Thinking Ahead

Half way into the wild camping part of the adventure we’ve been reluctantly starting to think ahead. We were in a shop buying a lantern earlier this week and telling the guy in there about what we’ve been doing. He was really interested and asked the tricky question ‘how do you think you’ll feel going back to real life again then?’. We all laughed and said we didn’t really expect we ever would. But of course this current lifestyle is not sustainable. An 11 year old boy and a nearly 9 year old girl cannot keep sharing a bunk forever, Willow has already done so much better than we could have ever hoped with so many miles, so many hills and so much living full time in her. We know that at some point in the not too distant future we will want a home again. A kitchen – to cook and bake and make jam. A lounge with a sofa to stretch out on and bookshelves to fill and plugs to charge up laptops to watch films on and boxes to fill with lego. A bathroom to take long luxurious baths in with fragrant bubbles and space on the side for a glass of wine and a bowl of peanuts and soak for hours. A bedroom with a full size bed and a duvet rather than a sleeping bag and a wardrobe with a choice of clothes rather than a shared plastic box with limited clothing selected for it’s durability and ability to be stuffed up small and not show the creases. And space – space to invite friends over, to play in, to loll about in and to close a door on everyone else in the world and just be alone every so often. And a garden – to keep chickens in, to grow food in, to sit in the sunshine with a beer, or to run around being rowdy in.

This leads us towards the ‘what happens next?’ question. The one we hoped this year would provide an answer to or at the very least scribble out some of the possible answers. And it is. We now have a list of essential and desireable requirements for the place we end up calling home. Top of the list is a view, something with water. Be it river, ocean, lake or loch we all feel very strongly that we want to be near water, able to see it from our windows. We need land, enough to grow food and keep animals on. Not too much, we have seen an almost self sufficient model on as little as under an acre on our travels and have been inspired by clever ways to make the most of available space, use polytunnels and greenhouses and adopt permaculture principles to ensure we are using space as efficiently as possible. We want to be mortgage free which means buying outright with the equity in our current home and we want out outgoings to be as small as possible which means self sufficient or at least close to it for energy and food, stripping back material needs and consuming. We want to bring in income by methods that are meaningful, soul feeding and rewarding – finding work that we are good at and enjoy. We have some ideas but will need to explore them further and consider our geographical location before making final decisions on that. We need to live somewhere that meet our needs as individuals and as a family, providing social, educational, community opportunities, that will support Dragon and Star both now and through the coming years of growing independance.

There. Not too big an ask surely?! This year has been an amazing journey of demonstrating to us what we can do without, what we miss and what truly is important to us, what makes us happy and when everything is stripped away what are the first things you need to claw back. We have had to let go of some ideals, change our thinking and make sacrifices. We have had to roll with the punches, think on our feet and adapt to an ever changing background of circumstances. We have learnt so very, very much about ourselves, the world around us, other people and what really matters. I have every confidence in us working through this next stage and making our next set of dreams come true.

We’ve been talking about this bit of the adventure at the half way point of the wild camping, recalling how much we’ve done in three weeks and speculating on what the next three weeks might hold. We still have a wish list of whale spotting, northern lights and sea eagles to tick off. Later today we are heading to the Isle of Skye and will start looking at property with a view to starting to hone that list above a bit more.

Bad: Emptying the toilet out! I hate doing it, I worry about doing it in public toilets and I always clean up afterwards in the toilets which means I am cleaning toilets every day or so.
Good: The views. We see the most amazing, outstanding views every day.
Learnt: It’s so different living this way all the time rather than just for a holiday on a campsite. It’s minimalistic and stripped back to real basics.
Best moment of wild camping so far: Doing the washing in the loch! It was a real magical moment to be on the shores of Loch Maree with biblical connections where people were baptised and cured by the water in the early morning sunshine washing my pants!

Missing being with other people. When we were WWOOFing we were meeting new people, and children, all the time. While we’re wild camping it’s just us, so less people to play with.
Good: We’re seeing so much more new stuff every day. At home we never saw anything new, at WWOOFing we did see some new stuff but this three weeks we have seen so many new things – wildlife and scenery. I used to watch Springwatch, Autumnwatch, David Attenborough wildlife shows and be in awe, now I think I have seen more myself.
Learnt: What a treat electricity is! When we lived in a house we could just plug stuff in whenever we want, now it’s so precious we save energy and take it in turns to charge stuff up. I learnt lots of new stuff at Knockan Crag about rock formation and geology.
Best moment of wild camping so far: Seeing the salmon leap. It was top of my list of things I wanted to see and on our first day of wild camping we watched them leap at Shin Falls.

Going back into civilisation. I didn’t like visiting shops and seeing traffic. I also was sad when we saw some crows attacking and killing a seagull.
Good: All the wildlife! I’ve seen salmon jumping, red squirrel, golden eagles, red kites, seals, dolphins, guillemots including a chick blown off course by some high winds, red deer and lots of other birds. I like the views, my favourites are ones with water – I liked Loch Ness best.
Learnt: I think I’ve learnt more wild camping than at lots of hosts. I’ve learnt about caves, mountains and how they got made, how lochs formed (they are like giant puddles left over from the ice age), lots about animals, about history of Scotland – picts, ancient woodlands, extinct wildlife, how dangerous minks are, clearances (when people left their homes to make way for sheep farming) and loads more.
Best moment of wild camping so far:  Seeing our first definite golden eagle.

Bad: Spent so much money on petrol than we’d originally budgeted for which will limit the second half of our time. I’d love to tour more for the next few weeks but finances will dictate that we do not travel as far as we just can’t afford the petrol.
Good: It’s all just so much better than I could have hoped for. I knew Scotland was pretty but it’s actually breathtakingly gorgeous, I knew there was abundant wildlife but didn’t expect to see it all as easily as we have. I find it hard to comprehend that this is the same country as I own a house in, albeit it at the opposite end on the south coast. There are so many less people, so much more space, we really do live alongside the wildlife and nature instead of trampling all over it. The air is cleaner, the weather is wilder, the landscape more dramatic.
Learnt: Loads! I’ve learnt that I am definitely at my happiest when spending time alongside Dragon and Star. I missed then while we were WWOOFing – I missed the little incidental conversations, the just hanging out with them, the eating dinner together just us four, the exclusive family time that the four of us need to ourselves and is so precious. This is rather an intense and full on recuperation period from six months of eating other people’s food at other people’s dinner tables and I am aware of the irony of Dragon saying he missed friends and other children – clearly there is a balance in between living with other people all the time and not seeing anyone but the other WW all the time but I have been doing lots of thinking about Home Education and the future and I know the way it works best for us is just how it has been the last three weeks – walking along slowly, hand in hand, discovering as we go.
Best moment of wild camping so far: It’s hard to choose one really, I keep flicking through my memory like a photograph album. There was one magical moment when we rounded a corner coming down a mountainside in Willow and suddenly the ocean spread out below us with the Summer Isles and all four of us said ‘whoa!’ at the same time. There was sunrise at Loch Maree when Star and I went paddling in the loch. Watching Dragon and Ady fly a kite while Star and I jumped through rainbows on the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. There was looking up one evening while we were eating dinner and spotting a red deer stag silhouetted on the hill just above us. But I suspect I am being greedy so shall choose this moment, right now. When we are halfway through what has already proved to be an adventure beyond our wildest expectations and still has as much ahead as it does behind and the promise of so much more to come.

This week has been woodland walks on which we saw red squirrels, time at the coast when we spotted seals, dolphins, more golden eagle sightings. It’s also sadly had very tedious but necessary visits back into retail world for food, petrol, footwear and clothing supplies (kids feet grown, my jeans size shrunk!), a lantern. It’s made for altogether less gorgeous photographs but does mean we are all far more comfortable!

at the Calendonian Canal

Caledonia Canal

A guillemot that had been blown off course

At Plodda Falls

Plodda Falls

Dog Falls

Back at Loch Ness

seals at Cromarty

seals at Cromarty

overlooking the Skye Bridge

At Tollies Red Kite centre

red kites


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