Here comes part 2 of my blog series about reflecting on my travel insights from my 14 months in South-America. If you’re curious about part 1, jump here: Accepting myself without make-up.
This week’s reflective post talks about my first experience of working as a volunteer on a farm in Brazil. The farm was a recently created small area by a local who had traveled the world for several years before deciding to take over his ancestor’s land. He had created a space for people to practice meditation and yoga, set up a cafe with live-concerts and a mandala garden for people to handpick vegetables of their choice. I spent about 2 weeks there. The farm was located along a dirt road and we were not able to go anywhere. Food was purchased in town twice a week but we mostly ate what we were able to harvest. It was a very simple and no-frills place filled with people who put their hearts into this kind of work and worked on the mindset of living a simple lifestyle.
I’m going to comment below each of the ‘bullet points’ I had written regarding this place.
Leaving the first farm…
Some reflections on what I experienced and learnt.
Most of them are things I knew but you get new awareness about them when you’re exposed to these situations first-hand:
1. Farming is really hard work and I have lots of respect for people who choose this as a profession. It’s so easy to just grab veggies from a tray at the store. But if you have to grow them from a seed to a seedling to a fully grown plant (and harvest when you need food to cook with) you realize how much work is behind this and how much we take a large choice and beautiful veggies for granted (and how we complain when things aren’t available/look beautiful/change in price due to bad weather/harvest)
This had been my first farm-stay during this trip. I had experienced some in Japan a few years before, so it didn’t feel like a completely new territory.
It did, however, bring a fresh wave of awareness regarding food production for me. I was reminded that our perfect-looking food often means that it is ‘modified’ or ‘adjusted’ in a way that makes us consumers buy it. The food that we are buying in the supermarket often isn’t 100% natural, even though we might look at a salad and picture it coming right from a small farm’s field, that’s being farmed by hand.
It also sparked the wish for me to have my own place at one point, where I can grow fruit and veggies. I’m still more than far from that, but looking at farmland now, makes me wish that I could just knock on the door and help out for a few hours, digging in the dirt, turning beds, planting seeds, harvesting and feeling that close connection with the land…
2. Living with little can be as rewarding as living in an overflow. You work with what you have and can be totally satisfied with it. This refers to food for example: my cravings for sweets and snacks almost completely vanished as they simply weren’t available or had to be made from scratch. And the little snacks I brought with me became a real treasure ❤️ you definitely appreciate what you have a lot more! (And someone baking a chocolate cake can make your week!)
Well…. Back in Germany, I am totally enjoying eating all the good chocolate that can be bought here (It is chocolate heaven in the supermarket!).
The living with little still applies to my life though. I moved to a new city on the train with a small suitcase and my backpack and have hardly increased my possessions – and thanks to Corona, I’m not tempted much anyway. Joke aside, I don’t think it will change my shopping habits as I have tried to reuse as much as possible, even things I bought 10 years ago for my first flat in the Netherlands and that I’ve kept since then!
3. I tackled my fear of cooking for other people (especially a group of people). I love cooking but mainly for myself (I can take my own judgment about my food :P). At the farm I had to cook for the volunteers sometimes and it was excruciatingly difficult for me in the beginning. I wasn’t familiar with some spices and the limited selection of ingredients that I would have usually used. However, something in my attitude and mindset shifted and after a while, I just didn’t think about my fear anymore but just went on with the cooking! (still don’t think I’m the greatest at cooking but at least I can feed hungry mouths ;)).
This was one aspect I had worked on during the year. I am quite an introvert and like living by myself. I love cooking but I am not used to cooking for other people much. When I cook for myself and don’t like it, then I just have to take it the way it is. I remember growing up surrounded by people who feared other people’s judgment about their cooking very much. It was always seen as a scary thing to do, almost being sure the other people wouldn’t like it.
I’m aware that this aspect stands for a much bigger issue – the fear of criticism and of being rejected for the way one is. Again, this is probably something most people struggle with and it might express it for me in my fear of cooking for others. As always, confronting the fear helps and realizing that if being judged, that it would be the meal that would be subject of the criticism and not your own person directly.
4. The biggest obstacle in life is yourself. You’re able to make yourself feel the worst and the best at the same time, depending on your attitude. And yes, that’s a lot easier said than done and a real skill to (continuously) work on in life 😉
Now off to the next farm and new experiences!
Hm, wise-me. I don’t think I can add much more to this other than that I’m hyper-aware of this every single day. I have to watch out, to not beat myself up too much and show compassion towards my own ‘flaws’ and I hope so do all of you. <3
Back next week! Stay safe, healthy and sane everyone!