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A Return to Life on the Farm

Fake news. Our Embarrassment-in-Chief would have you believe that this is something new, crafted by the media expressly to make him look bad. First of all, he’s doing a fine job of that all by himself, and secondly, fake news has been around as long as news itself. Certainly truth leaks into the equation from time to time, but the media in all of its various forms has long been used as an instrument to tweak the truth in ways that suits a certain agenda. The internet definitely hasn’t slowed that instrument down. In fact, it serves as a massive invitation to everyone on the planet to join the fun and twist the facts whenever it serves their purpose. Of course I’d like to believe that most of us humans are pure of heart and generally doing our best to represent the truth, but still, discernment is a most critical tool in this day and age.

We’re very much finding this to be the case in the realm of Workaway, a web-fueled mechanism for connecting travelers with hosts for work/trade arrangements all over the world. The arrangements vary, but a worker is asked to exchange his/her labor (typically 5 hours per day, 5 days per week) for room and board.  As Haruka and I get deeper and deeper into our travels, Workaway is proving to be a crucial tool for extending our travels while simultaneously giving us the opportunity to visit farms and permaculture projects all over the world. Free accommodation and food is obviously helpful, but our main motivation for doing Workaway is to expand our knowledge and skills, while physically engaging our bodies and minds in something productive. Workaway is still a relatively new adventure for us, as we’ve only been to four different spots, and while I’m certain that there are countless amazing hosts out there, false advertising is as much a thing in Workaway as it is in the rest of the world.

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The Land of Beautiful Recklessness

 

This past week, since we landed in Italy, has felt like a decompression period, allowing our bodies to recalibrate to the 7 hour time difference and giving our perspectives the space to adjust to cultural differences. Initially, I felt a tad melancholy leaving Mexico behind. Nation of chefs, artists, musicians and lovers. Land of eggs sold individually, free tortillas with every meal and snack vendors on every bus ride. A place where strangers greet strangers with “holas”, people refer to you as amigo whether they know you or not and the typical greeting is a hug (with a peck on the cheek if a woman is involved). Some adjectives that readily come to mind when thinking about the people of Mexico are carefree, tolerant and unobtrusive. Perhaps some foreigners may interpret those same traits as lazy, indifferent and unhelpful, but I would postulate that those folks haven’t taken the time or allowed themselves to slide below the surface a bit and get to know the true Mexican character.

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Workaway in Valle De Bravo

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After nearly 3 months of staying in Airbnbs and guesthouses, we shifted gears into the realm of Workaway. Workaway is a global network that connects hosts with workers through its website. Each host has their own set of guidelines and expectations for how their arrangements are set up, but the generally accepted parameters for a Workaway stint are that the worker puts in 5 hours of labor per day, 5 days a week in exchange for accommodations and food during their stay with the host, with no money exchanged. Workaway is similar to its predecessor, WWOOF, but where WWOOF is primarily focused on placing workers on organic farms and other sustainable agriculture projects, Workaway is much broader in it’s scope. A Workaway host may request a wide variety of tasks to be performed, from farming to construction to language teaching to child care to helping out in a hostel, and any number of other odd jobs.

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This was our first Workaway experience of many to come. We have 3 lined up in Slovenia this summer, and we’re working on setting up a few more in Croatia and Montenegro. Besides being an ideal vehicle for sharing our skills and also picking up new skill sets, it’s an excellent way to extend our travels, as virtually all of our basic expenses are covered. And after 3 months of not working at all, it feels good to get our hands dirty again, not to mention the satisfaction of getting something productive done. A 25 hour work week with 2 days off gives us plenty of time to explore the area, which is why we choose Workaways in regions that are beautiful, interesting and ripe with exploration opportunities. And certainly Valle De Bravo fits that description perfectly.

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Slow Travel

Years ago, our dear friend, Carol Hewitt introduced us to the concept of ‘Slow Money‘… an ingenuitive alternative to conventional money lending from banks. ‘Slow Money’ is driven by private citizens who sponsor local projects, often in the realms of farming and food by providing loans to be paid off slowly over time with low interest rates. Indeed ‘Slow Money’ enabled us to purchase a walk-behind tractor which gave a huge boost to our farm business and especially our rice growing project at the time. And certainly ‘Slow Money’ played in beautifully with the ‘Slow Food’ nature of Edible Earthscapes. ‘Slow Food‘ blossomed into an international movement over 30 years ago as a counterpoint to the fast food industry’s increasing presence around the globe. ‘Slow Food’ as an organization, provides education and support for businesses like Edible Earthscapes in what is literally a food revolution to take back our food systems. It represents a return to a more traditional and certainly slowed down approach to producing, preparing and consuming food.

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Jason mowing the cover crop with the new walk behind tractor in 2013

As Edible Earthscapes evolves from a farm/edible landscaping biz and into a 2 person, global traveling crew, we carry on with the values of ‘Slow Money’ and ‘Slow Food’, and embrace all things ‘Slow’. ‘Slow’, as we see it implies mindfulness within everything we do, and it turns travel into a deep, contemplative and fully conscious experience. In the past when we embarked upon lengthy travels, it was about covering as much ground as possible and squeezing as many sights and experiences as we could into any given country. This time around, our focus is on delving deep into each location we visit, cultivating relationships with the people we meet and absorbing the fine nuances of the cuisines and the cultures of each magical spot we happen upon…. Slow Travel.

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