Not just for hippies and hermits. Is living off the grid the way of the future?

November 19, 2014
Raina Delisle
Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart

Victoria – The culmination of two years of fieldwork across the country and nearly 200 interviews with people who have made innovative lifestyle choices, Off the Grid: Re-Assembling Domestic Life was released this week.

The book, written by Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography Phillip Vannini and co-authored by photojournalist Jonathan Taggart, uncovers the day-to-day stories of off-gridders, illustrating why and how someone lives off-grid.

“Off-grid isn’t a state of mind,” says Vannini, a professor at Royal Roads. “It isn’t about being out of touch, living in a remote place, or turning off your mobile phone. Off-grid simply means living without a connection to the electric and natural gas infrastructure. But as it goes, people who live in off-grid homes are also self-reliant for other vital resources, such as water and food. To live off-grid, therefore, means to radically re-invent daily life in a dramatically innovative but also quite traditional way.”

From 2011 to 2013, Vannini and Taggart, a Royal Roads alumnus of the MA in Intercultural and International Communication program, travelled to every province and territory to track down people living off the grid and visit them in their homes. In addition to the book, the pair also produced a documentary film, Life off-grid.

Following the ethnographic tradition, Vannini and Taggart shadowed the off-gridders as they hunted, fished, harvested, collected wood and built their homes. At times, the researchers experienced living in off-grid homes and cabins. Through the 85-minute film, they narrate their travels and chronicle in depth the experiences, challenges, inventions, aspirations and ways of life of those who live off-grid.

“Our film isn’t just a road story,” Vannini points out. “Our encounters with off-gridders young and old, far and near, and rich and poor, have inspired us to reflect not only about off-grid life in itself, but also to question our collective, modern, on-grid way of life. This is a film on disconnection as much as it is on everything we all take for granted about the modern condition and its comforts, conveniences, and connectivity.”

“Off-gridders are often the subject of stereotypes,” says Taggart, director of the film. “Hippies, hermits, outlaws, rebels, misfits – these are just some of the labels applied to them. But our filmic portraits reveal a different picture, one that is less sensational, less radical, and more nuanced and subtle. Our intimate encounters show off-gridders to be individuals who care about their family and their environment, about their homes, communities, and their place in the world.”

Off the Grid is published by Routledge as part of its Innovative Ethnographies series, and can be purchased as of Nov. 18 on the publisher’s website or through many online retailers.

Life off-grid will be screened at Royal Roads University in the Castle Drawing Room on Dec. 1 at 11:15 a.m., followed by a Q&A, which will wrap up at 1:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

On Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., the film will be screened at Haven Resort, Phoenix Auditorium, Gabriola Island.

Audio clips featuring off-gridders interviewed for the project are available here.

TV media can use this clip featuring off-gridders from Lasqueti Island, B.C.

For media queries, contact:

Raina Delisle, P 250-391-2712, C 778-677-0535,