I wrote this article for the Green Compass magazine (http://www.greencompassmag.com) and I thought you would all enjoy it. It is overall what I have learned during my WWOOFing journey so far. We are now halfway but still enjoying the experience!
“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
My WWOOFing journey started because the life of commitments, routine and ‘normal’ became dreary and uninteresting. After four years of working, paying rent, bills and trying ways to have a fulfilling weekend, my partner I got rid of anything that wouldn’t fit into our Toyota-corolla station wagon and left our ‘normal’ life. In the six months I have been WWOOFing I have learned many important lessons but the most important is to not wait for tomorrow but do it today, whatever IT may be.
The important things in life: over the course of this journey I have learned to value the important things in life. There are very few things that you need to lead a happy, healthy life and as time moves on more we are getting down to the real life basics. We quickly learned to be ruthless, especially travelling with two people in a car. We have learned to live by this mantra and over the past six months have reduce our load by at least half and still going! Items that are broken, lost or deemed unneeded are given away or not replaced. It is a great life lesson to get rid of things that are unnecessary and it makes you feel great. It is hard to imagine in the beginning that we couldn’t fit everything in. I often wonder what was deemed so important to have in our life, which is now gone from memory. My theory is that human nature is to hoard, even though it rarely makes our lives better. Decluttering has been an important part of this journey so far and when the time comes to go back to a ‘normal’ life, I will certainly be much more mindful of the things that I ‘need’. These lessons I have learned have given me the courage to always seek the life I want to lead and to do things away from the normal. Life is too short to be bowing to social norms and doing what is expected of you. “If we all start to invest in our futures more than our sneakers, our lives will be more beautiful than anything money could buy.” – Chris Riotta, ELITE DAILY. Since starting WWOOFing I have been able to live life instead of watch it fly by. I no longer worry about things that aren’t important to me such as where I am going next, the important thing is WHY I am going there.
The importance of fresh water and appreciation for comfort: learning to appreciate fresh water again has made me realise how much is wasted in everyday living. When we were house sitting in a drought stricken area, in the middle of summer with no running water, a composting toilet and a ration of 30L of rainwater you learn very quickly to use only the absolutely necessary water. A composting toilet is essentially a bucket filled with earth and wood chips so that alone saves a few litres of water every use. I was very impressed at how the toilet didn’t smell at all. The house had electricity, however all the cooking was done on the BBQ outside (as the stove wasn’t connected), boiling potatoes or pasta was much harder than necessary! The biggest worry was the dependence of the animals on the little water that we had. It all turned out fine and I have learned to appreciate things that I take for granted, such as near-instant hot water or a sink to wash the dishes.
Karma and changing plans: in this life you should always try to give without expectation of receiving. We always try to share what we have and now that we live very basically and need a bit of help sometimes it is all coming back to us in some form or other. I find it amazing that what you do in life, whether positive or negative, it always comes back. Through living a simple lifestyle the results of this have become more pronounced and obvious. This lifestyle can change in an instant and it took a while to learn there is not much point planning where we will be a month or a week from now. There are things that haven’t gone according to plan, so many decisions are taken on the spur of the moment. It is the ultimate freeing experience when the future is undecided and it has taught me that when a plan is made, it can be changed. One of the reasons we started this journey was so we could make our own decisions and dictate our life without any obstructions – people or otherwise. It is important to be flexible in life and remember in times of change when one door shuts, two more open.
Foraging, growing and cooking your own food: this is a skill that many people in this crazy world have forgotten or never learned. I think it is a very sad thing when children don’t know where meat really comes from or how to make a basic meal. This isn’t a lesson I learned on this WWOOFing journey but one that has been reinforced. We have done a lot of vegetable, fruit and berry harvesting and protecting food from various animals. It is amazing to see just how much food you can produce yourself when you make an effort and the home grown produce taste and look so much better than the commercial. Many of the people we have met feed themselves most of the year from their gardens by eating seasonally and growing produce to the maximum capacity of their space. Four acres can support many animals, vegetables and fruits if you are smart about how to use the space. Harvesting wild produce is a great way to feed yourself while travelling and on a budget, there is so much out there that is freely available and abundant.
WWOOFing has been the best decision of my life, I have not had one second in this whole crazy journey that I have regretted leaving my old life behind. I have discovered and learned many lessons that I hope I can carry through life. People we have met have said we are crazy not having a fixed abode or not knowing where we are going next but living this way we have met some amazing people whom we wouldn’t have met otherwise. This opportunity could have easily passed us by, had we continued in our normal life and stuck to our routine. It is amazing how a change of routine and a different outlook on life can allow you to be more relaxed, happy and most importantly, free.