At the Institute: Living and learning off the grid

During my time in Alaska, one of my favorite excursions was a 45-minute stop at a tiny alcove in the otherwise-uninhabited Inian Islands. The school is just about as off-the-grid as you can get. Colter Barnes and Lexie Hayes decided to leave the creature comforts of their small town in Idaho to move back to the vast wilderness of Southeast Alaska, moving Lexie’s young daughter, Jordan, from a suburban school to what can best be described as the middle of nowhere. And they love it.

Colter said that when living in Idaho, he noticed a shift in Jordan’s interests and priorities. Today even 7-year-olds like Jordan can be completely consumed by technology in their surroundings. I cringe a little every time I see a toddler on an iPad in a restaurant, but, to be completely honest, I am addicted to my screens in the same way. When I was in Alaska, I had a hard time living in the moment and adjusting to life without Wi-Fi.

Cutting back on Internet was just the start for this family. Jordan didn’t seem to be missing out on anything at all. As an unofficial tour guide, she was excited to tell us all about her home, her dogs, and the spider she watched crawl around for an hour last week. I think there’s a lot to be learned from this way of life.

It would be easy to say that the life this family leads is simpler, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They do their best to be self-sufficient in every way possible. The food they prepare is either grown on the premises or caught nearby. They drink rainwater. And the limited amount of energy they do use is generated from a hydropower system they maintain. It can’t possibly be easy to save and repurpose every bit of plastic you come across.

I admire the sheer ambition of this family. They are voluntarily stranded on an island. Sure, the nearest town is a 20-minute boat ride away, but at the time this was reported, they didn't even have a boat. And they don’t need one, so they say.

If they don’t need a boat, then maybe I don’t need to refresh my email every 30 seconds.

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