Things we have learned about life during our recent travels…
Taking another look at life, from a different view, is quite challenging. As you are probably aware from our blog posts, we literally sold our entire life, jumped on a plane and flew to another country to “get a different view”. Well, it was definitely worth it!
Maybe you are not exactly ready to follow in our footsteps, so taking a moment to think about what we have learned and apply the ideas to your life, just might be a little easier 😉
1. Sense of Community. Seems simple, but if you think back 20 years ago, we knew almost every family in the neighborhood, even possibly the town (depending on the size). We ran around with our friends in packs and had weekend gathering with the families and sometimes, even the whole neighborhood. Remember block parties? Family shindigs?
Our life was not like that anymore. Just before we left, we were busy working, running the kids to school and to their extra activities, making dinner and getting ready for bed…just to do it all over again the next day. This left little room for connecting with neighbors, friends and family. If we did have a little time, it was only a very small few we would make time for. This is sad, because we lost our sense of community.
Once we arrived in New Zealand, we began mixing with the locals and making connections. The more we chatted with people, the more we realized they were all saying, “my friend ….. knows …. and can help you with …..”. Basically, people knew almost everyone in their town or close to it because, when someone needed something, they knew who to get help from.
The other thing which is common here, is trade. Yep, old school trading one’s services or products for another’s services or products.
Think about that on the most basic level. Before the time of big grocery and hardware stores, you went to the little shops in town and talked to “Joe” about needing to fix “xyz”. You might not have all of the money, but “Joe” knew who you were and would just “add it to your account”, let you borrow his or would come over to help after work. This is that sense of community, supporting the local businesses who were there when you needed them.
We realized the whole time we were running around, working, taking the kids here and there, we were actually in our own little world, no connection really to anyone, just a superficial one. Could I depend of those superficial connections in time of need? Probably not.
2. Connection to Farmers. Ok, this is sort of the same as “Sense of Community”, but the difference is, we need to know where our food comes from. I am sure you have heard this cry before, but in reality, it is true.
A long time ago (30 years or more), my grandmother would take us to multiple farms to pick up vegetables, fruits and meats. I actually do not remember a grocery store trip with her. She knew how to get her produce directly from the people who produced them. What a concept!
Well, when times got busy, the big grocery store was a quick and easy way to get everything we needed. But we lost the direct connection to our farmers and the ability to question their practices of how things are done. Once the farmers supplied the large grocery stores, their processes had to change to deal with the larger volume required. Thus, opening the door for practices which may not exactly be healthy for us and our families (such as using chemical sprays instead of just planting crops the bugs hated next to another crop, etc…).
Anyway, here in New Zealand, we started a practice of getting 80% or more of our weekly groceries from our local farmers market. This does several things: allows us to question if they utilize organic practices or what types of sprays are used and when they use them, the cost of our grocery bills are dramatically reduced, we get to know our producers personally and support them directly! It is a win/win situation because the grocery store is still getting 20% of our support, too 🙂
So, take a moment and do a quick internet search for “’your town’s name’ farmers market”. It is best to do it in the summer, while produce is plentiful and farmers are more out and about. This way you will be able to ask them if they also have produce through the winter, using a greenhouse or something to that effect. It never hurts to ask 🙂
3. The BIG O.E. What is the “BIG O.E.”, you might ask? It is the “Big Overseas Experience”. When I heard about this, I was just shocked! The overseas experience is when a young adult graduates high school or college and leaves the country to travel, by themselves or with friends. Yes, seriously, as young as 18 years old!!!
The way the “Kiwi’s” look at it is, this is the time the young adults experience what life has to offer, to grow and learn about what they might want to pursue in their future career and to fully take care of themselves through immersion. How in the world do they afford this, right? Here I am thinking the parents save and save, then give their kids a chunk of money to live off of….uh, NO, not at all. The kids actually work and save for the plane ticket to the first country, along with a little extra cushion, then nothing else (most of the time).
Now the next question is, how do they live with no extra money for posh hotels and food? That is where I learned the key to all this…. youth up to 29 years old (on average) are allowed an open work visa in just about any country. With this, they fly to a country, locate a backpackers/hostel place to stay for inexpensive (dorm like room style) and read the boards for temporary/seasonal employment or even “woof” it. If a person is interested in a certain field, it is their opportunity to intern. The reason this all works, is because, ideally, the person shouldn’t really have bills to pay for, except their food and dorm style lodging.
Another way to get around with more varied types of work is “woofing”. Woofing is when a local business or private person needs help and is willing to give room and board (food) in exchange for work. This might be gardening, farming, working in a factory, nannying (watching children), etc.. These “kids” actually make it work!
It is really amazing to have conversations with these travelers. We have met people as young as 18 from Germany to 24 year olds from France. They too know about this “Big O.E.”, but it’s not as common as it is for New Zealanders. The knowledge these kids have about responsibility and the sense of a greater world is just dumbfounding. When I have a chance to chat with these adventures, it is always a highly intelligent, worldly conversation. I am very impressed each and every time.
There are some travelers who may even know three or more languages, too. One young couple traveling, started their journey from France to Russia, then Mongolia to China to Nepal, then to Vietnam and Thailand, finally landing in New Zealand. Now, WoW!!!! And they were only 23 years old!!! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
So, what are your thoughts on all of these recent lessons we’ve learned? Do you have any thoughts, questions or epiphanies to share? I look forwards to everyone’s comments and hope to learn from you, too!
For now…give bees a chance and plant bee friendly plants without herbicides or insecticides!