Can you see that wee house in the distance? That used to be my home. We only lived on the banks of the Kyle of Durness in Sutherland for a year before we moved to the slightly more populated Kinlochbervie, which is a small collection of hamlets skirting the far north west coast of Scotland, about 1 hour from Ullapool & around 2 hours from the city of Inverness. After a year in KLB we made the decision to move back to the central belt of Scotland, and it’s one of the central reasons for that decision that I want to discuss in this post.
Perhaps it was because of the timing in my life (I was newly married with a 13mos toddler when we moved up & when we moved back down south 2 years later, I had a 3yr old, a 2yr old and an 11day old baby & I had completed my undergraduate degree) that this place had such an effect on me, but it was only when we visited there this year that it really hit me that if I lived there today, knowing what I do now, I may not have felt the need to move away.
One of the central reasons why we left was the lack of opportunities I could see opening up for me. My husband had a good job at the local high school, but while he was out earning our income, I was at home with my very young children, miles away from anyone, with no television reception and a dial-up modem. To make it worse, I don’t drive, so when my husband left with the car in the morning, that was us stuck. This sense of isolation and being stuck was not confined to my physical presence in this beautiful but harsh location, as it pervaded my whole being, causing me to feel that I couldn’t become the person I needed to become while I lived there. I felt cut off from the rest of the world and this, in turn, blinkered me to the gift living in that environment most surely is.
I realise here that I’m painting a rather bleak picture, but I have to stress again that Sutherland has left a lasting impression on me – its beauty, its wildness, its remoteness all sing to my soul. And I know I’m not the only one! Many people decide that they’ve had enough of the ratrace and are leaving the frantic urban spaces for the rural idylls of which fantasies are made. However, as much as there exists a demand by those who wish to move into more remote areas, there are also those who wish to continue living there. Those that were born and bred in the far flung corners of the map, and whose traditional industries have suffered huge setbacks of late, are finding that they have to move out of the place they recognise as home due to economic necessity.
One resource that I think could help those who either wish to move to these rural places, or who live there already & are struggling to get by, is Lea Woodward’s blog Location Independent. In the past Lea has focused on those who are living, or who desire to live, a lifestyle characterised by international travel; the intrepid individual who strikes out to travel the globe whilst supporting themselves through online business or freelance work managed from a distance. For me, however, Location Independent as a concept is one which could offer sustainability to these small remote communities by helping the individuals of those communities to create their own opportunities without resorting to relocating to more populated areas.
I have been in discussions with Lea about the applicability of the Location Independent to those who wish to pursue the freedom & choice which comes from living that lifestyle whilst remaining in one remote situation, with the result that I am now the team leader for the ‘Remote Communities’ team in her new Community Street Teams Project. My role is to help promote the Location Independent concept to those who are either living in remote communities currently or who have a desire to make the move from the urban to the rural. This is a role which is going to allow me to express my passion for creating sustainable communities both online and off, so I’m really looking forward to where it takes me & discovering what I can achieve in this role. As you can probably tell from the background I’ve shared in this post, it’s a project which is close to my heart.
So, over the coming weeks and months you can expect a few posts which take this project as its focus, as I intend to write reviews of products which can provide advice and support for those living in remote communities, as well as sharing some more thoughts on how digital technologies and social media can help provide opportunities to those who choose not to live in urban or suburban locations.
Are you aware of any projects currently focused on achieving this aim or similar? Do you know of any bloggers/twitterers who I should connect with who share a similar passion? If you have any thoughts on the relevance of the Location Independent concept and remote communities, or indeed how best to promote online communities as a way of ensuring remote communities remain viable, please do leave a comment.