Twenty-seven years ago, when I stumbled upon some remarkable people in the Japanese countryside who were living rich, slow lives, I was astonished at their fortitude. They lived "off the grid" in many ways.
Inhabiting beautiful old farmhouses that had been left empty with the rush to the cities decades before, the men and women I met chose to provide for their own needs by growing most of their food, mending their own clothes, not using cash to entertain themselves, and reading books from the library instead of watching television. Each of them had left the mainstream way of life by choice. They wanted to pursue their creativity, work with their own hands, and have "time to simply stop and think," as the mother and anti-nuclear activist Atsuko Watanabe put it.
When I first came to Japan, I had no idea that I would meet such wonderful people living in such a satisfying, ethical way. I met them first on the island of Shikoku, where I was teaching, but eventually found people like them all over the archipelago.
They were living the good life, with a deep connection to nature and lots of time for contemplation and long conversations with their friends. And they were living in a way that required very little money. If they could do it, so could I, I thought. And I wanted to share this message of possibility with others.
I went on to write a book about them and their inspiring example, called The Abundance of Less. Through the long, gradual, and satisfying process of writing, I learned about the true meaning of sustainability and the importance of taking time—a long time—to make something of quality. Living "off the grid" is not just a buzz phrase. It’s an entire approach to life. Here are some of the features of this rewarding mindset: