop you from following the path God sets in your heart. If your intention is pure, God will make a way and move mountains, even if he has to burn them down.
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.