How We Picked a Place to “Settle Down”

Everyone always talks about “settling down”. This phrase never excited me because everyone made it sound bad and boring… kinda like getting married! Game over! “Settling down” was something that boring, older people did when it was time to stop having fun, and I never saw a point come in my life where fun would hit a brick wall and “settling down” would happen.

I didn’t want to live like an indecisive young person like the rest of my life either. In my late teens and early twenties I spent my time traveling to Pennsylvania to work a random summer camp job over the summer, I traveled to Okinawa twice and Germany once with Camp Adventure which was a great experience, I moved up to Oregon after attending college in California and I didn’t really know what was next.

Here is a picture of me DILIGAF-ing when I was 20 or so. Most people do this until they are about to hit their 30th birthday and then they say “Oh shit, I’m getting old. I thought I would have a life plan by now and be close to being wealthy and I’m far from it. I better start getting my ducks in a row!”

DILIGAF-ing my way through college.
DILIGAF-ing my way through college.

(Jesse’s story is a bit different than mine and he has been living with purpose for a long time but he will share that in a different blog post.)

When my 25th birthday rolled around I had a revelation that I was going to get nowhere, and get nowhere financially, if I spent the rest of my life without a goal or a plan. However, I didn’t know what goals or plans to have. “To own a house” or “to start a family” seemed too vague and doing the math, I was never going to get there with my last job.

Jesse and I started our relationship at a very inconvenient time in both of our lives. We knew we had something special between us but when we realized our strong feelings we both had to ask ourselves “What are we doing? Do we see ourselves having a happy future together? How does our relationship fit into the big picture? Is this relationship a good idea or are we simply wasting our time?”

Over time we got to know each other very well and talked a lot about what we wanted for our future. We had similar goals but didn’t quite know how to get there. We decided that we wanted to be self-sufficient, not need to rely on money, to own our home and our land outright, to do things that we were passionate about, to have a family, to spend time with our family, to live off of our land, to homeschool our future kids, and basically have freedom.

We want a life where we can focus on the simple pleasures.
We want a life where we can focus on the simple pleasures.

Seems simple, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The system is not designed to produce individuals with freedom. The system is designed to keep people wanting new and nicer things, big houses, new cars and desire instant gratification so that they take on extreme quantities of debt. We are then supposed to become debt slaves and slavery does not equal freedom. True story, many employers try to determine how much dept a potential employee has to determine how loyal of a slave an employee they will be. Deep stuff, more on that later.

We were in a lot of transition in our lives, a lot was going on, and we asked ourselves “well WHERE do we want to end up? Where can we live that will help us achieve our goals, not hold us back? Does where we end up matter?”

I’d like to outline the reasons we chose Idaho even though the location in Idaho is a similar climate to where we currently are / were in Oregon.

How We Picked a Place to “Settle Down”

What if we have a house where the Subaru is one day?
What if we have a house where the Subaru is one day?

No Building Codes

We wanted to live in a county that had extremely loose building codes. Because we don’t want to overpay for our home by getting into a 30 year mortgage. We instead wanted to put in a little sweat equity and finance our materials with our own cash.

In a perfect world, we would launch our own digital product that could pay for the building materials all at once, but realistically it would take time to collect materials and we wanted to weave building our house into our lifestyle. We also don’t want building our own home to be an extremely stressful venture (more than necessary that is… I hear building a house is stressful!).

Many counties have strict building codes, it can take a long time to get permits, the cost of the permits alone can be pretty steep, and counties can even dictate how you build your home and what materials you use. Some counties also demand that you need to start and finish your home within 6 months which we knew wouldn’t happen as it would potentially take us a few years, and we didn’t want to jump through hoops to renew the permits, so we decided that we’d really just not deal with building codes at all. We want to buy and find materials when we can, build the house when we feel like it or have time, and not have anyone dictate how we go about things.

You may be asking… but if there are no building codes, then everyone’s house will be ugly and unsafe?

Yes that is a one side effect to no building codes. For the most parts the houses we have seen in our target location are good homes. Occasionally we can spot one that clearly was not built to any type of code and looks like a light breeze would blow it down, but we knew that our home would look lovely and be long-lasting. We also kept in mind finding land that would shelter us somewhat from neighbors with ugly houses!

No CC&Rs

Another real problem when building a home is CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions). Most neighborhoods have CC&Rs to protect the value of everyone’s homes. To give you an example, If you are in a neighborhood and someone decides to build an ugly house that is bright pink with lime green trim and doesn’t look like the other houses, you could be upset because it may lower your property value! However, many CC&Rs state that you must get the permission of a large percentage of your neighbors to paint your house a certain color and things of that sort. They can also dictate that you need a minimum square footage in your home, a two-car garage, etc. which some people love, but this wouldn’t work in our case. Here are some of the cons of CC&Rs.

We want our land to work FOR us in the way that we see fit. We might want to build onto our home later, or build a second dwelling on our property to rent out, run a business out of, have multiple storage sheds, or have an unconventional home that would violate many CC&Rs.

One idea we have is to live out of a yurt for a while. Yurts can be a great way to live, all your basic needs can be covered, they can look just as lovely as a home inside, but many people don’t want a yurt sticking out like a sore thumb in their neighborhood. I can’t blame them… they aren’t the sexiest of all things on the outside. However, if living in a yurt would help us stay debt-free and achieve our lifelong goals quicker then we would want the freedom to live how we see appropriate on our own land.

Plenty of natural resources

As we plan on living off of our land as much as possible we wanted a place with plenty of timber (ideally on our land) and plenty of water. We wanted to ideally find something with water rights so that we had access to unlimited water or even the ability to have a microhydro power system if it were a stream. This likely isn’t going to happen for our first property at least, we still want to be on our own well which means we wanted property an area that had a history of flourishing wells. We also wanted a place that wasn’t prone to drought.

Long-term goal: a home on a river.
Long-term goal: a home on a river.

Great to grow a garden

Some climates are better than others for growing a garden. There are many beautiful, remote areas far north but the growing season can be quite short. We wanted a place with a decent growing season, good rain, good sunshine, etc.

Not too cold or too hot… just right!

I grew up in a desert and I always despised how hot it was all the time. I love having four different seasons. I love some COLD weather. But because I grew up in Southern California, I don’t want to be freezing for the majority of the year.

First property we wrote an offer on but later withdrew. Love us some snow!
First property we wrote an offer on but later withdrew. Love us some snow!

Not a lot of people

We didn’t want to be in a congested place. I was living between Denver and Boulder for close to a year in an apartment and it always worried me how many people there were. Just driving around on a casual Saturday morning I would get stuck in traffic jams. None of these people were self-sufficient. If some disaster (natural or man-made) were to happen, Boulder or Denver would NOT be the places I would want to be. I also just don’t like to be surrounded by people all of the time… I’m much more content around nature.

Loose homeschooling laws

To be honest, I haven’t researched this in-depth. I did enough research to lead me to believe that Idaho is fairly relaxed with their homeschooling laws which is important to me. I don’t want to feel that I will need to jump through hoops if we choose to homeschool our children.

Jesse was homeschooled and I was raised in the public school system that squanders creativity and teaches you to be nothing more than a corporate slave. There is a huge difference in how we think about things. Jesse is a very out-of-the-box thinker and I think fairly in-the-box as I was taught. Jesse has been an entrepreneur from the time when he was 6 years old and charged kids to go down the sled run he made. He made $50,000 when he was 15 years old from a business he started. Entrepreneurship comes MUCH more difficult to me as I was not taught the skills entrepreneurship takes so I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

I’m not saying that we will be able to fully control the outcome of our future children, but we want simply want the option to homeschool our children if that’s what we feel is best.

Loose vaccination laws

There is so much drama and media coverage on vaccinations that it’s hard to know what to believe, but we want the option to not vaccinate our children. Many states have a medical or religious exemption, but not all states have a philosophical exemption. We wanted the best odds at having a say in the health of our children.

Sustainable, self-sufficient neighbors

We are extremely self-sufficient and self-sustainable and want to be surrounded by like-minded people. We don’t like the energy of being surrounded by people that mooch off of the system. People who live in more remote areas tend to have farms and be more self-sufficient. They can hold their own better than your average city slicker.

Reasonable cost for land

We wanted to find a place where land was somewhat affordable. We were hoping to find maybe 5 acres within our price range that also met the other criteria.

Internet

While we would like to become less “plugged in”, working on the internet has been one of the tickets to our freedom so far. It allows us to create many mini-businesses and websites that generate revenue and allow us to be location-independent. The internet allows me to work as an independent contractor remotely if I choose to. We wanted a place where we could get somewhat quick and somewhat affordable internet which means that we couldn’t be TOO remote. Going too remote too soon would likely result in failure if we did it before we are ready.

Our trustworthy employee... the internet!
Our trustworthy employee… the internet!

Close to family

We entertained the idea of moving abroad, and that idea is always in the back of our mind, but it is nice to be close to family as well. Basically if there were two equal places but one was closer to family then we would pick the one closer to family.

Conclusion

These are the big things we considered when picking a place to “settle down”. We spent countless hours, weeks, and months researching. Once we found a place that fit our criteria we took a trip to visit and were sold immediately! We took four trips total to our target location and constantly kept up on real estate in the area so that we knew when a good opportunity came by to snag it.

All of these life goals were missing in my early twenties. I suppose all I cared about was saving a little money at the end of every paycheck, taking a nice vacation once a year, buying cute clothes, keeping up with my fitness, trying to tolerate my jobs and hanging out with friends. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. After some soul searching and decided what we really wanted in life we were able to create some very specific goals and a blueprint on how to achieve them. Where we live is extremely important to achieving our goals in life so this is how we picked a place and took action.

Recommended Reading, Watching & Resources

We have watched a handful of seriously great YouTube videos and and even read some blog posts that helped us with our decision. To get access to these inspirational recommendations, please use one of the social buttons below!

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

Comments

  1. Luke says

    Good day guys.
    Firstly you are an inspiration to me and probably to many others, so thank you for that. I just signed up to your newsletter and am looking forward to you progress. This project is exactly what my wife and I are working towards. Our situation is slightly different to yours. Currently we are both gainfully employed and working in the middle east attempting to save a war chest of greenbacks to tackle the finances of such a project. I estimate a figure of about $200,000 for our TOTAL budget which is what we are currently working towards. So I have a few questions:
    How much did you pay for your 5 acres land? (if you don’t mind me asking)
    Have/are you considered alternative building materials for the main structure? E.g. Compacted straw bales, earth bags, tire’s, adobe etc. (earthship.com is where I first discovered the possibilities of living off grid)
    Much obliged

    • says

      In an area like Idaho with abundant wood just there to be cut I would rather go down the log cabin/wood house route they are carbon negative and if you need to change something wood is easily dismantled and re-assembled into other structures. You can grow your own repair timber and it assebles easily peice by peice so you can start small and just extend. I would choose logs rather than boards etc because logs are difficult to set fire to and have a better thermal mass.

      Think Douglas fir, alaska chainsaw mill, tessalation and stainless steel coach bolts

  2. Steffanie says

    Hi there!
    I just came across your blog on pinterest & am going to enjoy following it.
    My husband and I have a similar plan and are looking for land in southers Colorado. We’ve chosen that area because of the pre-approved permits that will allow us to build an Earthship. I think you’d find them interesting and encourage you to look them up. They are burmed houses using as many recycled materials as possible. The temperature inside stays around 70 degrees year round, there is an indoor greenhouse for year round food production, solar power, rainwater collection to meet all of your household water needs, and a carbon free way of living.
    Michael Reynolds is the developer of these homes, and has a community of them in Taos, NM. But he has built them all over the world.
    Search for the “Brighton” for a more asthetically pleasing representation.

    Anyway, I look forward to watching your journey. Best of Luck!

    • says

      Hey Steffanie, thanks for stoping by! Your plan sounds awesome. I haven’t looked into Earthships but it sounds like some good YouTube watching before bedtime in the near future! Jesse had a client with an earth home and it was pretty amazing. I don’t know that it was an Earthship specifically, but it was built into the ground, had a grass roof, lots of light, and was pretty incredible from the sounds of it. How is Southern Colorado on permits and what not? Rain water collection? I’d love to see pix of your progress or a blog if you start one about your journey!

      • Steffanie says

        We haven’t started construction yet, but have been planning for quite some time. I’m trying to find work down that way to help us facilitate the move.

        A few of good resources are:

        http://www.earthship.com
        http://concretejungle.org.uk/earthships/
        And search for “Michael Reynolds, Garbage Warrior” on youtube.

        Colorado has areas where earthship permits have been pre-approved. Many states/populated areas are unfamiliar with the concept and are not inclined to give the green light. I’ve heard of people spending years convincing the city/county/state that the homes are sound and safe structures. The concept is too “out of the box” for most people.

        Michael Reynolds himself has fought in court numerous times to be allowed to continue his developing and improvement of the concept. I’ts been a long hard battle for him, but he has finally succeded in gaining the ability to progress with these homes.

        Many rural areas without strict building codes will be able to support them.

        As far as rainwater collection, the building has buried cisterns on the north side, with a catchment system built into the roof.

        Homes in Taos, NM (high desert) where the largest community of earthiships are, generally collect enough water to support them year round. One resident said he had to pay $300 one year to have his cisterns filled once. That equates to 3 months of my current water bill, and is the only utility charge he paid for that year.

        Water is also used 4 times, from collection it is filtered for drinking water, it then passes through the greenhouse to water food producing plants, then through the toilets. That waste water is moved to a septic system that filters it through fields in the front of the house to water non-edible plants.

        As you can tell, i’m passionate about the subject.
        I hope you and all readers of this post take the time to investigate a little further. Everything involved just makes sense.

        I’ll be watching your blog! Thanks for publishing your experience!

        • says

          Thanks for all the info! We definitely need to brush up on this knowledge. We wish to do similar things with our land so that nothing is going to waste and so that we need to expend as little amount of energy possible to get what we need. So many great ideas that aren’t implemented in modern construction. I’d be interested to hear how far Michael Reynolds… I have no doubts that he has spent his fair share of time in court! I think most homes can be self-sufficient but unfortunately, most aren’t contributing anything good to anyone. I hope you get to implement a lot of this stuff on your journey :-)

        • Sabine says

          This sounds amazing! We are in the very, very early stages of planning our “escape from the rat race” At the moment we are looking at Colorado as well. We want to buy a very large property with either an existing home and make it self sufficient, or build one. I’d also love to add on some rental cabins, small camp ground or something of the sort.
          I struggle with figuring out what types of zoning and permits needs we will have, because that will definitely influence which area we will be looking at.
          I’m so excited about this journey and I’m thrilled I found this blog and likeminded people. A bit overwhelmed to figure out where to start, but definitely so looking forward to this journey.
          Good luck!!

          • says

            Great plan Sabine! I don’t know much about the different areas in Colorado (despite living there for almost a year, hah!) but there may be some areas with loose building codes or zoning outside of the metro areas. Sounds like you’re open minded which is great… there’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat! I’m sure with a little homework and hard work, you will find something that allows you to build what you want one way or another. Hopefully this blog will give you some excellent tips!

  3. Julia Adams says

    Alyssa, Love your plan, it’s our plan too, yurt and all. Is that lake Pend Oreille that Jesse is floating in on your “How we picked a place to settle down” post? Northern Idaho is the place to be.

    • says

      Hey Julia, you’re right! That’s Lake Pend Oreille! The photo was taken in Green Bay… the best camping spot we found this summer :-) We love it up here and don’t think we’ll ever grow tired of the scenery. Are you up in this neck of the woods as well?

      • Julia Adams says

        Hello again Alyssa, we are currently in southwestern Idaho but have vacationed every year for many years at Garfield Bay (right around the corner from Green Bay) and stayed at the campground there (spot 16 is the best). We had our faces all set to move up this summer and begin to realize our dream but the rug got pulled out from under us. This was devastating as we had no plan B. We are still “trapped” in our nine to fives and dreaded rut but we are regrouping and formulating a plan for next summer. I watched the video of your first week with yearning for the country we love and wish you and Jesse the very best that life up there has to offer. Yours is the first blog I have ever commented on and find myself looking forward to your next post.

  4. Annessa says

    Hi Alyssa,

    I stumbled on your blog through Pinterest, and I’m super excited to follow your journey. My husband and have a similar dream/plan, right down to the RV, buying land in Northern Idaho, having a sustainable homestead and homeschooling our child(ren). Our journey is going to be a bit slower, I think, since I’m a stay at home mom, so we have less income to pay off debt and save for land. But, we’re slowly moving forward.

    Anywho, I look forward to reading all of your posts! Good luck!

    Annessa

  5. Bob Ross says

    Wow this is crazy. My girlfriend & I just moved to Boise from Silicon Valley exactly 1 month ago for the same reasons. We admire what you are doing and hope to maybe gain some knowledge from your blog. If you guys would like to ever share a campfire somewhere let me know. Take care!

    • says

      Hey neighbor (same state at least)! That’s awesome. I personally haven’t been to Boise yet but hopefully you are loving it! Sounds like we made our moves within weeks of one another. Are you both doing the homestead / off grid thing as well? As far as a campfire sometime, feel free to send us an email and we can talk further there :-)

  6. says

    I love your philosophy and your blog. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures. Only thing, I think avoiding vaccination is a mistake. (I’m a medical librarian.) You may want to check the medical literature via PubMed and decide for yourself. Please be careful in evaluating your sources and screening for the best evidence. This was a question we typically ask incoming med students to research – to advise vaccination or not – which is why I’m especially familiar with it. I can only conclude, after steeping myself in the issue myself, that people who don’t vaccinate are discounting the strong scientific evidence for some reason, perhaps an emotional attachment or mindset. Homeschooling parents are especially prone to be against vaccination (as you already know.)

    • says

      Hey Valorie, thanks for stopping by the blog, glad some of the content resonates with you! Thanks for the tips… you’re right, it’s always good for everyone to do their own research so that they can best formulate their own opinions. We don’t share the same opinions as many folks (in many areas of our lives), but we welcome all comments and opinions on our blog so long as they are positive and constructive!

  7. John says

    Great blog, a lot of relevant information for what I am planning to do myself, as well as many other people. Am still in the beginning stages of deciding how to go about making this happen though. Have been looking at land options in Bonner and Boundary counties as they seem to have the most relaxed attitude towards building. What resources did you guys use to find your land? I’ve been looking on landwatch and lands of Idaho.

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by our blog John! That’s where we all start… researching how to make all this crazy stuff happen! Doing this type of journey in a county that has loose building codes can definitely help you out depending on how you want to go about building. We’ve subscribed to landwatch but it didn’t bring us any real properties of interest. We ended up stalking Craigslist weekly and also met up with a Realtor that could keep an eye out for properties for us. In the end, we found our property ourselves on Craigslist. If you can find someone in the area to keep an eye out for you, maybe a local, that could be a great strategy as well as not all properties make it to the MLS or Craigslist. Hope that’s helpful!

      • John says

        I actually just got a lead on a property that hasn’t hit the market yet, it’s right on the lake not too far from Talache Landing. Do you know how the winters are right off the lake in that area? It has pretty good mountain protection from the north and west, south and east is open to the lake. Liking it so far, just waiting from the owner to see if I can do a contract as its a little more than I wanted to spend.

  8. says

    Hi Alyssa and Jesse!!
    I’m a native born Boise spud who, through life circumstances, has spent the last 28 years living in Florida. I hate and I have always missed the Rockies.
    The Better Half and I have spent years formulating our battle plan.
    We share what appears to be your general philosophy, being aware of wage slavery and wanting (demanding) freedom from the corporate state. I am also a fan of Joel Skousen’s works, and it was he who really solidified my desire to return to Idaho. Before discovering him via YouTube, we had talked about returning to Colorado (where I lived as a young boy) or perhaps the Ozarks.

    Our son is done with school, he’s 17 now. We fully intend on resettling on Boundry County in the next 12 – 24 months, land opportunities permitting.

    The point of my rambling comment here is twofold. I’ve been following your journey via YT for some time, along with Doug & Stacy, Fouchomaric, and others. Collectively, your ongoing adventures have kept me hopeful and goal oriented.

    Secondly, I wanted to ask you about the soil up there in the Panhandle. Is it all rocks and clay as you have?

  9. Maggie says

    Hi Alyssa and Jesse!

    I and my family have been of the idea of homesteading for years, honestly since I was a little girl. We have always wanted to own land and make our own way. Lately I have really been looking into but my problem is that I can seem to find a reliable way of telling which counties, and states even, have building codes and such as my family wants to build our own homes on our land as and opposed to buying an already built one. That just seems to skyrocket the prices of the land far beyond what I or my family could ever finish paying off. Could you possibly tell me some of your resources for research?

    Thank you sooooooo much,
    Maggir

  10. says

    I am a senior the technician science at Evelyn Grace Academy London and I teach Advanced Level Physics and Mathematics as well as cover (substitute teacher) general science teaching. I am 3yrs from retirement and what I would like to do is teach a bit as well as have a home in a wilderness area do some hunting and fishing as well as self sufficiency vegetable growing. I have renovated a house and I now live on a boat which I have also renovated. I am good at woodwork an quite innovative at getting jobs done in difficult circumstances.
    I have land in the Philippines which I will also be spending some time on but I would still like to spend time in America. I have done a lot of searching for teaching jobs but unlikely to get a school to sponsor me. No matter, I have come up with the foolproof idea, forget about the teaching,wait untill I retire, have a homestead and spend up to six months a year there on a B2 visa. I have two sons BIG outdoor types and I think this plan would be a magnet for them so I could spend time with them. Two places keep ticking the boxes all the time Idaho and Maine. The thing that tips the balance in favour of Idaho is Douglas Fir the wonder do it all wonder wood.

  11. George says

    I enjoy your you tubes and posts. I only have one issue please vacinate yourselves and certainly your children. There is no worldwide conspiracy, no poison and in this day and age no chance of infection. Whooping cough [Pertussis] kills, the Flu kills, Tetnus [lockjaw] kills, polio & Diphtheria are now back in the states, coming with the large number of unvacinated illegal immigrants and it horribly cripples children if they live—-you two seem like good folks you do not want to go through any of these easily preventable diseases, you dont want to lose a child or become a young widow—goto the health department[ or CVS or Walgreens] most of these are free or cheap. The people who spread the bad news about vacinations are never medical professionals –just ask any nurse pharmacist or doctor. Good Luck on your adventure you will never regret it

  12. Bertil says

    Get rid of debt => happy future!

    I am really inspired by (both of) your level(s) of JFDI (“Just effing do it”) with that really sensible desire to be debt free.

    My sister lives in California, I in the UK. She earns 3 time what i and my wife does, but her pension is peanuts. I am quitting in April.

    However, my wife and I built (well had builders build most, we did what I could to save wonga) and after 8 years are debt free, ready for retirement, and damned chuffed with what we have achieved.

    Advice to you two: PLANT THOSE FRUIT TREES THIS AUTUMN (“fall”). The best time to have planted tress was 20 years ago. It will take a day to plant 20 tress, bushes, and you may reap benefits as early as 24 months from now. Also, make decent soil with lot of humus as you go along. Frankly, if you can spare the time, chooks in a ruin are easy to keep and provide great manure as well as eggs, which are highly desirable trade items. Plant low maintenance stuff like rhubarb (“Plant and forget”) and appropriate fruit bushes.

    I advise the planting as it take only a little time to do (though you may have to water in the summer) but will pay dividends in 2 years onwards, when you should need it.

    Good luck!

    Bertil
    (Garden Organic Master Composter)

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