Chucking It All: A Tale of Living in Orkney

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jul 31, 2014 / 0 comments

There are special places which capture our imagination – and we dream and dream of being there. Tuscany, Fiji, Provence, Iceland, the Orkney Islands. There are books written by people who have moved to these places, which tell of the travails of settling in, of intercultural adjustment and learning to be a local. Yet, still, wherever you move to in the world, there will always be a sense of foreign-ness, of being the other, that is hard to shake. So we devour these books, and dream of the day we can actually move to such a place.


Orkney village from ferry. From Chucking It All: A Tale of Living in Orkney

Orkney Village from ferry. Wikimedia Commons: Alex Berger


But as real life always intrudes on our daydreams, so real life intrudes on, well, life. I’ve moved to many places around the world and then experienced not only a huge amount of intercultural adjustment, but also wonder why no one talks about the hard stuff of living in a new place.


Toab, Orkney. From Chucking It All: A Tale of Living in Orkney

Derelict Farm Buildings, Toab, Orkney. Many derelict farm buildings are used for storage of farm equipment or feed, if they're suffiently weatherproof. This picture looks northeast to the derelict farm, with Deer Sound behind, and Deerness beyond. Just visible on the extreme horizon is the island of Stronsay some 12km away. Photo Wikimedia Commons: Mark Crook


Enter a funny, wry, and completely honest look at moving to Orkney (and staying there for 7 years!), by one of our favorite authors, Max Scratchmann. Entitled Chucking It All: How downshifting to a windswept Scottish island did nothing to improve my quality of life, this book won the Worldhum Best Travel Book of 2009. And let me tell you, the award is well-deserved. This is an extraordinary book, full of joie de vivre, intercultural awareness, and the challenges and joys of living in a place far, far away.


Chucking It All: A Tale of Living in Orkney


When we think Orkney Islands, we think archaeology, thin places, standing stones, puffins, and such abundance of natural beauty.


Cliffs at Trenabie. From Chucking It All: A Tale of Living in Orkney

Cliffs at Trenabie View of cliffs at Trenabie, Westray. (Rainbow's end is at Trenabie Farm). Wikimedia Commons: Isla17


That is true, Max tells us – in the summer. Winters are hard, long, dark, and very, very cold. Living there in the winter is not for the faint-hearted (or for those with tenuous income streams). The saving grace of coping with the winters is the community – an amazing group of people, who can find humor and fun in anything. As with all small communities, everyone knows everyone’s business, friends become family, and life moves on. This is an intimate look at living abroad, in a place of dreams – where sometimes, dreams aren’t really affordable.  


Bay of Semolie, Roseness, Holm, Orkney. From Chucking It All: A Tale of Living in Orkney

Bay of Semolie, Roseness, Holm, Orkney. Wikimedia Commons: Karl Cooper


Max is funny, wry, and completely honest about living in Orkney – we caught up with him to chat about his book. Take a look…



This book is a compelling look at living in a place we all dream of – and the reality of intercultural living, harsh weather, and not a lot of income. It is extremely well written, makes you laugh and cringe and shiver, and clamor for more. Highly recommended!


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Note: We received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Poison Pixie Publishing – thank you!