OR WOULD MADNESS SURELY FOLLOW? (SEE PICTURE FOR ANSWER)
The predominant question people always ask when they hear how we live is —WHY?
Surely at fifty plus you should be settled, your home organised, your kids if you have any grown and your retirement plan mapped. That’s certainly how it is for most of the family so why not for me, for us?
We had just had enough, the Monday to Friday drag was painful and my wonderful career started to feel like an imposition.
The world and all of its open space was calling and it just kept getting louder.
The dogs needed to run free, the chickens needed space as they had more chicks and the cockerel was loudly proclaiming the song of his people every morning and when you live in a suburban Cul-de-sac the neighbours gradually get more annoyed over the 4am wake up calls. Although I hasten to add they never complained but I cringed when they exclaimed how wonderful it must be to have chickens knowing that they were subconsciously saying “shut the bloody cockerel up”.
Recently someone told me they felt somewhat the same. A life change was needed and a move to Ireland was being considered so I thought I would give some food for thought on the subject.
Before you leap its important to ask yourself some questions- create a plan if you like but at the very least consider what you want and how you can get it. Country lifestyle is not for everyone, sure nice for a while but a change like this means you may not be able to pack up after a fortnight and go home. Preparation has to be the foundation and be honest, rose tinted glasses wont help when its 5am in the morning pouring with rain and the chickens need to be fed, or the wind has blown a tree down in the one track road and you cant get to the main road. Believe me these things happen and I never prepared for any of them so I hope this will help you.
I felt like an alien, my outdoor skills completely zilch. I had spent my comfy life in offices and shops, eating in restaurants and generally having a soft life. I had never built a fire, hated digging in the ground, was petrified of spiders and crawley things – how did I think I could live this lifestyle. Simon of course kept me going but if you don’t have a Simon ( and I wont share sorry) then you better be doubly sure you can do things better than me.
Soooo Lets Start at the very beginning – A very good place to start. Today I want to talk about your starting points, the heavy stuff that kept me awake at nights. Then later we can explore some other issues that they don’t tell you in the manuals.
How do you want to live? -it has to be the first decision, and it will drive everything you do.
Budget – do you have a property to sell? Initially we had planned to keep our UK house but in the end we sold up. The thought of trying to manage a property from another country seemed really hard work. We still had a mortgage so paying for that would have been an issue. So how will you fund your new house, will you buy or rent? In Ireland rental properties can be quite expensive and the type of properties we were looking to buy were very cheap so renting was never an option. There still some cheap homes with land to have on the Emerald isle but they need work and work needs money, lots of it and always more than you initially planned so consider if you have a fall back money until you get settled.
I had my budget all mapped out and in fact during the first nine months managed to stick to the 65 Euros we budgeted for every week as the house money was very limited. I was so proud but it was hard and at times pretty grueling denying ourselves everything but bare essentials. Yes we had come to live a simpler life but quibbling over a chocolate bar or the odd bit of something nice was us being very mean to ourselves. Your budget then is not just for your home but for your life and giving up everything is never really ok, sure finds ways to have the things you like with less but this life is hard without some treats.
Where do you want to live? – Are you wanting to get back to nature? Is it a single track road and neighbors’ so far away that you cant even hear their dog barking that floats your boat? Conversely would you be happy on a rural road with a few other houses around. This could give you some support right on your doorstep if you want it and this country has lots of smaller roads with a few spaced out houses on so you would still get a decent bit of land and a few friends to boot.
Thirdly you could choose one of the small villages – there you will have a shop and a couple of pubs, well if they reopen after the lockdowns, usually a credit union, a pharmacy and of course the local church. This would probably be the closest to the comfort zone so it could be a first step as changes this big sometimes need time and small villages offer a community and tick boxes for those who might be doing this alone.
Location can be sorted by looking at the area on google maps or actually visiting places but lifestyle is a different story. The back of beyond where we live is quiet, and dark at night, so can, if you let it, get a bit scary. When we first came I was so aware of the noises the forest made and even now the creaks and cracks still give me a little pause, but it does get easier. The stars are actually beautiful to see without the glow of street lighting but the 2 acres are dark, darker than dark and until we got the dogs flashing collars it was a nightmare trying to get them in because you are literally blind without a decent torch. You are also along way from people and I never felt that more strongly that when Simon had his heart attack and for weeks after I was very aware how isolated we are and how long it would take to be rescued if there was an issue so you must think carefully about that. Location is also important if you need to work. When we first came we didn’t work for 9 months but eventually I needed a job. We had chosen the West of Ireland because we were in a triangle of 3 large cities, well within 50 miles of each one anyway. We thought that way we would have better opportunities and that was true. I guess the major thing we didn’t think about and come on who does, was what happens when we get really old and can’t drive or take care of the land. I have to admit we still haven’t reconciled that one yet but we will have to have some sort of plan as I don’t see the dogs stepping up to take care of us.
Are you dreaming of land to farm? We pined for more than 2 acres but actually it is enough for newbies like us.
Do you want to renovate a house or just walk straight in to one that needs no work? Be aware the building work takes time here. The statement – “I’ll be there Monday” is fraught with tension as it wont mean next Monday and maybe not even the Monday after. Work gets done when it gets done but if you have a roof over your head and you are ok with a slower pace of life then this is for you. Of course if you are handy yourself then everyday is a DIY day.
Do you want to be off grid? – If so to what extent – would you want just a well and then be hooked up to the electric grid, this is probably normal in rural Ireland as mains water is rare when you move out of the villages.re you going to be more adventurous and try solar or wind power. Think carefully about what you can manage as it can be done but knowing your mind is essential. Do your research before you start as this sort of energy is still emerging and sometimes people with know how are few and far between. The internet groups are so helpful and are always up for giving practical advice.
Whoa this subject is deep and so I am going to stop for now as this is enough to start with but lets end with one last thing.
You have to be self motivated – I am often lazy – there I said it. I like to read and chill and sometimes the thought of collecting wood or digging up the veg for tea has me closing my book with a sigh. You have to want to do it , even in the wind and the rain. Simon pushes me onwards and as I am not putting him up for sale you will need to find your own self motivation I am afraid. However if you dig deep and find it then this is a great life filled with challenges and crazy unexpected issues but no less fun because of them.
I hope this gets the plan started but don’t forget there’s no rush the land will still be here waiting.
The street was quiet again. Country quiet.Jane Harper