When one thinks about the expat lifestyle, or moving overseas to start a new life, many envision the sprawling and eclectic neighborhoods of Barcelona, the magical romance of Paris, or even the tango infusion of Buenos Aires. However, there are a growing number of expats who are choosing to not only change their physical location and head abroad, but who are also looking at changing their way of life, to drop the 9-5, consumer-driven focus of Western society and discover an entirely new way of living.
There is an increasingly growing interest within the expat community of those who wish to join or to start their own eco-village or sustainable farm, to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle and reconnect with nature. It’s more than simply moving to the countryside – its becoming involved in a close-knit community of like-minded people and living more harmoniously. And please don’t be overwhelmed by the word “farm”. There are many expat families out there growing enough food to basically support themselves on less than a hectare of land. So if this idea is something totally new to you, something you’ve never thought about before, here are a few of the more popular reasons to consider this lifestyle change.
Lower your cost of living
In times when it’s hard to make a dollar stretch, this alone can be a huge incentive to move to a farming community. Land in less developed countries can be extremely cheap (as little as a few thousand dollars a hectare) and there is often the option of long-term leasing of unused land. A few hundred dollars a year spent on seeds can yield a fresh fruit and vegetable supply for your entire family. Naturally it’s prudent to take into consideration the necessary start-up costs, including tools and equipment you may need when you are considering this move.
For many expats, moving to a more sustainable way of life presents an opportunity to improve their health significantly. Fresh air, quality home grown food, sunshine, exercise and peaceful living are the perfect recipe for improving your health and outlook on life. Being in much greater control of the food that you consume will also allow you to monitor exactly what is going into your family’s mouths. Don’t like genetically modified crops? Don’t plant them. Don’t like pesticides that harm you and the environment? Don’t use them. Having your own farm gives you the freedom to care for yourself and your family.
More Quality Time
What if you didn’t have to commute everyday to work? What could you do with those hours per day? Living on the land provides the perfect opportunity for connecting with the people you love in a way that is just so difficult in the hustle and bustle of city life. One of the biggest positives that come back from expats who have taken the time to create a family farm is that they get to spend so much time with children and partners – to really be a part of each other’s lives.
It’s a pretty novel concept for most of us, but there are more and more people interested in growing their own food for food security. Aside from the health benefits already mentioned, an unstable financial situation coupled with global agricultural shortages as a result of changing climate patterns presents a very real scenario where basic food prices could rise unexpectedly. With record drought and heat waves this summer across the US, Europe and Russia, grains such as wheat, corn and soy are already set to rise considerably over the coming months. A very simple solution to reduce your family’s exposure to this risk is to be in control of your own food supply. You can save seeds from this season to plant next season and always ensure that you have as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you need.
Making ends meet
Living in a sustainable community or on your own farm does not mean living poor, and this lifestyle change can provide a great opportunity to make a reasonable income as well. Many expats who make their money online can, of course continue to do this, but it is also very possible to make money by selling fruits and vegetables from your garden to local markets, as well as selling arts and crafts. Many more experienced expats offer courses in permaculture, natural construction, composting, you name it. It’s a fun and positive way to contribute to the local community while supporting your family.
So how on earth do you work out where to start? There are many programs that exist for those who wish to learn more farming skills, and to connect with others already living this lifestyle all over the world. Volunteer programs such as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) www.wwoof.org, Help Exchange , www.helpx.net, and Workaway, www.workaway.info, provide a great opportunity for you to not only learn many important skills and sustainable farm practices, but also to travel at the same time – exploring some of the areas you may want to live.
Those that are interested in visiting established eco-villages and communities should check out the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), www.gen.ecovillage.org. Their website provides a great network of communities right across the world and as the website states “offers inspiring examples of how people and communities can live healthy, cooperative, genuinely happy and meaningful lifestyles — beacons of hope that help in the transition to a more sustainable future on earth.”
Sounds perfect doesn’t it? And the best part is, there is no reason why you cannot live that way if you simply choose to make it a priority!