Guest Post by Ryo Chijiiwa
If I’d accepted the job Mark Zuckerberg offered me in 2005, I probably wouldn’t be here. If I hadn’t quit my job at Google a year and a half ago, I probably wouldn’t be here either. But I am here, and for the most part, I’m glad I am.
“Here” is in a half-finished cabin in the woods, and broke. Again. I was in a similar place when you last heard from me on the Tiny House Blog. When I last wrote here a year ago, I had just finished my 48 square foot hut, which cost me the last of my savings. Without enough funds to buy insulation for the winter, I was forced back to the city of San Francisco where I took refuge during the colder months. Like a regular city-dweller, I did some contract programming work and paid monthly rent. But when spring arrived with its bright warm sunny days, I could no longer stay cooped up indoors.
So, I returned to Serenity Valley, my 60 acres in the woods.
I spent the summer months trying to grow my first garden in poor rocky soil and with no running water. Late in the summer, with some money still left from the previous winter’s work, I started designing a larger hut, which I named, perhaps unimaginatively, Hut 2.0. While I had only allocated $500 for Hut 1.0, I decided I could probably afford to spend a whopping $2000 for the new version. My back-of-the-envelope calculations showed that I could build a 12 x 8 foot structure within that budget, and afford things I couldn’t afford for Hut 1.0: proper roofing, real windows, a commercially-made door, exterior-grade siding and, most importantly, insulation.
In mid-August, construction began when a few friends showed up for the raising. Things slowed down when I was left to continue on my own. I got distracted and went to Burning Man, after which I returned to an unusually rainy September, which my roofless structure spent mostly under a tarp. I finally got my butt in gear in October and finished the roof. In November, a friend came out for a couple of weeks to help, though I was also set back a few days when I decided to add a 3ft extension to the hut to make it a 120 square foot cabin, now dubbed Hut 2.1. My friend left after a couple of weeks, and I continued alone again as December rolled in with the snow. As of now, Hut 2.1 is fully enclosed, and should be insulated soon.
But I’m broke. I neglected to budget in a chimney for the cabin, and was surprised to find that it would cost at least another $500. Then, there’s everything else: the car payment, the land payment, health and car insurance, property taxes, food, gas, phone bills, credit card bills.
So I find myself at a difficult juncture. I can head back to San Francisco and find a job in Silicon Valley again. Though I probably wouldn’t be very happy in a cubicle, I would make decent money, and live in a nice warm apartment. My nearly-finished cabin would sit empty, and my readers, whom I’ve slowly attracted over the past year and a half, would probably dissolve back into the distractions of the Internet. Or if I managed to scrape together the money, I could finish my cabin, spend the winter in it, and continue blogging about how cold and harsh life is 4200ft up in the mountains.
Call me crazy, but I actually would prefer the latter. And call them sadistic, but apparently my readers would prefer the latter too. A few were even eager enough to see me continue my blog that they offered to donate money and equipment. Emboldened by such offers, I posted a plea for contributions, and Kent responded by offering to let me write a guest post here on the Tiny House Blog.
Which brings us to the present. Actually, I didn’t want to come here to ask for money to finish my cabin. It’s one thing for my readers to donate money and boots in exchange for the entertainment value they derive from my blog. But it’s another for the readers of the Tiny House Blog to do so. After all, you folks read about people living in tiny houses day in and day out, and they’ve managed to do so without asking you for money. So it hardly seems fair for me to do so. But that still leaves me with my predicament.
So here’s what I’ll propose instead. I would like to raise money to finish my cabin and prepare to spend an entire month on my property this winter, where I will spend 31 days living almost completely off the grid. For the duration of this project, which I am calling Project 31, I will not leave my property. I will not drive my car, or for that matter, burn a single drop of gasoline. I will only use electricity I can generate from my solar panels and a wind generator (if I can afford one). I will only use water that falls from the sky. What I have at hand on Day 0 is what I’ll have, use, and consume for the remaining 31 days.
I came up with Project 31, partially because it seemed like an interesting and exciting challenge for myself, but also because I believe there are lessons I can learn and share with the world at large. Blogging and producing videos about what I do has been an important aspect of my journey over the past year and a half, and the support I’ve received from my readers and viewers have been a tremendous source of encouragement and inspiration. Needless to say, I would like to continue to tell my story and share my thoughts and any lessons garnered from Project 31 as well, and keep these conversations alive. To do so, I will make one exception to the “off-grid” rule and allow myself an internet connection via cell phone while on my property, for the purposes of uploading blog posts, photos and videos. Upon completion of the project, if I have enough material, I also want to write a book (ahem, any publishers out there?).
If this sounds interesting to you — and I hope it does, whether you’re interested in off-grid living, living simply, or preparedness and survival — please help any way you can. On my blog, I’ve listed a number of ways folks can help, from monetary and material contributions to simply leveraging your social network to get the word out. I am excited about this project, and I hope you’ll join me in making this adventure a successful and fruitful one for all of us. To stay updated, you may subscribe to my blog, Laptop and a Rifle, or follow me on Facebook and Twitter.