It’s now been a little over 7 months since we set off on our bikes, trailers in tow, on a journey into the unknown – and what a journey it’s been!
We’ve cycled the waterways from Shropshire to Wales, climbed mountains and swam in rivers; watched herons, kingfishers, wild horses and deer. We’ve worked alongside people from all over the world; and with cattle, boar, chickens and geese. We’ve experienced communal life in the most basic conditions, high in the Welsh mountains with an old yurt as our home; and spent time alone in rural luxury, with a historic cottage in the Lake District as our own. And we’re only just getting started.
Just a few weeks ago we were given the opportunity of a lifetime – to settle on an off-grid, self-build plot of our own in a truly beautiful setting – and we thought we were going to take it. But, after realising that the question ‘where to next?’ was no longer our thing, we balked. If there’s one thing we’ve learned on our quest for knowledge of all things off-grid and sustainable, it’s that setting up on a plot takes time. Time and constant focus; the plants, animals, water and power systems all require constant attention – just popping off for a little adventure isn’t viable, at least not in the first few years. It hadn’t escaped our notice that we were having a great time travelling – we’ve spent every day of these past months counting our blessings – but we hadn’t realised just how much we’ve come to love the nomadic lifestyle. The thought of being tied to one place again for the foreseeable future, no matter how idyllic that place, simply isn’t appealing right now. So we’ll carry on living our adventure until we’re ready to stop!
For now we’ve traded the bikes for trains and are in the Lakes, enjoying some well earned downtime and exploring the area. The children are making the most of the interesting history of our temporary home to complete research projects and read through the extensive and eclectic selection of books here. We’ve been blessed with the use of this gorgeous cottage, with links to Lewis Carol and an elite WWII bomb disposal unit, for the winter season in exchange for a little DIY; the owners have generously offered us this “peaceful and nurturing base” for many winter seasons to come, having been inspired by our journey and what we’re trying to achieve for our family. It’s exactly this, the act of mutual exchange, that propels us forward. It’s not just an exchange of time and work for food and a place to stay; but an exchange of experience, knowledge, ideas, hopes and dreams.
Come Spring we will be headed off to the stunning St Mary’s in the Scilly Isles, where we’ve been invited to spend a few months experiencing small island life while working on a farm. We’re particularly excited about this placement – white sands and turquoise seas along with the rich history of the Isles is enough to excite anyone! It will also provide some unique learning opportunities for the children, who are still thriving on their wandering education. Maddys’s favorite author, Michael Morpurgo, wrote a book inspired by the Isles and a film adaptation was consequently made there; Brendan will no doubt continue on his quest to unearth and research pottery (along with any other random artefact!) from every place he visits – he may even strike gold on the UK’s answer to Treasure Island; and the incredible plant and bird life across the islands will provide weeks of project material. All in all, we’re rather looking forward to it!
My final thought for this round-up is this: Modern society has lost sight of what’s really important, and we’re glad to be going ‘against the grain’. It was suggested to us a little while ago that though we may be having fun with our travels, we’re being taken advantage of. That those hosting us are getting skilled labour that would cost more than the accommodation and food we get in return. This type of thinking is another of our propellants – we have no interest in being part of a society that measures value only in money. The value of the knowledge, skills and experiences that we have gained from our hosts can not be determined in monetary terms; and neither can the things that we took to those tables. It’s been a fair exchange, and I know this because all parties gained what they needed. For us, that really is all that matters.