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Monday, 2 February 2015

Off the Grid… [fragment]



‘I’m not ruthless out there, but I get my waves and I don’t take them off anyone, there’s a big difference. Some of the longboarders and SUP guys need to reel it in a bit… nothing worse than greed.’
I can’t help but like his passion and non-conformist attitude towards riding waves. The conversation turns to life here in Cornwall. Turns out he and his French Canadian wife live here for the summers and spend their winters seeking waves around the world. Whilst here they live off grid with no electricity or running water, grow their own vegetables and keep chickens. Working in town on a small wage, they manage to save enough to fund their winter trips.
‘The few sacrifices we make give us the means to do what we do. People always wonder how we manage to go on trips for so long. I’m lucky because I was brought up with very little and I think it taught me from a young age the value of money and to appreciate the things I have. It all depends how much you want it. While people are sat in pubs every weekend or wasting their money on more fashion accessories they don’t need, I’m putting that money away so I can sit in the sun and surf pretty much every day of the winter.’
As travel stories to and fro between us I’m invited to check out their piece of land and have some breakfast. As this way of living has always interested me, I eagerly follow.
After a few miles of winding back country roads, we meander down a bumpy trail and pass through a farm gate. I’m assaulted by the smells of the great British countryside. We’re only a few miles from the tourist saturated coast but it’s like we’re in another world. I’m taken on a culinary tour of a huge greenhouse bursting at the seams with veg. The air is thick with the smell of herbs, and the bees are busy doing their work.
‘It’s a lot of hard work but helps me keep fit while there’s no swell. All organic, of course, no point using chemicals if you grow your own. We pretty much provide all our own salads and vegetables in a year. Picked when they’re optimum, straight to the pot. It’s extremely satisfying and saves us a lot of money.’
As we sit around a picnic table, I’m treated to a fresh omelette with salad and they tell me how easy the transition was giving up electricity and running water.
‘Don’t get me wrong, we still have our feet firmly planted in the real world. We have electricity from our leisure battery in the van if we need it, we just don’t have lights or a fridge. We get water from work or friends, we just don’t have running water from a tap. It really isn’t a hardship. We have a mobile phone, bottom of the range, of course (he states proudly) and a laptop at work. It’s incredibly liberating to free yourself of the television. We sit and talk, have campfires, listen to the radio and read more. You get time to discover who you are rather than switching off in front of the television. We’re a lot happier for it. People always tell us how bored they are but with all the surfing, gardening, walking, reading, swimming, fishing and chopping wood, there’s just no time for boredom.’
Intrigued by how these two manage to go away for so long I ask about how they support themselves.
Surfers on Farr Beach, Bettyhill | Scotland
‘Working in seasonal jobs and leaving frugally, but well, during the summer months means we get to live our dreams in the winter. Because of the nature of a seasonal job, it gives us the freedom we need, rather than a workplace or career that tries to trap us with a few weeks off a year and the promise of a great future with them. More money, more status, no thanks. We choose less responsibility, less money, and less possessions, and choose to live while we’re healthy and able to enjoy life. I’m not saying it’s the right or wrong way to live but it’s our way, and we’re happy. Consumerism just isn’t the way forward. People want it all and they want it now. We should want less and enjoy the simple pleasures all around us. As a society, we look but we don’t see anymore, everything is becoming too easily available for too little, and that in turn devalues it.’ …

(Steven Halpin, ‘Carve’ Surfing Magazine, Issue 152)


I never did this, but, hey, this is it – one of my favourite articles ever. It had a huge impact on me, because I believe and feel the same way: we never take the money or assets with us, all that’s going to be left are the experiences in our soul.

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