Grow food, live local and love life

Posted by Robin Hallett on Fri 14 April 2017

How personal experience and philosophies shape transition

I recently joined Transition Towns Maroondah. I have always been moderately conscientious in regards to the environment and hence had heard of the movement but now that my family and I are settled here for the foreseeable future, it made sense to get involved. Why? Well, it all has to do with perspective.

Life can be busy. Sometimes it feels like it is nothing but busy. One thing after another, usually before the first has paused, but we do what we must because rent isn’t cheap, bills keep going up and it’s hard to get what you need to feed the family for under a hundred dollars, some would say impossible. Let’s not even start on the cost of fuel…

Life can be busy. Sometimes it feels like it is nothing but busy.

What is the cost of fuel? Seriously? I don’t know. I have a bike. My wife has a bike and my son is way too young to drive. I have never owned a car and to be honest, I am ok with that. It gives me something that I think we all need a little more of; a different perspective. Yes, life is busy and the cost of living in Melbourne has gone up but what we ‘have to do’ is not as black and white as we think. We can change a few simple aspects of our lives and it can give us more choice. More moments. More life. Let me tell you a couple of personal anecdotes that have played a big part in the choices I have made and allowed me to live, for the most part, contently.

My parents were the quintessential hippies. They saved up a bit, bought a property in the forest and built a wood house. As kids the four of us wintered a year in a tent while the walls and roof were finished. Mum has tales of shaking the frost off the blankets. We didn’t have mains power until I was in year twelve. We had only tank water and a lot of hand me downs and op-shop clothes. We had a composting toilet and goats. Written like that it sounds like we had it pretty rustic and limited out in the forest, it really wasn’t though and I don’t really remember ever going without. Mum and Dad always used to say, ‘Budget the luxuries first.’

My childhood was filled with good friends, fires, fresh food and neighbours.

Every Friday for as long as I could remember neighbours would drop around and have a chat in the evening. Sometimes just a couple of people would drop in for a coffee and on others we would end up with thirty or more people over, music and wine flowing freely and kids flitting in and out of the light of the campfire. We lived below the poverty line all our childhood but I never once felt poor. I didn’t know it at the time but I was lucky enough to have gained a different point of view from the very beginning.

In my sixth year of university, I was feeling indecisive about my future, so I went on exchange to Mexico for six months. It was my first trip abroad and I went armed with zero Spanish, no experience and only knowing one person....and it was awesome. It was new, vibrant, challenging and different in every way. I studied hard but I lived harder, soaking Mexico in like a sponge and as a result, the biggest shock I had while travelling, was surprisingly, coming home. I suddenly felt like the people and culture I had lived in all my life was so different to what I had previously thought and I felt angry. I suddenly saw that what I had thought was normal, was actually indulgent and wasteful in so many ways. Life here seemed so easy and yet all everyone did was complain. It took me a long time to settle back in and it really showed me the importance of perspective, knowing that what you or I may think of as normal, isn’t necessarily so.

My wife and I were in Japan when we fell pregnant and decided, probably for the first time in our relationship, that we were going to need a plan. We needed a series of years that were reasonably predictable, within which to bring our new little guy. So we had a big talk, we loved life on the road, we loved our life and if we were going to throw it all away and ‘settle down’ then we had to do it in our way. We talked for a long, long time and made a decision, that as long as we had our perspectives, we would take with us the seeds of what brought us such joy in our travels and plant them where ever it was we settled.

So here we are today, feet touching the ground in Maroondah with our perspective intact and loving life. How? First...People. Wherever we have been it has been people that have made our stay amazing. We have always been found, created or discovered amazing communities who have taken us in wherever we went and we wanted this for our son. So making strong links with others was the first step. Next was learning. Learning is everywhere. On the road everything is new and you always have to adapt and thrive. It makes us smile to be constantly filling our minds and our lives with more knowledge. We foster learning and enquiry in all that we do. The last was our surroundings. Overseas, we hiked to the tops of mountains and travelled in oceans. We were constantly surrounded by amazing nature and incredible architecture. The environment, nature, life, became a really important focus for us and we decided that wherever we were, our family would try and be in constant contact with nature. With those things in mind, every day forward we continue to grow food, live local and love life part of that is becoming active members of transition towns.