Wednesday, 29th December, 2010
Oakura, New Zealand
*(Somehow I've gone almost 2 months without realizing that I was pronouncing "Oakura" wrong. I've just never heard a local say it until a few days ago- everyone here calls it "The Village." It is, in fact, "oh-AHK-oo-rah." Who knew?)
With all the downtime Matt and I have had here in Taranaki, we've been doing a lot of reading, researching, brainstorming, and generally thinking about what kinds of things we'd like to have in our life when we get home to the states and in the more distant future. We aren't in a position to make any concrete plans at the moment, but this time of no work and lots of relaxation has encouraged us both to think about what dreams and goals we have for our future and what kinds of things we'd like out of our life. We've checked out loads of books from the library in New Plymouth, read all kinds of blogs, and talked endlessly about our ideas and inspirations. It's all still just in dream form, but since a lot of it ties in with simple living and some of the things I've written about in the past, I thought I'd share a bit of it here, with Matt's blessing.
The next two years after we get home will involve me being in school, which will ideally be a time for both of us to learn and absorb as much as we can about public health, farming, nutrition, conservation, green living, environmental impact, and all kinds of skills like carpentry, construction, animal husbandry, land management, and all manner of other things that will help us be as self-sufficient as possible. Long term ideas involve a small farm in the Willamette Valley, strawbale and earthbag buildings, a B&B/Farmstay where we can educate our guests about the benefits of local economy and fresh natural food, and taking over a farm whose owner can no longer work the land but wants to ensure that it remains in use for farming.
I've been thinking a lot about budgeting, simple living skills, frugality, and self sufficiency for a variety of reasons. I already do a lot of these things but aspire to do more, because they are good for the earth, the economy, my health and that of my family, and, I believe, for the community. However, also on my mind is the fact that next fall I will be entering a 2 year Masters Degree program without much in the way of savings to pay for it. I have been prepared to go into debt for this degree since before I took the GREs, but I want to stack up as little debt as possible, and that means keeping as much of what I earn as I can, and putting that toward school loans, and eventually towards buying property. The more I can make with my own hands rather than pay for, and the more I can cut costs in my life, the faster I will get out of debt and the sooner I will be able to own a home and be financially secure.
Here are some notes I've scribbled in my journal while reading various simple living blogs for inspiration:
When I get home- find time for:
-Making bread regularly
-Making granola again!
-Try making my own soap and household cleaners (should have tried this long ago)
-Making household linens as needed
-Handmake all gifts
School expenses: make do with what I have, buy textbooks secondhand if at all possible, use the library and sites like half.com to their full advantage!
-don't buy new school supplies unless absolutely necessary. I know I have a big stash of paper and pens back home, there's no reason not to use those- duh, but I need the reminder. New school supplies are enticing!
-ALWAYS pack lunch. If I want coffee, I need to take it with me in a thermos.
-Do my very best to land a general assistantship at school, i.e. lowered tuition
It might seem funny that we are spending so much time thinking about life back home while we are over here, but I am really happy that we are getting the inspiration from our time here- we have had more experiences with farming than we've ever had before, are witnessing a totally different way of life and attitude towards agriculture, and being so far away from home and a place to call our own makes us that much more aware of what we want from home when we get there.
Of course, we know almost nothing about what our situation will be when we get home- we'll be pretty poor, will have to find work and a place to live, and really have no idea what is in store for us, apart from the fact that I will start school at the end of September. But apart from our ideas for the more distant future, most of the things we've been discussing are things we can put into practice no matter where we end up. Of course we'd love to rent a house where we can have a big garden and chickens and have the place to ourselves, but whether we get that or whether we end up with a tiny apartment with 15 square feet of yard space, we will be able to live simply, cook well and shop effectively, make things for ourselves rather than buy them, and lead a purposeful and deliberately frugal but full life.
It does seem a little incongruous to be talking about lack of spending and all while we are over here on a journey that is almost guaranteed to be a money suck, but honestly I don't regret a single cent that has gone towards our experience in New Zealand. We are learning so much, are meeting so many amazing people and seeing such incredible places, and we are getting exactly what we hoped to get from this trip- farming experience, loads of surfing, and shaking all the sillies out so going home and being settled sounds really good. And we have a good deal more of this journey in front of us before we return to the states, and I am glad for that. It's just really fun to look forward to what we want from life when we get back stateside! Sometimes it takes being far away from everything you know to put everything in perspective and make you see what it is you really want.