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How to leave society: 16 key steps (full guide)

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

— Buckminster Fuller

If you have ever wanted to leave society, this guide is for you.

Society has reached a tipping point where many people are beginning to see more benefits in dropping out of it than continuing to take part.

Here are the do’s and don’ts if you want to know how to leave society behind for good.

16 key steps to leave society for good

1) Look before you jump

Plenty of folks have tried to go off-grid on a whim and failed miserably. Others have put in the research and time to make it work.

The choice is in your hands.

And the main thing in your control is how much prep you put into your plans.

If you want to leave society, I strongly advise you to look before you jump.

Many people who want to leave society feel something is very off in modern society. They feel a crucial lack of:

  • Solidarity
  • Community
  • Work-life balance
  • Affordable housing and living

These are all very fair concerns.

But before you jump off the deep end and head for parts unknown with all your worldly belongings, it’s important to do research and get your head on right.

2) Scout your location carefully

It’s very important if you want to understand how to leave a society that you choose your location carefully.

Natural beauty and desirability matter plenty, as do ties in the region or area you want to settle in.

But so do practical considerations, especially:

  • The cost of land
  • Local regulations and zoning laws
  • A healthy ecosystem if you want to go back to the land
  • Nearby water sources and wildlife
  • Potential natural and man-made hazards in the area

The best way to scout locations is to do research beforehand and then choose at least three or four places to visit in person if possible.

Take a vehicle and drive around, meet a few locals and get to know the lay of the land.

Could this be your place or is it too remote?

Maybe it’s the opposite and it’s too close to the kind of crowded society you were trying to leave behind in the first place.

3) Get your money situation squared away

Let’s face it, one of the big things tying us to modern society and its systems is money.

I don’t just mean earning money, although that’s definitely key – and something I’ll deal with a bit later in this guide.

I mean that the bank accounts, credit cards, insurance policies, and ID that you have make you part of society whether you like it or not.

Some people have ditched all of them and completely disappeared off the grid.

I wouldn’t recommend such a decision hastily.

And if you are going to be finding new ways to manage your money or trade items of value then consider alternatives as well.

This might include the anonymous benefits of cryptocurrency or storing your money in the form of precious gems.

It’s really up to you.

Never forget dollars and cents:

We’re still living in money-based economies, and if you can’t figure out a way to buy all that survival gear and supplies, all your plans will come to nothing.

If you want to eventually work your way into a barter or trade system, join agriculture cooperatives or things of that nature, then do your research first.

As for earning income? It can often be a good idea to find some sort of skill or product you can do in your new home, even if just for the purpose of staying busy and productive.

“Consider turning hobbies into money-making ventures. It could be anything from painting and sculpture to making herbal cosmetics or organic food products.

You will have plenty of time to try your hand at composing music or writing that novel you have always wanted to,”

4) Make multiple practical plans

Before you go off-grid or leave the norms of society behind, you must consider numerous key issues.

This includes working out how much savings you will live, how you’ll generate energy, your food and water supply, and what kind of life you want to have.

You should always have at least two fallback plans in case your first venture out of mainstream society doesn’t go as planned.

These plans should at least include the basics including info on the local area, supplies you’ll need, and pros and cons.

I also highly recommend a “buddy system,” whether that is your family or a close friend who is also going off-grid with you.

Going solo looks heroic, but it can be a real grind – not only literally but also emotionally due to the isolation.

5) Invest in a sat phone

Before you head out on the land or get out of the busy noise and blinding lights, buy a satellite phone.

You can get one of these guys starting around $500 and they are 100% worth the investment.

Satellite phones will allow you to make emergency calls and get what you need even if you’re far out in the wild.

Leaving society can be a wonderful success for some people, but there are situations where you simply need help that can’t be found outside civilization.

It’s also the case that if you don’t want to have internet or a cell phone where you’re going you can use the sat phone for basic comms.

Your family and friends would still love to hear from you now and then!

6) Try before you buy

After putting together your plan and fallback plans, go try it out first.

Try camping with basic supplies for an entire month.

Live off-grid by a river for a whole season. See if it works for you.

I have friends who tried to leave society without planning properly and ended up at a cabin just making runs into the nearest town for massive bags of beef jerky every few days.

By trying out an outdoor living or being away from most things, you can see how hard it will be for you to acclimatize to it.

A very beginner step of this is that once you’re done using your devices for the planning stage of your getaway try ditching all electronic devices except basic phone calls for one or two months.

Do you melt down or do you start feeling much better?

7) Learn how to hack it in the wild

When you’re leaving society, you’re leaving behind its comforts and advanced systems as well.

For this reason, you’re going to want to learn how to hack it in the wild.

Basic shelter building, chopping and storing firewood, what berries and leaves you can eat, survival in the cold, and so forth.

You should also find out basic methods for canning and preserving food, raising livestock and hunting.

If you don’t want to hunt or raise animals, look into buying all your meat beforehand and freezing it or pursuing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

Start spending more time outdoors as well. If you’ll be away from modern conveniences you need to become more familiar and competent out and about in Mother Nature in general.

Generating power and having some of the other tools you need to survive is also something this guide will cover.

8) Know why you’re doing it

People who want to leave society each have a different reason for it.

Maybe your job is killing you, the pace and style of modern life feels fake to you, or you just plain find it ugly living in a crowded, busy place with too many cars and noises.

Find out why you are leaving and have that value firmly in your head before you commit to a life off the beaten path.

For many who choose to go back to a simpler, self-sufficient life, it’s driven by their desire to raise their family the way they see fit and to have more control over their lives.

Off Grid World writes:

“Your job is not your boss. Your job is to work hard (and smart) to provide a good life for your family and yourself. To raise your children the way you see fit, and not the way the system says you should raise your family.

Family is the most important thing on the face of the planet. It is our purpose. That and helping others. We have a duty to our families and humanity to provide for our families and to help other human beings.”

Even if your family is just you and your dog, that still counts.

9) Build up your building skills

If you’re going to leave society, you may need to do some building.

Even if you’re getting someone else to build a shelter or residential complex for you somewhere in the wilds, you’ll want to know basic building skills in order to get by.

Being far away from society means you won’t just be able to call up a carpenter – or a plumber or doctor, for that matter.

If you want to build your own place, you may need transport to haul the boards and materials to your new site.

If you want someone else to build it, make sure you’re involved a little in the process or watching them so you can learn how it all fits together in the event of any issues that come up.

Learning building skills will also be enormously useful to you in small projects that come up around your new you-topia. Examples include:

  • Building boxes for raised garden beds
  • Repairing shutters, cupboards and shelves
  • Building small tables for around the place
  • Looking after any porch or deck area, window trim and other places in the building

10) Don’t burn all your bridges

When you do eventually head out for your new digs, don’t forget about those staying behind.

When I say not to burn your bridges, I’m not only talking about friends and family who may be neutral or even negative about your plans.

I also just mean basic community relationships and connections you have with local businesses, casual acquaintances, and anyone else.

Some folks who leave society and join a really alternative community or go it alone with a survivalist vision can, frankly, get a little cocky about it.

There’s no reason to do so, and if your plan is a good one there’s no reason others shouldn’t wish you the best of luck.

If they see you do well then who knows, it could inspire more complacent folks to go live their independent dream as well!

11) Put some power behind your plans

The issue of how you will get power is a big one.

Some people try to make a go of it without electricity, but having solar or some form of power is usually a good bet if you’re leaving society for the long haul.

There’s nothing like a nice hot shower out in the woods with water heated by your own solar panels.

There are also many devices you can get that will use water energy or wind power to generate a small amount of electricity that can be very useful to you for hot water and heating.

Work out how you will cook, ventilation if you plan to have a wood stove, and other simple – but crucial – issues like this. You’ll be glad you did.

12) Get a handle on your water and food situation

Sanitation and irrigation are crucial.

Will you have an outhouse in the forest or build a basic septic tank at your new place?

Make sure the hill slopes the right way and you don’t wing it on having it built.

Wherever you are getting your water, test it fully before using it as a water source.

If it’s not pure but still drinkable, consider iodine tablets or a basic filtration system to get it functional.

As for crops and potentially raising chickens or livestock, this is really worth looking into.

Growing vegetables and your own food is deeply satisfying and will make you much more self-sufficient.

Having livestock around will be a great experience for you and your family – plus who doesn’t like waking up at the crack of the dawn to a rooster crowing?

As Outfitter notes:

“You can become even more self-sufficient by growing a vegetable garden. Depending on your location, you could also consider fruit trees to supplement your growing.

Consider livestock as well. Chickens are easy to keep and will provide you with eggs, and rabbits are another favorite off-grid small farm animal.”

13) Get some bees in your bonnet

Beekeeping is one of the best things you can do if you’re going to live off-grid.

As Riley Carlson writes for Homesteading:

“Beekeeping in a small homestead has its challenges but it isn’t impossible! It isn’t expensive too when you use everyday household items like mason jars.”

The fact that it’s fairly low-cost and effective to use mason jars for beekeeping makes it even more attractive.

You may get stung once or twice, but beekeeping really isn’t as tricky or dangerous as people think.

And with bees dying out around the world you’ll be doing your part for the ecosystem as well!

14) Get creative with saving money and energy

As I was mentioning, canning is one of those skills that will come in super handy if you’re going to leave society.

In addition, look at dehydrating and other ways of storing food other than a refrigerator such as a root cellar.

Jennifer Poindexter for Morning Chores writes:

“Canning is another simple way to preserve food without refrigeration. You can pressure can or water bath your jars outdoors by using propane burners.”

“Dehydrating is another old-school method which allows you to preserve food where they don’t require refrigeration.

Adding a root cellar to your off-grid homestead is another old-school method to be able to store food and keep it cool without requiring additional electricity.”

By pursuing some of these ideas you’ll save money, time, and energy! That’s a triple win in my books.

15) Before you achieve you must believe

One of the most important things about how to leave society is to be optimistic.

You should have realism and know why you’re doing it, but you shouldn’t take everything so seriously that you lose sight of how great it is to be able to forge out on your own and build a new life.

Susie Kellogg has a great post about this and how many benefits her family has had from dropping out of society.

For Kellogg and her family going off-grid involves living in an RV and traveling the country.

“So many people we know are unhappy and their kids are unhappy and they can’t figure it out.  They are doing what they are supposed to do and it’s just not working for them.

We were called to be so much more than bill payers, purveyors of the status quo.  Being comfortable is a smoke screen…

With less money, you become more appreciative of what you do have.  Our RV is our vessel to our freedom.  It’s not luxurious, but it’s ours and we appreciate it more than you could ever imagine.”

16) Keep friends and family in the loop

Keep other people in mind.

If you have close friends or family, it will be hard on them if you vanish overnight. Especially if you plan to live in an area without electricity or access to a postal route, you will need to figure out how to maintain communication.

If you’re dropping out of society, only do so after thinking hard about the consequences for yourself and others.

Dropping out of society: what works and what doesn’t

The 2007 film Into the Wild is based on the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer.

It’s about a young man called Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch) who leaves society to go live in the wilds of Alaska. He wants to achieve his vision of pure freedom and harmony with nature.

In the film, there’s a great scene that takes place near the start of the story when McCandless is hitchhiking across the US on his way up to Alaska.

He gets into a drunken discussion with a local at a bar about why he wants to go to Alaska.

“I’m gonna be all the way out there all the way – all the way fuckin’ out there, just on my own, you know? No fuckin’ watch, no map, no axe, no nothin’ … no nothin’, just me out there be out there in it…in the wild…”

The man asks him what exactly he’ll do once he reaches this Shangri-La.

“You’re just livin’ man, you’re just there in that moment in that special place in time…Maybe when I’m back I can write a book about getting out of this sick society..”

The local man affects a dramatic sick cough: “society!” he agrees.

“Society, man!” McCandless enthuses back.

“Society” the man shouts back, mimicking the young man’s anger and passion. And so on…

McCandless explains how society is full of cheating, lying and corruption all adding up to nothing good and he’s sick of it.

At the end, his bar buddy urges McCandless to take a step back before he jumps in over his head and heads for the wild without a practical plan.

The passionate youth dismisses his advice and continues his idealistic trek.

McCandless ended up dying from eating the wrong berries, trapped in a broken-down husk of a bus in the Alaska wilds, and consumed with misery and loneliness.

Touching as it may be, this is an example of what not to do.

If you want to leave society, do it the right way:

  • Plan ahead;
  • Have a buddy system;
  • Get the practical parts worked out
  • And don’t let your emotions override your common sense.

When you truly commit to your dream and put in the legwork to make it happen it can become a reality even quicker than you think.

Here’s wishing you the best of success in your new venture!

Written by Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer. His upcoming book Cultworld will be out later this year. Follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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