About

In March of 2009, I quit my job at Google after spending nearly 4 years in Silicon Valley as a software engineer. I moved out of my apartment, put stuff in storage, and left for an extended open-ended journey, that took me across the United States, to Japan, and to England.

In July 2009, I bought 60 acres of vacant undeveloped land in Northern California, which I’ve named Serenity Valley. I started living there in August, with absolutely no built-in infrastructure whatsoever (not even cell phone reception), and in late October, I began building a hut. In November, I was forced back to the city, by the cold and lack of funds. I did some contract work over the cold months, then returned to Serenity Valley in the spring of 2010, when I started a garden. In August, I started working on Hut 2.0, a larger cabin intended to be a home. As of December 2010, the subsequently expanded Hut 2.1 is still in progress, as winter approaches…

Update February 2011: I am spending a month on my property, without leaving and in physical isolation. Read more on the Project 31 page.

28 thoughts on “About

  1. I like the story so far. I am doing a similar thing, but building a trailer house to go find where I want to live. Anyway, looking forward to future postings on your blog.

  2. I like what your doing here.
    I surfed on in from tinyhouseliving.com at “work.” I have similar aspirations; (land, house, etc) and in my current state of existence, i am purposefully unemployed for about 6-8 months out of the year. In the near future I hope to do something similar. I won’t write an extremely long communication here. But I would like to hear more about the existential/personal ramifications of extricating yourself from your usual social norms.

    Also i appreciate your candor and truthfulness throughout your blog. I find that a lot of folks seem to sugarcoat the difficulties involved in such ventures

    c

  3. Hi Ryo,
    Came across your blog from The Tiny House folks. I just started reading your bolg & will read the archives as well. You seem to have good sensibilities about yourself & the world around you. I really appreciate what craig says about your candor & truthfulness. We sure need more of that. Keep up the good work. I will write more as I read more of your blog. I think I’m gonna really like it. Best Regards.

  4. Hey Ryo,

    I am amazed that you made such a bold life change. As an old colleague, what I can say is you are really a talent engineer. As a new follower, I wish you all the best in your new endeavor. BTW, your blog is very fascinating!

  5. Did you ever consider, before this endeavor, hitting a yardsale, and splurging the $.50, for a used copy of the Boy Scout Handbook or Fieldbook? I’m jes’ sayin’… ;-)

  6. Just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading your blog. I found your site mentioned on http://survivalblog.com/ , which focuses on disaster preparation. It’s amazing how parallel our lives are, although I’m twice your age. You’re right about enjoying life while you are young. I don’t regret my “experiments” at all, experience is invaluable. I’m having my cargo trailer changed to a pintle hitch for better off-road use. Think you could use your trailer to move drums of water. It’s too valuable to just sit there. Look into wind turbines, you might be able to use a tall tree as a mast to get it over the trees. Maybe mount a sat dish up there too for internet access, and an IP Camera to keep an eye on things off-season. Maybe you can set up a wireless ISP for your neighbors for income. I’ve heard of a mile range, maybe more. I’ve collected mountains of relevant info, send me a postal address and I’ll send a DVD.

  7. Hi Ryo,

    First…I want to say thank you!

    I found your blog from the Tiny House site.

    For quite sometime, I’ve dreamed about buying land in the country and building my off-grid cabin! You are an inspiration, giving me hope that I can accomplish my vision and experience living the dream.

    Keep posting and uploading videos….glad you’re keeping it real!

    Hey I’d love to buy a T-shirt or baseball cap with a catchy slogan for all us wanna be cubical escapees!

    Can you work remote and write code from Serenity Valley?

    I’m interested in the “why”, what it’s like now that you have made the transition, hazards with rural land ownership and how someone can get started.

    Best of Luck Ryo you are a hero in my eyes!!!

    Max

  8. Hey Ryo,

    I just want to tell you that to my eyes, you are really living the dream! I found courageous on your part that you didn’t fold and go back to the city for the winter. I’m a recent graduate with zero income, so I won’t be able to follow your same path for a while, but your actions are truly inspiring.

    Best of luck and keep us updated on your journey!

    Juan

  9. Ohayo,

    Hm, being a biological blend of Nipponese (from Japan) and Heintz 57 and previously a cube farm chipmunk myself (accounting and then IT/coding) for 31+ years I envy your courage! I’m retired now and have been living in a small secluded cabin in WA to see if it works for me. Have to say that as long as I have Internet access I definitely don’t miss civilization. Rarely drive my car any longer and enjoy using fresh vegetables in season (local Farmers Markets and the landlord’s organic garden and orchard).

    I love your blog and enjoy reading about the challenges you face. The idea of the hibachi was a good one as I saw the heating “pit” of one in Shizuoka (an old travelers inn).

    I loved the Jotul I had in a prior home (http://www.jotul.com/en-US/wwwjotulus/Main-menu/Products/Wood/Wood-stoves/Jotul-F-602-CB/) and they make a small one that may work for you.

    Keep posting!

    Sayonara

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Jotuls too. They are, however, on a pricier side. I’ve got a clunker that I found at the local antique shop for $120, so we’ll see how that works out.

  10. Hi Ryo,

    I am trying to do something similar. I have a family of 3 and am looking for some cheap land in Northern CA in order to build a tiny/small house on. I found some relatively close to where I live now, but I didn’t jump on it fast enough. Currently waiting for another one to get listed.

    But we still want to keep our jobs until all debt is paid off, then we could live off of one income.

    Looking forward to seeing how the project comes out.

  11. Wow.

    I am a little lost for words. And I don’t usually comment or post anything on the internet (except via Facebook) but I just felt compelled to say hello.

    So hello Ryo!

    You’re simply living, in my opinion, the dream. One I hope to do too sometime. And I’m more than a wee bit jealous. Owning property, let alone a house for me is about 10 – 15 years away so your writing is very inspiring.

    Keep up the awesome work and best of luck with Serenity Valley

    Julian

  12. I hope to one day do the same! Although I am twice your age and female. I have been planning and reading for years, so it is good to see a doer. You may make more mistakes that way, but at least you are doing some thing!
    Good luck!
    Please take some water, I am not sure how much you can harvest in your climate from your roof, and you can go a while without food, but not water.

  13. love the blog! planning to do something like this myself, thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your experiences. your doing good work homie!! much success!!

  14. Hi Ryo,

    I am planning to do something very similar in the Catskills, NY but am really struggling with the choice of land. I was wondering if I could ask you some questions to keep my resolve up? For instance, what was your greatest fear in buying land and did it turn out to be warranted after you purchased the land? I’m really concerned about the threat of fracking (gas drilling) in the upper catskills which could poison the water supply, as it has in Penn. and Wyoming.

    I’m debating if I should just forget NY and try my luck in Cali (as scary as that would be for an Easterner) but I think it’s important to remain connected to people, if not my own family, at least people my age. How do you handle being alone up there? I’m really worried about the isolation part for myself. On the one hand I really don’t have any productive relationships where I am now so maybe cutting ties and starting over would improve it? But cutting myself completely off from any ties from the people I know seems almost self-destructive, like I won’t be able to ever reestablish any ties to humanity if I’m living in a manner so contrary to what most people are used to or expect. You know? That won’t stop me from doing it but I do worry about it.

    I also think it’s important to have a water supply on ones land. Being that you bought 60 acres, i’m assuming you could have bought land with water on it if you wanted to….was there a reason you opted not to secure land with its own water source? Unless land with water on it is tremendously expensive in Cali or has building restrictions?

    Sorry for the long, indulgent post and questions. As you probably can tell, I’m going through a bit of internal anguish over this and was wondering, from your perspective of hindsight, if such worries really made a difference in the long run.

    Continued luck with your adventure,
    Mike

    • Buying land is risky business no matter how you look at it. How much risk to take is a really personal decision, and that in turn dictates how to mitigate risk. It’s been a while now, but I was the most anxious when I was going through the process of bidding on the property, because I worried that someone else would buy the land I wanted. Having said that, there’s no such thing as perfect land. They’re all imperfect in one way or another, so how satisfied you are with whatever patch of ground you choose is mostly a matter of perspective. The one sure way to fail at buying land, is by not buying land. In fact, that’s a good analogy for life in general. No matter what you decide to do, it won’t go perfectly. But the only way you can really miss out, is if you fail to make those big decisions and never take that first step.

      Anyway, just my 2 cents. I know I didn’t address any specific questions, but my point is that the specifics don’t matter when you look at the big picture. What’s important isn’t the challenges you’ll inevitably face, but how you deal with them.

      • Thank you, Ryo. This was extremely helpful and convinces me a lot of my worrying is unfounded, as far as choosing land is concerned. I’m not going to get a perfect guarantee that everything will work out as I want and that seems to be what I was worrying about. But as you say, I should take that first step not expecting things to go perfectly.

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