On April 28, 2013, we began a year-long expedition, by RV, across the USA visiting low-impact organic farms and eco-villages to learn best practices in sustainable farming, construction, energy, water and waste management. This trip is to educate and prepare us for establishing our own sustainable, low-impact, eco-retreat and training center.
Join us while we chronicle our expedition through photography and word. In addition to gaining hands-on training, this journey will provide substantive content for several creative projects we have in mind.
How We Got Here
We were told to work hard, follow the rules and play nicely with others and we could live the American Dream. By most accounts, we were on our way: We owned a beautiful home in the foothills of Los Angeles. We earned good incomes. We worked from home and set our own hours. And our free time was full of friends, family, movies, music, trips, barbecues and parties. And…
We are also acutely aware that this dream is simply not sustainable. Our yearly mortgage payments were more than the national median income. Our IRA accounts had been decimated. And food, energy and medical expenses are forever on the rise. Every time we did the math, the answer was the same – we will never be able to retire. This fiscal reality, combined with a growing awareness of how the production of food, energy, water and waste is literally destroying our planet, made it difficult to justify our lifestyle. So, what to do?
This time, rather than putting our heads down, working harder and watching more years fly past in a soul-numbing blur, we decided to make a radical change.
How to Address These Challenges?
We resisted the gravity of familiar and comfortable choices. We challenged ourselves to let go of preconceived notions of how things should be. We asked: What do we value? What do we enjoy? What has meaning for us? How do we wish to spend our days? Or the next five years? Or the rest of our lives?
When we truly listened to our own voices, we understood exactly what we needed to do:
- Align our actions and behaviors with our values and let them be driven by the labors we love.
- Ensure that our choices become a part of a sustainable solution – economically, socially and environmentally.
- Ground the foundation for our lives in fairness, compassion, and generosity.
We love to cook and entertain. We continuously invest in personal growth. We enjoy gardening, music, art, and community.
With these core values and interests in mind, we decided to build a community around a low-impact farm and retreat center – a sustainable eco-village where people will live and learn together. A place to grow fresh, healthy food in a sustainable environment. A place to focus on creativity, community-building and cooperation. A place that encourages and supports exploration yet recognizes the beauty and benefit of just being.
Moving on Down the Road
Though we both have the pioneering spirit (and the faith and will to jump in feet first), we agreed that we needed hands-on practical skills in organic farming, sustainable building, water and waste management practices and community building. While researching information on similar existing communities, JC stumbled upon WWOOF.com (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) an organization that pairs organic farmers across the USA with individuals who offer their labor in exchange for experience, training and room and board. And, with that, our plan was set in motion…
We bought a clean, well-running used RV (well, it did drive 5,000 miles before needing a new motor!) and, in 2013, we lived and learned at WWOOF farms, eco-villages and intentional communities across the USA. In April 2014, we traveled to Ecuador and Nicaragua to locate a place to develop our retreat center.
A Personal Revolution
When we tell people our plan, most of them smile politely and wish us well. We explain that many people are turning to small-scale farming or craft businesses as a way of making a living; that intentional communities are developing and growing every day; that people across the planet are becoming more and more dissatisfied with the way their institutions and societies operate.
Still, they smile and nod. Some even say that we are “brave” or that they are jealous of the break we were making. That’s why we decided to document our journey in this blog, so that people can see what this sort of change looks like.
We are not the type to march in the streets or rise up in armed rebellion. We are engaged in the overthrow of the mind and lives molded by conventional consumerism – a much dicier campaign and a constant battle. But it’s what we can do and it’s a good place to start.
We hope you’ll follow along.