Sunday, 11 December 2011

Working 9 - 5

Our stay in Ibiza was wonderful again.

Whenever I get get off the aeroplane I get this feeling in my chest. It is a difficult feeling to describe, perhaps it is a sense of contentment, a feeling of being home, a feeling of just fitting there. This time the weather was cooler although still warm, we were still able to sit and and swim in November. Even now writing about it I long to be back there. The scenery there is quite dramatic, although part of Spain there is something else going on there, by that I mean that you can still feel the influence of the ancient moors and the Phoenicians. There is something about those green hills, some magic that is difficult to describe.

Will Ibiza ever be more to us than a place to spend some part of the year? I don't know. Could we afford to live there? Maybe. It would probably require a lottery win for us to buy property there. It is because I don't really know what I want that I cannot make a commitment to anything. How long will I feel like this? Will we ever settle somewhere? Perhaps we just haven't found it. Should we be doing what makes us happy now, or should we be concentrating on building some security for the future, because there is a conflict between the two.

I have a confession to make. I am working again, doing what I used to do before. BUT it is only a six week contract. The pay is decent. And I am actually enjoying the work. The downside is it requires a hotel stay 4 nights a week. We still have the rented house in Wales which we go to at the weekend.

I do wonder how some people live in the same place and do the same things and go to the same job all their lives. Personally I have undergone incredible growth and change over the last 10 years. This is part of my issue with settling or committing to something somewhere, what if I change my mind, what if I outgrow it? I have wanted different things at different points in my life. That is why I continue to keep things flexible and non permanent. I continue to rent a house but I question the financial wisdom in this.

We have resolved to go to Portugal in the spring to have a look around. Perhaps we could find a small home there in a fishing village near the coast.  Somewhere not too far from an airport.

One thing I am sure of is that I want/need to live near the sea. I don't think living out in the sticks is for us, I don't think I am really ready for that yet.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Back to Ibiza

Well the last few weeks have been difficult.

Both DH and I have had a huge crisis of confidence about exactly what the hell we are doing, where we are going with our lives etc.

At the most basic level we are incredibly bored. We lack purpose and direction. We both miss a sense of achievement and having something to focus on.

When you dont work there is a HUGE amount of free time to fill. We have found that hobbies and outdoor activities only take you so far. DH is really struggling with having lots of unstructured free time. He doesnt like it, he needs something to do everyday.

We have been unable to secure the casual work that we had hoped for. The economy is fucked. What is the point of being in the UK if we cannot work? This is the question we ask ourselves.

So we got on a flight and came back to Ibiza.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Isla bonita and a new plan?

We are stuck in a rut at the moment.

We have acknowledged to ourselves that our future does not lie here. We have come to the conclusion that we do not want to buy property here. There is something lacking for us here.

We need to move forward, on to something else. The problem is that the other options seem just as unpalatable as staying where we are now. We do feel the need to build some security for ourselves. We do  not want to get into the rut of paying rent in perpetuity, we are not getting any younger.

The other problem with renting is that it always feels very temporary. It is difficult therefore to build any sort of life.

Yet again all of the reasons why I wanted out of the UK in the first place are ringing in my ears like bells. Land/property is too expensive in this country for us. The affordable parts are grim and uninspiring. Anywhere remotely cute/pretty/inspiring costs a fortune and we would have to return to the full time grind for that.

We have just returned from a break in Ibiza, I could really see us spending a lot of time there. Ibiza off the beaten track is such a beautiful island, its a happy place, chilled out, laid back. But the cost of living there is higher than here.

We are thinking about living on a narrowboat here so we have a base here and then we can spend time in Ibiza. But a narrowboat is a depreciating asset. I also worry about rust. DH says he can do a lot of the maintenance himself, but I worry that if we wanted to sell the boat in years to come it could be practically worthless through depreciation.

I just dont know what to do.

Friday, 29 July 2011

A year to the day

It was a year ago today that I escaped office grind.

I cant believe that time has passed so quickly. Time never went quickly when I worked the grind. The days, weeks and months used to seem endless.

I have noticed a marked improvement in my physical, mental and emotional health since The Escape. This must be down to the fact that I now no longer work in an office and I moved out of the city. I no longer have the stress of the job. In fact it amazes me how much time work actually consumed of my waking hours.

Now I can look out the window and see trees and mountains. I now ride my bike for transportation. DH has the car all week since he is still working away. If I didn't ride my bike I would not be able to get around. I've lost quite a bit of weight being more active. Now I can just ride out of the front door and within minutes I can be at the beach or on a cycle path into the mountains. THAT seems like such a luxury to me. 

I always found peace and solace in the outdoors, it calms me it reduces my anxiety. I think more people need to enjoy nature. Contentment and peace of mind is NOT attained by working one's self to the bone. What good is money when health is poor? We do not need to live in big houses with huge mortgages and drive big expensive cars. It is these things which keep us chained to our jobs, the shackles of modern slavery. Less is so much more.

There are a lot of unanswered questions I have about the future, about how and where we will live our lives. If you had told me a year ago that I would be living where I am living now I would have laughed. I would NEVER have thought that we would be living here. But I believe that you see things with fresh eyes at different points in your life. The truth is I really don't know where we will be next year. Sometimes this saddens me. I really do feel the need to build a home. The itinerant nature of my childhood has carried over into my adult life. Once I joined the professional working world I found that the cycle of moving all the time carried on as I had to go wherever the work was.

I feel I need to rid myself of this gnawing dissatisfaction of being rootless. Or, do I make peace and accept it? Buddhism tells us that the problem is not the problem, the solution is acceptance of the problem.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Meaningful work

When I worked the office grind I used to dream and fantasize about unlimited free time. I dreamt of freedom. Freedom from a schedule, freedom from a desk in an office, freedom from the stress of the job. I dreamt of freedom to do whatever I wanted day in day out. Freedom to climb mountains every day. Freedom from cities and concrete buildings. Freedom to cycle through forests with the wind in my hair. I wanted freedom to design my own life.

Now that I've got what I want can I handle it? This life is not for everyone. You have to take charge of your own entertainment. People wonder what I do all day, they ask don't I get bored, don't I feel lost without the sense of purpose that work brings?

The answer is, no and yes and sometimes. But the truth is that I could not return to my old life now. You see I feel that the work ethic is so ingrained in us that people now cannot imagine life without work, and I find this sad. Most people are not prepared to take responsibility for their own lives, the thought of freedom actually frightens them.

But, it was never my intention not to do some sort of "work". Even though its been almost a year since The Escape I am still in the early stages of discovering what I want. The great thing is that I can and do climb mountains most days, I can and do ride my back with the wind in my hair. I now grow vegetables!

However I think we humans are complex creatures and like it or not we need other humans around us. The truth is that I do miss some social interaction. I used to think that I wanted to go and live on an island on my own, I was very bitter, angry and dejected. Being somewhat introverted I find socialising difficult.

Ideally I would have liked some sort of part time work, something fun like working in a cafe or waitressing. Those jobs are few and far between, and in the area where I live there is great competition for them. These days there is a formal application process for these part time unskilled jobs. You actually need a CV to serve coffee??? My CV is very technical, I don't stand a chance.

The other thing is that I do miss the intellectual stimulation of my old job. I have thought about retraining, I'd like to do something involved in public service. But you wonder whether there is any point in retraining without the certainty of a job at the end of it. I looked into retraining as a Nurse, however my GP put me off this and suggested that I study medicine instead. There is a post graduate fast track course in medicine which is designed for mature students with a degree. Now this really got me thinking. I have always been interested in medicine but this is a HUGE commitment. For a while thinking about it I got excited about it. But would I be just trading one treadmill for another? This would be ideal for me in a way that it is helping people, its "giving back". But it is a big commitment. But I do need something to do. This does mean that we are committed to being here for long term.

Do we have many other options anyway about where to live? Portugal living is still on my mind but I worry that it could be too one dimensional, I think I may need more variety. I also have to think about DH. DH said he was bored and has gone back to work, its not permanent work, but he has taken a temporary contract for 3 months as a locum. He says he needed something to do and missed the social interaction. Hmmm I do wonder sometimes whether we want the same things.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

It isnt here

Well after my last post I woke up this morning and felt completely different about things.

Why is it that when I write something on the blog I often change my mind the day after? Is it something to do with the process of blogging?

Today I went for a long walk up the mountain. I do my best thinking up there.

Sometimes I think so much I feel like my head is going to explode.

Today I feel that we are not meant to be here. We are not meant to be living in this country.

I just cant fathom how we are going to be able to achieve that life that we truly desire here. We are desperate to settle and to buy our own place, but I just cannot bring myself to buy anything. I just don't think we would be happy living in an overpriced box.

It is fear that is keeping us here. Here we are in a safe little house.

But it isn't what I want. Even here I feel it is too claustrophobic. Its not as bad as city living, no where near as bad. But it doesn't feel right. To feel less claustrophobic, would involve living somewhere more rural which means spending a lot more money, more than I want to spend.

We don't have anything in common with anyone here. I am not sorry that we came here to live for a while because it has given me the chance to have some re-connection with family members after a period of estrangement. But I have realised that I have to make all the effort. No one comes to see us. We have to go and see them. Finally I am at peace with that. Now I don't expect too much. No more drama, no more pain. I want peace in my life.

I have to do what is right for DH and I and not what I think would make others happy.

We are going to have to make compromises.

We are going to have to get to like the sun.

Saturday, 7 May 2011


What makes a home? What does the word home mean?

Home is something that DH and I still search for. Is home something more than four walls? I always imagined that it would be a safe place where we would feel at peace, content, at "one".

We are still unsure of what we will do and where we will live. I used to say to DH that all doors would be considered. But I think we have slowly come to the conclusion that living in southern Europe is probably out of the question for us. The main reason for this is that we like cool weather. We have never been hot weather people or sun worshippers. Mostly we prefer rain and overcast weather. I realise that there probably is a certain level of acclimatisation to the heat but, I don't want to endure, I want to live and enjoy the great outdoors without feeling like we have to hide inside because of the ferocious heat, which is usually what we ended up doing in the past.

The other thing is that DH gets bored easily. He does like to have some work to do. DH likes to pick up odd jobs, he likes to feel that he is being useful and he misses the transactional nature of working. This is something that I did not anticipate. I should have realised that DH was probably not as disenchanted with the world of work as I was. This is another issue why moving to southern Europe could be problematic.

Another realisation is that I don't feel like I hate living in this country anymore. Yes, there are places where I would REALLY rather live, but I have to face reality that unless I win the lottery or find a a spare half a million dollars so I can buy a green card I will never be able to live in Oregon or Washington state.

I think we have also realised that we really want a house of our own. We have looked in the South Wales area and nothing appeals to us, in fact a lot of it is all rather depressing, I mean souless, grey, boring, uninspiring. I dont want to buy the wrong thing and end up regretting it. But if we did find a house we liked it would save us money on rent.

I suppose we are just drifting at the moment.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Lets have a republic

I don't believe in elitism.

I believe that everyone is equal.

I am not a royalist. What a beautiful distraction the establishment have given us with the royal wedding. We are living in the worse recession or depression since the 1930's. We have massive unemployment, people that cannot afford to buy a decent house to live in and skyrocketing inflation. Wages haven't grown in real terms for a long time.

Never mind about the depression though at least we have the royal wedding to look forward to.

I wonder what Castro would have to say about it all.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The quest for balance

The major problem with working the grind is lack of balance. Its an all or nothing scenario.

The major aim of the escape, was to achieve balance in our lives. Instead of living in a concrete jungle and working 5 days a week we wanted to move away from the central focus of our lives being about making money. Now we have achieved that, but we still do not have the balance that we crave. If you like we have gone from "all" to "nothing". From being on the go all the time, to not having very much to do for long passages of time all week.

It was never our intention to give up working completely. We had built in the need to do some part time work as part of the escape plan. I am too young and have too much energy to sit around and do nothing. The scary thing is that the less you do the lazier you get.

We always thought that we would find some part time work. Something fun to do, nothing to do with law. Perhaps we would work in food retail. But the part time job seems to be very elusive. Strangely, most jobs seem to be full time or 20 hours a week spread over multiple days. We don't want to work multiple days, and we don't want to work nights. Its seems that we are living in an area of high unemployed, where the local workforce is largely unskilled and so the sort of jobs that we are looking for are probably in high demand.

And lets face it, we could do with the money. One thing that I failed to appreciate before planning the escape was that you need a certain amount of money to entertain yourself when you have a lot of time on your hands. I never thought I would say that. You see when we were working the grind in the concrete jungle, all our spare time was spent doing free things in the outdoors, we were gasping for the outdoors and that fresh mountain air, literally.

I dont know what the solution is. Perhaps where we are is not the place for us long term. It would be lovely to achieve that balance though.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

so far so good

Its been nearly six months since The Escape. That six months has flown by. Honestly, time did not pass so quickly when we were working the grind. The days just fly by here.

So how are we feeling? Well I have to say that I feel that there has been a vast improvement in my emotional health. It was really this aspect that was probably the biggest concern to me. I think that living in Manchester city centre was completely the wrong place for us to live. It simply wasn't congruent with who we are and what we needed out of life. We were there simply to earn money and that was it.

Photo - Afan Valley

I still don't know what we will do long term. Some days I think we might stay here, other days I don't know whether where we are living at the moment offers all we truly desire. Here we have mountains and coast on our doorstep. There are bike trails and hiking trails and of course the beach. Housing is relatively cheap to buy here. People are friendly. Life is just so much easier here, but perhaps a lot of that is not having to work. I don't want to portray this place as being perfect or idyllic because it isn't.

But there is something stopping me. Sometimes I feel that it is simply too early to think about putting down roots and that we should keep our options open. The other thing is that everywhere I have ever lived I have wanted to move on within a few years!

The other issue on my mind is self sufficiency. The rising cost of living is a concern. If you own your own "house" outright, grow your own food and perhaps even produce some of your own fuel then you can at least insulate yourself from inflation, peak oil etc. Cost of land in this country is prohibitive. So what about going abroad to do this?

Going abroad is such a huge decision. It is a huge decision to make because its got to be the right decision otherwise it is very complicated to undue. Since we are forced to focus on living in Europe one possible ideal location which springs to mind is Portugal.

I still want a little house with some land in the woods surrounded by trees. Rural Portugal offers some great bargains. Lets say we can buy some land with a building licence for 20k Euros. Somewhere where we can grow our own food, drink our own water, have a wood burning stove and burn our own wood from the forest. Somewhere where we can achieve some measure of self sufficiency. We could live there very cheaply, possibly on half of what we are living on at the moment. We could have a better quality of life, a "house" outright, space and some land. There would be money for weekend excursions down to the coast, long lazy lunches out etc.

But how much money would it take to make a semi ruin habitable? I suppose this could be a long discussion in itself. Could we do it for another 20 - 30k Euros on top of the price of the land? Is this realistic? We would need to get professional help in to do this.

I think it would be a mistake to view the self sufficient life as an "easy" life. Growing your own food and working your land etc is hardly "easy". The other thing you have to factor in is how would we fare when we are old? What support systems would be in place? I mean would you get to a point where you would be unable to grow food and chop wood? Patricia in recently reminded me that it takes a lot of hard work for her and her husband to sustain their current lifestyle. Would we be so keen or indeed able to swing an axe when we are in our 70's or 80's? I also wonder whether DH and I are really ready for rural Portugal?

There is also the concern of the recent economic troubles in Portugal. Portugal has been living beyond its means for sometime. I worry about high inflation of the sort that we have seen recently in Greece. I have been going to Greece for the last 10 years and I have seen a great increase in the cost of goods and services in that time.

And lets not forget the long hot summers. Could I or could we put up with the heat? How hot does it get? We dont really like the heat. Would we be enduring instead of living?

So I am on the look out for a sustainable living solution. I want a base, a home of my own. Being a travelling nomad does not interest me.

What say you? Speak your mind.