Hey there Marlene!
I have similar goals to yours, and I have also run into bumps in the road and had to be adaptable to find ways to move forward. My situation is complicated by having a few kids to support, which has prevented me from moving far from them and their mom (Richmond VA area) or changing careers. For the next 5+ years I will be on the hook at least somewhat for supporting them, so I will have to keep working full-time for 5-6-7 more years (I'm 43 now). However, I have managed to get my finances stable, and at least for now my job allows me to work from home almost 100% (software engineer). I'm constrained because I don't have good credit - nor do I want to borrow against the future in these uncertain times. I have very few debts or obligations left, and I like it that way.
Permaculture is a design process that starts with what we have, and builds a bridge to what we want. I know I want to be near Richmond, and I am interested in urban permaculture and a walk/bike/transit lifestyle. I have found many aspects of rural living can be great, but it has an embedded fossil fuel cost and/or more isolation than I prefer. I have built up some permie skills and knowledge with lots of reading and experimentation over the past several years. I have a good job and some excess income to invest. I have a small IRA I can leverage to invest in property. I have been dithering over the past year or two where to settle and how, and with whom. I haven't had much luck getting people to collaborate, just not enough folks around with the same goals and ready to act/invest at once. I do know a lot of people in the area into different things; artists, performers, activists, foragers, gardeners, beekeepers, tiny housers, and a few scattered Transition/permaculture people. I want to stake out a place where I can live, work, and experiment with food forests, gardens, and aquaponics.
At the moment I am in the process of cashing out my IRA and looking for cheap vacant lots in Richmond. I have identified a favorable neighborhood with a community garden, plus some people I know living there. Definitely an "edge" community with lots of potential. I found a 0.24 acre lot I could afford with $15K or so left over toward building a modest house, perhaps a duplex to allow space for itinerant relatives or WWOOFers. My goal is to be rent/mortgage-free in 2016, investing more in getting off-grid and making a permaculture haven as time goes by and steady employment is still available. Maybe acquiring more land, if the experiment is successful, but weaning myself out of office work and doing more community-integrated livelihood experiments. I am inspired by elements of urban projects like Food Forest Farm
, The Urban Farming Guys
, and Growing Power
That's my plan for 2016, or at least a starting point and vision. I'm going solarpunk.