Options for dropping out of modern life
February 3, 2010 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Options for dropping out of modern life? I'm bored with it. My only requirement is having internet access (preferably on my laptop). Aside from that I'd consider communes, monasteries, anything really. I'm a citizen of the UK, but I'm happy to go anywhere that will take me if necessary.

I've done plenty of traveling, living out of a bag and surviving on little money so that isn't a concern, I'm familiar with the lifestyle.

I'm willing to do whatever work is necessary. I don't have much in the way of practical skills but I am healthy, a fast learner, and am good with computers/programming.

I don't know if I really want to do this or not. But it is a real possibility, and I'd like to know what my options are.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Your criteria are both vague and conflicting, which takes a fair amount of work.

You want to "drop out of modern life," but you want reliable net access and you want to do programming work?

You'll forgive me if I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. We're miles away from looking at options. We're still narrowing down what you have in mind.
posted by valkyryn at 12:50 PM on February 3, 2010 [9 favorites]

Internet access and computer programming are the apotheosis of modern life. Your question makes no sense as posed.
posted by dfriedman at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

There seems to be a degree of internal irony at play here. If you're serious about a monastic existence I'd take a look at this first.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:57 PM on February 3, 2010

An acquaintance of mine gave away all of his possessions and moved to a monastery in the U.S. whose sole occupants were him and his spiritual mentor, who he brought to the U.S. from another country where his religion is based. He maintained a laptop with internet access in one room of the monastery, since he had extremely valuable knowledge and skills with his former employer, which he from that point forward provided for free.

Really, though, your question doesn't make much sense without some clarification of what you mean by "drop out" and what you mean by "modern life." You want to drop out of modern life, except for the internet and getting a job as a computer programmer? Do you mean you want to live in crappy conditions and give up plumbing, medical care, and motorized transportation? Do you mean you don't want to buy manufactured or other commercial goods anymore (except for computers, obviously)?

There are literally millions of options. But they all depend on what, exactly, you mean by "dropping out of modern life." Can you follow up with one of the mods to have that information added to your question?
posted by The World Famous at 12:57 PM on February 3, 2010

Do you mean something like this guy?
posted by amethysts at 1:05 PM on February 3, 2010

I too find your objectives conflicting, but maybe you need to work through those to decide what is more important to you.

How about a stint as an intern on the London Catholic Worker Farm. You don't have to be Catholic, or even Christian, though it looks like you would need to integrate aspects of their ethos. Your work would be with asylum seekers in the UK.
posted by sagwalla at 1:18 PM on February 3, 2010

modern life? I'm bored with it. My only requirement is having internet access

I would say that you are most definitely not bored with modern life, you are bored with your life as it currently is. If you had given us more detail, or if this weren't anonymous, we might be able to ascertain what you think constitutes "modern" life (office work, commuting, indoor plumbing and heating?), what it is you're bored with and what you could do to enjoy life more. As it is, this is one of the most peculiar questions I've ever seen on AskMe and somewhat unanswerable.
posted by Dasein at 1:25 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ran Prieur somehow manages by housesitting, whilst maintaining a semi-popular blog, and wrote a popular essay How to Drop Out.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:26 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't see a conflict here at all. It sounds to me like you want to get away from the hustle and bustle: crowds, cities, cars, advertisements, commutes, etc. It is completely possible to have that, and still have an internet connection.

I'm in the US, but a couple places that I have often thought of going for such a lifestyle are Durango, CO and Juneau, AK. Many people in those towns work independently and/or remotely. I can't help with finding the actual remote job, although as you are a skilled coder and don't expect much money, it seems to me that it wouldn't be that hard to find contract work online. I'm doing part-time work from home right now, and I can't even program.
posted by bingo at 1:29 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

bingo, in your first paragraph you're describing urban life, not modern life. There's a big difference.
posted by Dasein at 1:33 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

While I also think your desires may conflict, you might be interested in reading the essays of Paul Lutus, creator of Apple Writer and cottage computer programming.
posted by shownomercy at 1:34 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you mean something like this guy?

Funny you should mention him; I actually came here to say that I sort of did this when I moved to Moab, Utah - same town this aforementioned guy lives near. There is internet there - but outside of that, 'modern' life and culture and such is pretty non-existent. It's a place where lots of people go to 'drop out.' You can live on little money there, far far away from civilization, in a beautiful wilderness. It's sort of a bastion of the Burning Man, energy crowd. It was great while I lived there, but for me it wasn't a good long term fit.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:35 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

This wouldn't make any sense, except that there kind of is a precedence for this sort of thing. Anarcho-primitivists, such as these guys, might be what you're looking for. They would like to escape civilization but, as you can see, are quite fond of having a presence on the internet and are most likely equipped with laptops.

From the few primitivist enthusiasts I've known (which, admittedly, is only a few), they tend to do the hypocritical anti-civilization/pro-Internets thing by squatting in low-amenity housing units, camping under a tarp in their backyard, and refusing to bathe. If you could find a large squat (the UK has plenty of them), you might find that you like this sort of thing.

Or you could just do the Thoreau thing. Thoreau didn't distance himself from people or entirely remove himself from civilization, he just lived in a simple cabin in what was basically a park, and made regular visits into town. If you could get yourself some land somewhere with wireless reception, and stocked up on batteries, you could in theory live a fairly simplistic life and just recharge your batteries on your weekly visits into town to buy groceries.
posted by DoktorFaustus at 1:36 PM on February 3, 2010

It sounds to me like the OP wants ideas on a permanent "working vacation" in a place where simplicity (or at least, an urbanite's view of it) reigns, quiet (from machines and people) abounds, and occasionally Internet access for facebooking with the fam, flickring some pics, managing a bank account, and maybe a little 'net skin watching.

Sounds good.

In fact, I just started reading this book which seems to be about one couple's experiment in living somewhat like you're describing, although with a more "no electronics" sort of bent - but I'm only 10 pages in...

Are there commune forums on the net? I bet there are. And I bet you should start hanging out there and getting a feel for that sort of life.
posted by terpia at 1:43 PM on February 3, 2010

Immigrate to the Pitcairn Islands. It's a remote British territory in the South Pacific with a population of 50, most of them descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty and the Polynesian islanders they shanghaied.

It's a lush tropical island, fairly small, with a democratic government supported by the UK. Outside contact is limited to the cargo ship that brings supplies every few months, plus the occasional cruise ship that dispatches tourists on outrigger canoes.

The lifestyle is pretty rural -- there's a general store, but most residents have grow their own gardens to supplement. There's no indoor plumbing, obviously, and limited electricity. The people are insular and isolated, but somewhat desperate for able-bodied workers as the population dwindles.

Getting there would be hard. You'd have to pay your own way for transportation, and bring enough funds to construct your own modest house using lumber and tools on the island with community help. Having a usable skill would be great, as there are few job opportunities on the island apart from routine maintenance and crafting surprisingly sought-after trinkets to sell to overseas collectors. There's also the immigration process to deal with, which I imagine would be easier for a British citizen to get through.

A threadbare, back-to-basics life, overall. But I can't imagine a place more remote from "the modern world" while still offering a measure of safety, community, and the barest of modern comforts.

(And hey, they've got 256kbps satellite internet hooked up to every house on the island!)
posted by Rhaomi at 1:56 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think the question is maybe worded too glibly, but I don't think it's contradictory. It sounds like what you are after is freedom from the hypercommercialism of modern life, exacerbated by the short attention span of the Internet, and from the rat race in general. I can sympathize. I am not a fan of his, but Richard Stallman seems to embody some of what you're after.

I can't recommend a particular place to go, or any particular path. One irony is that if you travel to an impoverished place, you may end up using your programming skills to introduce the very things you want to escape.
posted by ldenneau at 1:56 PM on February 3, 2010

This question does make sense if you stop trying to read it like a computer programmer. 'Dropping Out' of modern society and still wanting to use a laptop aren't always mutually exclusive. Its not some binary either or. You can read this as the OP looking for options to lead a simpler life but with access to some modern amenities. This is totally doable.

You could backpack the world with a laptop and you'd essentially be leaving the modern world (the rat race, the conveniences of a stable, modern home or apartment) and still be able to connect via internet cafes. To this end you could steer your own course - stray further from city centers for a less urban, less "modern" experience, and move closer to a city center to reconnect with the modern world.

Alternatively you could opt to look into "Off the Grid" type living scenarios. Solar power for your energy needs etc... While some might argue this as the height of modernity, I would argue that it is using modern technology to get back to a more sustainable "primitive" mode of existence - where you might grow you own food and have no need to pay bills, a mortgage or chase the modern concept of the career ladder...

A good primer video on this type of life can be viewed here:

Off The Grid

I think your options are really about travel or pursuing some sort of Off Grid existence. Also google "earthships."
posted by jnnla at 2:01 PM on February 3, 2010

You could just buy some land that is outside the city but not too far and build a green (as in building materials and stuff) small house with not many electronics . I think that might be the lifestyle your looking for.
posted by majortom1981 at 3:29 PM on February 3, 2010

I see two options:

1) Email a mod and provide more information on what you're actually talking about.
2) Move to Shetland: they've got great net access, but also plenty of unmodern opportunities.

(Really, though, the net is inextricably modern. I've spend a couple of weeks a year offline, and am increasingly noticing that I really love them. Living exactly the life I'm living now, without internet, would strip away so much that feels modern about my life that even though I'd have TV, radio, phones etc, it'd feel like the 1910s, effectively. I'd get a shitload more work done, too).
posted by bonaldi at 4:51 PM on February 3, 2010

A guy from the UK wrote two books you may be interested in...How to Be Idle and The Freedom Manifesto both by Tom Hodgkinson. Other than that, check into the many lifestyle design blogs that are so popular these days such as The Four Hour Workweek, The Professional Hobo, or Joyfully Jobless. On the other hand, if you want to work on a farm for room and board, check out WWOOFing.
posted by MsKim at 7:23 PM on February 3, 2010

I have just the thing - and it's close to home! I give you The Principality of Sealand, just 6 miles off the coast of Suffolk. Quiet. Nice view. Not much modern life going on out there, but apparently computer companies were going to operate from there at two different points, so they must have had a plan for getting internet service - you could too.

I can't speak for Prince Michael, but maybe you could negotiate a custodianship with him and could do freelance web development from there. Free room and board in exchange for tidying up now and then and keeping an eye out for that scheming King Marduk? All the barnacles you can eat, and you can pee right off the side. And you'd blog about it, of course, and post pictures of crazy or beautiful stuff. And you know you'd write a book about it if you stayed there long enough.

This is jokey and fun, but seriously, why not at least call? It would be a once in a lifetime experience. Draw up a proposal and pitch it to the royal family with the same level of seriousness with which they discuss their nation's affairs. Sure there'd be some logistical considerations, particularly if the fishing's no good, but if you really are a tumbleweed and ready to blow off to somewhere interesting, why not go the full absurd monte? Anonymous Livingsealand Seagull, you could call yourself. Lord Protector Anonymous Livingsealand Seagull.
posted by Askr at 7:35 PM on February 3, 2010

I don't have a problem with the question. I assume the questioner is looking for brainstorming, so why not just answer with what "dropping out" and "modern life" mean to us individually?

Check out this couple. They set up a Yurt in Alaska, work a couple months a year, and have their own generator.

posted by xammerboy at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2010

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