Mountain Climbing Our Way To Our Off-Grid Dreams

Having a great dream in a lot like mountain climbing. You have to descend before you can ascend.

Mountain climbing in Sierra de Gredos, Spain

I can hardly believe that three years have passed since I committed myself to this dream of moving from the city to the countryside. If you had told me then that in three years time I would still be writing about the dream from the city, I would have laughed in your face. 

That’s how convinced I was that this dream was going to happen, and happen quickly! The fire I felt was undeniable and the truth of that fire was also undeniable. 

It was with a firm surety that I started documenting this process.

I remember discussing it with my partner Sergio one day, back in late 2019. I was still living in my comfortable flat with my then-housemate and working at the English academy. 

He spoke about how in time, maybe five years or so, we might be in the countryside. 

“Five years!”, I exclaimed! “You must be having a laugh!”.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 

Five years? I could be dead by then! 

“I’m going to be out of this place in two!”, is said with total conviction. 

An argument ensued in which I was adamant that I would be out of this city in no time at all. His five-year prediction irritated me. I was on fire with this dream and had no time to waste. 

“We don’t have five years!”, I said to him, “We aren’t exactly spring chickens! We need to do this now, if we are to do it at all!”.

Rush and Hurry 

I was 31 at the time. I had received the vision and I was eager to get started. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to wait five years to do so! 

My earliest blog posts convey this fire clearly. I was riding a spiritual high from the previous few years of deep spiritual practice which had culminated with a trip to India in the summer of 2019. I thought that the road ahead was clear and nothing was going to stop me. 

Let’s be ok living with the uncertainty of not knowing how it’s all going to turn out. Sure, I would really love to know when and how I’m going to be able to fulfil my dream of buying land and living off-grid, but if I knew how it was all going to unfold, it would be a far less interesting and exciting adventure! 

Extract from my blog post ‘Expecting the Unexpected and Embracing Fear’

Little did I know what was round the corner! 

Yet even when COVID hit and I was housebound, the fire and forward momentum didn’t cease. If anything, it increased! 

I threw myself into my blog, and connected with people online. I couldn’t believe the support my posts were getting. People were reaching out and inviting me to their land left, right and centre. Everyone was so encouraging and happy to help. 

Then, through the support of my new readers, the Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Certificate came to my attention. Without much delay, I jumped right in and that became my focus. The vision deepened as I began to learn the tools to make it a reality. 

Everything seemed to be moving very fast, even though we physically weren’t moving at all. That was until summer arrived and we took to the road to meet some of the people who I had been in contact with during the lockdowns. 

It was tantalisingly close to the off-grid life I was dreaming about. When we were staying with Max and Nic on Freedom Farm we even went to visit some fincas. That area of Spain is very cheap to buy land and therefore there is a big community of international back-to-the-landers. 

off-grid finca
One finca we went to visit, Teruel

I could have jumped right in if we had seen somewhere we liked. But Sergio wasn’t so keen. Ever the rational minded one, he told me to calm down. 

Tranquila”, he would say, “Tranquila”. 

Facing the End 

He was right of course. All that fire energy meant that it wasn’t a very grounded time. It was all very exciting and inspiring but so much ungroundedness can make you reckless. 

The truth of the matter was that I needed to go back to work in September, finish my permaculture course and see that chapter of my life out. 

So tantalisingly close, yet so far. 

off-grid finca
Another finca we visited, this time with a renovated house

In a way, this journey has been a little bit like mountain climbing. 

This journey began when I reached the top of my previous mountain: life in Madrid, my work and everything that I had created for myself.

I had passed the advanced DELE Spanish exam, done the adult clown course I had always wanted to do, done capoeira, yoga, drawing classes. I had created a home for myself, made friends, travelled a lot and found my partner Sergio. 

In 2019 I completed the DELTA, a master’s level teaching certificate that is enough to strike fear into the hearts of all TEFL English teachers. Finally, I made that trip to an ashram in India, something that had been a lifelong dream. 

In short, I had completed all the challenges that this mountain had set for me and it was time to set my sights on new heights.

Mountain Climbing 

Life is great at the top of a mountain, isn’t it? The views are spectacular and you look back and can’t believe how you managed it. You feel energised, invigorated, like you can take on anything. 

mountain climbing, Cercedilla, Madrid
Lone mountain climbing on my 34th birthday, Cercedilla, Madrid. 2022

Then you see the next mountain in the distance and set your sights on it. It looks even more amazing than this one so you set off in that direction, full of brave camaraderie and positive expectation. 

However, after the initial surge of enthusiasm, the descent becomes a little bit more uncomfortable. You didn’t anticipate how steep it was going to be. Sometimes it can feel precarious, like you could trip and fall off completely in any moment. 

The only advice my heart gives me is: “DON’T LOOK DOWN!”

“Don’t look down into the abyss as you cross the bridge. The winds of fear will blow but you must keep your eyes fixed on your destination in order to keep you balanced and strong. Go forth boldly, step by step and have faith that the bridge will carry you over”.

Excerpt from ‘Taking the Greatest Leap of My Life’

But as long as the next mountain peak remains in sight you can keep going, confident that if you climbed this mountain, you can climb the next. 

Yet what you didn’t know at the time was how scary and cold it was in the shadows of the valley. The space between mountains can be a dark and shadowy place. 

What’s more, now you can barely see where you are heading because you can no longer see the next peak that has been guiding you. 

At times you flounder, unsure as to how to proceed. You begin to take the first tentative steps upwards. This mountain is bigger, taller, more challenging than the first. The path is unmarked, except for a few barely-visible trails of travellers that have gone before you.

Or are they wild animal tracks only? 

Mountain climbing, Gredos
Unexpected company, mountain climbing in Sierra de Gredos 2021

You look back at where you have been, at the previous mountains that you have climbed. You have fond memories in your heart. You begin to miss those old mountains that you spent so much time on. They were good to you. 

You begin to reminisce about what life was like before. You miss the views of the previous mountain and consider going back for another look.

You look towards the path you are currently walking and see the steep incline. You consider what kinds of challenges await you as you continue your ascent. Your courage waivers. You sit down for a cup of tea from your flask to pause and regroup. 

The previous mountain was full of green pastures and lush grass. The air was filled with the scent of honeysuckle and song birds. But this mountain seems bleak and scary. 

What’s more, there’s less people climbing this mountain. There are fewer people to talk to as you go. It feels hostile and unsafe. 

“What have I done?”, you ask yourself, remorsefully. You consider turning back.

Lost up a mountain, Gredos
Lost, tired, thirsty, hungry, sweaty and wanting to find our back to civilisation. Sierra de Gredos, 2021.

But you can’t go back now. The journey has already commenced. Your self-respect and integrity demands that you continue. 

 After all, you had seen all that there was to see on the previous mountains and were getting bored. How long could you have stayed up there for before you began to get frustrated and stagnant?

You try to remember how amazing the next mountain looked from the top of the previous one, but somehow the image is hazy.

You get up and try to get a view of the peak to refresh your memory. You have to crane your neck but you can see enough of it to renew your spirit. 

Perhaps you can climb to the top after all? 

You change positions and try to get a look from different angles. What is the best way up from here? You take some time to strategise. You check your compass and draw up plans. 

You take a deep breath.

Now you are ready for the real ascent. 

You take a breath. Pull your backpack tighter around your waist. 

And begin. 

2023

And thus, we find ourselves in 2023. The difficulty of the descent from the peak of my old life over the last few years took me by surprise, even though I knew intellectually that it would happen. 

It started when I was at the ashram in India. I remember getting the news that a dear friend was leaving Madrid. I wouldn’t get to see her before she returned to the UK, and so wouldn’t get to say goodbye. 

I knew then that this was the beginning. It was the first sign of the death of the old that was to shortly follow.

mountain climbing
Remains

However, sometimes, no amount of intellectual preparation can really prepare you for what is to come. I knew that my old life would need to go, but what I hadn’t taken into consideration was that the old me needed to go as well. 

Peeling off old skins is hard and painful. 

Giving birth to the new is also hard and painful. 

Now that I stand here at the beginning of a new year, I also sense a new era. 

I come into this new era with the dust of rubble of my old life still fresh in the air. 

But the ground beneath my feet is solid. I know who I am, and who I am not. I know what is for me, and what is not for me. 

Stepping forward firmly into this new territory, I breathe deeply. 

mountain climbing, Gredos
Mountain climbing, Sierra de Gredos

My world is more grounded. From here I can move forward without the danger of recklessness that I felt before. 

Yes, it has taken me three years to get here. Yes, I am still in the city. Yes, maybe Sergio was right, after all. 

The level of destruction of the old is directly proportional to the level of newness that is to be born.

This holds true as much for society as it does our own lives.

Anyone who thinks that I am just a dreamer who will continue writing about this dream forever without actually achieving it, does not understand this. 

The preparatory phase is over.

The real journey commences. 

It’s time. 

mountain climbing, Gredos
and we are off again

Without looking back at the demolition site behind us, 

Let’s begin our ascent.

Come with me on this journey by signing up to my newsletter and get my next post delivered straight to your inbox. You can also find me Instagram and Facebook@shared_earthliving.

Let’s co-create a more beautiful world!

Olivia Grundy

Join me as I transition from the city to the country, following my hearts desire for a more sustainable life based on respect for the Earth and all the creatures in it.

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