I am not a perfect human being. In my younger life I told lies, committed foolish acts of teenage rebellion, drank too much, chased girls, and wasted lots of money. But, in the grand overview, previous personal shortcomings aside, I have always been a good citizen. In 1995, when I graduated from high school, I joined the military to serve my country. I had heard stories of my grandfather, a B-17 Bomber pilot in World War II. The military of 1995 had changed since the second World War. In 1995, we were at peace, there were no Nazi’s to hunt, no Normandy beaches to storm, and no Iwo Jima’s. Nevertheless, I wanted to emulate an ideal I had in my mind of how so many men of the “Greatest Generation” lived their lives, served their nation, and raised their families.
After the war, he built a small business, purchased a modest home, and started a family. Without a college education, many men of the Greatest Generation and the one after were able to retire comfortably. The homes they purchased increased modestly in value, the economy, not immune from difficulties, expanded and grew continually from the end of the second World War until the financial meltdown of 2008. In short, if you were an adult between 1945 and 2007, and you were a good citizen, worked hard, and played by the rules, you could count on a pretty decent life for yourself and possibly much more. Be good, work hard, pay your taxes. Bonus points if you served your country. These were the rules. If you followed them, you could expect to be rewarded. This was the American Dream…then.
This was the assumption I was operating under in 2006 when, at 29, I purchased a brand new home in a new master planned community outside of Phoenix, Arizona for $180,000. Like many people in those days, I was ignorant of the economic warning signs and the “housing bubble” that was about to burst. I was making good money at the time and so was my soon to be wife. At 29, I was invincible, so I financed a new car too. Growing up, I had watched my parents and my friends’ parents do it this way… new cars in the driveway of a 3 bedroom ranch home. This was “The American Dream.” I was entitled to it! Little did I know, that the American dream was over and it is never coming back.
Some 18 months later, I learned the hard way that I am not entitled to anything. My $180,000 home was valued at just $54,000 dollars. We were the last people living on our street. Every other house on our side of the street was empty, with a “Bank Owned For Sale” sign out front. Across the street, were half built homes in various stages, abandoned by construction crews and contractors. One weekend, a group of about 30 Mexicans spent the weekend in the empty house next door. They were kind and friendly. It occurred to be that they had used it as a drop house. A few weeks later, vandals began breaking into the empty homes on our street to steal appliances, copper wire, bathroom fixtures, whatever they could get their hands on. My wife and I had both lost our jobs, and we had a baby on the way. Fortunately, I was able to get another job. Unfortunately, I had to commute an hour and 20 minutes both ways to get to it.
We tried in vain for over 8 months to see if the bank would cut us a break. Perhaps they would change our loan or help us out we had hoped. Making the car and mortgage payments was a struggle, and we always somehow paid both on time, no matter what. There was a store that sold groceries that had misprinted labels at a discount. We did nothing extra. We were trying to make it. We were good citizens. This went on for months. One day, we were at a normal grocery store and we had devised a system of typing into a calculator the amount of each product that we put in the grocery cart. This to ensure we wouldn’t go over our tight budget to so we could pay that mortgage. I will never forget this moment. There was a big screen television, and the news was on. I watched it live as they announced the government bailout of all the banks. The “Troubled Asset Relief Program.” I was shocked. The big banks were getting bailed out, but we weren’t! I looked at my wife, I looked at my 6-month-old daughter. In an instant, I went from shock, to anger, to being fully awake to the whole corrupt system. I decided to stop paying the mortgage at that moment. We left the grocery store that day with 2 grocery carts full of food!
Everyone has a breaking point. That was mine. For me, that was when the social contract had been broken. The decision I made that day resulted in my eventual filing for bankruptcy. It set me back financially by about 10 years. It also set me on a journey of learning about our corrupt financial system and the federal reserve. I took lessons learned from having to be frugal and financially, I eventually recovered and I started down a path of slowly becoming self reliant and self sufficient. 13 years ago, I started a plan of action to 1). Become totally debt free. 2). Build my own home free and clear. 3). Not to depend on any major utility companies or corporations for my basic needs of food, water, and shelter. Today, my cars are paid for and I have no debt save a student loan (and I am waiting to see if they “forgive”” it before I decide to pay it off)
This is the new freedom
Three years ago, I finally realized my second and third goals. I purchased 5 acres of land in the mountains. It is in a very remote area 5 miles from the nearest paved road or power line. The place is safely nestled in at 7,500 ft and my closest neighbors are a good half mile away. They are all respectful of private property, they also live off grid, and they all own guns. Last fall I finished the first half of the home, made of earthbags. The summer days rarely get warmer than 82 degrees and the nights are cool so there is not a need for air conditioning. The air is dry and there is plenty of year round sunshine to power a small solar system that keeps a solar refrigerator, freezer, a water pump, and a few lights operating. We have plenty of trees on the property, and a wood stove to keep us warm in the winter. We have a propane oven and stove top, chicken coops, and space for gardens. I am very fortunate to get high-speed internet in this remote area because of a high hill on my property and a 40 ft pole I installed and a great local company that can beam a signal my way. Most of my neighbors are not this lucky.
I am nowhere near finished building our off grid paradise; we lived up here for an entire year until June of this year. A year living on site enabled us to complete a significant amount of work that otherwise would not have been possible. Now we return on weekends to finish the project. I can currently describe the place as livable, but not yet cosmetically pleasing or totally comfortable. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Here is the cool thing. My family has a home. Since I purchased the land outright, I placed it in a shell company, protecting it from any possible future creditors. Our home is off the grid, far away from COVID, Antifa, and anyone or anything else that may want to bother us. We have plans for an extensive rainwater collection system, lush gardens, raising chickens and other small animals for our own food. Many of our neighbors do the same and barter with one another for what is needed. One person brags about how she can go 6 months to a year without ever having to go into town for food. I want to get to that point.
Our politicians are totally corrupt at virtually every level. I figure the chances of the entire financial system crashing again are pretty high. Civil War, Martial Law, a Chinese military invasion, a Communist takeover… I feel like these are all possibilities, some more probably than others. I am under no delusions that should they do away with private property rights and the US Constitution that I will hold my home forever. I know that with whatever is coming, I may survive a little longer and a little more comfortably than most. I also know that I would much rather go down shooting to defend my off grid homestead than I would in defense of a 3 bedroom ranch with a 30 year fixed in a master planned community. This is the new freedom; and building it in a remote community of like-minded patriots should be everyone’s new American Dream. For if there is to be a better civilization built upon the ashes of the one that is about to fall, it will be built by people like us.