When I meet people for the first time, I like to mention that I lived without running water or electricity for four years of my life. It’s an interesting fact about me.

At the time, it was terrible-awful-horrible.

I finished kindergarten in California and a few days later we made the journey to Washington with an old Dodge van and a 10 foot camping trailer.

We arrived on my grandparents’ property on July 4, 1986. It was dark when we pulled up and my cousins were doing sparklers in the front of my grandparents’ house.

Their house was under construction, but finished enough to live in. When we first got there, the walls were raw drywall, no mud or tape or texture yet. The floors were plywood, and there was even a hole in the floor where you could fall through to the basement. The kids weren’t allowed to go very close, needless-to-say. But it was heated and had running water and electricity!

We used the functional bathroom in the basement for a few weeks or months until my parents found a temporarily living situation: a 40 foot long trailer home to park on the back of my grandparents’ property. Running water from a hose, I think, and electricity from an extension cord made it quite comfortable. It beat staying in a camping trailer for several months!

We stayed there a few years. I’m guessing my parents were saving up money for a better situation. I actually really enjoyed our time so close to my grandparents.

One day in third grade, we came home and my parents told us they had bought property and we would soon move there. It was completely undeveloped, but dreams of purchasing a bigger, better trailer home, digging a well and building a solar panel farm danced in their imaginations.

Some of that came to fruition!

We did park a 60 foot trailer home on the property. And my dad did buy one single solar panel after a while. But mostly we used kerosene lamps, chopped wood for heat, hauled our water, and cooked on a propane stove. I couldn’t take a shower or a bath, much less curl my bangs like the other girls in the mid-90s. (We showered a few times a week at the local state park campground.)

For a while we tried to dig a well by hand. When that didn’t work, my dad hired some guy to “witch” for water. Drilling a well got put off indefinitely due to cost.

Four or maybe four-and-a-half years of living that way and my mom got fed up.

She was a city girl, born and raised in San Diego, and she was sick and tired of not being able to take a bath! So she found an income-based rental in town and we moved.

There were some pluses to living that way, though. For one, survival living doesn’t scare me. I know how to siphon water and build fires, and I can survive long periods of time living out of a cooler. I also really, really appreciate the outdoors. In fact, I often miss being able to see the Milky Way every night.