Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Retirement II: Return of the itch!

Here in Australia they take Christmas very seriously. After all, not only is it a collection of public holidays, it's also the summer break. So businesses shut down, shops close, doors are locked and everyone goes away.

Not to 'bah humbug' or anything but I had no interest in going away - my annual leave is precious and should be saved for when it's needed, for example when I want to pop home and see my family. So I fought and argued and complained that I wanted to work through... and was denied. Holiday time was enforced from 25th December - 2nd January.

What to do with extra holiday

I took advantage of this reluctant gap in work to... err... work. I volunteered at the legendary Falls festival in Lorne. The weather was cool and clear throughout and, only being required to work two shifts, I had a lot of time to myself. Time that was spent contemplating, pontificating and daydreaming.

Dangerous behaviour. That's how ambitions start. Tut-tut.

So I came back in the New Year with a whole new project in mind. Retirement was pretty awesome but over far too quickly - I need to get back to it, this time with a good sense of permanence.

So here's the plan:

Retirement II

I'm going to build a house. I'm going to become an Australian resident, buy a block of land and build a house on it. A simple little house, just for me, where I can live 'off the grid' for as long as I like. It won't be expensive but will be a base to which I can always return and where I can sustain myself without the need for any significant income.

And it will be apocalypse-proof! (Within reason.)

Simon Dale's infamous 'Hobbit House'

I've always been thoroughly inspired by the eco roundhouses back in Wales, now officially recognised in the Lammas project. Some of these houses have been built by owners and volunteers for as little as £3,000 and are simply adorable, cosy homes. In northern NSW there's the additional advantage of climate - it simply doesn't get that cold, so a well-insulated home would need no heating at all.

For myself, I've always fancied an outdoors compost loo, a flock of chickens and a goat. I could even learn to garden if my livelihood depended on it. It would be lovely to be part of a local like-minded community and there are a few of those around.

An early draft of my house design

Anyway, it's going to take a while:

1. Secure permanent residency in Australia (this will take about nine months but I can kick the process off quite soon)
2. Attend a straw bale building course (late March)
3. Apply for building grants from the state government
4. Buy land
5. Find a builder / structural engineer to make sure everything's done to code
6. Secure building consent (this seems to be a lot easier than UK planning permission)
7. Put up an on-site yurt / bathroom and advertise for volunteers at the local backpacker hostels
8. Build that house!
9. Move in, possibly whilst still commuting to Sydney once a week, until financially stable enough to quit or go back to contracting on an ad-hoc basis.

Getting started

At the moment I'm still researching all the different aspects of the building - laws, materials, designs - and working out how to pay for everything. I'm pretty confident I can be in by July 2016.  And I promise to post up all the interesting bits I learn along the way.

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