We’ve been hinting and alluding to next steps in the planning and while we are still waiting for all the details to fall into place we have enough of a vision of what we’d like our lives to look like that we can share that vision. As has happened before with sharing ideas and plans on the blog we often get some great feedback – questions are brilliant as in answering your questions we often need to think about details that we may have missed or iron out any flaws in our plans. Ideas or suggestions are also really good – the hive mind or the ‘more the merrier’ definitely comes into play. Finally though the more we talk about ideas they more they manifest themselves, take shape and become closer to a reality.
Eight years ago we were on the cusp of a huge adventure. We were working out our notice periods in our jobs, finalising our WWOOF host arrangements, doing the final clear out / pack up of our house and preparing ourselves as best we possibly could for the absolute unknown. Willow the camper van was already sitting on our driveway and we would often go and sit in the van and try to picture what lay ahead. Our lives were filled with lists, timescales, maps, plans and a long, long checklist of hopes and dreams.
Seven years ago our application for a croft on the Isle of Rum – a place we had only visited once, for barely two hours – was in the hands of the island community trust, in response to crofts they had created and advertised to let. Within the coming weeks we would visit again for an interview, be offered the croft and set about a whole new set of lists, packing up, getting ready and a whole new list of hopes and dreams.
One year ago we were sitting in a rented house in Ireland having left the island for the winter to decide what we should do next and get some perspective away from Rum and our challenging lives here on the croft. We collectively decided to return, to make changes to our lives here to fix the issues we had with the things that we did have control over and to accept with good grace the things we could not. More lists, more plans…
Whilst it would be completely fair to say that we have made some unconventional and unusual choices it would also be accurate to say that all of them have been considered, planned, well-thought out and the result of plenty of research, discussion, taking the individual and collective needs of the members of our family into account and with careful re-evaluation along the way. The detail, reflection and talking that makes it onto this blog is merely the tip of a very large iceberg! Whilst it would be true to say that our little family unit is definitely up for adventure, challenges and grasping at the opportunities life offers us we are also not heading off blindly into the unknown.*
*largely thanks to Ady if I am being honest, I am definitely of the more reckless personality type!
So with that considered approach to our lives here on Rum we have collectively concluded the following:
Our current lives here no longer meet all of our needs; social, educational, financial, health & welfare are all lacking:
- Social – Davies and Scarlett are the only teens / young adults on the island. There is no social scene catering to their needs. Whilst Ady and I have some very good friends here there is also a side to our social needs which is lacking too.
- Educational – Davies is able to pursue his formal education with the Open University which is an excellent fit for him and his study needs and style. However, there are other educational opportunities such as relevant work experience, training or workshop type learning experiences which all four of us would like to access which our location here on Rum prevents from being viable.
- Financial – As we move from being a family of two adults and two children to a family of four adults our financial situation alters both in terms of income (eg. child-related tax credits and outgoings (eg adult rates for travel, accommodation, more spends on food, clothes etc.). There has been a loss of a couple of small but not insignificant earning opportunities on the island over recent years with the closure of a hostel and a drop in visitor numbers, Ady’s knee injury prevents him from some of the more physical work he has previously done to bring in money and the shed, while continuing to do well, particularly with additional online sales does not bring in sufficient income to sustain us. Added to this the need to travel further afield to meet those social, cultural and educational needs brings an additional cost implication in travel, accommodation and so on which our already stretched budget cannot cope with.
- Health & Welfare – Whether it is age and the physicality of our lifestyle beginning to take it’s toll, the living conditions of a damp caravan or a continued erosion in the services we receive in terms of healthcare, access to sufficient winter sunlight or a decent supply of fresh fruit and vegetables we have to concede that this life poses challenges to our health, some of which we struggle to mitigate.
There are many aspects of life here which we cherish and wish to retain:
- Love for Rum – This island, this croft has been our home for a large chunk of our lives and will forever hold a big place our hearts. While it is currently not providing everything we all four need we also feel very attached and do not want to lose that connection.
- We can still see potential – It would be very easy to conclude that this is not completely working and so we should do something completely different. Having spent time away over last winter and viewed our lives here with a different perspective since returning in the spring we can still pick out the aspects that really do work and the ones which could potentially work with some tweaking.
- For now, (but) not (necessarily) forever – As said before there are four of us and at times our individual needs can be really quite diverse. Just because on balance this is not working for us right now it does not mean it may not work for some of us at a future point, in fact it may continue to work for some of us right now if we can find the compromise for those it is not working for.
- The elements of this way of life which do work for us – when we came we said we were looking for somewhere to live which was beautiful, which had a sense of community and which allowed us freedom to do a land based project of growing crops and rearing animals. Nearly seven years in we are forced to accept that not all of those criteria are met here just now. Yet Rum continues to be beautiful, we do have land which while not as suited to our hopes and dreams as we’d have liked nonetheless with our time and energy spent so far has improved and does sustain some crops and some animals.
What we are missing and want from the next stage in our lives:
- A more suitable living space – We still believe in our original idea of a modest home with as small an environmental footprint as possible and as low running costs as we can manage. However a growing family means a need for more space, more privacy and more protection from the elements. Walls that don’t wobble, ceilings that don’t drip and space for us each to follow our interests without needing a rota for who has use of the table for art / crafts / studying /gaming would be desirable.
- Access to those cultural, social, educational and medical opportunities – A dentist or physiotherapy appointment that does not require two nights away from home, a cervical smear test that does not end up two years overdue before the doctor only does house calls now there is no surgery space on the island and you don’t live in a house (!), a cinema, theatre or music event you can travel to and maybe need to stay overnight but not require several nights and hundreds of miles travelling, a celebratory meal out, a ‘run out of cat food pop to the shops’. This is island living and it’s been a compromise we have been happy to make with our eyes wide open fully aware of the flip side of the massive benefits to island living. But at our current collective stage of life the down sides are weighing heavier than the up sides.
- To use all those skills we have learnt, to make the most of the last seven years and to move on to the next stage – we want to do the things we are good at, that we love doing and we want to start earning money from them and doing what we believe in. Whilst working a few shifts cleaning hostel rooms / doing the admin in the school / working at the post office / picking winkles have been great ways to make ends meet they were never on that list of hopes and dreams. Planting seeds and tending crops, breeding and rearing animals, butchery, baking, crafting, photography, talks and tours, teaching and hosting volunteers were all on that list and to a degree we have managed all of those things but not to the level we had hoped or dreamed.
Looking at all of these factors has led us to a new vision for the next few years. One where we have that living space that suits our changing needs, one where we manage to access all of the things we are craving hopefully without losing all the things we love. So we are looking for a house to rent on the mainland, close to Rum. Our idea is to be based on the mainland offering Davies and Scarlett all of the opportunities that mainland life provides – driving lessons, cinema trips, part time work, a social life, offering Ady and I some respite from the more challenging aspects of life here and some of those same social and educational opportunities too. But we’ll continue to spend a large amount of time here on Rum on the croft, still growing crops, rearing animals, crafting and producing. We’ll be able to take our crafts and produce to the mainland too though – to market days and craft fayres, to local shops and tourist hot spots, to accommodation providers. We’ll find the capacity to offer volunteering opportunities or workshops here on the Croft when we can bring supplies with us from the mainland. We can look for part time work to help sustain us while we get our existing Croft 3 brand expanded to include this bigger potential market.
In short we can bring some of our Rum life with us to the mainland and bring some of that mainland ease and convenience with us back to Rum.
As you can tell it is still at the plans, hopes and dreams stage of a vision. There will be details to iron out, not least the actual finding of somewhere to rent, an issue which has been proving rather trickier than we had first hoped when we began looking a few months ago. But as with all of our previous ambitious and at first glance perhaps unachievable goals we are confident that if you start with the vision, begin making lists and carry on talking and being open to ideas and opportunities there is every chance that this will be forming the start of a blog post of the future talking about a plan we shared way back in early 2019.