Tag Archives: Sustainability

Breaking crust

The farmhouse, Momavlis Mitsa

Saturday morning in Argokhi. There is work to be done: water butts to fill; pigs to feed; floors to sweep; tea to brew – but there’s no hurry. I sit on the steps cracking hazelnuts, listening to the sounds passing up and down the lane on the opposite side of the above-head-high metal fence. I hear ducks squawking, the lazy turning of cartwheels, neighbours fussing, the crank of the timber grape press, and the occasional sound of apples falling from the tree. It’s mid-autumn. Every warm day between now and Christmas is worth its weight in gold.

Working on Momavlis Mitsa (Future Earth) farm in Argokhi has ameliorated the discomfort of waiting for visas in Tbilisi. Instead of sitting like ghosts in some disembodying hostel, milking the wifi and kicking stones down Marjainishvili on the way to the Metro, we’re working outdoors, using our lungs and hands to lift things, fix things, bake things, grow things.

Creating new raised beds

Richie and Sam adding rotted compost to the soil

In the garden we’re asked to do things we’d never do at home, in our own garden: pull weeds, hoe earth, turn soil, plant monocultures and raise new beds without mulching them. I bite my lip as Inken, the 18-year-old longterm German volunteer, instructs me on how to break the ‘crust’ that has formed on the surface of the soil due to successive phases of watering and sunshine. We work the hoe forward while simultaneously walking backwards down the aisles. I wonder if I’m disturbing the roots of the small plants, and why there are no bugs or worms in the soil.

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Yurts & Olives

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
– Abert Einstein

Every footfall on the scorched bare earth triggers a volley of locusts and cicadas. From the front door of the yurt to the front stairs of the house I march ten abreast with the beasties. I’m confounded by the number of insects the grass harbours: thin on the ground and brittle as ice cream cones though it is, it manages somehow, to provide a perfect launching pad for long-legged insects that ricochet off my head and shoulders. It’s a small frontier to cross. I hop from the shade of one olive tree to the next. I can’t for the life of me get used to the heat, or the sensation of insects bouncing off my flesh.

In the southern Peloponnese a maximum daily temperature of 40 degrees Celsius is predicted for the next ten days. At 8pm it’s 37 degrees. At 10pm, it’s just as hot. Richie, Terry, Sarah, Mark and I eat horta (wild greens), tomatoey green beans, and roast potatoes with lemon and rosemary on the balcony, wearing nothing but singlets, shorts and a gritty film of sweat: wash it off, and two minutes later it reappears. We wake up early and go to bed late, compensating for the lost hours of work between 11am and 7pm when it’s essential to take rest indoors – outside is no man’s land – only the locusts and cicadas can endure it.

Richie and I arrive at Horo Project off the back of 3 lively Greek urban couch surfing experiences. It’s jarring to be back on the land. We’re here to volunteer. Mark, Terry and Sarah have been on site for ten days, and are expecting another 6 people to arrive in as many days. It’s clear upon arrival that they are anxious and het up; not entirely sure what to do with themselves, or us. Within hours of arriving a meeting is called to decide upon house rules and a schedule for the week. The outcome is as follows: 6am rise; minimum 5 hours of work p/day; a small daily financial contribution for food; help in the daily running of the house and the cooking of meals; assistance with the course… and in return, we receive a place to stay and the opportunity to attend a 9-day Eco-Village Design Course for free.

For the following five days Richie and I are kept busy erecting yurts, making meals, tidying the garden, designing shady outdoor spaces, attending meetings, and negotiating a place for ourselves amid the unpredictable milieu of alter-egos, archetypes, and peacekeepers. Personalities emerge; other personalities emerge to keep them in-check; edges are pushed; fuses blow; common ground is found; and time for relaxation and celebration is agreed upon. This is what community-living is all about. It’s hard work, but I don’t know that we have an alternative – at least, not for the next three weeks.

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The Tao of Travel (Part 1)

 “It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”

– Alain de Botton The Art of Travel

Richie and I have been on the road for 115 days: long enough to begin observing the natural cycles and rhythms of our journeying – the emotions, the needs that arise, the types of experiences that we enjoy, and the edges of our personalities that rub uncomfortably and bring us into conflict with ourselves and one another.

As well as being a joyful process, travel is painful. The frequency with which we find ourselves in difficult and unfamiliar situations puts constant pressure on our ability to respond in open, loving and creative ways. Decision-making in particular is a fraught exercise, with wills and egos doing battle to win supremacy. Essentially, what we want is the same thing: to be happy and not suffer; and to find a route overland from England to Australia that will hold the most abundant opportunities for self growth and good times.

So far, we have met the challenges of the road with greater and lesser degrees of grace and good humour. In my experience, how willing we are to speak truthfully to one another about our fears and hopes, and how willing we are to address unhelpful/inharmonious behaviours and habits of mind, has a direct and proportionate bearing on how quickly we are able to return to a space of grace, goodwill and openness.

Finding ways to make long-term-travel meaningful and sustainable – in every sense of the word – is a challenge. We know we’ve found the right balance when we can raise our eyes to the horizon once more and smile at what we can’t see is coming… every moment like this is a joy and a homecoming. Releasing the ego’s grip on the self and surrendering to the intuitive wisdom of the road – the dao – or whatever it is you want to call it, is a rare and fleeting thing, but well worth it for a look in on an adventure of a lifetime.

Lessons from the Roads no.1
One of the most frequent patterns I’ve observed in myself over the last 115 days is the frequency with which I fall in and out of love with the process of travel. Disenchantment follows hot on the heels of elation, and no sooner have I convinced myself that I want to be a gypsy for life, than I begin to feel that life on the road is repellent to me, and must be brought to a speedy conclusion.

The initial phase of disenchantment usually coincides with our departure from a cherished place and our arrival in a new, unfamiliar location, or, being brought into contact with a particularly unwelcome reality or set of circumstances – for instance being deprived of a comfortable place to stay or a good square meal.

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