So, back in September we left Stroud on what we had anticipated would be our big travels as a family. There was no definite plan, but the overall idea was to get away for a while, to see some places, to get in some extended time as a family, and to explore ideas for how we can live more sustainably and happily in the future.
We said goodbye to our friends and set off in Olive the VW with the intention of being away for around six months, until the end of March. Though of course we had some apprehensions about leaving friends and family and familiarity for so long, we believed that we would be fine, on the whole, on our travels.
Well, the reality was a little different. We spent the first three weeks travelling from the north to the south of Spain via the western half of the country, as has been documented here. This period had lots of lovely elements to it: we enjoyed some wonderful weather, had some good conversations, the girls played lots and engaged with a reel of new experiences in their customarily brilliant, inquisitive, playful and hilarious ways. But the ‘travelling” bit of our big travels was not working as well for us as we’d thought. Perhaps we are just a bunch of home-loving people. We craved the feeling of being settled somewhere. We very soon tired of the road (with apologies to Andy Irvine and Woody Guthrie); of the unsatisfactory food we were buying with great inefficiency from dismal supermarkets; and of the quite nice but very costly food and drink we were buying at various cafes as we visited places like Salamanca, Mérida, Vejer, Cádiz. We encountered homesickness: not really for home life or for the delights of the English autumn, but for the company of our dear friends and family.
We still had our intention to stay on the farm near Órgiva and join in with the farm work there for a while. As it turned out – as Jenny has written here already – we were very happy at La Jimena. In return for our work and participation in farm life we were being cared for and fed extremely good, organic, delicious food. We were able to experience living in a yurt which was so much more comfortable than living in a tent; with a warm stove, solar-electric lighting, a table and chairs, we were able to spend cosy autumn evenings having precious time for us, as well as a settled rhythm of outdoor life during the day.
But we could not stay here for months and months. We agreed we had no desire to go travelling elsewhere in Europe in the middle of winter. We could have headed south to the Canarias, or even Uganda, but the draw of returning home to Stroud was clearly winning out.
As a consequence of just a few weeks of La Jimena life, with many interesting conversations, we had mentally moved on to thinking and talking together a lot about how we want to live in the future. We have some principles and proposals that we want to try to put into action, for an ecologically and emotionally sustainable way of being, where we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, reduce our dependence on working many hours in paid employment in order to pay bills etc, where we achieve an equitable gender balance in our patterns of work and domestic life, where we support our children in their learning through giving them our time where needed, giving them lots of opportunities, as well as time to be children as they wish; where we can set up healthy rhythms and tempos of life for ourselves.
We’ve been really focused recently on “what’s next” and we’re itching to start doing it, hopefully somewhere in or near our home of Stroud. Meanwhile we have of course continued to enjoy being part of things on this farm, this remarkable place; but our travels have certainly been far from big in a global sense! I hope nobody wants their money back from the farewell party we hosted in September.
We’ve discovered the joys of roots and rhythms, of place and participation, of connections and care for deeper needs. We have discovered that we are strong people in many ways but we are also fragile without our supporting networks of people, places and practices.
So, we have indeed been on a big journey. In fact, as we return to chilly, flooded Britain, I think our big journey has really only just begun.