The main project I’d be tackling in 2024:

Spending 7 months off-grid. 

This idea is a greatly watered-down version of a dream I’ve had for a while: living entirely on my own in a wilderness forest for a whole year, with only a single backpack with tools and emergency supplies. There are some caveats to this that I’d address below; it isn’t as hardcore as I’d like due to life circumstances, nor is it as epic as you’re probably imagining.

But why do this, to begin with?

I love the outdoors, the unpredictability, the challenge. I seek discomfort and embrace struggle. Maybe too much, at times.

It’s also because I prefer the slower, intentional life. I like to describe it as living manually as opposed to automatically (for those of you who drive), existing within an analog framework. Saying “no” to frenzied hurry, tight deadlines, Zoom meetings, and YouTube. Saying “yes” instead to foraging, spinning wool, whittling tools, and chopping wood for a “living”.

But there’s more to it than the adventure.

A life-long goal of mine is to have the necessary skills, experiences, and tools that allow me to flourish, serve, and be competent in as many different situations as possible. In other words, I’d like to be useful in more than one environment.

Including a world in which grocery stores, solid walls, running water, and light bulbs don’t necessarily exist. Electricity as we know it, is just over a hundred years old; the internet is younger still. What was life like before then?

Right now, I overestimate my survivability. I’ve done at least two years of researching, dreaming, preparing, and visualizing multiple lifestyles and different abodes: mobile tiny homes, camper vans, earth homes, cob houses, you name it. I have lots of ideas and head knowledge, with pathetically little experience.

Solution? Throw myself out there this April, and see if I make it for 210 days and nights.

Caveats: I’d be on my parents’ property. My family wants me back in the house some nights, and I may do some travelling here and there, which both seem like cheating to me. But life is never perfect, and I’d accept what I have, gratefully.

Details regarding the project: 

I have a canvas bell tent (14’ in diameter) with a tiny woodstove that I’d be using when I don’t feel like hammock camping or sleeping in the open air. That takes care of my heat, shelter, and cooking. A Berkey filter takes care of my water, which I carry in from a drilled well.

Food is limited to what I source from the outdoors, plus a 25lbs bag of quinoa flakes (for essential proteins), some olive oil (for essential fats), and a jar of dried dandelion and plantain leaves from last year (for nutrients in early spring). I eat three weeks out of four; if I’m careful, that bag of quinoa should last me until I get a substantial harvest from my garden later in the year. My diet would shift with the seasons as different plants, fruits, and mushrooms become available throughout the year. No hunting here, sadly! Maybe a squirrel or two in the fall, and the eggs from our chickens, but that’s about it.

Hygiene and toiletries would take some experimentation to figure out. Where I’m pitching the bell tent isn’t that private, and I’m debating the usefulness of an outhouse set a good couple hundred meters away. There is space and tools for me to play around with, however—not to mention a few plants to help one keep clean that grow like weeds around here.

What my ideal day looks like: 

  • Wake up
  • Set up a fire, boil water for pine tea, read
  • Walk the dog, train, watch the sun rise
  • Go indoors for work, family time
  • Work on garden, play music/sing
  • Source and cook lunch, eat with family
  • Work on projects
  • Write, read
  • Practice and train
  • Tend garden, play with dog
  • Source and cook dinner
  • Go indoors for family devotions and dinner
  • Walk the dog, train, watch the sun set
  • Set up for the night as needed, meditate
  • Sleep

How I’d manage my online work and projects:

This projects starts in April, before AP classes end; in a sense, April and May would be highly experimental, because I’m not sure how the working-online-but-living-off-grid seesaw would work out. It’s possible to set up my laptop and connect it to the internet from my tent, but that destroys the point, and would be the second-last resort before being forced to pack up and re-enter civilization by work situations. I’ve bowed out of workshops I usually teach over the summer, so teaching would resume in earnest in September 2024, leaving the summer months generally free.

What I’m most conflicted over are the online projects I’m building and launching over the next few months that may take more screen time than is ideal; something I’m currently calculating the opportunity costs for, as well as trying to wrap up in March.

(Part of) What I’d be working on during these 7 months:

  • Spin wool, whittle a crochet hook, and crochet a shawl
  • Practise Chinese brush calligraphy
  • Play fluently on all the instruments I own (currently 14 unique ones in total)
  • Read all the books I own
  • Upgrade skill in shooting, archery, whip cracking, card/spike/knife/axe throwing, rope/tree climbing
  • Study 3+ non-English languages
  • Carve a wooden chess set
  • Design a deck of cards
  • Write poetry, fiction, songs, and essays by hand
  • Train functional fitness and agility through martial arts, callisthenics, parkour, running, dance

Lifestyle rules I’d be setting for myself (subject to adjustments as events demand):

  • No shoes allowed, no matter the weather, unless required when in civilization
  • No food and drink outside of what’s mentioned above, unless travelling or being with family/friends
  • Make what materials and tools I need; purchase only what I absolutely cannot source otherwise
  • No use of screens unless for a clear, necessary, and predefined purpose, with a timelimit (something I should be already doing)

If you’d like to keep up with this project, I’d be sharing updates on my main Substack newsletter, Percolations.

Life boils down to how you spend your time, what you pay attention to, who you care about, and what you do with where you are. The “why” is reflected (and often discovered) through how all of those connect together. My intention with this project is to dig deeper into all of that for myself by returning to the basics of life.