THINGS I’M LEARNING

Notes from the road…

We leave Bosnia soon. This feels big. Huge. Massive. We’ve been here for 9 months. We’re settled. We’re content. We love the landscape, the animals, the people. To pack up and move on is sad. But we are on a journey and it’s time to go.

There’s been total peace. No traffic. No busyness of bustling cities. No brain melting noises. No mindless chatter. No fumes. No Corona. We were in a bubble. So what have I learnt during this meditation in nature?

1. Your body is the most important thing you have.
There is one thing that will be with you until you die – your body. It makes sense to care, nourish and be kind to our bodies. They go through a lot – stress, child bearing, distress, mental illness, travel, sickness, climate change, everyday cuts and scrapes. Being compassionate with ourselves and our bodies is key to wellness and recovery. A positive outlook, an inner grin, a sunny disposition and rest have been proven to help our bodies stay well and recover illness.

Our skin is our biggest, most sensitive organ yet we wear clothes made from oil – why? If we are sensitive to gluten and dairy then why do we not feel that sensitivity on our skin? We eat gluten-free but still wear plastic? We eat dairy-free but we still cover ourselves with harmful, poisonous materials? If we are so intent on eating organic why not extend that to our clothing? Listen to your body. It’s talking to you.

2. It’s normal to forget something you’ve already learnt.
Learning is continual. Even if you reach ‘enlightenment’ you’ll likely forget (life gets in the way) and need to relearn. When we started travelling three years ago we went through a rapid learning process. Everything about our city living, job filled, alcohol fueled lives changed. We were flung into a new world, an on-edge existence. Every day was unknown. We couldn’t predict anything or anyone. Every day something happened that we hadn’t encountered before.

An intense year and a half later we decided to cycle back home. After the long cycle across Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, we landed exactly in our past. And forgot nearly everything. We were back to old ways, old friends, old routines. We were frustrated but then we realised – this is totally normal. A friend spoke to us the other day about living back with his parents during the lock down. He said he reverted to his 15 year old self. I think this happens to all of us at some points in life. We think we’ve moved on, evolved and changed. And we have! But it is so easy to go back to old ways. It’s all a part of us. Old and new.

3. The importance of connecting with your environment.
To make explorations into your local landscape is both nourishing and healing. Walking over and over the same old ground might seem boring and unproductive but actually knowing each little nook and crany, knowing a place so well that you notice each and every small change is like a protective embrace. Like a warm familiar nest. To love a place is a holistic teacher. An enduring and lasting love.

4. Practicing patience is good for everyone around you.
Wanting things to happen immediately is often counter productive. Having time to mull over, relax into, fully imagine options is an opportunity to really get to know yourself and your needs. Of course it is so often that ‘to go with your gut’ is the right decision but I’m talking about having time to weigh up options between your head, heart and gut. Often things you thought you wanted will fade away with just a little time to put between yourself and an idea. Patience can be really difficult in a fast society but it’s worth practicing.

Our culture is based around impulse buying, fast food and rash decisions. I have often fallen foul of a quick decision but I have found that I appreciate things so much more and have less regret if I slow down. Slow food tastes amazing, not buying on impulse often leads to more creative solutions, considering options fully leads to a better understanding of the implications of individual decisions.

5. Understanding the importance of our elders is key to understanding real skills, community and cultural roots.
Key skills are being lost generation by generation. I have no grandparents left but I wonder what I could have learnt about their upbringing, way of life, outlooks and opinions, skills and cooking. It’s not often something we think about, even if our grandparents are alive and kicking, but I believe it’s worth talking to our elders, offering a listening ear, remembering  a story or two.

I used to volunteer on a project which was recording stories, reminiscences and memories of a generation of ex-mining families. This community had so much to say but no one knew until the project was in full swing. This generation are treated like they have nothing left to give. But in fact they have everything to give. And what they give is going to be lost forever if we don’t listen, respect and honour.

6. Try to enjoy life as it is right now.
It’s difficult to stop worrying sometimes but I do try to take a moment to sit with myself and remember that worry changes nothing, worry fixes nothing, worry neither helps nor hinders a situation. Today is today. Tomorrow might be better. Tomorrow might be worse. It’s important to notice that this moment right now may be one of those times you’ll remember and have fond memories of. Tomorrow everything in your world might have changed.

7. Remove yourself from damaging relationships.
Sometimes this might be a difficult job depending on your situation but it’s vitally important to find a way to care for your own mental health. A damaging relationship or situation can really affect you psychologically – mentally and emotionally. Although situations and people like this do offer huge life lessons.

Albert and I have been in a few hard situations that made us feel very vulnerable, uncomfortable and lead to a decision to leave that project, sometimes even when we had no where else to go. Being around racist, controlling, meglomaniac, homophobic et al personalities when you do not prescribe to those ideas or ideals is a recipe for disaster, violence or hate.

But at the same time, we learnt a lot about ourselves, our needs and wants from people, places and situations. We have come to the conclusion, for a community to really thrive you must have open, caring, invested, friendly, hard working, playful, interested, genuinely happy and fulfilled people. It’s easy to forgive, forget and move on from a difficult situation if everyone involved does this and has the same positive goal/s. For us, people are everything. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, only who you are with.

8. Sharing food = community.
Community is something that is cultivated. It is rarely immediate. It takes time, being together, sharing, communicating, communing, going through tough times as well as happy times. It takes a lot of hard work to sustain. I feel like a lot of community projects today come to a point  of near failure because society is just too individualistic now. It takes a certain kind of person/s to really go the long haul on a living community project. We have been to a few which were going through big issues, big changes, movings in and out and sometimes total desertion. For me one of the cornerstones to successful community is making and sharing food. Try it and see!

Even since we’ve been on the road, many strangers have shared food and stories with us. This is the greatest thing anyone can ever do for someone. It changes our whole day. It is a connection, a real human viseral connection. It says ‘we are here’. It acknowledges our journey, our highs and lows, that we are alive. This might sound pretty selfish on our part but we are travellers in foreign countries, we are stared at, speeded past, stood lost by a hedge, peeing behind bushes, sweaty or freezing. So it’s nice to have someone see us. It’s nice to have a curious person actually ask us something instead of staring. It’s nice that some slows down to go round us and toot in solidarity. It’s nice to have some ask if we need help or directions. It doesn’t take much to make a person feel good. A bread roll, a toot, a wave, a smile, a kind word. Try it and see!

Want to support us?
If you feel inspired by our journey we would love if you could share our blog or a particular post on social media, follow us on Instagram @the_fat_earth. Or you can support us by donating via GoFundMe here.

We would also be happy to hear from you, so get in touch with ideas, communities, places, people or even in solidarity with the small change we are trying to make in an uncertain world.

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