So what next?

As you can imagine yesterdays blog post was the result of many hours of conversation and debate between the four of us over the past few weeks and months. It was in January, actually while away from Rum which is often the best place to gain perspective – outside of the environment or situation you are pondering that we came to the decision to begin leaving our current life, at least for a while.

As an individual I have always considered myself to have a pretty short attention span which has butterflied me from job to job in my early adulthood. When we told a friend (previously a boss at work actually) that we were considering not sending Davies and Scarlett to school she laughed at me and said ‘Of course you are, why would you ever do anything just because everyone else does it?’ And she was right. We always question and challenge what we’re doing and why we’re doing it that way. We constantly re-evaluate if it is still working for us. That could sound exhausting and foster a low level feeling of instability but it is done within a framework of a very secure family with constants of our relationships with each other and a whole load of researching and considering options before actually making any rash moves. Despite the unconventionality of our lives – home educating, a year travelling with young children, a move to a remote island, now a plan to do something else, all of these have actually been thought out, carefully planned choices that have worked really well for us. The early months of this blog were all about the planning and decision making process behind our WWOOFing adventure. To me it feels far riskier and irresponsible to not take ownership as much as possible of the direction of your life, to heedlessly follow where others lead without checking in with yourself regularly as to whether this is making you happy, meeting your needs, ticking your boxes.

I should state here that this is what works for me, what works for Ady and why he and I are such a good team and what has worked really well for Davies and Scarlett who inevitably share our world view but are very capable of challenging and questioning and having clear opinions and ideas of their own (not to mention very used to having them heard, taken seriously and acted upon). I know that others have their own guide through life, their own paths to tread, their own philosophies on how they make their choices and are perfectly happy and content. I am in no way judging or dictating, merely recording how we go about our personal brand of dice rolling.

Last year was a really tough one for the four of us, by our standards. It started with Ady in hospital, followed up with the loss of a pig and subsequent loss of an unborn litter that pig had fathered. A rash and un-thought out rehoming of two more pigs really didn’t work out well for us. Difficult times for several of our extended family which we were simply too remote to help with really tested our commitment to living so far away. The bad start to the year never really managed to pick itself up. The positives of our life here were for a lot of 2016 overshadowed by the negatives. We talked often of leaving, of whether this was still working for us and more often than not at least one of us was ready to start talking about the next step. But we collectively agreed that our life here was still, on balance meeting most of our needs. We even quantified it and decided that we had about 80% of everything we wanted which we felt was pretty good going. I have been accused before of painting an unrealistic idea of what life here can be like – it is true I am very much an optimist but I genuinely do see the best in life and am very aware that all choices involve compromises and that choosing to focus on the good rather than allow the bad to be overwhelming is what makes for contentment. We felt that 20% of our needs not being met was acceptable and worked towards finding ways to meet them better – more regular trips off the island, finding ways to take responsibility for creating the opportunities we felt were lacking etc.

I’m not at all keen on the ‘If I won the lottery / ruled the world / could make up all the rules’ type thinking and as such we decided not to talk about what we do if we left Rum because I think as soon as you start investing energy and imagination in something other than what you are actually doing right now you might as well be investing properly in it and making it happen rather than speculating on it. But once we had decided that Rum was no longer working for us we began talking about what we wanted and trying to work out what our next step might be.

We’re still in the early stages of even honing our wish list. Just like before we don’t expect to find a perfect match for every aspect of it and while some points are more important to us than others we are prepared to compromise. But this is where we are at right now with our lists of what we would like in the next phase of our lives:

Davies:
* A regular social life and being able to hang out with friends in real life.
* Wifi and power.
* More privacy – a different space to hang out with friends or watch / listen to something or just spread out my stuff.
* Drumming. I’d like to have lessons.
* The equipment and resources for film-making and access to a film-making course or workshops.
* Being able to decide to buy something and just going out and getting it the same day.

Scarlett:
* Enough space to keep chickens and ducks. Water for the ducks in the form of a pond or river, an indoor space to rear young animals like a shed or outbuilding.
* A view. I want to still look out of a window and see nature not roads and houses.
* Home Educated or otherwise shared interest people nearby. I want to live close to people like me.
* Walking distance to a beach
* To be able to get involved in conservation activism or volunteering.
* To find an animal sanctuary or similar with opportunities for volunteering or work experience.
* A donkey!

Ady:
* Learn more about alternative energy, how to generate more power and store it. I love being off grid and want to learn more without the constraints of space and access to the resources or people who know about it.
* I’d like to experiment with more obscure livestock holding – species like llamas, ostrich or alpacas.
* I’d like to have a motorbike
* To be able to drive up to my front door!
* Access to takeaway food
* A proper home
* To have family celebrations again, like Christmas and birthdays with our wider family.
* Easy access to services like doctor and dentist. To be able to give blood again
* To earn a living from using my skills in selling, talking to people and something I believe in

Nic:
* To be close to my family. Able to day trip or at least be able to get to them on the same day as I leave home.
* A wide selection of food choices, particularly fruit and vegetables.
* A comfortable home with private space for each of us and a larger communal space for being together.
* White goods! I want to have a freezer and a washing machine under the same roof I live
* Opportunities for activism and volunteering and being part of the things I am passionate about
* Access to courses for education, opportunities to join a choir and a reading group
* Being able to say yes to attending interesting events and parties
* Access to resources of all types – whether it is needing a new pair of shoes, some craft materials or a kitchen item at the moment we buy blind online, rely on good customer service and delivery charges then rely on the post and ferry to get something to us. To decide I want to buy some new jeans, go and try them on and bring them home all on the same day.
* I still want to live somewhere beautiful, somewhere with a sense of community and somewhere we can grow food and keep some animals.
* close to the beach or a river or other body of water.
* To write, craft and talk to people and earn money or otherwise meet our material needs from these pursuits.

So a real mix. Many of the items on the wish lists are what we have now and value too much to let go. Many are practical conveniences which our five years living in a caravan on a remote island have made us crave back in our lives, a lot of them are to do with other people – a need to be closer to those we know and love or to find more people like us, some, particularly the kids are about opportunities and finding the path to what happens next.

This list, much like the one we made 7 years ago will change and be added to as we think of more things which are important to us, or let go of things we are prepared to compromise on. But for now the four lists are coming together to paint a picture for us of what our life should look more like than it does now and where we can start looking to find the right place to base ourselves. The wish lists begin to give us a geographical idea of where in the world to look, what sort of location (urban, rural etc.), what sort of dwelling we want and what sort of income we’ll need to generate between the four of us to fund it.

Taking the winter off Rum will give us a chance to see how much we miss the easily met parts of our wish list from Rum and how important some of those other not at all feasible on Rum items are.

Watch this space – exciting times are ahead!

4 thoughts on “So what next?

  1. Hi, I have been following your adventures for some time now and they provide a nice escapism from my much more convential lifestyle. I sent a reply awhile back suggesting you can at times seem rather negative about what you see as the mainstream life and you acknowledged that you will, by nature, tend to put a positive spin on your own chosen path. With this in mind my more cynical response to your future plans is that it is a good job some of us kept the ’24/7 madness’ ticking over to keep the infrastructure going for you to return to (particularly Ady’s desire for takeaways, I’m surprised you didn’t edit this out so full marks for openness!) and which, infact has kept you going through Internet deliveries during your years on Rum. I think there are, in reality, very few people who can cope totally cut off from the advantages of modern living, even knowing the problems they bring. Anyway, that is me being cynical and what I do think is that you have led an extraordinary lifestyle over the last few years and it is not at all surprising that with two teenage childen you are looking for a change. For what it’s worth I would say that you have all learned so much about animal husbandry, growing fruit and vegetables and alternative energy and I hope you can find a way forward that allows you to use these skills. I also think that an urban lifestyle will probably drive you mad in about a week! All the best, Liz .

    • I remember that comment Liz, it really made me think. Thanks for commenting again. You are totally right with your cynicism – infact the reliance on the mainstream infrastructure has been something that I have personally found at odds with my desire for self sufficiency. Having so much of our resources brought over by rail, road and ferry when I was striving to reduce my carbon footprint made me uncomfortable, as did the poor recycling opportunities, lack of choice in things like seasonal or local produce. And yes, Ady definitely misses the odd takeaway!
      I’m really hoping we find the middle ground between the full on life we left behind and the extreme other end of the spectrum we are at just now.

  2. Visiting your family on Rum was one of the highlights of our trip to Scotland two years ago — David and I still think of you often! Even though we were only there a short time (too short!), we got a taste of both how beautiful and how harsh the island can be. Thank you so much for sharing all your experiences on Rum — it’s clear that this time has enriched your lives, just as it has enriched the lives of those of us following you from afar. I’m very excited to see where you go next, and what great adventures await.

    Perhaps we will be able to catch up again, on a future visit to the UK!

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