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If the COVID-19 crisis hadn’t started one year ago, we wouldn’t have discovered how fragile our systems, such as the economy, healthcare, food, and livelihood, are.
Also, in my case, I wouldn’t have recognized how life in the countryside is the best thing that happened to me. In fact, I see it as a step closer to becoming more resilient to crises.
When I read about families cramped between apartment walls in the city when we all were forced by law to stay in our homes, I knew this would be a huge challenge and a danger. Not being able to go outside jeopardizes people’s mental health.
Many times my partner and I said to each other how lucky we were to live in el campo—the countryside— and to be able to be in the garden and to walk around freely. It always seems to be the case. When a dramatic event happens, suddenly we realize a few things that weren’t so obvious before. We see what’s really important in life—the things that truly matter.
In that sense, crises aren’t always bad. They offer new ways of thinking. New ways of being and doing.
The facts are that the health of our planet is suffering, that we breathe polluted air, that wildlife is dying, and that we see forests and their inhabitants devoured by ferocious flames. These are not urgent reasons for our political leaders and for us to massively reconsider our choices, to make pressing regulations, and to slow down for a change.
This pandemic is an immediate danger to humans, especially to those who already have health problems, while apparently climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and forests aren’t because we don’t see the effects in our daily lives.
Not yet. But this could be a new reality in the future to come.
Obviously, the Covid-crisis is about human fragility. We are fragile, but so are our systems—health, food, economy, and livelihood.
I have come to realize that it makes sense to learn about growing our own food, to start community gardens, or, if we can’t, to make connections with local farmers or shops which sell their products. The huge dependence on supermarkets isn’t a healthy system.
It makes sense to become self-sustainable and to build communities and networks where we can look after each other.
This doesn’t mean that viruses won’t kill us, but it makes us less fragile when we need to live through even bigger crises. Yes, it makes sense to become resilient beings to become more self-sustainable and free.
So, how do we become more resilient, self-sustainable, and free people?
Move to the countryside, go completely off-grid, install solar panels, harvest rainwater, grow your own food, poop on a wooden box, make compost, and build yourself a tiny house and live a debt-free life.
Man, that sounds far too drastic, doesn’t it?
I can imagine it does, but I know it is possible.
It took my partner and me some years to arrive here. Over the years, we completely transformed our lives, and we are now those off-grid people, living on 12 square meters. I’m not saying it’s always easy and that I never long to take a warm, indulging bath. Of course not. Everyone likes the idea of having such a lifestyle. But for those who are interested, know you can start by taking small steps.
Here are seven tips toward a resilient, self-sustainable, and free life:
1. Buy from local market gardeners.
We need to eat every day, so changing the way we provide ourselves with healthy food is an important step. See if there is a local farm or market where you can get your organically grown veggies from. Maybe there’s a community garden nearby or start one with neighbors and friends.
Buying in bulk, such as oats, chickpeas, beans, and flour, is cheaper and eco-friendly. Plus, it makes us less dependent on supermarkets.
2. Live with less and buy less stuff.
Ask yourself before buying new stuff, “Do I really need this?”
Things don’t make us happy. Well, maybe they do for a short moment. In Spain, the shops were closed for months, so shopping wasn’t an option. I realized I didn’t really miss them. It even felt like life is more simple that way, to realize what’s essential and not.
3. Start saving at a young age.
To have a financial buffer is to have peace of mind and reduces stress in times of change. Start young; the benefits come later. I wish I’d been more aware of this when I was younger.
4. Radically cut down expenses.
>> See if that telephone contract can be cheaper.
>> Do you and your partner really need two cars? Public transport is much more economical (and better for the planet). Or, take the bicycle to work.
>> Celebrate holidays closer to home.
>> Be your own restaurant and cook a nice homemade meal. Have dinner parties with friends at home instead of going to a restaurant. I used to go to restaurants a lot. Now it’s only for special occasions.
>> If you’re rent or mortgage are relatively high, see if changes can be made. If not, consider moving to a more inexpensive and smaller house or apartment.
>> Invest in that what matters (to you), such as solar panels, a piece of land, trees for wood and fruit, knowledge, such as permaculture and regenerative agriculture.
When we lower our expenses, a crisis will hit us less hard, and therefore we’re resilient financially.
5. Work remotely or do “essential work,” but most of all, do that what gives you purpose.
The bullsh*t jobs are leaving first, as we could see with this health-crisis. The “essential workers” kept their jobs. The nurses, health professionals, doctors, and all those caring for vulnerable and ill people. Of course, society needs them. The same goes for market gardeners, teachers, some lawyers, some politicians, and engineers—also the healers, the inventors, the creators, the creatives. Without them, the world will be a poor place.
Basically, it all boils down to meaning. With meaningful work, where our heart is, the financial means will follow sooner or later.
Honestly, I’m not there yet. I’m investing time and money in the work I believe in, and it can be hard sometimes to keep the faith that it will bear fruit any time soon.
6. Find support by having healthy relationships with family and friends, with those who want the best for you.
Being connected to people who care increases resilience. We all need a support system we can rely on, and they are those people; they are our community. We can’t do it all on our own. Care about each other, and share resources or exchange goods.
7. Cultivate personal resilience.
We are much stronger than we think we are. When difficult times hit us hard—for example, the death of a loved one, illness, a divorce, or the loss of a child—we discover how we live through those hardships without losing ourselves if we only see ourselves as victims of the hard circumstances.
To boost resilience, we can use these three powerful strategies mentioned in this beautiful and helpful TED talk by resilience expert Dr. Lucy Hone:
- Acknowledge that sh*t happens. Human existence also means suffering. Life mostly isn’t shiny, happy pictures on Instagram.
- Make an intentional, deliberate ongoing effort to tune in to what’s good in our world. Focus on the things we can change and accept what we can’t.
- Always ask ourselves: “Is the way I am thinking and acting helping or harming me?”
Know it is possible to live and grieve at the same time with a more resilient, self-sustainable, and freer life.