My Year Of Alternative Living (2014)

In 2012 I lived in a Yurt for 6 months. Come winter I upgraded to also renting the smallest room in the attached house for reduced rent, so as to give me a warm indoor space. I kept this arrangement, whilst working part time as a music teacher, until the end of 2013.

IMG_1147At that point I moved out of the yurt & room, sold the yurt, began a semi-nomadic 2014. I started to phase out my teaching work, couch surfed, house-sat, stayed with friends, bought a van, stayed in the van, borrowed living rooms as practice & recording spaces, used short term lets etc….

I had no real plan, but solved every problem as it came. However, I did have a good idea of what I wanted from this lifestyle:

  • To have freedom to travel without being attached to either rent, or yurt maintenance (the yurt needed the wood-burner lit daily to prevent it going mouldy)
  • To survive comfortably on a lower income so I could work less and have more time to be creative as a singer-songwriter.
  • To have access to spaces to practice & record, without having to pay recording studio fees, or own my own soundproof room.
  • To live a more ecological lifestyle.

I simply wanted to lead a rich life. If I could live on less money, travel at will and not have to worry about rent, it would be just like being rich, but without the stressful city job that usually goes with it. I wasn’t willing to accept a recession-governed lifestyle that would sap all my creative energy and ability to contribute positively to the world.

Apparently, this sort of process of seeking alternatives is fashionably known as “lifestyle design”, and the term for the life I have chosen is “digital nomad”.

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 16.47.36By the end of January I’d decided to buy a van. This was a real kicker for me, since I’d wanted to live ecologically, but a van proved necessary, and still allowed me a comparatively low-carbon lifestyle. However, unable to find one in my price range, I rented from a friend till a van came up in spring.

My teaching work had been phased out, leaving me totally unemployed by April. However, I was lucky enough to secure a house-sit for the whole of that month, which allowed me to FINISH RECORDING MY ALBUM, which I hadn’t had time to complete for years. This lifestyle change was really having a positive effect!

By May, I was running out of funds. Surprisingly I decided to face my fears surrounding money by allowing it to run out completely before seeking any work. I called it The £0 Challenge. Despite spending much of the summer in the expensive city of London, it was mid June before my cash ran out. I’d learned that my biggest resource was people and their kindnesses, not money. With the right communication, I could exchange favours for what I needed, use things others discarded, or spaces they’d left empty (house-sitting).

Business Card 2014 Goldflower

New business card for Goldflower Studios

To gain some cash, it was time to release the album I’d recorded earlier in the year – Refraction & Redemption. Doing this through Kickstarter, the release left me with over £2k pledged which I put towards Goldflower Studios. This is my tailored mobile recording studio for unsigned, free-range, organic musicians, which was launched at the end of August.

By this point, the Exeter Secret Gigs movement had evolved as a spin off from my “living room gig” album release. People loved the format, describing the evening as magical, and wanted more. I organised 2 more “Secret Gigs” in 2014, which were defined as “unplugged, listening gigs in alternative spaces”. There will be more to come!

secret_gig logo-20thjulyAs winter drew near, unwilling to busk in the cold, I began to seek digital nomad work (working from my computer using the Internet). To my shock, the college I’d previously taught at took me on for a mixture of Course Writing, 2nd Marking and Skype tutorials. Even better, the most work is in January – right when gigs are at their quietest and most musicians scratch around for income.

Just before Christmas I completed crowd-sourced music video for YouTube, featuring various people “Standing On The Edge” of stuff. Before 2014, making a music video seemed like a pipe dream. Where would I source thousands for the filming? Yet, living in a different way helped me think differently about everything. This helped me see that the music video was possible without the thousands or the film crew.

It’s hard to believe how productive this year has been even though I’ve had less money or stability than ever before. Even though, at times I’ve been incredibly frustrated to have nowhere to keep my stuff or set up a permanent studio, it’s been worth it overall. Eliminating the weight of rent and a regular job from my life has allowed me to follow through and make my dreams come true!

I’m not saying all this to boast – I’m saying, you can do it too. I don’t mean you have to fold your life into a van like me, but never give up on thinking of alternatives. Just because everyone is doing things one way, doesn’t mean that’s the best way to do it. How could you improve your life by doing something differently?

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