The Ultimate Relationship... and the Earth Collective

The pursuit of freedom

Two weeks have passed since I arrived in Portugal. A period of rest and soaking up the fabulous weather and scenery, was followed by a few days of disorientation, then reorientation. Thankfully, my compass feels like it is pointing in the right direction again. Driving on the other side of the car and on the other side of the road, is a good analogy for the disorientation I experienced. Discomfort and frustration not knowing how to work the cash machine, receive post, get mobile broadband, find organic food, navigate the internet in a foreign language, communicate in shops, understand road signs and find my way around the local town. All this led to a momentary downer. If I couldn’t work out the supposedly simple things, how was I going to deal with the complexities of the Earth Collective project?

Of course, in my heart, I knew the answer. It’s the continuation of a theme I have been developing over the last few years, during my ‘nomadic phase’. An opportunity to elucidate this occurred during lunch with friends Laurie and Geeta, who have come to Portugal to look around with a view to joining my project. They have yet to sell their long term homes, which contain a lifetime of possessions. So, the question arose, how do you start the process of packing up and moving to a different country? My answer was, “one room at a time”.

Portuguese terraces and terracotta rooves

When I sold my farm three years ago, I went through every room of the house (and extensive out-buildings) to sift, sell and give away all non-essential possessions, even my most treasured ones. In fact, I had to repeat the process several times. It was a form of purging. Everything that was left fitted into one large transit van when I moved out, though this was still too much for my new home on wheels. So, I fine-tuned once again and discarded anything I had kept for my future home. Now I was down to the bare essentials - clothes, food, cooking equipment, bedding and tech. By the time I moved out of the ‘mothership’ a month ago, my worldly possessions fitted into 20 boxes, several of which were basic provisions and dried food. Still quite a lot to lug around given I will probably have several moves in the next few months, as I search for the ‘chosen area’ in northern Portugal.

‘One room at a time’ morphed into ‘one step and a time’, then ‘one day at a time’ - a whole new definition of freedom. Freedom has been a theme for years. I was searching for it when I left the farm and took to the road. I named the ship on wheels ‘Freedom’ in honour of the quest. At that time, I desperately needed to be free from responsibilities and routine, the things that trapped me in the rural idyll I had created to escape the corporate world. It’s amazing how you can become a slave to your dream! Nomadic life wasn’t the epitome of freedom either, though it was a step in the right direction. Now, freedom has an entirely different meaning. It’s about being able to reinvent myself and my life in a different country. Another venture into the unknown which is potentially stressful. But I have found the best way to keep my balance and enjoy the journey, is to deal with the challenges one day at a time, remain fluid and follow my instinct, in order to converge with the divine synchronicity that I know will manifest my project. This type of freedom is about being in the moment and honing my connection to all that there is – mind, body, soul and the cosmos. Obviously, it’s a work in progress.

This morning, I did some skipping (in between the showers that have followed the sunshine in Portugal). Skipping is excellent fitness. It works all parts of the body, it’s intense but also low impact regards wear and tear. I do about 1500 skips in 15-20 minutes. If I am in a hurry, though, or start thinking about something other than my technique, I am likely to make an error. I have always found physical training to be a form of meditation (once a certain level of fitness and skill is attained). Early in life, I competed in international level rowing and I developed an approach to maximise my performance, which I called ‘alert relaxation’. Whilst exerting maximum effort, I had to remain relaxed in my body, as tension interrupts the efficiency of the movement and would slow the boat, or lead to a costly mistake. At the same time, mental alertness was required to respond to changes in the environment such as wind direction, or strategic moves made by the opposition. Basically, my entire focus had to be in the moment.

It's the same with skipping. Relaxation coupled with mental presence is the key. No thoughts, just being ‘there’. This space is also where you can experience joy in the physicality of your body. It’s the ‘poetry in motion’ or ‘flow’ factor you sometimes observe in top athletes, musical maestros, or other performers. It’s addictive and the reason I endured so much pain in competitive sport.

...Back to Portugal and matters of a more mundane nature. Unfortunately, there has been yet more administrative madness. Firstly, an omission on my part which resulted in a own goal. I left my bike battery behind! It’s probably hidden behind the sofa of cottage I was staying at, as this is where I plugged it in to charge. Ironically, I had a spare, which a friend in the UK offered to take to a charity shop. Fortunately, it was still in the boot of her car, so she posted it to Portugal. The relevant customs forms were attached and it was below the threshold for importation tax. However, a ridiculous drama unfolded with the Portuguese customs office, which involved three trips to the post office and several hours online, and I still don’t have it. I encountered similar ridiculousness in Ireland, both are the result of the UK no longer being part of Europe. I live in hope that I might be out on my bike again soon, as I am getting withdrawal symptoms.

There has also been a saga attempting to pay the tolls I missed on the journey from Spain to Portugal. I was passed from pillar to post, and this is also currently unresolved. The third issue related to mobile broadband connection and, in particular, getting it to work with my UK dongle. I prefer to use a dongle on a long extension (as opposed to a wifi unit), so I am not being microwaved as I work. I scored a victory on this, at least. Most recently, I have been doing battle to get a NISS number (Portuguese health service), which is required for my residency meeting at the end of May. The form I completed online has been rejected four times, without specifying what is wrong with it. Another brain-bending challenge.

Morning mist over Ponte De Lima, from my bedroom window

There was also an incident involving the car. You may recall in my last blog (The Promised Land) that when I picked up my new wheels in the UK, a noxious substance had been applied to the upholstery and carpets, in the name of cleaning. Three weeks of keeping the doors and boot open during the day, in all weather (except rain) and endless scrubbing and dousing with essential oils, was needed and even then, the smell remains faint. However, a few nights ago, I forgot close the windows and doors until after dark, and was alerted to a different, equally vile, smell as I approached. I traced it to the driver’s seat. My heart sank. I knew what the smell was. It was cat spray. A feral tom had included my car in his territory. More scrubbing and application of essential oils followed. It was extremely annoying but I did see the funny side of swapping one dreadful smell for another. The car now reeks of lavender which you can smell from 10 feet, which I hope is repugnant to all passing felines.

On a more enjoyable note, I have spent time with Laurie and Geeta (mentioned earlier), and we have scouted some of the local countryside to get a feel for areas that might suit the Earth Collective project. We also visited the founder of a local online homesteading group who I have been in communication with. Masha (a Russian) gave us a tour of her property and land and offered some excellent tips on the purchasing process and dealing with Portuguese lawyers. All good intel.

Rock cave in the garden of a stunning converted mill, belonging to the friend of my host

I also met a property agent from the same online group, who is a font of all knowledge. Talking to him helped me to hone the areas to consider. So, I will visit them by car while he starts to research properties for me. I am feeling much clearer now and have a sense that momentum is starting to build.

I will be making more contacts through my German host Detlev in the next few days, so it looks like a social time is ahead. After being a hermit for the last 10 years, I am more than ready.

***

Notes:

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