With all the ongoing conversations that are happening around the Coalition’s policy announcement regarding their approach to the further development of the NBN, I thought I would post a link to this fantastic TED talk that discusses the future of healthcare from a personal perspective and shows why a future-proof infrastructure to the premises is necessary. If you ever thought that internet use and bandwidth is only for entertainment, you are dead wrong (no pun intended).
Over the past few months, Danielle and I have started to plan a return to our farm. This morning, on a twitter exchange, Pat prompted me to write about the experience and reasons why we have been considering it, so here is a stream of consciousness about it and what led us here.
TL;DR Urban living is cosy, comfortable and leads me to unsustainable, materialistic pursuits that are opposed to my values. I need to place myself in an environment that is supporting me emotionally as well as spiritually. And be the change I want to see in others, reconnect to my beautiful family (Danielle and Zeek first) and take more risks.
I have always been a city dweller except for the short time (3 or so years) when we lived in our place in the Thora valley, near Bellingen, in the mid-north coast of NSW. After those years, I was asked to return to the city for work, as my employer at the time needed me on-site and not remote. And so, with that need (to stay employed) and the fact that, as a couple, we also needed to return to the “busy” and “social” urban centre that is Sydney, we packed and moved back. Anyway, that was a few years back. In the meantime many things changed: our son started school, I quit my job and started my own ventures, Danielle changed her job too, our tenants in Bellingen returned to Newcastle. However none of these events on their own would be enough to trigger the desire to go back to Bellingen, it was a combination and a series of conversations that did. I’d like to explore a bit more what triggered it, maybe through this “live” reflection, I will also shed a light for myself.
To set the context, it’s important to know that both Danielle and I have had an active interest, beyond just curiosity, in sustainability, in reverting the balance towards a more equitable relationship between nature and us, the human race; and also about social justice (environmental activism cannot be separated from social justice, in my humble opinion). And certainly, trying to make sure that we leave a better planet to our son than the one we found and, given the way things seem to be going, that is not going to be easy.
Back in August 2007, we started a backyard aquaponic system in bondi, as an experiment in urban food production. It was quite successful for us until we travelled to Argentina and the system wasn’t maintained properly in our absence. Despite the failure, it was extremely exciting to see what could be done to reduce the footprint and ecological impact required to produce certain types of food, in an urban setting. We started dreaming about a larger scale system in a more rural environment, what if…?
Anyway, we didn’t get to put in place a larger scale system due to various reasons. In hindsight, I think because during our first few years in the country, we didn’t completely assume the roles of stewardship of the land, we still lived very much in the context of an urban centre, and myself, in the context of the virtual world, eg: “I will do that when this project slows down or after the next trip overseas” which of course never happened or when it did, I was too tired, etc. and getting help to look after the land is not a failure, it’s just admitting that one cannot do it all and that getting expert help is a good thing, I do that all the time at work, why couldn’t I do it with the farm?
More recently my busy life, running a few startup ventures, getting a remote, globally distributed workforce, had been taking a toll on what I considered to be very important habits, eg: exercising regularly, making the time for meditation and reflection, spending lots of time with my family. And in addition, I also started noticing an apathy and a level of anxiety that is characteristic of stresses that I had seen in me before. When I quit my job, I did it for various reasons, one of them being that I needed to get back onto a more even keel in regards to the balance between family and work, less focus on the “leave your life at the door” approach that many start ups seem to take. I wanted to create a work environment for my team and I that was true to the values that I held, that was in harmony with the life I thought was worth living, not one of obsession and insane working hours but one of passion and sustainable work. An approach of “slow projects” mixed with the scientific approach of lean, create, test and learn without burning all your candles at both ends. Putting together the learnings from XP, and all the other frameworks, practices and learnings (which have in common the need for all of it to be sustainable). I think we (my business partner and I) have achieved something that is getting closer to that than when we started, and we are to anywhere near complete :). However over the past few months, I have gone through a very high level of stress, and to add to that, the high cost of living in Sydney has exacerbated some aspects of it.
A few weeks ago I got a call from Dónal and we got chatting about permaculture, urban life, sustainable life styles and technology. Among the different ideas that we discussed, something just stood out for me. I had realized through the conversation with a friend that I had become very complacent in this city. I mean, don’t take me wrong, I love Sydney and in particular the community that we have in north bondi is fantastic, there are a bunch of really interesting people, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world to be and yet, still is a very superficial and materialistic environment. And I got swamped by the external influences. Of course, “you make your own environment” and the surroundings should not influence you too much, right? Well, they do, to me at least. And yes, life is full of moments that should be enjoyed and savoured, no doubt however it can easily turn into an indulgent lifestyle without any regards for our environment, for our fellow women and men and even for ourselves. I am not one to say what others should and shouldn’t do, I am just considering what my values are, and how I can be more authentic and true.
On a slight tangent, I have also been considering my physical self, and living in such proximity to bondi beach also has some issues that somewhat relate to what I have been writing about. It is the land of “the beautiful people”, young, wealthy and obsessed about the external appearance. And no matter how much self confidence one has, it can really be an issue sometimes. I know people don’t talk much about this issue, especially in these “hipster times” we are living in. Appearance is not all and it’s highly overrated, however for me, the main way of not being self conscious had been to have that time for reflection, that space for balance and meditation and the ability to enjoy long walks, climb some walls with friends at the gym, play with my partner and son. Maybe some people will call this “aging” ;)
So, how would that translate into going back to the country? Well, in the same way as I am now taking the time to write these lines and open myself a bit more. Change is the consequence of ones actions and not ones thoughts in isolation. My father told me a long time ago: “pick the roses of life today” (a loose translation by yours truly) in reference to the fact that life is short and you cannot always be postponing change until the conditions are perfect, as they might never be. “What is the worst that could happen?” Was a phrase that Danielle and I lived by for many years, it’s time to reclaim it, to get back to what I believe in and not what I think others want to see in me, to take some risks, to return to authenticity and to remove myself from the “fear of missing out” (thanks Steve for that expression). It is not an easy choice, it’s easier to find work and to keep yourself connected in a large urban center like Sydney, it’s here that all the startup events happen, that the investors are, etc. Certainly not in Bellingen or the country side. And, is that what I want? Well, first and foremost I need a bit of peace and quiet to reflect, to hear my own thoughts and get back to the things that I think are important, beyond money and connections (not that I have either of those) ;) and be the change I want to see in others. And create a space that will be open to others in the tech sector to come and enjoy a more natural space, maybe a mix between a co-working-co-farming-co-living space that combines hacking on interesting projects and ideas, with opportunities to learn about sustainable lifestyles and permaculture. Why not? It sounds far fetched when I write about it, however I won’t know if it is at all possible until we try. Or maybe just a space where people can come and clear their heads and join us in being stewards of the earth for short periods of time (a wwof like setup for techies and non-techies alike)?
Anyway, I think this stream of consciousness is getting very long. I shall re-read it and edit a bit to remove the non-sensical ramblings and publish it otherwise I will have fallen into the bad habits of procrastinating.