Lost the Job, Nearly Lost the House, Built a Whole new Life

Like millions of people we were negatively affected by the global recession. In Spring 2010 we realised that, due to job losses, in the long term we would no longer be able to afford to live in our house, so a major re-think was in order. I’ve never been one to take these things lying… Read more »

Like millions of people we were negatively affected by the global recession. In Spring 2010 we realised that, due to job losses, in the long term we would no longer be able to afford to live in our house, so a major re-think was in order. I’ve never been one to take these things lying down so after a short pause to lick our wounds we came out fighting.

The first big step was to put together a spreadsheet to figure out the extent of the problem we were facing. It would have been far easier to bury our heads in the sand but if we were to deal with the problem then we needed to know the full scale of it. This was a really difficult time because there, staring right back at us in black and white (and a little red!) was the unavoidable fact that we were going to have to make a pretty dramatic change in our lives. I’ll be honest, I was mad as hell at that point; we’d done nothing wrong and yet here we were having our lives turned upside down.

It was really hard to know what to do for the best; move to a smaller house locally? Move someplace else? If so, where? And how would we find jobs? Or sell our house in a declining market?

One really fortunate thing we had going for us was Delores, our trusty camper van, so we decided to take an extended (and very frugal) break to consider our options.

Our break took us around the north of the UK and gave us the essential physical distance and time we needed to decide where our future lay. Some days we simply relaxed and holidayed, other days we spent time chatting (sometimes heatedly) about what was going to happen when we got home. On many occasions it felt quite surreal to be discussing our future in the way we were. When we’d moved into our home we’d envisaged staying there 20+ years and now here we were talking about moving just 5 short years later. Friends and family were naturally concerned and full of helpful advice, but this needed to be our decision.

Our journey took us through Dumfries and Galloway, a truly stunning area of South West Scotland, and I could have happily remained there, but it wasn’t a practical option; its remoteness meant there were no jobs so how would we earn a living? We journeyed on to the Lake District where something began to click.

Steve had been lucky enough to grow up in the South Lakes but this was my first proper visit. On our very first day we took a boat trip along UIlswater and around half way along the lake I turned to Steve and asked “why don’t we live here?”. It was an idea we found we just couldn’t dismiss. As we explored the region we looked at house prices (scary!) and the practicalities of commuting and/ or finding work in the region. By the time we returned home in early September 2010 the idea was gathering momentum, but that’s all it was; an idea, a dream that thousands of other holiday makers probably also had. So how could we go about turning our dream into reality?

As soon as we arrived home I began job hunting in earnest; professionally one of the things I do is help people find work so I was hopeful of finding something suitable. After a couple of false starts with roles in Liverpool and Manchester (just a touch too far south) I found the perfect job based in Preston, now all I had to do was get it! A very nerve wracking 2 day interview in early October and the good news arrived – I started January 4th 2011. All we needed now was somewhere to live.

We put our house on the market and headed back north for a week for a spot of house hunting, but we simply couldn’t find anything in our price range so, tails between our legs, we returned south. By now it was late November and my start date was looming. At this point we had to consider the only option left available to us if we were to make this work – living on Delores.

This wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds. In the UK most campsites close for at least one month each year and that month is usually January. It was mid December by the time we found a suitable spot – just over 3 weeks before we needed to leave so not a moment too soon! We enjoyed a fabulous Christmas with our family before getting down to the serious business of packing up our home and our van ready for a whole new life. New Years Eve was incredibly poignant for us; many people vow to start a new life in the new year, and here we were actually doing it.

We headed north on 2nd January 2011. Living in a camper van, with a cat, in northern England in January, February and March is slightly nuts. Especially when you’re trying to make a good impression in a new job, but we somehow managed to pull it off. On several occasions all the water pipes froze on the site and we couldn’t get water until the sun had risen enough to thaw them, this meant we had to trek 100 yards or so to the toilet block a trip which, if I’m being honest, did begin to wear thin after a while.

All the while we were dealing with the challenges of simply living day to day we were also trying to find ourselves a home and sell the one down south. My days were a blur of working and talking to estate agents, solicitors and mortgage companies in every coffee and lunch break. Evenings were spent in the campsite bar as it was the only place we could get WiFi. Of course it didn’t hurt that it had a good supply of wine either…

It was far from plain sailing; we simply couldn’t sell our house and time on the campsite was fast running out. We reluctantly took the decision to rent out our home in the south, release some of the equity and find a smaller place with a little potential up here. I can clearly recall one day in particular when it really looked as if we were going to have to give it all up and head back; that was a real low point. Never mind Plan B, we were now onto Plans X, Y and Z! But we hung in there, new lives don’t come easy and we were prepared to fight for ours.

On 21st March 2011 we finally got the keys to our new home; small and in need of a good bit of renovation which we can’t afford to do until we eventually sell our other home, but perfectly fine for now. It’s right on the coast and only 10 minutes drive from Windermere. Perfect.

Life hasn’t been plain sailing since then; to finance our new home we had to sink in every ounce of savings and overdraft we had. We get by from month to month and, financially, we’ve never been worse off. We’ve also had to find new friends and build a whole new life in a completely new area, but without a shadow of a doubt it’s all been worth it. We spend most weekends hiking in the beautiful fells or exploring the coastline and countryside in the rest of Cumbria. My new job worked out fine, in my spare time I started writing & blogging which is now taking off professionally and Steve is forging a new career as a photographer. As I write this we’ve now accepted an offer on our home in the south so maybe, hopefully, we’re finally on the home straight.

I remind myself occasionally that none of this would have happened if we’d not been forced into the situation of having to make some life changing decisions. By sheer hard work, guts, determination and a little imagination we’ve managed to turn what was a desperately sad and difficult time of our lives into the most amazing life affirming adventure. Life really is what you make it so my advice is to tackle it head on and make it a life you really want to live.

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