Leaving London: ‘We swapped the commuter belt for an off-grid farmhouse in a forest in Lithuania’

Eva Juozaitiene, her husband Mantas, folded a piece of paper in half. They then made a list. There were many reasons to stay in the UK. They also mentioned reasons to move to Lithuania, where their parents are from. They listed the following at the top of the second column: “Having time with the children” and “living without a mortgage.” Eva and Mantas left their jobs in November 2006 and sold their semi-detached home in Swanley, Kent. They then moved in with Mantas’ parents in Rietavas (Lithuania) while they built a new home for their family. Mantas is an architect, and Eva was a hotel manager in a central London casino. Their daughter is now eight years old and Eva gave birth last year to their son. It’s hard to raise a child in London. I was working nights, sleeping for three hour, taking her to school, then getting ready for work. Then, I went back to work for my night shift with only a few hours sleep. It was a nightmare,” Eva says. The 100-year-old farm house needed complete restoration. / Handout “I closed my eyes and found my daughter six when I opened them again. I hadn’t even seen her. I was always at work. It was time to make a change. Earning money is like a drug that keeps you from your dreams. I said no. I want to be debt-free, I want my own business, and I’m 35. I don’t want to work for anyone else. Eva and Mantas returned to Lithuania in February 2020 and decided to pursue the dream they had been working towards: to be self-sufficient in the countryside of Lithuania and to enjoy a slower pace. After Eva’s father, a frequent passenger on their bus, mentioned that he was looking to buy a 100-year old farm in 2016, the couple purchased it. Eva was initially not interested but she agreed to go with her father to see the land. It is located in the forest close to Tverai and the Baltic Sea. “When I saw the colour of that pond, I was adamant: ‘I want it.’ It was a matter of seconds. There was a future I could see. “READ MORE”I will never return to Lisbon: Two renters compare renting in Lisbon to London. I left London crying on the M4, but I am glad I traded fancy coffee in Nunhead for an apartment in Bristol. We also swapped Canary Wharf for a studio and stone cottage in the Peak District. But, the property was in disarray. It needed to be supported, had a new roof and was without running water or toilets. Mantas took on the task of restoring the house. Construction began in November 2021 and is expected to be completed by June. Eva claims that the electricity supply only provides enough light to the house. They have therefore installed solar panels which will be the main source of energy for the property. They have also added a wood burner to keep winter temperatures below -25 degrees. Eva and Mantas will purchase the gas from the city and transport the gas to their house without being connected to a gas supply. Eva and Mantas dream of being self-sufficient, but neither has ever done it before. “It’s tough. Eva says that we have to learn a lot. “With all we have, we are green. “Now, finally, we’re almost done with the house. Mantas preserved the original wooden beams of the building, built an attic and tiled the bathrooms. The 160-square-metre house has a rustic interior design and is surrounded by six acres of land. The master bedroom is 80 square metres. Eva and Mantas also installed a freestanding tub that looks out from a four-metre-long opening into the forest. Their patio will include a jacuzzi, which wraps around half of the house. “That’s what London doesn’t have – size. Eva says that our property measured 127 square meters. It was quite large, but it was huge outside. “Living in London is a lot of people running, running and running. Wild animals are the only ones who can be found in the middle of a forest. That’s why I decided to stay. Mantas did most of the labor himself, spending EUR64,000 total on land and construction of their new home. Eva and Mantas will have much lower living costs than those in London. Eva estimates that they will pay EUR15 per month for electricity if they rely primarily on solar energy. This is in comparison to the GBP164 per month average in the UK, according to Ofgem data. Eva says that childcare will be less expensive at EUR45 per month than in London, where it costs GBP65 per day. Eva Juozaitiene admits she misses London, but not the constant timekeeping and rushing around. HandoutThe family plans to grow their own vegetables in greenhouses as well as chickens. “That’s another matter – you can buy tomatoes in London but they don’t taste. It’s almost like water. It’s nothing when you compare it to the smell and flavor of your own garden. Eva says that this is what she wanted for her children. Eva plans to open a Thai and sushi restaurant in Rietavas in September. The couple also plan to build other buildings on their land to be used as Airbnb rentals. Eva says that she misses London. She said that London was a place she loved and it was like home. “But I was constantly looking at my watch, constantly looking at the time. You’re running, running, running. Non-stop. She adds, “It’s a completely new feeling. All our plans are coming together and we have a sense of freedom. It took some time, but it’s now a reality.