Businessman, 55, quits £42K job to build new home on a remote hilltop

Businessman, 55, quits £42K job to build new home on a remote hilltop

March 19, 2019

Businessman bored of a ‘humdrum middle class life’ quits his £42K job to build an off-grid home in rural Portugal – and now survives by farming pigs and selling cork grown on the land

  • Kees, 55, and Ingrid Goossens, 53, left home in Holland to start again in Portugal
  • They built remote hilltop home and are not connected to the mains for power 
  • Couple said they finally feel ‘free and ourselves’ now that they don’t live in a city
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A businessman who quit his job to live off grid with his wife on a remote hilltop has said they finally feel ‘free’ and miss nothing about their former life.

Kees Goossens, 55, and his wife Ingrid, 53, a nurse, left their modern brick home in Breda, the Netherlands, to build a new house from scratch in a remote area of Portugal. 

The couple walked away from their jobs in May 2017 and spent two months building their new single-story home which isn’t connected to the mains electricity, gas or water supply. 

They now live by farming pigs and selling cork grown on the land.  

Explaining their bold decision, Kees who used to earn €50,000 (£42,800) a year, said he was ‘bored of humdrum middle class life.’

Kees and Ingrid Goossens quit their jobs in Breda, the Netherlands, to build a single-storey house, pictured, on a remote hilltop in Portugal

The couple, Ingrid pictured during the build, spent two months constructing their new home

The Goossens’ home has one bedroom, a kitchen/living area, pictured, and a bathroom uses solar panels for electricity

Kees, pictured making homemade wine in Portugal, spent £24,800 on buying the land and a further £25,700 on materials to build the house

Kees, pictured, used to run a successful construction company and used his knowledge to make the plans for the new home which isn’t connected to the mains for electricity

He said: ‘We lived very well and had everything – success, luxury, comfort. But there was always the feeling in the back of my mind that there could be something else. After years of living comfortably, I started to think – is this it?’

It was during a two week holiday in the rural Portuguese region of Alentejo in March 2016 that Kees and Ingrid, whose student sons, Tuen, 23, and Drik, 20, still live in the Netherlands, fell in love with the landscape and decided to stay.

‘We found something there that we had never experienced before,’ Kees explained.

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‘The natural beauty was astounding and the people were so friendly and open that, straight away, I knew I wanted to live there for the rest of my life.’

It took just a few months for the couple to sell up in the Netherlands and buy a plot of land for €29,000 (£24,800) on an isolated hilltop near the village of Monte Sobreiro.

And eight weeks later, Kees had finished building their home, which they designed and constructed themselves after spending €30,000 (£25,700) on materials.

Kees said he couldn’t imagine leaving his new life in the hills and that it feels ‘strange’ to go back to the Netherlands and the city now. Pictured is the inside of Kees’ self-built home

The couple’s home, left during construction, is surrounded by 50,000 square metres of land and they keep chickens, pictured right

Now they live off the 50,000 square metres of land that surrounds their home, by harvesting cork from their quercus suber trees which cover it and breeding pigs for sale. 

With one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom, their hilltop home also has two outhouses with additional bedrooms for guests.

And having no connection to mains electricity, gas or water supply, they rely on wood burners for heating, solar panels for powering their refrigerator and lights, and water pumped from a nearby brook for washing.

Kees said: ‘When we go back to Holland now we try to stay for the shortest amount of time possible, as it feels very strange for us to be there.

‘We don’t want to become part of that world again, as we are so happy with the lifestyle we now have.

‘It sounds very cliched perhaps, but here we feel free and we feel ourselves – something we’ve spent our whole lives looking for and finally found. 

While the house was being built, pictured is Ingrid working on the site, the couple lived in a small cabin

 The home has two outhouses, one pictured, for when visitors come to stay with the couple

Kees, pictured building the roof, said his sons, Tuen, 23, and Drik, 20, were skeptical about the move at first but now understand their parents decision to move

‘After spending our entire lives living in towns and cities, it’s amazing that we really miss nothing about our former life. There isn’t a single luxury that I feel I would have back.’ 

Before starting their build, the couple revisited the area in August 2016 on a fact-finding mission.

Kees said: ‘We spent a month talking with local officials and architects, trying to find out all the necessary requirements for buying land and building a home.

‘We wanted to be certain that it was a good step to take and the visit cemented our belief that it was. After that we were both convinced.’

Drawing on his years of experience in contracting to create a blueprint for the house, Kees then passed it on to an architect to check.

With the plot of land bought and given the go-ahead on his plans, he started the building work in June 2017 – with Ingrid and Kees doing everything themselves.

Two months later, during which time the couple lived in a small cabin they had built beforehand, their single-storey home was completed.    

Kees and Ingrid live off the land and breed pigs, pictured, to sell so they have money for food

Kees, pictured at his new home, said he wouldn’t return to the city and that: ‘For the first time in my life I feel that I am really living the way I want to’

Despite their unwavering confidence in their decision, Kees says that friends and family were less sure.

He continued: ‘At first, people thought we had gone crazy and said to us, ‘What are you doing?’

‘Our two sons especially couldn’t understand why we were doing this and were very sceptical about our choice.

‘But more and more they have started to understand, especially after they came to visit us for the first time.

‘They could see how special the place we have is and gradually they realised that we were happier than ever before.’

With plans to become entirely self-sufficient one day, when they will no longer need to buy food or drinking water, the pair are working hard on developing their farm – a task that, together with weekly lessons in Portuguese, keeps them fully occupied.

‘Every day is a joy because we are working for ourselves and doing things that matter to our lives,’ explained Kees.

‘For the first time in my life I feel that I am really living the way I want to.’

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