April 2, 2020


Ben Fogle’s Off-Grid Experiment

Could your child fell a tree or use a blow torch? TV presenter Ben Fogle travelled to meet families in remote spots — then tried to see if his own children could shape up.

I always thought that in a moment of worldwide crisis I would flee with my family to the Outer Hebrides, where we would build a hand-to-mouth life on one of the islands. And now we are in the midst of one, the reality is rather more prosaic. I am, in fact, holed up with my family in our house in the Chilterns. Still, there is something of the wilderness to it, I suppose: I’m writing this from the children’s treehouse. My son, Ludo, is on his computer in the office while my eight-year-old daughter, Iona, is in the kitchen. Marina, my wife, has taken the front room, which leaves me the treehouse.

Twenty years ago I did spend a year living on an island in the Outer Hebrides as a social experiment for the seminal Channel 4 programme Castaway to see if a group of urban folk could start a society from scratch. We were cut off from the outside world — just the 36 of us, men, women, and children, living together. The experience changed my life and I’ve been fascinated by off-grid, simple living ever since.

As a result, for nearly a decade I have travelled the world visiting people who have abandoned conventional society for a life in the wild for my Channel 5 TV show called New Lives in the Wild. Individuals, couples, families, widows, former convicts, university professors, they have been an eclectic bunch, unified in their desire to break free from the manacles of society. They are all driven by different beliefs — some are introverts, survivalists, environmentalists and apocalyptic preppers — but each has started a simpler life in the wild, cut off from the infrastructure and services of the modern world.

Take the Longs — Robert, Catherine and their children, Robin, then aged 17, and Christan, then aged 20 — sometimes described as New Zealand’s most isolated family. Their house made of driftwood in the Gorge River in the South Island took me three days’ walking to reach when I visited them in 2013.

Or the Burkinshaws, whom I visited in 2018. Mum Rose and dad Jeff and their five daughters, Sarah, Abigail, Julia, Christina and Keziah, live in a remote cabin in the northwest Canadian wilderness, where winter temperatures plunge to minus 30C.

Or the Stone brothers, who lived in a cave in Utah in the US. The identical twins, Bill and Bob, in their eighties, had been holed up in a remote cave system in the desert outback for more than 20 years when I met them first in 2014 before revisiting in 2018.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, over the past few weeks I have found myself thinking …

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Send us your footage and photos

This is a shout-out to our readers to ask – please send us thousands of your off-grid photos – hundreds of minutes of video footage of you and your off-grid life. C’mon down to our YouTube channel – you can even star in it – we are looking for off-grid communities or individuals to become our next YouTube stars.

With the amazing Smartphones most of us now possess, we can all make photography and videography a part of our life. We are all citizen journalists.

lease send us your stills or videos using photo and video apps, via Google docs or Wetransfer.com.

You can email news@off-grid.net for more guidance on what to send and how to send it.

If you do not live off-grid – you can still share videos of yourself talking about why you want to live off-grid – especially at this difficult time, when Coronavirus confines so many to their own homes.

We know from emails we receive from our readers how many of you want to flee the city now, and start a new life of self-sufficiency.

We also understand you want to look great in every picture you share on our social media platforms. You can even hire a professional to edit photos, for example using On Click.
But we can also edit the footage for you and please ret assured that whatever you send us will be used to best effect. We want you to look good – when you look good, then we look good. So don’t be shy – send us your most revealing moments and most interesting off-grid technologies and we will take care of the rest.
And it really is very easy to film and shoot stills on a phone camera these days – the only limitation is he amount of memory and the bandwidth to send it to us being included in your tariff – but will all-inclusive phone plans even this is within the scope of many. And if not, just wait until the next time you go into town and then jump on the bandwidth in a cafe or library.

Photo and video apps are a boon, allowing you to edit with just a few taps on the mobile. Stills editing apps can change the look and feel of the photographs, from cropping unwanted objects to the addition of stickers or background. There are a few advanced photo editing apps which allow you to remove imperfections on the face, such as wrinkles, dark circles, and white spots.

Video editing apps can be used to do a basic edit – try Vidtrim, Quik, and Adobe Premiere Clip.

There are multiple reasons to use photo editing apps:
Add stickers
If you want to capture yourself standing outside your off-grid home, you can do it. There are various ways to add and remove elements that are in the …

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