With disgust we speak about a people. With contempt we speak about a country, whereas we need to aim the arrows at their leaders.
We worry about our next holiday, while half the world is on fire.
We talk about left or right as it is it the one and only truth.
I yell at her, like I am the one who’s throwing bombs.
But I only defend my kingdom, my overgrown garden of thoughts.
As she is protecting hers.
We all live in our bubble.
It’s true, I like to be around like-minded people.
Men and women, who share somewhat the same values.
Idealists with dreams, talking and doing, who are not afraid of change.
Admit they were wrong before, and can change their minds if they have to.
As we are evolving humans.
Those who know we should rather hold back and not always give ourselves priority. In our consumption, flying, travelling, living, polluting, having children. Our industry everywhere. This isn’t a step backwards, but a step forwards.
Men and women, who know that simplify our lives is easier than we are supposed to think.
I still hear myself saying to an Ibizan yogi that veganism is extreme, but meanwhile I admired a friend for being one.
No, I’d rather stay vegetarian and allow myself the pleasure of a pink piece of salmon in a beachy restaurant if I want to. That was my excuse for a long time. Or the tasty Spanish sheep cheese. I just needed to have that every now and then.
Now I understand veganism doesn’t mean sacrifice, but to me it means a richer life. A fuller life, because I’m complety aware I’m a part of a larger whole. I feel interconnected. I am not the only one with interests.
I don’t want to be the cause of suffering. I couldn’t stand by anymore. I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the animal holocaust, normalized by our culture.
We need a political and cultural change if we want the keep the natural world alive – if we want to live on this planet. To rewild our world, changes must be radical. We can wait for our governments to act, but if we -for example- see the amount of livestock won’t shrink, big agriculture being in control, the production of meat still on the rise, and as a result deforestation everywhere, we need to change ourselves.
There’s still no political desire of governments to drastically reduce the amount of livestock, to end this miserable, polluting and wrong industry, and to stop the intense suffering of animals. Commercial interests always have priority. Farmers who feel trapped in a wrong system and take their lives, as it is the only way out.
Until governments finally have the guts to make radical changes to protect our natural world and environment, we have to step away of this fear to change and be our own change. Fear to change paralyses and nothing happens.
Meanwhile, we can be change-makers. You and I, let’s be one.
“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.” ~ Toni Morrison
If the COVID-19 crisis hadn’t started one year ago, we wouldn’t have discovered how fragile our systems, such as economy, healthcare, food and livelihood, are.
Also, in my case, I wouldn’t have recognized how life on the countryside is the best what happened to me. In fact, I have become very grateful to live on the countryside. I see it as a step closer to becoming more resilient to crises.
When I read about families cramped between apartment walls in the city as we were forced by law to stay in our homes, I knew this would be a huge challenge for all these families and particularly not without danger. Not being able to go outside jeopardizes people’s (mental) health.
Many times we said to each other how lucky we were to live on el campo — the countryside — and to be able to be outside in the garden and to walk around. It always seems to be the case when a dramatic event happens, suddenly we come to realize a few things which weren’t so obvious before. We see what’s really important in life, the things that truly matter.
In that sense crises aren’t always bad. They offer new ways of thinking. New ways of being and doing.
The fact that the health of our planet is suffering, that we breathe polluted air that kills us, that wild life is dying, and that we see forests and its inhabitants devoured by ferocious flames, are no urgent reasons for our political leaders and for us to massively reconsider our choices. They haven’t been urgent reasons to make pressing regulations and to slow down for a change.
This pandemic is/was an immediate danger to humans (well, mostly to those who already have health problems, but there certainly have been exceptions too), whilst apparently climate change, the loss of biodiversity and forests aren’t. Because, we don’t see the effects in our daily lives. Not yet. But this could be — again — a new reality in the future to come.
Obviously, the corona-crisis is about human fragility. We are fragile, but so are our systems — health, food, economy, livelihood. I have come to realize that it makes sense to learn about growing our own food, to start community-gardens, or, if we can’t, to make connections with local farmers or shops which sell their products. The huge dependence on supermarkets isn’t a healthy system.
It makes sense to become self-sustainable and to build communities/networks where we can look after each other. This doesn’t mean that viruses won’t kill us, but it makes us less fragile when we need to live through even bigger crises. Yes, it makes sense to become resilient beings, to become more self-sustainable and free.
So, how do we become more resilient, self-sustainable and free people?
Move to the countryside, go completely off-grid, install solar panels, harvest rainwater, grow your own food, poop on a wooden box, make compost, and build yourself a tiny house and live a debt-free life.
Man, that sounds far too drastically, doesn’t it?
I can imagine it does, but I know it is possible. It took my partner and I some years to arrive here. Over the years we completely transformed our lives and we are now those off-grid people, living on 12 square meters. I’m not saying it’s always easy and I never long to a warm, indulging bath.
Of course not everyone likes the idea of having such a lifestyle. But for those who are interested, know you can start by taking small steps.
1. Buy from local market gardeners
We need to eat everyday, so changing the way we provide ourselves with healthy food, is an important step. See if there’s a local farm where you can get your organically grown veggies from. Or a local market where the farmer sells his products. Maybe there’s a community garden nearby or start one with neighbors and friends.
Buying in bulk, such as oats, chickpeas, beans, flour , etc., is cheaper, eco-friendly and makes us less dependent on supermarkets.
2. Live with less and buy less stuff
Things don’t make us happy. Well, maybe they do for a short moment. In Spain the shops were closed for months, so shopping wasn’t an option. I realized I didn’t really miss them, and it even felt life is more simple that way, to realize what’s essential and not.
Ask yourself before buying new stuff, “Do I really need this?”
3. Start saving at a young age
To have a financial buffer is a peace of mind and reduces the stress in times of change. Start young and the benefits come later. I wish I’d been more aware of this when I was younger.
4. Radically cut down expenses
* See if that telephone contract can be cheaper.
* Do you and your partner really need two cars? Public transport is much more economical (and better for the planet). Or, take the bicycle to work.
* Celebrate holidays closer to home.
* Be your own restaurant and cook a nice homemade meal, have dinner parties with friends at home instead of going to a restaurant. I used to go to restaurants a lot. Now it’s only for special occasions.
*If you’re living costs (rent, mortgage) are relatively high, see if changes can be made. If not, consider to move to a more inexpensive, and smaller, house or apartment.
*Invest in that what matters (to you), such as solar panels, a piece of land, trees for wood and fruit, knowledge, such as permaculture and regenerative agriculture or whatever rocks your world.
When we lower our expenses a crisis will hit us less hard, and therefore we’re resilient financially.
5. Work remotely or do “essential work”, but most of all do that what gives you purpose
The bullshit jobs are leaving first, as we could see with this health-crisis. The “essential workers” kept their jobs. The nurses, (mental) health professionals, doctors and all those caring for vulnerable and ill people. Of course, society needs them. The same goes for market gardeners, teachers, some lawyers, some politicians (really just a few, most we don’t need) and engineers. But also the healers, the inventors, the creators, the creatives. Without them the world will be a poor place.
Basically, it all boils down to meaning. With meaningful work, where our heart is, the financial means will follow sooner or later. Honestly, I’m not there yet. I’m investing time and money in the work I believe in and it can be hard sometimes to keep the faith that it will bear fruit any time soon.
6. Find support by having healthy relationships and family and friends who want the best for you
Being connected to people who care, increases resilience. We all need a support system we can rely on and they are those people, they are our community. We can’t do it all on our own. Care about each other, and share resources or exchange goods.
7. Cultivate personal resilience
We are much stronger than we think we are. When difficult times hit us hard, for example the death of a loved one, illness, a divorce, the loss of a child, we will discover how we live through those hardships without losing ourselves if we only see ourselves as victims of the hard circumstances.
To boost resilience we can use these three, powerful strategies mentioned in this beautiful and helpful TED-talk by resilience expert Dr. Lucy Hone:
Acknowledge that shit happens. Human existence means also suffering. Life mostly isn’t shiny, happy pictures on Instagram.
Make an intentional, deliberate ongoing effort to tune in to what’s good in our world. Focus on the things we can change and accept what we can’t.
Always ask ourselves: “Is the way I am thinking and acting helping or harming me?”
Know it is possible to live and grieve at the same time.
I hope these tips will help you to be more resilient, self-sustainable, and free.
Sometimes coming home is not as good as you hoped it would be. Coming back to the island however, it surely was. When I arrived last Wednesday by ferry early in the morning in Palma and my feet stepped on Mediterranean soil again, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Somehow I feel I belong to this soil.
As I passed the marina the sun was rising, a few men and women were running along the marina in the fresh morning air, early cyclists passed me by on their fast bikes. “No gracias,” I said to the taxi driver. I didn’t need one, I just wanted to walk and roam a bit. I have time, nobody was waiting for me anyway — except for the cats.
After a month in the quiet French countryside where I stayed moreless at one location all the time, I enjoyed the dynamics of a city, especially a city in the early morning when a part of it is still asleep. I entered Santa Catalina, a popular part of Palma, which has a creative vibe with its vintage shops and trendy, cute cafes where it’s possible to eat healthy and glutenfree tostadas.
I stayed in Palma the whole morning and took a bus which brought me to the village of Algaida later that day. From the village I walked home, which was long. As I walked home, the weather started to turn and the clouds were closing in. As I got closer, I couldn’t wait to see our cats again. I never left them alone for that long, but they were taken care of, foodwise.
Sad arrival home
A t first glance the cats looked confused, a bit upset even. Our shed was messy, no water, no food for the cats (probably they already ate everything). The garden overgrown by weed, our bathroom (which Dorus built for the two of us) dirty. In short: it felt sad to arrive home, it wasn’t good. The wife and daughter of our landlord moved to Asturias, the north of Spain, and I suspect he is busy with other things than pulling out weed. Times are uncertain right now and he has to keep his head above water. Suddenly I noticed how dark our home is. It felt depressing and heavy.
Howard’s country house in France, where we stayed, is just fantastic, so spacious and warm with wooden beams, a cozy fireplace and the bedroom Dorus and I stayed in, was huge! The kitchen has everything you need to cook delicious meals. It’s an old house — a former barn — and I adore these kind of houses with history and character. To me, these are the best houses.
Time for change
I think the change from this warm place to our dark, tiny shed was just too big. All of a sudden I realize I can’t stay much longer here, also because another tenant arrived to live here in a caravan in the garden with two little girls, his daughters (he will take over the shed when we are gone the 15th of December). It isn’t for long anymore, only one more month to go and we will move to our land and start creating our own home, just for us. No more being a guest at what is supposed to be home. I’m so over it. After almost two years (it began in Casita Verde) of being a guest somewhere, I can’t wait to have a home, a place which is ours and we take all decisions, nobody else. Where we are in control. I think for me that’s the most difficult part right now: not having control in relation to our housing situation. It has been a financially good solution and it was supposed to be temporarily, and it still is, but time has come for change.
In the meantime I make sure to leave the house every day and go out on my bicycle and enjoy the soft, sunny weather (the best now!). Cycling is my medicine when I’m alone. Bring my laptop and write somewhere where it feels light and I can leave the heaviness behind. The cats, especially Luna, is constantly around me when I’m home and is more affectionate than usually. Maybe she knows I’m not having the best time right now. She’s so adorable and it probably sounds crazy for some readers, but she’s my friend. And so is Liefje, our Amsterdam cat. Love them.
Our month in France has been wonderful and the Sustainable Living course a success, although we only attracted a small group of people. More people said they wanted to book, but they couldn’t travel or didn’t have the time. We were extremely lucky that we were able to have these great men and women on board and in these times of Corona, it isn’t an easy job to get people booked (we worked on that whole summer).
When I first met the participants, I felt immediately grateful for this group. We had a beautiful two weeks together. Most of the time, however, I was in the kitchen by myself preparing food. Some of the people weren’t vegetarians or vegans to begin with, so it felt so good to hear they didn’t even miss the meat and animal products as this is mostly the case when people just start to quit meat. I can say mission completed. Thank you so much!!
It was quite a challenge to arrange the materials needed for the course, but Vanessa, Howard and Dorus managed to get all of it (through market place, Howard’s friends and construction stores).
The shopping for the vegetables and fruit I did as much as possible at the local markets. And wow, it was expensive! (Two cauliflowers seven euros!). Such a difference with the vegetable – and fruit markets in Spain, but the people earn way less too in Spain; salaries here are extremely low.
My French was terrible though. Once at school I loved learning French and I wasn’t bad at it. But when you never practice a language, you really lose it. Only reading French went quite okay. Maybe in a next life as a Parisian, I will learn to use the words like Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour did – I (re)discovered and played their music when I was cooking and what a great music these people made! I remember my mum used to play Charles Aznavour at home, the French Sinatra. La Bohème is just one of his master pieces and I couldn’t stop listening to it.
It was special to experience the falling leaves and the colors of autumn again after quite some years in the Mediterranean where this change of season doesn’t exist. One day when I walked through the forest, right next to the house, I thought I heard raindrops falling down. It wasn’t, the leaves were making that sound. I stopped and looked to the sky. These falling leaves were so noisy for a moment, just surreal. I looked above to each of them, watching their fall. Never before I saw this remarkable rain of falling leaves.
Despite the autumn colors, the surroundings in France look quite grey, without any color. It was hard to imagine, a life in France, but I understand for our host Howard that he feels happy there. The people on the markets were super polite and friendly, addressing me with “madame” constantly. “Bonjour, Madame”. “Bonne journée, Madame”. The cashier in the supermarket waited patiently until I had put all groceries in my bags before she helped the next customer. I can’t remember the Dutch were that polite. Obviously life in the village differs from life in the big city, nevertheless it felt refreshing and welcoming.
France went in complete lockdown again. Yet, I was still able to travel by train to Barcelona. A very recommendable, environment-friendly, safe and economic way to travel (a ticket for only 80 euros). The true eco-warriors are Dorus and Vanessa though, as they chose to travel by bicycle. They’re still on their way to the south.
While in France I watched some videos on YouTube on my laptop and this video below suddenly popped up. I got immediately drawn in. This video is so incredibly well made with these actors in it. You can turn on subtitles of other languages, so you can understand what the judge has got to say. It was on my mind for days. I showed the video to the others and we were all breathless. Its message is incredibly sad. Really, animals, and children in need – the loyal innocents – they should deserve only but our love.
A quite unexpected note to — almost — end this blogpost, but somehow these true words showed up in this very moment.
The American dream
World events didn’t stop when we were in our small French bubble. Trump lost the US elections. The first woman (of color) as vice president in the American White House. Yes, it’s on the other side of the ocean. No, it isn’t my country, but it feels kind of good and positive and hopeful. Although my mum speaks of this lady, Kamala Harris, as a “leftish witch,” I do like this woman. She’s intelligent, charming, a true powerwoman. Her speech and her white suit made me happy. Kamala Harris is the realization of the American dream, and better.
N.B. For those who want to know more about our sustainable living courses and tiny house builds make sure to follow us, Green Gorillas, on social media:
A world that has stopped turning madly,
where the only people who have to hurry now, are the doctors and nurses.
Their faces in pain of the tight masks they’re wearing
Their bodies tired of the long hours they’re making
Their hearts bleeding by carrying a heavy load
Day in and day out, who knows.
A world that has stopped turning madly, where the only people who have to hurry now, are the doctors and nurses
Their faces in pain of the tight masks they’re wearing Their bodies tired of the long hours they’re making Their hearts bleeding by carrying a heavy load Day in and day out, who knows
Friends or enemies, it doesn’t matter anymore Immigrants or nationalists, Activists or silent warriors, CEO, “bossbabe” or wanderer of life What the hell is the difference anyway?
Winners or losers, Kings or peasants, Black or white, Left, middle or right, We all have hopes and fears We have hearts that will break at some point We have life and life is fragile as hell No exceptions
We are unadorned and free This is our new reality Country’s borders no longer relevant The place of our baby crib No prerogative
We’re going through changes We’re going through fear, making space for creativity, alertness and aliveness Rediscovering nature’s comfort and strength She’s willing to give so much And it’s up to us to receive her gifts These are the foundations we must build on, not to destroy
We’re going through changes right now From “doing” to “being” From a rushing world to a world standing still Alone in our homes We’re going through the discomfort and loneliness to connection and togetherness
Status. Success. Money on the bank. Belongings. It feels secure. It’s fun. But it’s not all What about starting community-gardens Growing our own food Making connections with local farmers Becoming self-sustainable Building communities Because we can’t do it all on our own A new security, a new validation, a new appreciation has born There’s a new embracing of those who have always been there
There’s a shift in the world going on It exposes our vulnerability, our weak systems and stupidities It evokes compassion and creativity It brings strong, helping hands, because we can’t do it all on our own It’s a time of utter chaos and many of us are rowing through this stormy river with fear in their hearts Maybe each of us can find some meaning in all of this Maybe we learn to be alone, to gain strength from the simple things around us Maybe even we find joy in the things we do Maybe finally we get some rest Maybe
Remember Tupac’s “Changes”? I still love this song.
We’ve seen that it has been just a matter of weeks that our world has changed into a new one. The world isn’t the same anymore and there’s much uncertainty we need to deal with. It all seems quite surreal, but this is our new reality.
What strikes me most these days is that we are caught up by a health crisis that made governments decide which seemed impossible before: airplanes stay at the ground; traffic has been restricted dramatically; borders were closed; people stay home and can’t shop anymore, only to buy the most necessary; private rooms have become little home offices; schools are empty. Severe measures were taken which have resulted in an unusual world where speed and busyness no longer exist. Suddenly we are forced “to be”.
Stillness lives in city streets and the wild is seen in places which are usually occupied by human activities: dolphins in the waters of Venice and wild horses in the streets of Sarajevo.
The fact that the health of our planet is suffering, that we breathe polluted air that kills us, that wild life slowly dies and that we see forests and its inhabitants devoured by ferocious flames, are no urgent reasons for our political leaders and for us, world citizens, to massively reconsider our choices, to make pressing regulations and to slow down for a change. This health crisis is an immediate threat to humans, whilst apparently the climate crisis isn’t; we don’t see the effects in our daily lives. But this could be — again — a new reality in the future to come.
Obviously, these weeks are about human fragility. We are fragile, but so are our systems — health, food, economy, livelihood. Let’s use this time to re-think and contemplate humanity. It’s a beautiful chance for everyone, isn’t it?
Yesterday morning I was pulled over by the policia local on my way to the eco centre “Centre de Resiliència Mallorca”, which we are developing with a few friends. I was on my bicycle and they said I wasn’t allowed to cycle. “Don’t you have a car?”, one of the police officers asked me. “Well, no I haven’t, this is my way of transport,” I answered him. I felt a bit intimidated and showed them the authorisation and my passport I carried in my bag. The police officer read it carefully and I was allowed to continue my journey.
The night before I slept terribly bad and a sudden fear got hold on me. I felt total chaos and my head was spinning with so many thoughts and worries. In general, I have never been a really stressed person, but somehow a sleepless night has the power to change me into a fearful human during these dark hours. In my dreams I received a message from my deceased father which he had written on his typewriter. It was a piece of paper telling me that we must wait. With a date on it. Not sure who are “we”, my family or all the people?
When I was cycling on the calm caminos and looked around me, I noticed not much of a difference with some days before, but yet it was a total new world I had encountered. After the police stopped me, I thought of the war-books I had read and the stories of my mum about my grandmother on the hunt for food in times of occupation and danger. Of course these were different times, but somehow it crossed my mind and tears welled up in my eyes. The whole day I felt emotional and thought about the people around me and the impact of this crisis on their lives. Imagine if even worse things will happen…
We are so fragile and we are so comfortable with our lives. I see this health crisis as a test, even as a warning of Mother Earth, The Universe, God or how you call it. It’s nature’s way of saying “enough”. This ego-driven world can’t continue the way it does.
The systems which we have created together, need to change. It makes sense to start community-gardens, to learn about growing our own food or, if you can’t, to make connections with local farmers or shops which sell their products. The huge dependence on supermarkets isn’t a healthy system. It makes sense to become self-sustainable and to build communities, we can’t do it all on our own. This doesn’t mean that viruses won’t kill us, but it makes us less fragile when we need to live through even bigger crises. It makes sense to become resilient beings.
“We gotta make a change It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live And let’s change the way we treat each other You see the old way wasn’t working So it’s on us to do what we gotta do to survive.” ~ Tupac Shakur
Let’s use this time to re-think and contemplate humanity.
Make the best of these weeks at home. I received a sweet message of a friend who said she feels quite calm and happy, as she spends more time with her little daughter now…this busy bee could finally slow down. Maybe we will miss these days when this is all over.
My thoughts are going to the heroes and heroines out there, who are caring for the vulnerable and the sick with so much dedication. Be safe.