Category Archives: Culture

Brisbane Climate March

IMG_5719

During the last weekend in November 785,000 people in 175 countries took to the streets to march in support of Climate Justice. Did you hear about it? Did the politicians convening at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris hear about it?

I live – rather happily most of the time – without a TV. This means I saw relatively little of the news coverage.

However… I did one-up on watching. I made sure I was there – walking tall among the 5,000 or so individuals who marched in Brisbane, Australia on the 28th of November, calling for ‘Climate Justice’ and an end to our government’s dirty but lucrative addiction to coal.

IMG_5713

I’m glad I attended the march. It was heartening to be there. I realised there are plenty of us involved in the movement to realise a clean-energy revolution – people who desire a massive re-think of how we interact personally, locally, nationally and globally with Land. Environment. Earth. The future. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Climate Change, Culture, Earth Care, Permaculture, Social Justice

Home & Away Part 1

Is it me, or are the desire to travel and the desire to garden at odds?

The reason I ask is that I find myself faced with the quandary of wanting to travel and wanting to settle (literally cultivate a home and garden).

Inside me, the hunter/gather and farmer/settler archetypes coexist in uneasy, sometimes antagonistic relation.

Me: the muddy boots of a permie (permaculture gardener) and the worn backpack of a bona-fide traveller. Eeck. A walking contradiction?

Me: the muddy boots of a permie (permaculture gardener) and the worn backpack of a bona-fide traveller. Eeck. A walking contradiction?

Not an ideal scenario, right?

Over the past few years I’ve attempted (with varying degrees of success) to harmonise my desire to travel with my desire to garden: I’ve gardened whilst dreaming of travel, and have even gardened whilst travelling, albeit in other peoples’ gardens (if the latter appeals to you I suggest you look into becoming a WWOOFer – a Willing Worker on Organic Farms).

Me WWOOFing in Central Italy - labors spent in service of anthers' garden

Me WWOOFing in Central Italy – labours spent in service of anothers’ garden

Although my heady months of WWOOFing during my overland odyssey from England to Australia in 2012-2013 were extraordinary and deeply rewarding, there was something that dissatisfied me, generally, about my experience:

I never stuck ’round long enough to reap what I had sewn.

The nature and manner of the type of travel in which I was engaged (long-term, multiple-country, terrestrial, low budget, low carbon) was such that no sooner had I settled down and begun to develop feelings for a place, than it was time to move on.

And on…

And on…

And on.

By threading one WWOOF to the next I finally made my way overland from England to Australia, via twenty-one countries. The entire journey took seventeen months to complete and is remembered as a series of falling in love with places, and then having to leave – learning gradually, and with distance, to let them go.

The good news, I discovered, is that as a species we’re admirably well-adapted to love broadly and widely, deeply and long. The understanding that I have cultivated over the course of my hybrid travel-gardening adventures is that humans are polyamorous in terms of their relationship to place: that they can belong to many places (and cultures) at once.

Mine and Richie’s beloved first-ever kitchen garden at The Patch, England

As I write, it occurs to me that one of the reasons I regard travelling and gardening as incongruous (and I admit, I haven’t decided outright that this is truly the case) is that gardening is something you do at home. Traveling, on the other hand is a practice you practice ‘away’ from home. Insofar as practices go, gardening and travelling share the characteristic of being place-specific. It just so happens that the places in which they occur are thoroughly incompatible, even opposite: home & away respectively. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Food, Literature, Permaculture, Philosophy, Travel, Writing

Permaculture Traveller launched!

Dear friends,

Welcome back to typo traveller! After a twelve-month hiatus I’ve returned. Time to set in motion a new phase of life and along with it, a new phase in the life of this blog.

As you might already have noticed typo traveller has undergone a name-change. From here on in I’ll be conversing through the mouthpiece of Permaculture Traveller.

Why the name-change?

Because life changes. I’ve changed. You’ve changed. We all change. Same same but different.

In terms of the ‘old’ name…

I’m still ‘typing’ – typing harder than I’ve ever typed before.

I’m still prone to ‘typos’ (there’ll be ample evidence of this in this post, as well as future posts)

And (this part is a bit more of a stretch of the imagination)… I’m still travelling.

Okay. I’m not. But I am. Bear with me while I explain…

Typo Traveller was inaugurated as a travel blog. A blog to travel with. It accompanied me on an epic journey overland (no flying!) from England to Morocco, and from Morocco to Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia (…okay, I’m gloating…), Russian, Kazakhstan, China, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand (…still gloating…), Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and eventually ‘home’, to Australia.

Then… well, the buck stopped there.

For a time.

18 months later I am no longer travelling. I am the co-keeper and cultivator of a home and garden in the Obi Obi, Queensland, Australia.

IMG_0892

And, I’m a scholar!

Remember how I fled Australia for India in 2007 to avoid doing a PhD?

Well, you can only flee destiny for so long. In my case, six years.

After a prolonged period of waywardness I’ve re-joined the academy. I’m an unconfirmed Doctor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) candidate with the Faculty of Arts and Business and the Sustainability Research Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

So far I’ve completed one year out of a three-year full-time program of doctoral research.

The concept for my doctoral research is to write a permaculture-travel memoir about the flightless journey that my partner and I undertook in 2012-2013. The creative artefact will be called Seed: The Art and Mystery of Permatravel.

IMG_1029

Part of the joy of conducting the research is that it allows me to continue travelling. In my mind.

Every day, my imagination sallies forth from its situated, embodied habitus within my body (which I leave behind, for practical reasons, in my writing studio), and returns to the places that I visited over the course of my journey.

For me, writing the memoir is an opportunity to imaginatively re-inhabit the places I visited during that journey – and reconnect, (yes… still imaginatively), with the remarkable people whom I met – the many WWOOF, Couch Surfing, WorkX and AirBnB hosts – and the diverse landscapes I inhabited with them: fincas, farms, cottages, islands, mountains, gorges, cities…

I want to learn more about those people and places, supplementing my experiential knowledge with book learning on cultural history, natural history, political history, folk lore, environmental anthropology and ethnoecology.

The narrative I will be writing is not only about the art and mystery of permatravel, it is about how people meet their needs ‘for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way’, and how gradually, over time, people integrate harmoniously with their landscape.

Here’s where permaculture comes in.

The definition of permaculture outlined by Bill Mollison (2012, pp. ix-x) in Permaculture: A Designers’ Handbook is as follows:


 

Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way…
                       The philosophy of permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.


The innovation of my research is that I’ll be applying permaculture design to the process of researching and writing a permaculture-travel memoir.

What I am attempting to do is develop a blueprint of an integrated permaculture-writing practice: to develop a form, and a process, that works with, and responds creatively to the twelve principles of permaculture design and which exemplifies the permaculture ethic: ‘earth care, people care, fair share’.

The twelve principles are:

Observe and Interact
Catch and Store Energy
Obtain a Yield
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
Produce no Waste
Design from Pattern to Details
Integrate, Rather than Segregate
Use Small and Slow Solutions
Use and Value Diversity
Use Edges and Value the Marginal
Creatively Use and Respond to Change

You’ve heard of people ‘doing’ permaculture on landscapes? Well, I’m ‘doing’ permaculture on a creative arts product – a memoir.

How is it going to turn out?

I’ve no idea.

But if you’re keen to find out, come along with me for the ride. Deviations welcome. Road-blocks expected. Delays inevitable. Arrival… a far-off but enchanting possibility.

 

NOTE: If you’re working on a similar project, or if you’re somehow engaged in the practices of writing, permaculture or travel, leave a comment and let me know what you’re up to. This blog is all about observing and interacting with what’s going on around me, and learning (graciously) to ‘apply self-regulation and accept feedback’ (the 4th principle of permaculture design). See you on the road…

 

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Culture, Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Permaculture, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing

circus, streets, stars of Woodford

IMG_9620

the flying machine

IMG_9721

mandala dissolution ceremony, Monks of Tibet

IMG_9757

Bamboo installation, Wang Wen-Chih & volunteers

IMG_9776

Imagine the Land, Artisania

IMG_9790

Sideshow Wonderland

IMG_9568

TaikOz

IMG_9684

volunteer butterfly

IMG_9541

girl

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Culture, Earth Care, Food, Social Justice, Travel

SEED… new beginnings

Richie

There comes a time when even the most devoted travel partners go their separate ways. After 20 months of conjoined aspirations, Richie and I are separating (temporarily!) to pursue individual learning pathways; acquiring skills, gleaning knowledge and shaping up for a abundant and diverse future together here on the Sunshine Coast.

Richie’s bitter complaints that the final leg of our overland journey from England to Australia lacked a permaculture-focus are finally being laid to rest. As the photo attests – Richie’s not only turning Australian but he’s turning Australian in a very perma-way. Today he’s off to experience what may be the most memorable perma-experience of his life: one month WWOOFing with Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australian in the Channon, Northern NSW.

While I’m beefsteak-tomato-red with envy, I have my own work cut out for me. It’s application time. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Yep, that writerly PhD that I fled to England (via India) to avoid in 2007 has returned to haunt me and this time, I aint’ gonna turn and flee.

This time, I have a story worth writing: mine and Richie’s story. A travel story. A permaculture story. An earth story. A story about seeds, ideas, social change, friendship and the beauty of the natural world. The encouragement and feedback I’ve received from you, the readers of Typo Traveller, have helped me to believe that the world is ready for SEED: a permaculturee travel memoir, and I’m ready to write it.

I’m currently in the process of writing a proposal and approaching supervisors to oversee the work. While Richie’s digging swales and tweaking irrigation systems, I’ll be writing literature reviews and pawing through old university transcripts for evidence that I’m a hardy, worthy, creative, credible PhD candidate.

In the meantime, if the writing becomes too much, and I find I need a break, there’s my parents’ potato patch to water; an ageing shed to pull down; Augustino corn to hand-pollinate; dill to plant; sourdough starter to feed; kefir to culture; my sisters’ herb garden to cultivate… and the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland to re-explore.

Did I mention books to read – Waterlog, Bird Cloud, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Permaculture Design by Aranya: A step-by-step guide, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell…?

Bon Voyage lover-brother, Richie, go well! ‘I’ll see you soon…’

p.s Sorry about the photo, I couldn’t help myself! 😉

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Earth Care, Food, Permaculture, Travel, Writing

my country

IMG_6516

On the outskirts of Charters Towers giant mango trees appear, signalling with their torrid green foliage that we’re back in habitable country. The returning sight of veggie plots and herbaceous borders quiets me. I wave goodbye to the Outback. Not long now ’til the sea.

After the parched, upstart ugliness of Mt Isa, Charters Towers is paradise: well-proportioned civic stone buildings line the streets, vying with one another for shoulder space and the largest share of generous Queensland winter sun. Tidy bakeries, hardware stores and cafes crowd the pavement, offering their assurance that, in Charters Towers, the scaffolding of a well-functioning civic community is still intact: every tile, masonry block and wrought iron bannister attests to the gravitas of the town’s rich cultural history.

The nexus of streets at the heart of town is awash with people: good, simple folk out for a stroll with dogs, or gone to fetch the morning paper for an elderly aunt or neighbour. I have a brief but compelling urge to throw myself on a pink iced finger bun; the kind you only get in really really uncouth Aussie bakeries.

Around the corner, a group of mourners spill out of a church, down the pavement, smoking cigarettes and scuffing their shoes, looking nonchalant; heedless of their grief as they keep one another company under the flimsy canopy of the bus shelter. A contingent of police stand ready, watching for signs of dissonance. In our white-man van we glide, slower than Kennedy’s black limousine, past the mourners, wondering what it is all about, who has died, and why the police feel it necessary to be present.

At this rate, there are two hours remaining until we reach the East Coast; two hours to rescind my old values and re-form my opinions of my country, myself.

IMG_6696

An 18-month journey is coming to an end. In a matter of days I’ll be home. The conscious process of re-configuring, re-inventing… over… for the time being, superseded by a string of expenses, reunions, outings, job-seeking, home-making. With the strictures of arrival firmly in mind I draw my awareness back to the present: to the space I am occupying in Norman’s car; to the sight of the mourners and the giant waving branches of the mango trees of Mt Isa, who have seen it all, and survived.

IMG_6613

ratatouille on the balcony – Couch Surfing in Townsville

The following night, on the balcony of Steve’s apartment in Townsville, Richie and I are privy to an impromptu recitation of Dorothy Mackellar’s ‘My Country’. Headmaster Kevin has put away all reserve and is up on the table amid bottle tops and discarded empties, reciting lines of Australia’s most iconic poem. After a confident first verse, Kevin loses nerve, bolstering his bravado by forcing us up out of our chairs, onto our feet, goading us to repeat after him:

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

Of drought and flooding rains

I love her far horizons

I love her jewelled sea

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me.

Caught midway between the novelty and splendour of this rash, drunken moment, I look about at the faces around the table, feeling faintly uneasy to be participating in such a flagrant show of patriotism. Glancing across at Richie’s animated schoolboy face I wonder, what meaning, if any, the words have to him: a visitor of 10-days to this country.

Hearing the words shouted wilfully, late, on the balcony of a suburban home feels wonderfully affirming, wonderfully Australian! I am bemused to hear the Maltese, French and English persons in our midst affirming their love of and allegiance to this ‘wide brown land’. I feel involuntarily moved by the image of my country that the poem conjures; brown foliage, dry creek beds, expansive vistas – the aspects that make it unique, different to the ‘green and shaded lanes’ and ‘ordered woods and gardens’ of the world from which my ancestors (at least some of them), came, and in some cases, fled.

Since our arrival in Darwin 10 days ago, and our journey through the Outback, Richie and I have heard a lot about what it means to be Australian. We’ve heard plenty of points of view and a fair bit of nonsense. I’m anxious about the impression my country is making on Richie and keen to make amends.

IMG_6633

roo balls – Richie embraces ‘Australian culture’

That night, on the balcony in Townsville, Kevin’s performance is followed by a lengthy discussion of what it means to be Australian. I’m among friends and as an absentee of six years, want to know what the hell is going on in my country; why my fellow Australians are hell bent on erecting a razor wire fence along our borders to keep the ‘good’, ‘worthy’, ‘legitimate’ citizens in, and the ‘greedy’, ‘opportunistic’ migrants out.

I hold my breath and listen to what my peers tell me.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, History, Social Justice, Travel, Uncategorized

Luck of the Irish

IMG_6481

I’ll tell you something you might not know about the Australian Outback – it’s peopled by young Irish! The subtle charm of saltbush and red earth does not account for the numbers in which they arrive: behind every counter, every laminate benchtop in every kitchen, pub, petrol station, cafe and caravan park between Darwin and Mt Isa there’s a Galway or Pipe lilt-a-lurking.

Whatever the Outback lacks in emerald green it makes up for in gold: the solid gold of a hard-earned wage – the kind it’s hard to come by in Ireland. Italians and French are drawn here too, for work, but not in the same numbers as the Irish – nowhere near.

At the Mataranka Caravan Park, at the end of a long day of hitchhiking, I inquire at reception about the cost of renting a tent pitch for the night: $36! It’s terrible news but pleasing nonetheless to hear it delivered in a running-stitch of tender Leinster tones! Battling to reconcile myself with parting with $36 for a patch of earth, I inquire whether management might have a spare tent they can throw into the bargain. To which she kindly responds, ‘No’.

IMG_6525

That night, lying under the stars, part-way-under a shared sleeping bag, with the sound of mob politics in the background, I ponder what it might be like, as a youth from an Irish village, to find yourself, suddenly,  in the Australian Outback. I feel baffled by what might draw someone this far across the earth to take up residence in a landscape only marginally less alien than the moon, to a culture as quixotic, contradictory and idiosyncratic as a pink bus called ‘Priscilla’. Surely it’s not just the money?

IMG_6382

IMG_6442

On the second night of our hitch-hike across the Outback we’re saved by the kindness of the Irish. Tess, Mike and Lee are on a road trip that will take them from Sydney to Cairns. They’ve drawn up at the Barkly Homestead in their dusty blue station wagon and are happy enough to have their tents up, cans of beer in their hands and a good part of the driving behind them.

It’s cold. As they hug their coats closer about their shoulders their attention is drawn to the two weirdos (us!) who have wandered in off the road, under cover of darkness, and are spreading a layer of cardboard on the ground in order to shield themselves from the rising damp that would otherwise cost them a night of sleep.

‘We ha a tarpaulin if ya waaant it’, one of them offers, shouting over from the comfort of his canvas camping chair. He looks appalled to be witnessing our performance of voluntary impoverishment.

Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Culture, Earth Care, Travel