A Life of Purposeful Simplicity

We recently moved 500 miles away from family & friends in search of a new life, to somewhere we could only get to by boat or a 5 mile walk.

​We’ve now been living in a one room byre on a peninsular in the Scottish Highlands since July last year.

We have no bathroom, just an outside toilet. Our heat is from a log burner and we cook on a hob using bottled gas.

Adjoining the byre is a two bedroom traditional croft house in need of major renovation in which there’s an old oven that I use to bake my bread. For the first couple of months until we had our wind turbine installed we managed without electricity, we also now have broadband.

It continues to be a fascinating journey for me and such a radical change of life.

Before, we were living in a semi detached in the East Midlands,UK with a couple of supermarkets within walking distance, lots of fast food places, busy roads and lots of noise.

Our noise is now the wind blowing through the trees and birdsong.

I look out my window and see trees and the sea.

The logistics of it are both a nightmare and its saving grace.

There are times I’ve been frightened, the boat has been particularly daunting.

Having lived in the middle of the country my husband, Rich, and I had no boating experience whatsoever. Rich bravely did a weekend powerboat course just before our move, we collected our new boat in the removal van on our way up here, unwrapped it on the jetty then set sail.

I knew nothing of tides, winds, knots or winches.

It’s been a steep learning curve but we’re getting better at it.

To start with we struggled to even pull it into the water (it weighs over 30 stone) but now working together we know how how to tilt it slightly at the front and pull it at the right angle whereby it keeps moving and doesn’t get stuck.

I found it difficult at first to even get into the boat, we push it into the sea as deep as our wellies will allow and I hold it while Rich gets in and starts the engine, once that’s done I then clamber in.

I’m standing almost to my knees in water and I’ve short legs. I’ve got wet so many times, usually because as I’ve kicked my leg up in the air a wave has gone down my waterproof trousers so then landing in the boat I sit in a pool of water.

I have now perfected the art of throwing myself in so hopefully the days of doing the fortnightly shop with a dripping wet bottom are over.

Rich and I have had to learn to handle the boat together, we depend on each other. The winch has been our saviour in helping us pull the boat up the beach but it’s hard work.

A trip out takes an extra two hours dealing with the boat.

We have to be aware of the weather, you can’t just go out when you want to, plans often have to change at short notice.I’ve had to learn to surrender and accept this.

Daily life is taken at a slower pace, I bake my own bread and I chop the wood for the fire.

I take a pride in the fireplace, I arrange my logs at the back and sticks at the front. I’d never built a fire before, it’s been empowering learning to do so.

Over winter it became the routine that while Rich boils the kettle to make tea, I see to the fire.

The weather was so harsh that we kept it lit most days. There was something very comforting about lying in bed as the fire was dying down, to see the last flames light up the darkened room.

Being here, living a more basic life with less is giving me so much more.

The beauty of nature fills me with gratitude and awe and never ceases to amaze me whether its a dark night sky full of stars, dolphins swimming alongside our boat as we cross the loch, or the sun rising behind the mountains.

At least once a day I look across the loch at the snow covered mountains and can’t believe we’re here.

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24 Comments

  1. Karen

    WOW! Just WOW! I want to know more! THANKS!

    • Welsh Artist

      You must be unencumbered by school-aged children or other tethers to be able to just drop everything and move like that! It must be very freeing, yet quite scary, to make a 180 degree turn in how you live! You must feel like you’re on a permanent camping trip! After having cell phones and computer/email access for so long it would be like going back to the 1800’s for most people. It’s not something I’m able to do anymore having grand-children and a new business, but what a dream for you! By the way you talk, it seems you were already in Scotland or England. I still long to visit my ancestors’ home in Wales in this lifetime – but not for evermore, as you have done. Good Luck with your adventure. I know seeing the water and mountains is very uplifting, as that is what I got when moving to the Olympic Peninsula. I hope you are writing a book about this, or at least keeping a journal!

      • Julie Maceanruig

        Hi Welsh Artist, yes I am unencumbered by children. Ours are all fully grown. I would not have had the patience to live in one room! I do have a mobile and after a frustrating start have a reasonable signal most of the time. We also now have an Internet connection which is quite amazing and does make it easier to keep in touch although much of the time I write letters. It’s wonderful when people write back.
        Hope you get to Wales, we lived there for a year and really enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful place. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
        Best of luck
        Julie x

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Karen, glad you enjoyed the article. I have a Facebook page, Serendipitous which has more photos and links to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Julie x

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Karen,
      Glad you enjoyed the article. I have a Facebook page serendipitous which has more photos and links to my blog.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      Julie x

  2. LInda Brooymans

    Thanks for sharing Julie! I’m looking forward to reading more about this new life you’ve embarked upon 🙂
    Especially the things that make this kind of life a challenge that most people wouldn’t take into account, and then what makes all of that worth it.
    Reading this from Vancouver Island, Canada

  3. Bonnie Smoller

    Please let us know about the road access. Thank you for sharing this adventure.

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Bonnie,
      The road access is a 5 mile single track footpath. Beautiful walk but a long way carrying your weekly food shop! We’ve done it when the sea has been too choppy for our liking.
      Julie x

  4. Amphasis

    This is really fascinating, giving up life in the city and going back to basic. I just wish that I am brave enough to do this.

  5. Amphasis

    I really wish that I can dump that mobile phone and stopping answering emails and go back to the basic like you do.

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Amphasis,
      I still have a mobile phone and we have the Internet so am not completely away from the rest of the world but it is wonderfully peaceful. I’ve never felt brave, I think I just go for it and think about it later.
      Thanks for your comment,
      Julie x

  6. Catherine Drabble

    Such an inspiring and uplifting article. Finding a new, simpler way of living in this busy noisy world is the way to go, especially now you’ve dealt with the soggy bottom situation!

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Catherine,
      Yes hopefully my soggy bottom days are over although have discovered hole in my welly so now have soggy left foot.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment
      Julie x

  7. CS Marshall

    I would love to read more. Quite inspiring!

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi,
      Glad to hear you enjoyed the article. I’ve a Facebook page serendipitous which has some photos on it and also links to the blog that I write.
      Good to know you’ve been inspired.
      Julie x

  8. Mary Kate

    This sounds amazing, but the part that always gives me pause when I think of doing something like this is the “away from friends and family” part. I’d love to hear more about that from you — do you get lonely? Do you feel you’re missing out by not seeing your loved ones more often? Do you miss having a community?

    I’m a bonafide introvert but I love seeing the people I love. It was my dream once to move to France. I did so for a year, then realized that I missed my friends and family too much and moved back. Now that I’m older with my own family I think it might be something I could do again (I was 100% alone the first time) but I’m not sure. But with the rising price of housing where I live and a long commute to a job I don’t love, this life sounds tempting. Would love to hear your thoughts!

  9. Meg

    You might enjoy an American book called We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich. She and her husband moved to Maine (in the 40’s?) and she chronicles their lifestyle (and some funny stories!) Obviously some differences, but fun reading.
    Thanks for your post!

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Meg,
      Thanks for that, will look for the book.
      Julie x

  10. Sheila DelCharco

    Sounds fascinating!

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Sheila,
      Yes it is. I’m learning so much. Living close to nature is so wondrous. I am very thankful.
      Julie x

  11. Dee

    I’d love to know what prompted this move. Was it a lifelong dream? An event or experience that prompted it? Or something else?

    What do your grown children think? Do they come to visit you?

    Do you intend for this move to be permanent? Will you add on to your accommodations?

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Dee,
      I think what prompted the move was a growing restlessness and a feeling my life didn’t fit me anymore. My sons and I have been through alot together and they are wonderful in that they have always wanted the best for me. My youngest has been to stay and is visiting again later this year. My other two are planning trips with their partners next year. We go down to the Midlands to catch up with everyone about 4 or 5 times a year. I feel it’s helped my Sons to find their independance.
      This is definitely a permanent move. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now. Hopefully we’ll stay fit and healthy, it would be difficult to manage here with any mobility problems.
      Regarding accommodation, we’re very slowly renovating the 2 bedroom crofters cottage and also building a cabin so hopefully sometime in the near future will have a more comfortable place for people to stay.
      Thanks for your interest,
      Julie x

  12. Melinda Loke

    Just ventured into my semi-retirement to enjoy d simple things in life. Glad I found ur article n admire ur back to d basics lifestyle. I know a WOW when I read one n urs is a BIG WOW!

    • Julie Maceanruig

      Hi Melinda,
      Yes we’ve definitely gone back to basics. But we are really enjoying it and can’t imagine ever living anywhere else now. I am looking forward to the day we have a bathroom but being here is teaching me patience. Enjoy your semi retirement. I write a blog
      https://serendipitousscotland.blogspot.co.uk/

      Best wishes
      Julie

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