Building our own Home: Where to start?

After starting a Pinterest board named ‘Mi Casa’, because ‘Interior Design’ sounded too pretentious and ‘My House’ in English was too basic, I promptly added 47 pictures of A-Frame cabins. After my third brushed bronze extending kitchen tap and sixth industrial-style hanging dining room light, I started to feel a little overwhelmed. Whilst the finishing touches are a lovely way to turn a house into a home, not only do we not have the foundations down but we don’t yet have the land to put the foundations on.

Trying to avoid a defeatist mindset I started googling. ‘How to build your own home’, ‘How much does it cost to build your own home’ ‘Can you get a mortgage on a self build project’ and quickly realised I was a long way out of my depth. It was going to be a while before my hardest decision was finding a balance between hygge and industrial furnishings.

Suddenly the dream of buying a beautiful patch of land in the mountains was slipping further and further away and an impending sense of office job monotony started creeping in again. At this point, my ingrained, millennial sense, of not being able to accept no as an answer kicked in and the start of 6 months research commenced. From mortgages, to business loans, to the return on Airbnbs, anything that had the remote chance of giving us a shot at freedom was fair game. We’ve still got a long way to go, but this is what I’ve learned so far.

You have to have money, before anyone will loan you money.

Getting a mortgage is hard. Getting a self-build mortgage is even harder. Don’t have a deposit? You’re screwed. After Christmas I started looking at our options and making enquires with a broker. The long and short of it was, with anything under a £10,000 deposit, unless you’re purchasing bricks and mortar, no one is interested in lending to you. Building your own home is risky and so much can go wrong compared to buying an existing property. Whilst it’s significantly cheaper overall and you can get exactly what you want, expect to put up at least a 30-40% deposit. If you don’t already own the land to build on, this could easily be in the region of £75-100K. Now, we don’t have that. Not even a 10th of that. So we had to go down a more creative route. If you can find something to secure it against, like property you or your family already own, investments or a car, then some lenders might start entertaining your application.

Having a few defaults on your credit report, isn’t the end of the world.

I’ve worked for a financial giant my entire adult life. A portion of which was spent in customer services, where I’ve had grown men and women scream, panic and cry over the fear of defaults on their credit reports. Until now, I’ve never tried to get anything more than finance on our car. I just assumed you would need a squeaky clean profile, earning a mint with a huge deposit or backing from the bank of mum and dad to ever be approved for a mortgage.

Turns out, even with a few misdemeanours it’s possible. After the financial crash, lenders definitely tightened their criteria and became far more risk averse than the early 2000s. However, these days there are companies willing to help those who have been shafted by the big banks, even if it does mean you’ll pay an extortionate amount in interest.

There is so. Much. Paperwork.

Proof of address. Certified copies of ID. 36 pages of terms and conditions, counter signatures, guarantees, statements, letters of consent – the list of supporting documents feels endless. Just when you think providing the video of your birth along with a blood sample is enough, they’ll ask for the midwife who delivered you, to voucher for the birthmark on you left shoulder.

Okay, so that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but don’t expect the process to be fast. It took 3 months of back and forth almost everyday for us to finally get approved for the money. Have patience young padiwan.

Everything has a cost.

Even transferring the funds to your bank account. There’s a £30 charge for that for some reason. Expect every man, woman and child who so much as glances at your application, to have some sort of cut of the profit. Usually all these fees just get added to your overall loan amount but they do add up and can quickly add a year or twos worth of extra payments to the length of the agreement.

It’s a long road to freedom.

This time last month we finally got approved for our loan. The sense of relief has been intense and meant we can actually go up to Scotland knowing we can buy our own piece of paradise. The first step is the hardest and the last three months have been long, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have no idea what’s in store for us next, but I’m confident it’s in equal parts exciting, challenging and filled with paperwork.

Living in the Wild: Will it be Lonely?

Megan standing on the side of a mountain, overlooking Loch Nevis in Scotland

“Won’t you get lonely?” Seems to be the one unifying sentence from city dwellers when it comes to discussing remote living. Usually followed swiftly by ‘I could never do that’. Good job no ones asking you too then. Admittedly, I have a romanticized view of what our future life in the Scottish Highlands will look like. From a hygge, self-built a-frame to wild camping with our puppies at the weekends, it’s hard to find something wrong with this picture.

With the intention of being able to perfectly argue my point (and a little out of nervousness), I started googling rural isolation and loneliness in the countryside. Between bickering telegraph journalists and images of the frail and elderly, this is what I learnt.

Loneliness and isolation are not linked.

The amount of times I’ve sat in my flat, surrounded by the 300,000 other inhabitants of Brighton and Hove, listening to my neighbours stomping and the music from an obscure festival in Brunswick Square, thinking ‘I feel so out of place’ is uncountable. In a city, I feel isolated and claustrophobic. In the mountains, in the Highlands, in the backcountry – I feel connected and content. Others find these very same open spaces intimidating and will find comfort in the hustle and bustle of a busy bar.

We all have different journeys, fears and experiences that shape who we are and what we enjoy. I am naturally introverted and like to pick and choose the people I interact with. I also like to limit the number of bodies in my personal space, which isn’t always possible at rush hour on the Brighton mainline. Overall, human contact is important for all us. So if you need it to recharge your batteries and feel more like you, perhaps reconsider the move to the middle-of-nowhere.

Rural isolation is a thing and it really affects some people.

I’m not going to be one of those people that denies something exists because it doesn’t apply to me. Just because I’m a heterosexual white female and don’t experience homophobia or racism on a daily basis doesn’t mean it’s not happening to other people.

Whilst rural isolation can affect anyone – regardless of their identity – it tends to be the elderly and the vulnerable that suffer the most. Lack of health care, internet access, education and council funding can have a hugely detrimental impact on those struggling with either mental or physical health. Fortunately, at this point in my life, between Ben, my family and my friends, I have built up a strong support system. I’ve learnt the importance of talking about my mental health and am confident that if I was struggling, I would be able to talk about it with my nearest and dearest.

‘Sense of community’ vs ‘nosey neighbours’.

Relationships in the countryside are very different to those found in the city. It’s not uncommon when out hiking, to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the trail. This would be horribly impractical in central London, as you’d spend your entire morning greeting grumpy commuters.

There is a much stronger reliance on neighbours in rural communities. Need a 24-hour vet/plumber/off license? Good luck in the backcountry. Not even Amazon Prime guarantees next day delivery to the Highlands and Islands. Getting to know the locals could make things a lot more comfortable, especially if they know a trade.

The city isn’t all bad.

As much as I think my time in the South East of England is coming to an end, it’s important to remember the good things about living in a city. Inherently as human beings, we tend to fixate on all the things we don’t have and forget to be grateful for the things we do. I don’t have to think about planning meals as Coop is a 5-minute walk away and open until 11pm. My local gym has all my favourite classes, the bakery at the bottom of the road does the best almond croissants and there’s a hipster coffee shop every 100 meters. If I’ve forgotten something at the last minute for a camping trip, I can choose between Blacks, Cotswolds, Millets or one of the other 20-odd outdoors stores within a 5-mile radius of our flat.

I’ve weighed up what I’m happy to lose against what I think I’ll gain and I’m ready to make those sacrifices. One thing I’ll readily admit I’m going to miss is being able to Deliveroo vegan pizza on a lazy Sunday though. I hope the mountains are worth it. (They are).

In conclusion..

To draw some sort of vague conclusion, rural isolation does exist and it is prevalent within certain remote communities. However, living remotely does not directly cause rural isolation. Other factors including wealth, or lack thereof, age, health and family all play an important part in feeling lonely. The government are slowly making progress in making communities feel more connected. Whilst I feel confident that I won’t be one of the ones suffering, when we make our move to the Highlands, I want to help those who are. 

New Year, New Mountains: 4 Days Wild Camping in the Knoydart Peninsula

wild knoydart stag, staring at camera in front of mountains

It’s 4am and it’s the first time I’ve been woken up by an alarm in 12 days. My body and brain aren’t quite sure what’s happening as I accidentally hit Ben in the face trying to stop my phone from wailing. When the internal panic subsides and my conscious brain realises it’s not work I’m getting out of bed for, the excitement creeps in. Instead of spending the ‘no mans land’ time between Christmas and New Year festering in a Baileys soaked Netflix hole, we decided to get one last wild camp in for 2018. After a very strong coffee, we started our 600 mile journey to one of the most remote regions in Scotland. 

The drive was incredibly smooth and we made good time, getting to the top of Loch Lomond by sunset. Passing through this national park made me realise that it holds a really special place in my heart. When we first visited Scotland back in June last year, driving around the loch was the moment I fell in love with the Highlands. The mountains, the forest, the eerie calm of the water, it grabbed my heart and choked me, sending shivers down my arms and spine. I was slightly nervous that when we returned the feeling would be different or that I had exaggerated it and the pictures I reminisced fondly over were nothing more than a highlight reel. As we followed the A82 through Luss and the imposing figure of Beinn Dubh came into view, I relaxed. The familiar feeling of home settled in that I can only explain as my heart knowing what’s right for me before my brain is capable of processing it. 

Moody Loch Lomond, mountains reflecting in the water

Typically, as with every road trip we seem to take, the last 10 miles are always the hardest. Optimistically we ignored a sign advising the only single track road leading towards the Knoydart peninsula was closed, due to a landslip. 45 minutes later we found ourselves doing a U-turn and praying for signal to plan a new, last minute route. After dropping a pin on the Glen Dessary estate and taking a beautifully scenic detour around Loch Arkaig, we arrived at a small and free-to-use car park. 

By the time we were ready to hoist our backpacks on and hit the trail, it was 9pm. Never mind, we’ll easily find a camp spot, right? As a handy tip, I’d avoid fording a fast flowing river after a 12 hour drive and 4 hours sleep if you can. Also perhaps scrambling at midnight by dying head torch light in heavy rain, but, in fairness, it does make for a good story. It’s 1am. We found a flat-ish pitch that didn’t appear to have any streams flowing through it and I’d never felt more relieved to get the tent up. I don’t think my head even hit my sea to summit inflatable pillow before I was asleep. 

Our first day was not an early start. Whilst finding a camp spot in the dark can be quite stressful, waking up to a completely unknown view is always exciting. When the sound of rain gently died away and the heat of unexpected mid-morning sun encouraged me out of my sleeping bag, the mountain range we found ourselves on the edge of, was breath-taking. Terra Nova Southern Cross 2 tent on the side of a mountain

We packed up lazily, after the previous nights escapades we were in no hurry to get moving. Our late start meant we crossed paths with the only other humans we would see over our 4 day expedition. After sharing a mutual love for the great outdoors, they pointed us in the direction of a bothy that was unmarked on our map, sitting near the base of Sgurr na Ciche. Armed with the knowledge that there was a fireplace waiting for us, we set our sights on Sourlies and made it our mission to get their before nightfall. 

Originally, our aim was still to concur Ladhar Bheinn. However, we were painfully aware that we would need to cover some serious ground if we were going to get anywhere close on this trip. Due to the reroute of our starting point, we had a whole new set of mountains in the way and a fair few extra miles to cover. By the time we reached the edge of Loch Nevis, the last blue light of the day was fading and we were still at least a day away from Ladhar Bheinn. We decided it was best to leave this remote giant for another trip. Refusing to give up on summiting our first Munro, we figured Sgurr na Ciche was a good alternative. Megan looking out over the Scottish Highlands

Whilst I love wild camping and am especially fond of our Terra Nova Southern Cross 2, I was excited to spend a night in a bothy. It was a first for both of us and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by how well maintained and clean it was. Other travellers had left coal, tea lights and whiskey and a doe was calmly grazing outside the front door. Sourlies felt like a vestige of times gone-by, where community meant everything and our connections were human to human not human to device. We made ourselves comfy and bedded down for the night. 

I woke to the sound of rain and wind pelting against the corrugated metal roofing. It was hard to tell what time it was, as the days are short and the weather gloomy. With no real idea on the best route to Sgurr na Ciche, we settled on just going straight up. Suitably caffeinated and armed with an almond bounce ball, it was full steam ahead along the deer track running behind the bothy. 

After about 15 minutes of steep ascent I was knackered. The intense rain and unseasonably warm weather meant the ground was completely saturated and getting any purchase was a challenge. With very few hours of daylight, we didn’t have the luxury of slow lunch breaks or multiple coffee stops either. A hand full (or two) of trail mix would have to do. As is usually the way with mountains, they seem to have a climate entirely of their own. Whilst we could see the sun shining through onto Loch Nevis below us, we were marching firmly into the clouds. At 750m above sea level and just after 4pm, visibility was nonexistent. If the weather remained like this in the morning, getting to the summit of Sgurr na Ciche would be impossible with only one full day left in the mountains. Megan crouched down on top of a mountain looking out over Loch Nevis

Our trail mix sacrifice to the weather gods didn’t bring us much luck. We woke in the same heavy cloud we fell asleep in. Everything past arms length was grey, wet and shrouded in fog. With no idea on route, no view of the ascent and very little time, we had to abandon bagging our first Munro. Disappointing as it was, the extreme remoteness, rugged nature of the backcountry and intensity of the weather was still providing us with an epic adventure. 

Now the only way was off of the mountain. This was a slow process. One foot tentatively after the other, testing patches of loose scree and rocks with our walking poles. Scrambling on our knees to grappling at sheer rock faces, we tried to avoid looking down too much. 4 hours and 600 meters of decent later, we rejoined the river we followed on our first day out in the Knoydart peninsula. Inspired by a new found appreciation for bothies, we set A’Chuil on the edge of the Glen Dessary estate as our way point.  A’Chuil bothy tucked against the Glen on Glen Dessary estate

Tucked sombrely on the edge of the glen, the sweet, ashy scent of firewood drifted up to meet us as we drew closer to our home for the night. Previous tenants had left all sorts of outback luxuries from kindling to binoculars and even a spare sleeping mat. We busied ourselves about camp for a good few hours, filtering water, drying gear and getting a good fire going. I let my mind drift away, watching the flames dance hypnotically. The usual combination of melancholy and serenity sets in as our final night and trip all draw to a close. 

I walked out of Knoydart on New Years Eve with a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling of clarity that I had been missing for a long time. I’m not usually one for making resolutions, but I know that 2019 is going to be the beginning of a refreshing chapter for us. Thank you for having us Scotland, we’ll be back very soon. 

Saturday night stargazing in Friston Forest

Picture of the trees and stars in Friston Forest

I have always loved staring at the stars. I feel a primal connection to these luminous plasma spheroids, suspended in our night sky only by a magical force known as gravity. Or lack of gravity? I’m not sure I actually know how they stay in one place and don’t just float off. Google provided a lot of information on orbiting, rotating and flying through space at high speeds which gave me motion sickness just reading about it.

Regardless of whatever the mystical force is that has kept our constellations the same for the past 3,000 years, a particularly stressful week in the office meant all I wanted to do was run away. So when Ben suggested that instead of fleeing the country, we head out to Seven Sisters Country Park for a hike under the night sky, it felt like a pretty good alternative. We packed a bag comprising mainly of snacks, coffee and photography gear before heading out towards Friston Forest.

In the daytime, Seven Sisters Country Park is usually pretty busy, especially on a sunny autumnal weekend. However, the moment the sun goes down, the forest becomes dark and foreboding and the fair weather walkers making a bee line for the nearest country pub. Personally, this is one of my favourite times to be out. It’s very hard for any part of the South East of England to feel wild in any sense of the word. So when night falls, covering all the industrial scars we’ve left across our landscape in a velvety black blanket, you could easily mistake yourself for being somewhere far more remote. 

The moon was hanging lazily low in the clear night sky when we arrived and parked up the car. After reading a bunch of articles on astrophotography, I was eager to get the tripod set up and to start taking some nighttime images of the stars. We did a quick recce of the area and selected a strong vantage point with a view of the treeline. To my immediate frustration, I realised I had left the tripod mount plate on the photography shelf at home. Reluctant to be deterred I tried to take a long exposure shot of the moon without it and I think you’ll all agree, it was abstract at best. 

a blurry hand held long exposure shot of the moon in Friston Forest.
An unfortunate attempt at capturing the moon. 

Refusing to be too frustrated, after all, we were out and it was cold, quiet and blissfully peaceful, we pressed on into the woods in search of natures tripod. With each step I could feel my body relax and my mind start clearing. The worries I had about work were replaced with a combination of existential wonderings about the world and trying to avoid twisting my ankle on a hidden tree root.

Eventually we managed to find a decent gap in the woods. Balancing the camera precariously on its case, I stared to mess around with shutter speeds and aperture settings. Whilst the light pollution and my limited skills with a camera in the dark prevented any breath taking Milky Way shots, they were still pretty good!

Stars in the night sky above friston forest
30 second f/1.4 ISO400

Now officially able to claim that I was an astrophotographer, we continued our hike. The forest was uninterrupted by humans, reclaimed entirely by animals and nature. Deer grazing, foxes hunting, stoats playing in the undergrowth, we felt like gracious guests in these creatures homes. They seemed completely unperturbed by our presence, lulling us into an ethereal place where time, pressure and the stress of daily life doesn’t exist.

When we arrived back at the car I couldn’t believe that it was gone 01:30am and we’d been out for over 6 hours. The internal tiredness that had been left by a week of office confinement and miserable commuterdom had been replaced with an electric inner calm. I felt more awake and alert than I had done in a long time. Hopefully come Monday morning, when I rejoin the thousands of other office-bound Brit’s, this energy will see me through until our next wild adventure. Or at least not immediately be stamped out on the 6:44 train to Victoria.

A beginners guide to wild camping gear

Shortly after our last wild camping trip to Dartmoor, we were lucky enough to go to Belgium for the 2018 Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix. As we spent roughly 85% of our time when we were out on the moors hiking through rain, I made the fatal assumption that my 5-year-old North Face jacket would be up for a little bit of car camping on the continent. Unfortunately for me, one monumental thunderstorm through qualifying proved me very wrong. Whilst this made for an exciting starting grid, it also made me realise that if I wanted to go anywhere near the outdoors this winter, I needed to invest in a new hard shell. Now that I am at the point of upgrading a lot of my gear, it feels like the right time to impart my newbie knowledge and share my successes and failures with my kit.

Sleep System 

This one’s important. It’s hard enough getting up on a bad nights sleep to sit behind a desk for 8 hours, let alone to hike through all sorts of terrain and weather, pushing your body to its limits. 

2.5 Helium Mat – Mountain Equipment | RRP: £70
Mountain equipment Helium 2.5 roll mat in blue

This mat is a great lightweight, packable and affordable piece of kit to start getting you outside. It’s quiet and self-inflating, with a non-slip coating that’s soft to the touch. As it’s comparatively pretty thin and the main bulk of the material is foam, it doesn’t offer much warmth in colder climates or comfort on tougher ground. Pair this with a decent sleeping bag and you’ll be golden for most trips though. 

Aerolite 1000 Mummy Sleeping Bag – BLACKS | RRP: £70
two tone green synthetic mummy bag from blacks - 1000 aerolite.
BLACKS don’t appear to make any sleeping bags anymore. No great shame – buy a Rab one instead

Quite honestly, this was a terrible decision. This synthetic filled bag will suit you down to the ground for summertime festivals, but with the comfort limit at 5C, I struggle with this in Spring/Autumn meaning winter is a massive no-go. I have since stolen Bens old Rab Alpine 600 down bag, which is rated down to -14. Muuuuch better thank you, please!


Peak Attack 42l – Lowe Alpine | RRP: £75
Black 42 litre backpack with orange accents from Lowe Alpine.
Lowe Alpine no longer make this pack, follow the link to the updated ‘Peak Ascent’ bag.

I actually love this pack and have no intention of changing it anytime soon. I find it super comfy, easy to adjust, hard wearing and has all the room I need for 3-5 days in the wild. Admittedly, Ben and I share a tent and cooking gear, so you’d likely want a slightly bigger pack if you’re heading out on your own. Being a mountaineering bag, it’s very streamlined and my only minor grumble is no hip belt pockets to store my trail snacks in. However, Ben being the clever little muffin that he is, found an awesome independent seller on eBay crafting hip pockets out of Cuban fibre. I’m yet to order any, but you can check them out here.

Ultralight Raincover M (30-50l) – Osprey | RRP: £26
dark forest green waterproof rain cover from osprey for 30-50l backpacks.

Not a hugely exciting purchase, but definitely a crucial one. My pack didn’t come with its own rain cover and hiking without one in the U.K. is insanity, unless of course, you enjoy everything being soaked. Comes with everything you need, adjustable elastic ripcord, a small clip to secure it whilst you’re walking and hip belt attachments.


Terra GORE-TEX Boot – Scarpa | RRP: £145
deep brown leather hiking boots from scarpa for women.

Anyone that has spent more than 15 minutes walking with wet socks knows the importance of warm, dry feet! My first trip in these boots was to Dartmoor over New Year 2016/2017 and to this day I am still super impressed with them! Being both GORE-TEX and leather they’re ace at keeping the water out and the padded lining means no blisters. My only gripe with these is the rock-solid soles. There really isn’t much flex in them, so after a long day of hiking, it does hurt. That said, I still think they’re great and they get a thumbs up from me.

Trekker Pants – North Face | RRP: £59.99
brown trekker pants from the north face

I really lucked out with these pants! I spent zero time researching them and bought them on sale the day before we went on our first trip. They’re light, inoffensive in colour, hard wearing, quick drying, easy to move about in, plenty of pockets and have a pointless roll-up hem. What more do you want from hiking trousers? Plus they’re pretty damn cheap. I’m sure at some point I’ll upgrade these, but right now – they’re dreamy.

Phase AR Base Layer – Arc’Teryx | RRP: £65
black high neck, zip top, arcteryx base layer

My new favourite outdoor brand! I am personally a big fan of Arc’Teryx and whilst the products are expensive, they’re great quality, look good and will last. This base layer dries quickly, it’s got a comfortable next-to-skin fit and wicks sweat – so you don’t stink when you’re out for a number of days in a row. 

Ultra Light Down Seamless Parka – Uniqlo | RRP: £69.90
black zip up down parka from uniqlo
Uniqlo no longer sells my exact down mid-layer, but this appears to be very similar just in matte colours!

This mid-layer is one of the few non-technical bits of kit I bought specifically to go wild camping with. I needed a cheap insulating layer and it was on offer in Uniqlo. My ONLY concern with this piece is the ethical sourcing of down feathers. Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, doesn’t have the same high-level auditing systems as companies like North Face or Patagonia. They do, however, have a small supply chain and have ensured all their partners sign an agreement to treat animals humanely. If nothing else, it’s a good start, but it is a piece of kit I’ll consider upgrading in the near future.

TriClimate 3in1 Waterproof Jacket – The North Face | RRP: £200-210
black waterproof jacket from north face with zip in fleece.

I’ve had this jacket for over 6 years and whilst it’s now time for it to retire, it has served me very well. Used as a daily in the city, dragged through summer festivals, winter downpours, wild camps, hikes and everything in between, it’s had some decent mileage. The zip in and out fleece makes it a versatile year-round jacket and the pit zips offer quick heat relief on the move. With a bit of care the North Face own-brand, HyVent waterproofing system works pretty well too. RIP ol‘ faithful. 

In summary

When you’re just getting started, buying all the gear outright can be really expensive. All of the above RRPs add up to just shy of £800 and that doesn’t include other important pieces of kit, such as a tent or stove. Saying that, by buying in sales or second hand, you can save a lot of money. It’s also important to prioritise what’s important to you. Figure out what you need as a baseline, invest in those pieces and the rest can be upgraded over time. At the end of the day, just get out there. Not everything has to be perfect, you’ll wait an entire lifetime for that, it’s just important that you’re getting out and doing it. 

A weekend in Dartmoor by a wild camping novice

It’s been a long week of sitting behind a desk. Sitting on trains. Waiting patiently and not so patiently after delays and cancellations and signalling problems. I am clock watching at 16:41 on a Friday but let’s face it, who isn’t? Perched on my sofa, clad in my North Face hiking trousers and Arc’Teryx base layer, both our packs loaded in Fonzie’s boot, I’m waiting for 5 o’clock to tick over so I can stop aimlessly rearranging my PowerPoint presentation and hit the road.

I’m pretty new to wild camping. I haven’t got that many miles under my belt, but I’m really getting into it. There’s something so wonderfully primal about spending the entire day walking until your legs burn, then finding somewhere cosy to sleep for the night. Admittedly I would definitely struggle on my own, but Ben has been going for years and is quite honestly the sole reason I haven’t yet contracted dysentery or pitched the tent in the middle of a marsh.

Megan eating trail mix in Dartmoor wild camping
Clearly trail mix has always been a personal favourite 

Despite this being the hottest and driest summer of my life, we managed to pick the one weekend where it’s absolutely pissing it down. We can just about make out the car in fronts left tail light and I’m pretty sure if we don’t keep moving along this road/river, we’ll flood the engine. Thankfully it’s another 60 miles to Dartmoor, so I’m forever hopeful that this weather will change.

This will be my first expedition to the South Moors, normally we stick to the remote and tough ground in the North, skirting around the military firing range just out of Fernworthy Forest. This time, we’re heading towards Postbridge and intend to hike as much of the Two Moors Way as possible before our now traditional camp fire on the Saturday evening.

Apparently whichever rain God I was praying too on the journey up, took pity on me and the skies were crystal clear, when we carefully selected the least threatening looking lay by to leave the car in for the weekend. Boots on, packs strapped, head torch on full beam, we made our way into an unknown forest to find a decent pitch. Albeit slightly tricky in the woods at night, we still managed to find a clear patch of ground to get the tent up and oh my. Those stars. This is the reason all the great love stories, the saddest tragedies and wildest adventure novels have been written. Unfortunately for us, however, rain is forecast from 2am onwards, so reluctantly the outer goes on and we bed down for the night. 

When we wake, I am greeted by one of my all time favourite views; mist shrouded forest. As much as camping when it’s sunny and dry is lovely, nothing is more magical than fog resting lazily between tree trunks. It’s not an early start, but it’s also not a late one and today is our best shot at getting some good miles down. After a quick coffee, we’ve got the campsite packed up and are heading out to find a trail. 

Good morning mysterious and beautiful forest!

Within the first hour, we’re both soaked. Our ‘waterproof’ jackets are the best part of 5 years old and despite some valiant attempts at re-proofing, are wetting out rapidly. I knew my North Face had seen better days but as it’s still about 15-20C neither of us are too concerned about hypothermia. I did however, use it as an excuse to eat all my trail mix before lunch to ‘keep my energy up’. 

I’ll review some of the gear I’ve been using as a beginner wild camper in another post, but if this trip has taught me anything so far, it’s that being dry is being happy. Before we go on a winter trip, a new jacket, waterproof trousers and a better roll mat are very necessary. Taking refuge from the wind and rain behind a Tor, we tucked into our pasta and scrambled egg with cheese for lunch. Perhaps in hindsight it was a strange combination of rehydrated meals, but it felt Michelin star at the time. 

Due to being on a tight time budget, we decided to loop around and find a more sheltered spot in the same forest we stayed in on our first night. Offering protection from the elements and maybe, just maybe, the possibility of a camp fire. 

We made good time. An hour before sunset, we’ve got our campsite set up, a fire roaring and dinner on the go. For the last 24 hours I’ve been carrying a bottle of red wine instead of water and after 25 miles, it tastes like liquid gold. Despite the contents of my bag getting a good soaking after not securing a bottle lid properly, I’m in remarkably good spirits. Perhaps it’s the Cote du Rhône, perhaps it’s accidentally melting one of Bens socks to my fire stick, but I feel overwhelmingly satisfied. 

Our perfect little pitch between the trees

Its been a short but successful trip. Tomorrow its back to civilisation and I’ll turn from outdoor forest warrior into office job wanker again, but I’m not thinking about that as I peel my damp socks off my feet. With the sound of the rain gently beating against the tent and the red wine creeping into all four corners of my mind, I drift off feeling content, wild and free. 

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The Boring Phase

Unfortunately, most journeys have a boring bit. Getting stuck in traffic on the M25, queuing for security at the airport or in this case, saving money. We’ve decided on our extremely vague plan of buying a patch of land, in the beautiful and rugged Scottish Highlands, then building our own home on it. How are we going to do it? I have no idea. Ben has no idea. I know it’ll be expensive, but probably not as bad as getting a mortgage on a one bed flat in Brighton. 

I’ve watched enough Grand Designs in my time to know that the budget will inevitably run over, that trying to have both a full-time job and project manage the build is impossible and if you don’t get the roof on by winter you’re f*cked. But even vaguely entertaining the idea of architects drawings, searching for a plot of land or one of us quitting our jobs feels like a very distant dream. We’d be lucky to have enough saved right now to have a 10% deposit for a very cheap piece of land, let alone the 30% required for self-build projects. Not to mention stamp duty, construction costs and the question of what we’ll do for work when we get up there, but we’ll figure that out later!

We have a plan. Kinda. Well, not really at all, but we do have drive and a real want to live a better life. Even if that means less ‘stuff’, the experience will be worth it. I’m not convinced I’ll be reflecting on my iPhone X on my death bed, but I will be thinking about the view from our AirBNB living room window in Andorra. Or the moment the Swiss mountains took my breath away driving from Frankfurt to Lake Como. Still, it is pretty cool that you can actually be the smiling poo emoji isn’t it?

Sun setting over snow capped Andorran mountain town.

View from our AirBNB in Sant Julia de Loria, Andorra

Nevertheless, by this time next year, we’ll be debt free and ready to get seriously saving. Might mean for a while we forgo our road trips abroad for camping trips in the U.K. but it’ll be worth it. I’ve been to Fiji but never visited Ireland, so no time like the present to start exploring what’s on our own doorstep. So welcome to the boring phase! We’ll try and make this as interesting as possible, keep you all posted on our research and inevitable frustrations and who knows, perhaps we’ll jack it all in, buy a van and travel Europe before we even vaguely get close to our goal. Whatever. It’ll be fun.