You Don’t Need to Live Off Grid, Expatriate, or Own a Farm to Be Self-Reliant

Teresa Roberts
5 min readJul 16, 2022


You Can Start Today

Nature in the Upper Peninsula (my photo)

I’m a firm believer that modern life has robbed us of our freedom. We traded survival skills for paper.

Yep! That green paper we work hard to attain was supposed to give us access to anything we needed or wanted. Except you can’t eat money. You can’t water your garden with money. You can’t keep warm with money.

We’ve become more dependent upon society to take care of us than any previous generation.

Whenever Americans experience inflation, recessions, or shortages of goods, they suddenly feel very vulnerable. They should.

I firmly believe that you don’t need to own a farm, live off grid, or expatriate to another country in order to practice self-reliance.

You can do it almost anywhere to a greater or lesser degree. From community gardens, urban gardens, alternative power sources, and collecting water in rain barrels, the possibilities are far more numerous than most of us realize.

I became aware of the Dervaes family a few years ago.

Trust me, the last place I imagined as a food refuge was a 1/5-acre-house-lot a few miles outside of Los Angeles. When you consider the fact that their house is sitting on this little lot as well, the actual available land for gardening is dang tiny. Yet, look what this family has accomplished over the years.

It’s astounding.

The two most influential people in my life, however, were Harlan and Anna Hubbard.

They lived on the banks of the Ohio River in a two-room house that they built in the woods. They called their abode Payne Hollow.

I was about 20 years old when I met them for the first time.

There were two ways to get to their house. We walked the mile through the woods, but the other way was to ring a bell on the other side of the river and Harlan would pick you up in his rowboat.

These two incredible people lived as close to nature and as self-reliant as anyone you’d ever meet.

So much creativity went into their lifestyle. From the free-range goats to their homemade cistern for water, there wasn’t anything conventional about them. I’ve eaten numerous times at their table overlooking the garden. They were years older than me, but took the time to share food, conversation, music, and life tips with me.

What a rare a beautiful experience.

If you want to be inspired watch the movie. Or buy one of Harlan’s books. He was both a writer and an artist. You can watch the preview of the documentary, Wonder: The Lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard, on Vimeo. You can also rent or buy the movie if you’re so inclined.

I miss their presence on this planet.

Such a lovely book about their daily lives living in Payne Hollow.

Before Harlan and Anna built their house on the Ohio River, they lived on a Shanty boat.

They were true adventurers and a source of great inspiration to me. I have always been most at home with nontraditional people. The book below chronicles their river life.

Most of us won’t be able to buy a farm or move to Costa Rica.

We may not have the desire to live off grid or in a shanty boat either. But far more of us than we think can take meaningful steps toward self-reliance. Whether raising food, owning a small chest freezer, buying food in bulk when on sale, investing in a power station to see us through increasing power outages, collecting rainwater in barrels, or learning to repair things ourselves, we don’t need to remain helpless.

My first goal was to live debt free.

It was something I never lost sight of even when my husband’s jobs were sent overseas making my job as a public-school teacher our most dependable source of income. We went through some very rough times, too. Back in the day, we had our share of recessions, inflation, job losses, and high prices. Believe it or not there was a time when interest rates on new cars were as high as 21%.


In order to develop a level of self-reliance, you may need to redefine your values, however. The American Dream has been touted as the gold standard. It is nothing more than the road to lifelong debt. You’ll need to look for other ways to enjoy life other than consumerism. It will be a hard habit to break. Our economy is based on spending more than we make. But let’s face it, Americans could cut the stuff they buy in half and still be left with too much junk in their garages, closets, and basements.

So, take heart.

If you’re feeling vulnerable, there are ways to build a sense of security based on well-defined skills and values. Take the first step. Do the research. Make the first investment and then build on that. You’ll be surprised at how it makes you feel. It will quickly become your new lifestyle.

There’s so much to learn.

Share your knowledge with others. Build a sense of community. Make life less complicated. It can be a transformational experience.

Change starts with me and you.

The government can’t do it, and the corporations won’t do it. It’s my responsibility to take care of myself and contribute to my community whenever possible.

So, if you’re craving more independence and a sense of self-reliance, don’t wait. It’s now or never.

Teresa is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.



Teresa Roberts

Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. She’s also a top writer on climate change and the future.