ITTT tefl internationale

All you need to know about teaching English abroad!


How to Live in a Dry Cabin - Survival tactics for the English Teacher living in Remote Places

How to Live in a Dry Cabin - Survival tactics for the English Teacher living in Remote Places | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As an English teacher, you may find yourself accepting the call to teach in a remote village or town in any part of the world where the inhabitants are more or less secluded from urban society. Often you may also find that the house you move into is a dry cabin.

What is a Dry cabin?

A dry cabin is when a house has no well or septic and yet is deemed livable—my experience in a dry cabin.

I used to live in a dry cabin because, in Alaska, there are many dry cabins. My house was clean, neat, and cozy, and at first sight, you would never have guessed it to be a dry cabin. It was fun to live there, and it helped me to appreciate many more things in life that I previously had taken for granted. At first, I had no idea how to cope without a well or septic, but over time and with other peoples’ input, I learned the strategies to easily, comfortably survive without modern conveniences.

I want to share what I learned with others so that when they move into their dry cabins, they might find it to be an easy transition. Living in a house lacking modern conveniences can be a lovely experience if one knows how to manage it.

How to stay hydrated?

In dry cabins, people still get thirsty and need clean, fresh drinking water. There are several ways to attain drinking water, and you can choose whatever method is most convenient for you in your dry cabin and community.

Some communities have a public well, where you can bring buckets and get the water you need.

Other towns may have bottled water that you can buy and drink from. You also might find that your dry cabin has a spring nearby.

You may find yourself not so fortunate to have these access to clean water, and you will need to be more creative.

You can collect rain in the summer. You can do this by placing large buckets under your gutters and placing a net over the buckets to keep the water decently clean. Then strain the water with cheesecloths until there are no noticeable particles. Then you can either boil the water to make it clean, or you can filter it using a water filter. I prefer the latter.

In the winter, collect snow in pots. Melt the snow on the stove. Strain the water with cheesecloths and then either boil the water or filter it. If you have a nearby creek or river, you can collect that water and boil or filter it as well.

I love certain filters that are inside a water bottle. Then all I need to do is fill the water bottle with rain, melted snow, and/or river water, and it cleans it for me as I drink it.

These are all various ways in which to stay hydrated, and I have personally tried them all.

How to take baths and showers?

People in dry cabins can stay perfectly clean despite the lack of running water. There are some strategies for taking baths and showers when there are no technical ‘showers’ available. Some communities have public showers. Other places might have showers that you can pay to use.

In your own dry cabin, you have a few options.

You can just jump into a creek or river with a bar of soap, but the water may be on the cold side unless you are fortunate enough to have a hot spring.

You can warm up water on your stove and then put it into a larger tote and use that as your bathtub.

Another common way is to get a pitcher of warm water and slowly pour it over your head as you lean over a tote or bucket. Then afterward, you can do a sponge bath.

You can also do a bucket shower. This is where you just take a cup and dump the water from another bucket in the bathtub onto yourself. All the greywater (used water) you can dump outside in the woods. All these ways work pretty well, and you will find them to be easy once you try them out.

How to wash dishes?

Having clean dishes is as much of a necessity in a dry cabin as it is anywhere else. Thankfully, this can be done easily.

Take a few inches of water and do the first rinsing of all your dirty dishes. Then wash them with some soap and water. Rinse them afterward and set them to dry. All greywater can be caught in buckets underneath the sink. (Don’t forget to dump the pails under the sink; otherwise, you may have flooding issues- I learned that from experience!)

How to wash clothing?

Having clean clothes is always very important, and this can be easily accomplished with a little hard work.

Some communities may have public washers and dryers. If so, those are most convenient.

Otherwise, you will need to do it the traditional way. Put water and soap in a tote or bucket. Put the dirty clothes in as well and push the clothes up and down with your hands. Once the water is dark grey, dump the grey water outside and put clean water in with the wet clothes. Push the clothes up and down until the water is grey again. Your goal is to push the water through the fabric. Then if the clothes look and smell clean and nice, wring the clothes out and hang them either on a clothesline or rack. If you feel the clothes are still dirty, rinse them again until you feel satisfied with their freshness.

This can be a little time-consuming, so try not to dirty your clothes.

What type of toilets to expect?

Obviously, toilets are necessary for dry cabins, but without septic, there is a little twist in their design.

There are two common toilet types for dry houses: Outhouses and Composting toilets.

Outhouses are little bathrooms outside that are enclosed and have a hole in the ground underneath the toilet. These can be very convenient and useful, especially in the summer.

In the winter, it is nicest to have an inside composting toilet. A composting toilet is a toilet with a bucket underneath that can be dumped outside in a composting bin. Composting toilets can be homemade or bought online. They can be very simple and easy to maintain and use.


All over the world, there are many places where the luxuries of septic and well systems are not present. There are many people who live in these areas who also need to learn English, and as an English teacher, you may feel the calling to go to remote places to teach English. If so, you could very likely find yourself living in a dry cabin. Living in dry cabins can be a beautiful experience, especially if you have good strategies that help you transition over to a life without the traditional septic and well.

In the past, I have experienced living in dry cabins, and it is a lovely experience that has widened my perspective of the world. I hope all those who find themselves teaching English in similar situations can benefit from what I have learned.

Over to You

Do you have any more tips on ways to live in a dry cabin? Have you ever lived in a dry cabin? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

Apply now & get certified to teach english abroad!

Speak with an ITTT advisor today to put together your personal plan for teaching English abroad!

Send us an email or call us toll-free at 1-800-490-0531 to speak with an ITTT advisor today.

Related Articles:

Check out what our course grads say in our many video testimonials!