Why I quit my high-paying corporate job to live off-grid lost in a desert eco-village


I graduated from a top school, came from a well-off family, and got a high-paying corporate job. Today, I’m what some like to call a hippie.

Two years ago, I was living in Dubai, in an apartment on the 12th floor of a skyscraper, three minutes away from the beach. I had four outdoor swimming pools to choose from, drove a nice air-conditioned coupe, and went to nightclubs in the company of lawyers and bankers who regularly bought private US$2,000 tables. I saw celebrities sing private concerts and I partied with air-hostesses. In short, I was living the Dubai lifestyle.

Just two years ago I was living in Dubai, drove a nice air-conditioned coupe, and went to nightclubs in the company of lawyers and bankers.

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Photo: aniaostudio

After graduating university, I aimed for some of the biggest companies in the world. I cut my hair and found that I thrived in a suit and tie—the typical corporate worker. From promoting oil companies to doing PR for global tech leaders, my life fit my material desires to the tee.

It all went haywire after I took a year off to travel to South America. Armed with just a backpack, some dirty clothes, a ukulele and a surfboard, I realized I was the happiest I had ever been. I would wake up every morning not knowing where I’d be the next day, and was energized by it.

It all went haywire after I took a year off to travel around South America with just a backpack and a surfboard.

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Photo by: koraloc

When I got back home, I calculated how often I’d be able to live this lifestyle while working. In Dubai, ten years working would equal roughly 280 days off. Dedicating ten years to a corporation and taking less than a year of that time for myself seemed crazy; especially when I’d be giving away the years that my body would be in its best shape. I finally cut the cord that connected me to corporate life.

The reality of the corporate world is that nobody is irreplaceable. Companies expect loyalty from their employees and offer none in return; I have seen directors who had given 30 loyal years to a company replaced by younger, cheaper workers. If I was thinking about meeting with another company to discuss my future, I was seen as betraying my current one. But respect should be a two-way street, so I made the decision to leave the corporate world.

I worked as a sous-chef in Uruguay, helped sell tours in the Galapagos, spent a month in Cuba learning all I could about cigars (and sold a few too). I slept on top of a moving bus in the mountains of Nepal and went face-to-face with a four-metre hammerhead shark in the Galapagos. These experiences changed me forever; comfort wasn’t enough to sustain my entire life.

I made a choice and tried something new, hoping to contribute to the wellbeing of others. At a hostel in El Salvador, I discovered that I liked building chicken coops, working in organic gardens, and designing hydroponic food production systems. Learning more about green living whilst benefiting others became a personal priority. Compromise was unacceptable.

I made the decision to leave the corporate world, and now I live in a place called Sunseed, a community devoted to living a low-tech, low-environmental-impact lifestyle.

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Photo by: sunseed.org.uk

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Photo by: sunseed.org.uk

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Photo by: sunseed.org.uk

I now live in a little place called Sunseed, a community in the southern Andalusia region of Spain devoted to living a low-tech, low-environmental-impact lifestyle. It looks like the canyons of an old western; in fact, Sergio Leone filmed some of the scenes of Once Upon a Time in the West here in the late ’60s. For good reason, apparently; I’ve been living like a cowboy since my arrival here a month ago. I’ve had to sleep wearing thermals under three duvets and a sleeping bag, and faced a couple of snakes and large spiders on my walks in the valley. The climate will change quickly in the year that I’ll be living here, and soon we’ll be experiencing scorching heat.

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Photo by: sunseed.org.uk

But there are benefits to living this lifestyle too. Based on an internal waste audit, a Sunseeder produces less than 3kg of landfill waste compared to an average of 478 kg per person living in America. I use compost toilets, where “flushing” consists of throwing a handful of wood shavings into the bowl. All of our energy comes from solar panels, and we’re building a wind turbine soon. My diet is healthier, and now includes wild flowers and fresh produce, all of which I know the names of. I think about herbal infusions and their medical benefits. I’ve started playing the ukulele, and my party scene has changed to dancing in caves and having jam sessions in the communal kitchen.

Every Friday, the residents of Sunseed gather to discuss the following week’s agenda. Unlike in the corporate world, where the common wisdom is that by restricting the number of people we can streamline our decision-making, my fellow coordinators believe our meetings should involve as many people as possible. Major decisions are voted on by raising our hands and waving them in the air, or making a low “shake it off” gesture. Any of us can veto a decision by making a cross with our arms. The result of this is a very democratic society, where we each carry personal responsibility for our futures.

Being off-grid forces us to be mindful of our energy consumption, regardless of whether residents are here short-term or for several months.

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Photo by: sunseed.org.uk

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Photo by: sunseed.org.uk

Meanwhile, being off-grid forces us to be mindful of our energy consumption, regardless of whether residents are here short-term or for several months. It’s a productive life where people develop their own projects: autonomy is key to each individual’s learning experience. Volunteers are mentored by experienced coordinators, but are also left with a lot of independence.

Being a 90-minute walk away from the closest town has also had a drastic impact on what I consume, and surprisingly, the limits of the lifestyle have made me feel a sense of freedom that I have never experienced before.

Living in a place like Sunseed, where I learn everyday about green energy, permaculture and low-impact living is incredible. The people and community that make this place special guarantees that I won’t be looking to go back to the corporate world anytime soon.

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Photo by: © Ekaterina_Marory

Sources:  inhabitat.com,  koraloc.com,  sunseed.org.ukdwellism.com