For two weeks now, we’ve been living off-the-grid, as we take part in our first volunteer project with ‘workaway.com’. The platform enables travellers to visit people’s homes and/or organisation’s and volunteer an agreed workload (often 5 hours’ p/day, p/week) in exchange for meals and accommodation. Really, it’s a win:win situation; enabling people to experience local culture first-hand as families invite you into their homes, as well, those hosting the projects can obtain extra sets of hands to help complete tasks.
During the course of our time at a family’s eco-project in Confluenica, Traful; about an hours drive from Bariloche in Argentina’s south-west, we’ve been (refreshingly) living off-the-grid, and learning all there is to living sustainably with few resources, and enjoying the slower pace of life.
It’s been an interesting experience, yet a beautiful one at that. Cooking on the heat of the flames with home grown produce, reusing to the nth degree, showering with solar heated water, or simply jumping into the river every other day. Here, it’s a lifestyle.
With that being said, as well having spent seven months on the road thus far with no more than 10kgs strapped to our backs (whilst all of our belongings are housed between friends and family back home in Australia, thank you), as well some impressionable conversations with others here; it’s instigated a lot of thoughts about minimalism, and how we can own/use less, to live better.
Cooking on the heat of the flames with home grown produce, reusing to the nth degree, showering with solar heated water, or simply jumping into the river every other day. Here, it’s a lifestyle.
This isn’t a new idea. We all know we need to better manage our carbon footprint. And on my part, it’s most definitely not the first time I’ve willed change for less consumables, however it’s much easier said than done. For example, prior to packing up life in sunny Australia, my professional life saw me managing the image and distribution of a reputable portfolio of (slow-fashion) international fashion brands for the A/NZ markets. Essentially connecting brands with people, formulating sales strategies and encouraging customers to consume, more. Despite the incredible longevity of the goods, season after season, I was advising my accounts reasons as to why they ‘needed’ more styles and why previous season articles were no longer relevant.
But in a previous time, they would be relevant. And similarly today, the goods remain applicable to their function. We however change our minds, chase trends and are increasingly geared to consume. A new dress for a party, a new outfit for the office, an off-the-cuff purchase because it was on sale. And this is just one example in an industry of many.
And whilst I loved my job, the opportunities and challenges it offered, toward the end it increasingly instilled a feeling of guilt. I was being paid to contribute to the bigger issue at hand, and one of the world’s most pollutant commodities – fashion.
Living off-the-grid has been a welcomed reminder to slow down and appreciate what is really important.
For too long, we’ve lived as though resources are endless and objects are expendable. If something breaks, we (more often than not) seek a replacement rather than fix it. If the food at home isn’t what ‘we feel like’, we buy something else. We drain energy sources with our three (or more) screens on at once, yet neither give our full attention to a single device. We are increasingly busy (or distracted) and with that, the world suffers.
Living off-the-grid has been a welcomed reminder to slow down and appreciate what is really important. Family, friends, rich conversations, common goals and the beauty of nature, on our side. Providing energy to fuel our days, respecting, reducing, reusing and sharing. It sounds simple, but its been a breath of fresh air to share stories and to have the complete attention of others in those moments. Wholeheartedly, without any form of technology to hind behind.
And with regards to all of the above, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m absolutely not a poster-girl for what the world needs. I’m too busy for my own good. I’m that person on my laptop with my phone next to me, playing music in the background, boiling the kettle too many times each day to fuel my instant coffee addiction, driving to work with 4 empty seats and flying across oceans. All the while contributing to mass kilograms of CO2 emissions being dumped into the atmosphere.
But we all need to acknowledge our social impact, and start somewhere to drive change, and create the conversations. Remaining true to our passions of course, but living within our means, and without those things that we actually do not need (but have gotten used to the luxury of having). Plastic bags, straws, lengthy hot showers, extensive air-conditioning, lights on in uninhabited rooms, and so on.
And so, this year, I’d like to make a better effort to shop locally to support small business. To get creative in the kitchen and reuse all food items, reduce waste and not buy any ‘new’ clothing items. As well, contribute more time and energy to charities that are dear to me, switch my phone off for lengthy periods at a time, AND – donate so so many of my belongings that are very kindly being minded by friends/family in my absence! What a relief.
Thanks for reading. I hope these words created a positive conversation for change in your own mind too. I’d love to hear how you’d like to improve your habits and contribute to a better place, for all of us.