Musical accompaniment if you so desire! Noah and the Whale’s L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fbGUEelmzxo
So here we are in Guatemala, deep in cacao country. I’ve just finished a week’s introduction to Permaculture, a wonderfully practical path to creating a sustainable future for humanity. Our vision for the next chapter of our lives when we return home is taking shape, thanks to the inspiring people, philosophies and elements around us. I will share more about this in time but for now I want to contextualise this adventure. It seems strange to go back in time for my second post. But to go forwards, on this occasion, requires going back to the beginning…
It was a massive struggle to leave the security of my life in Bristol behind. It’s one thing to go travelling when you’re 18, or 27, quite another when you’re 37! in the run up to leaving fears about our future plagued me and doubts danced ever closer, so much so that I seriously considered cancelling the trip a month or so before we left. I wrote the following the night I left home and arrived in Mexico City, sitting in the blue, sleepless glow of the tablet screen, having leapt but not yet landed:
In the course of the last month I have willingly undergone the task of dismantling the apparatus and infrastructure of my life. As designs for living go, it was a pretty good one- newly married, living in a city of beauty, generosity, alternative edge, abundant creativity, and grit, with a great quality of life, a balance of meaningful self-employed and charitable work, and a gaggle of kind and incorrigible friends. Why would I, as my mother so aptly put it, “do this to myself?”
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think about that as I’ve been ploughing through the boxes in my attic, the bank accounts, the bills, mobile phone contracts (I find a special brand of rage is reserved within myself for “service” providers insisting on locking you into 24 month long contracts that require 24 hour phone calls to harvest the slightest scrap of information from, let alone make any actual changes to), drawing to an end with my valued clients, tearing myself away from my role and riotously enjoyable colleagues at the Southmead project, packing up our beloved preposterously pink house in Montpelier, and saying goodbye to all our friends in the city that has been my happy home for the last 4.5 years. What a wonderful time it’s been!
Of course I left too many of the logistics to the last minute and nearly caused myself a heart-attack. But chaotic disorganisation notwithstanding, change is hard. Because doing so requires effort – ample effort of the practical sort and, as it also turns out, of the mind.
I thought it would get easier as I got older to tolerate the uncertainties of change. But I suppose that as responsibilities increase – for a property, for a professional role, for a relationship, and the future possibility of a family – it is only to be expected that I should be looking more than ever for security. I have wondered whether this choice to travel is in fact worse than self-indulgent; perhaps it is positively irresponsible? Why would I throw away such a wonderful situation in Bristol for a job-prospect-less Devon-filled fantasy to return to? Yes, we’ll have fun. We might even grow a bit and have some funky ideas! But what then? If we’re to try to start a family surely this is the time for maximising security both in terms of work prospects and savings – which will of course be long-gone by the time we get back!
So, what really, given the stakes, are we doing this for? In honesty I underestimated, more than anything, the emotional challenge of this choice to uproot and cast ourselves to the wind. There have been periods of, frankly, terror, as well as lashings of self-recrimination for not planning and executing that which needed to be done more effectively. (One serious oversight was not organising a postal vote – we’re disenfranchised and unwittingly joining Russell Brand’s revolution! I admire his overall perspective but not his (lack of) methodology!)
Oddly enough it was only a few weeks ago that I really admitted to myself how precarious our position in quitting work, going travelling and relocating at the same time had made us. Only then could I properly engage with the pressing doubts and dark possibilities that were clamouring in my heart. Facing them, as is so often the case, has enabled me to see them for what they are and begin to sort the wheat of genuine insight from the chaff of fear-based conditioning that says “Life is about material security and conventional, linear progress alone…”
It is now two months since I wrote that. But I am so relieved that I did not allow “good sense” to prevail (I genuinely considered cancelling the trip, the move, everything! Luckily it was too late.) I don’t know how I’ll feel when I get back but I’m pretty sure that the experiences, insights and relationships that I’ve been blessed with, even up to this point, will go with me – cradled – to my grave. Because what is of ultimate importance in this precious life of ours cannot be measured in numbers, or security in material possessions or prospects alone.
In my experience there is a magic that, when given the opportunity, begins to weave itself through the fabric of our lives, aligning supply with demand, need with opportunity and, if we’re actively open, dreams with reality. I’ve experienced this humbling generosity before – when I asked for psychological help and received phenomenal support, when I moved to Australia and had a two year blast, when I moved back and opportunities just opened up, when I risked leaving London and a solid career path behind and struck out across the open countryside to Land’s End.
As the saying goes, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” In finding the courage to create one I’m experiencing that life loves an opening. It’s a simple principle that doesn’t compute in our heavy-handed, force-fuelled industrial growth society, but which can be observed occurring all around us in nature, nonetheless. Chop a tree down and the forest floor comes alive. Leave an empty parking lot alone and weeds wind their way up. Soon enough something edible will appear, at least for other life forms. The abundance that is the natural order of things is astonishing. Money doesn’t grow on trees. But, when you think about it, all the raw materials that generate “wealth” and sustain our crazy economy arise from the natural world.
It is my contention that this abundance is available to us human animals as well. We have just received five weeks of it on the shores of lake Atitlan – friends, hummingbirds, chocolate, beauty in spades! Very sadly our time here is almost done. But where better to continue this instruction in abundance than the land of Freedom itself? A-merica here we come!