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Experimenting with 'Dropping Out'
August 26th, 2006

My last blog, about dropping out, was 20 months ago and a lot has happened in our lives as you can imagine...

We're about to embark on the first step of an experiment in dropping out, but not, as I had once hoped, in a true spirit of living simply. Both Robin and I are in poor physical shape: this is the toll taken on our bodies of not paying enough respect and attention to the importance of living simply for 40 years! We recognise that there are two ways to change - sudden and dramatic or slow and gradual. I'm not sure we're up to coping with the former, though I guess it's desperately needed. Instead we've opted for gradual and gentle change.

We began this journey at the beginning of this year. I spent most of last year researching the concept of 'downshifting' and really tuning into to my body to work out exactly what it needs to live well. This isn't as obvious as it sounds. There's so much advice available and much of it seems very sensible, but often when I follow it I don't get the results I want or need. I discovered that, as with educating children at home, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all health regime as every body is different.

It's important for me to move slowly, introducing one change at a time, to lessen the stress in my life. It's not good making rapid changes if I can't cope withe stress and fall straight back into undesirable habits. This is why it's taken me 20 months to prepare for this experiment in dropping out.

So what does dropping out mean for us? We've bought a camper trailer - new and shiny and definitely a huge waste of planetary resources, but with an anticipated life of two or more decades, not only by ourselves by the rest of the family, we think it's a sensible investment. It's Australian made, which simply means that the materials weren't shipped around the world unnecessarily in it's manufacture and that's a small comfort. We bought the best we could find and we bought new to get what exactly what we wanted. It was a bit of a shock to spend such an extraordinary amount on a vehicle but nothing made in Australia comes cheap.

Once upon a time we needed to 'do it yourself' for everything. Back in 2004 my sister faced one of the toughest times of her life: she'd been told by her doctors to get her affairs in order as the treatment she needed to live may actually kill her... Reflecting on losing my sister, and how she was bravely battling cancer without much support, I realised that our need to be self-sufficient - a driving force within my family - had a tendency to isolate us socially. Stiving to be totally self-sufficiency meant doing everything ourselves, needing no one else, even taking care of ourselves when we are no longer capable of that, as in my sister's case.

My dad used to say "if you need a job done well, do it yourself" and time and again we've found that to be true. However, lately we've noticed that lowering our standards leaves us much happier. We've learned to be content to spend money on things that other folk have made and done: we've begun to value the toil of others and to see the fabric of human life as essential social. It's as much about the being together as the doing together. Whereas my motto was once, "I am rock, I am island" (from Paul Simon's song of long ago) I now believe this to be a fundamental cause of my ongoing disposition for depression. Becoming self-sufficient loaded so much unnecessary stress onto our lives and this has had a huge detrimental effect on our health.

With our ute and camper trailer we're off to explore Tasmania. Next year we'll do a few treks on the mainland. The trips will allow us to stop working - stop building and gardening and making work for ourselves. We need time to define ourselves as beings, not doers. With nothing to do but commune with nature, contemplate what it takes to get healthy, and build regular exercise and relaxation into our daily routine, we're sure to nurture the 'being' part of ourselves.

Wish us luck. I hope to document our trip with photos and blog and will post more information on that later.



photos of the ever changing view of the coast from our living room window
Our ever-changing view!
Moonset ~ Roll Cloud ~ Sunset

permaculture ethics
care for earth,
care for people,
return surplus,
reduce consumption

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Copyright © Beverley Paine 2002-14. Article from this website may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this entire notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained from the author in order to reprint this article in a published work or to offer it for sale in any form. Please visit Bungala Ridge Permaculture Gardens for more original content by Beverley Paine.