“When I moved to Manhattan I was 22 years old. I thought I was the shit, I became a fashion photographer and I loved it. And then after a while of being in the super fashion world I was like, there’s a lot more to life than what the new black was gonna be.”
John Wells - Off Grid interview
About a year ago I read about John Wells, an ex-New Yorker who sold his home, paid off all his debt, and moved to 40 acres of newly purchased desert in southwest Texas. His mission? To live a simpler, happier life, with a lot less stuff.
In its third year, his grand experiment focuses on equal parts lifestyle and practical science. How does one live a meaningful life without all the clutter of modern society? How do you do it comfortably in one of the most inhospitable (but cheap) localities in the country?
He calls his home and proving ground the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy And Sustainable Living Field Laboratory. It’s a long name with a potentially problematic acronym (SWTAESLFL) which is probably why he generally refers to it as the “Field Lab.”
Initially, the Field Lab was this very modest, hyper-efficient home which, according to his site, was constructed for a mere $2,400. He’s spent his days quietly expanding the compound, which has now grown into a much larger home built from four shipping containers and a polycarbonate dome roof which spans a courtyard greenhouse. It’s nuts. And he built it himself.
But he also makes time for things like an RC car cattle chaser for bovine visitors, or a giant flamethrower to light up the night sky. Just cause.
Online, he’s captured the concrete stuff: the building, the planning, the progress. But that he bothered to record a strange and beautiful sonic resonance that rings through his roof says something more. There’s something beautiful about doing nothing but quietly working on projects and having the presence of mind to enjoy and document their unintended side effects.
And it’s all there on the internet for us to enjoy from our uncomfortable office chairs.
On his site he quotes some like-minded friends of his:
“Every day, we get up, have coffee with the early morning, do chores, then get on with whatever project we have going… there’s often a choice. We go to bed tired, but very happy and peaceful.”
Sounds pretty good to me.