Two years ago we set off in our campervan which had been condemned to being unlikely to get out of Sussex on an adventure. We had no savings, our mortgage was being covered (we hoped) by renting out our house to possibly the least reliable tenants ever along with their pet ferret. We were planning to stay with a selection of people we had never met but made contact with by email on the basis that if we did a few hours work for them each day they would feed us and we didn’t quite know what we wanted to happen to us at the end of it all.
When I put it like that I can understand why people who loved us were actually pretty worried about what would become of us!
The fact is those same people could choose to frame their thoughts about us now in several different ways. They could be horrified that the flight of fancy which carried us off two years ago has led to us living on top of a muddy hill on a remote Scottish island with only 40 people, with just one 12 hour a week job between us, no electricity, running water or toilets.
Or they could be mightily proud of where we’re at just now. We did indeed escape the rat race, the traffic jams and the wage slave mentality. We totally found the place where we get to be pioneers, write our own destinies, fix our own futures and make up our own rules. We do live off grid, somewhere beautiful and spend our days meeting our basic needs and following our dreams. We are in touch with the land, nature, the seasons, the world around us. We have heads and hearts full of memories, experiences and adventures, stories to tell, anecdotes to share and photos to show.
We got to John o Groats, saw out out WWOOFing, lasted the challenging hosts and learnt all those lessons. We scraped together the coppers and stretched our budgets thanks to reduced to clear bargains, finding fun in the free stuff and meeting some amazing people along the way. We could have stayed in our jobs and our house but we’d never have met that bloke who was walking100 miles and needed a tent peg we were able to give him, that woman climbing a mountain on Skye who I shared my philosophy of those who need to reach the top of peaks and those who are happy to pause midway and appreciate how far they have come. We’d not have met the people who are sending us a compost loo, or who told us about the croft on Rum, inspired us with their amazing organic veg box business or their microholding on just 1 acre. We’d never have spent time with that community who live off grid and taught us their mantra of ‘love the hill’ or the family who live so remotely in Wales that their kids didn’t know what a zoo was. We’d not have learnt – and taught – in all those places to all those people.
And so to Rum, where a mix of blind naiivity and foolhardy optimism led us to believe we can make it. Despite so many people looking at us and either wrongly assuming we had an inkling what we were doing or merely expecting us to fail. To not make it. Yet, we got through that first summer, survived the midges. We faced those autumn equinox winds, took down the clock from the wall and sat up watching the walls flex and the roof rattle. We lasted that winter, wiped down those windows, wrung out those chamois and threw out the belongings which were claimed by mould. The static not only reached Rum it eventually reached the croft. We have light, heat, power. Sure we run a generator most days but we are also taking solar power, gathering our water from the river or harvested rainwater. We still buy in animal feed and have not even scraped the surface of starting our self sufficient journey but we are far from just talking the talk these days.
I think those who love us will be looking at us now and feeling proud. Proud of our children for making this their island; for packing their rucksacks and heading off with their dog on adventures. For viewing every day as an opportunity to learn, to explore and to discover. Star told me today that when she grows up and has children she is *definitely* taking them off travelling in a campervan and home educating them in the exact same was as she has been home educated. Dragon told me that no matter what happens he will always feel his home is here on Rum and while he intends going off to see loads more of the world this is where he’ll always come back to.
I think they will be proud of Ady and I for changing our lives. From being overweight, unfit consumers to fairly hardy survivors, doing whatever it takes to carry on providing for our family. Chopping firewood to keep them warm and collecting water from the river rather than going out to work in meaningless jobs to pay the electricity bill and the water rates. Proud of us for not sitting moaning about local council policies and government directives but instead being vocal members of our own community and helping to decide structure, policy, charges, priorities. Taking charge of our world and being the change we want to see in it. Spending our time not sitting infront of meaningless TV shows or reading other people’s news in tabloid papers but writing our own newsletter and helping to manage the community website, sitting on steering groups and being voluntary directors of the boards taking new ideas and enterprises forwards.
We’re not getting it right every day, we’re still a full ten years (maybe even eleven!) from where I’d like to be in ten years time but we’re making every day count, every week worthwhile and every month one to remember. I hope you are proud of us, because we’re pretty proud of ourselves and where we’ve got to so far. And as the daffodils push through the grass and the met office claims it to be the first day of spring the knowledge that we did indeed do that first winter will keep us warm through any cold nights the spring has to throw at us!