On the Journey Home

The curious thing about being an explorer is I'm always looking for my way home.  I don't mean 'home' as a physical location, but rather the connection to the earth and all of the beautiful, living things we have the pleasure of sharing it with.  While I've been fortunate to travel a good amount, it's in the last year that I really began to find my way.  

The starting point for my journey is New York City.  From college to the corporate world, 10+ years in the "concrete jungle" left me craving a more balanced life and meaningful purpose.  I decided to focus my energy on sustainability projects, and then set off on an adventure to collaborate with inspiring folks.

Detroit beets at 107 Garden photo credit: Robin Erler

Hen at 107 Garden photo credit: Robin Erler

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms 

WWOOF provides a way to tap into a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.  I joined the community by participating in work trades on organic farms in Brazil, California, and Hawaii.  My goal was to expand upon my knowledge by challenging my own practices and beliefs.  Here are major themes that emerged during conversations in the garden-

  • The task at hand (saving the planet, that is) can seem so overwhelming that it becomes paralyzing.  It's important to remember, "small changes can make huge and lasting impacts."
  • We can learn a lot from simply observing natural systems and patterns around us.
  • By design, the earth produces zero waste! Let's aspire to do the same – here are a few ideas from 107 Garden.
  • We can create stronger, more resilient communities by sharing our resources - knowledge, food, cars, appliances, etc.  We don't all need to own one of everything, despite what those marketers tell us. 
  • While there may be an initial cost barrier, sustainable practices almost always save you money in the long run.
  • Think about the bigger picture and lifecycle of the product when making purchases.  What went into creating the item (labor, energy, material sourcing, transportation, etc.)? How long/many times can it be used?  What happens to it after you're finished?
  • "You vote with your dollars."  We have the power to create change by shifting our dollars to more sustainable practices.
  • "Food can be medicine or poison."  We need to support sustainable practices and our local farmers for our health as well as the planet's. 
  • An interdisciplinary approach is needed for complex issues in order to gain a richer understanding.  We all need to engage and help inform the policies in our communities.
  • We can find opportunities to improve by measuring and tracking our progress (need to push for this at government and corporate levels too).
  • Adventure Cycling - US Southern Tier 

Robin and Sharone

After WWOOFing, I toured the southern tier of the US on my bicycle.  The goal was to exercise and rely on my inner resources, while drinking in the beauty of the country.  It was the most challenging, yet exhilarating thing I've ever done.  It taught me a great deal about myself, and transformation that happens through deeply personal participation.  These are the lessons learned on my bike that I will carry forward with me–

  • Real food fuels the body; processed food will bring it to a halt.  While I knew this before the trip, it took 8 hrs/day on the bike to break bad eating habits.
  • Being present creates a full sensorial experience and brings awareness to the impact we have on our environment (and vice versa).
  • When you're open and giving to others, it'll be returned in abundance.  While this was an exercise in self-reliance, it was also a testament to the strength of community.  Encouraging words and kind actions from others lifted my spirits every single day.
  • It's empowering to move your body and all you require to survive with your own strength.  It taught me how little I actually “need.” 

This is how I found my way home and I'm grateful for all that I learned along the way!  As it happens, I reunited with New York on Earth Day.  It was a beautiful celebration that filled me with hope.  I'm looking forward to growing roots in New York and helping build a stronger, more resilient city.