Early in the year, many of us try to take good resolutions: not smoke in bed, take the trash out more regularly, be more pleasant at work…and some of us decide to leave everything behind and make a new life for themselves.
Lynn Loetje Loe is one of these people, I have been following her activities on facebook since she left Berlin to settle in Portugal; I am impressed, and also inspired. I feel more at ease knowing there is an alternative way of life out there should I ever get fed up with my sleep/work/sleep/work city routine. Of course, such a choice might come with challenges, Lynn tells us about her new life in this interview.
Lynn, how and when did you decide to leave “modern comfort” behind?
It wasn’t an overnight thing. A lot of events, experiences and years helped me to become more and more conscious about my own inner world as well as the external world. I feel the whole process started already in 2008 when I moved to Brooklyn to study as an exchange student at Parsons, The New School for Design. The four years after that in Berlin taught me a whole lot of other things, and the picture became fully clear to me early 2015. That’s when I decided to sell my apartment in Amsterdam, and since then everything has been falling into place magically.
How was it to go from a regular lifestyle to what you are building now?
Even though I was still living in the city, my regular lifestyle already had gradually changed over the years. By moving to various countries I didn’t have much stuff and I really enjoyed a clutter-free life. I also only bought secondhand clothes and furniture. For many years I worked in the film and advertising industry, but morally I couldn’t defend this profession to myself any longer. At first, it was scary to say no to the big paycheck, but soon enough new opportunities presented themselves. I was hired as an eco-manager on a film set, managed a few crowdfunding campaigns for social and music organizations, worked on a funding program for a cradle-to-cradle project, etc. I worked less hours, spend more time in nature with my dog, yet was left with more money in my bank account at the end of the month. I learned that when you find fulfillment within yourself instead of looking for it outside of yourself, you align better with your true life purpose and things outside of you are going to change for the better too. It was my first step learning how energy truly works, about our own energy field and how all of that is connected. I am very drawn to guys like Tesla, Einstein, and Jung to understand myself better. Since I left my old life behind, their teachings all have proven to be true. To me, this doesn’t feel as a drastic lifestyle change, but the difference between now and then manifests in how I personally perceive the world by understanding universal law and metaphysics and applying that to my daily life experiences.
What were your biggest doubts before and at the beginning?
I didn’t have doubt. Everything was mapped out so clearly and fell into place perfectly. My intuition, or inner guidance, had received an upgrade at that time and it was very clear what steps to take without it requiring much effort from myself. The housing market in Amsterdam had experienced a two-year crisis, but when I put my apartment on sale it just picked up and I sold my flat within a week. My neighbor’s parents were selling the camper I had in mind for the price I was willing to pay. Within a month I was on my way South. I didn’t have a specific place in mind yet, but upon arrival in Portugal, everything went smoothly and effortlessly. Only much later, after I had purchased the land, I found out why this is the perfect place for me to be. It provides in everything I had asked for even into the smallest details. During the weeks prior to my departure many close friends, whose opinion I value highly, tested me a little bit. They came to me with all possible doubts and fears, but I realized it were their own fears they projected onto me. After my time in Berlin, I inked a quote of Samuel Beckett on my arm “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” In other words, there’s nothing to lose, only to gain.
How is it going regarding modern comfort, missing the late night corner store, a city gutter system, and all that, or do you miss proximity with things and lots of people?
I had to reprogram my way of doing things because everything requires a lot of driving and time. In distance, I am still fairly close to civilization (the town is eight kilometers away, and small cities 20km), but everything takes much longer when driving in the mountains. Once every 10-14 days I go to a place where they sell organic fresh produce as well as organic longer shelf items. It’s only 18km away but a 45-minute drive one way, so grocery shopping takes me half a day. We also order collectively with other foreigners around here organic produce in bulk. In the city, there’s always a place within five-minute walking distance open till late in the evening. Now that I had to start thinking ahead and buying enough ingredients for a week or two, I like it much better: it gives me more peace of mind and it challenges me to cook something nice with what’s there. I also make a lot more things myself that I would have bought from the store before, like bread, pizza, cakes, pies… and I cook three fresh meals daily. My own village has two cafes that also stock some basic items. Nevertheless, organic farming isn’t so common among traditional farmers around me so I don’t buy much there. The plan is that I will grow most of my own food in the near future, so my trips to the store will decrease hopefully soon.
In regards to amenities, there are no obstacles. I came here to live off-grid anyway because I don’t want to empower those large corporations who don’t act in the interest of my health and that of our planet. I have solar electricity and water from my own well, which is gravity-fed to the house and doesn’t require any input. This water goes straight back to the land for irrigation, so it’s not wasted. I heat the water with wood from my land, a renewable resource, and therefore I don’t have to feel guilty about taking extra long showers nor about the bills that usually come with it. I now use a sawdust compost toilet, but will replace that this year with a vermin-composting toilet. It’s similar to a normal toilet you flush with gray household water, but worms in a large tank underneath are working 24/7 to transform our human waste into fertilizer that can be used in the land again straight away. The sawdust compost has to cure for approximately a year, but with the help of the amazing worm army, this process is done much quicker. I have a mobile internet router that works over the 3G/4G network. It’s good enough for me to surf, email, skype, stream movies, and I build my website with it. Because I personally don’t want to commit to a contract with one of these companies, I use a prepaid data package. This limits me in uploading and downloading very large files, but when that occasionally happens I go to one of my outdoor offices in town.
There’s a very vibrant like-minded community here. Many foreigners from all corners of Europe seem to land here. Many events are organized, and surprisingly incredible musicians live here. There are enough social activities to engage with if you like, but somehow time flies in Paradise and often weeks go by without me even noticing I haven’t been around people for a while. Also, a lot of friends and strangers visited me this year, so I don’t feel really disconnected from social interactions.
While being here I realize that a lot of our “modern comfort” is designed to keep us occupied and distract us from finding who we truly are and where to find true happiness. I have everything I need here, and I find a different, yet much more fulfilling connection in things that you don’t find in the city.
How is this working as a medium size woman, do you do a lot of physical work? Did you have to learn specific skills?
Yes, there’s a lot of physical work involved, but my years working long days as production manager for low-budget film and music projects prepared me for that. It’s very empowering to work in and with nature every day. Instead of feeling exhausted after a day working at the office, I now feel energized and fulfilled, even though physically it may be challenging at times. It’s very important to focus on a good diet and to allow myself rest and time to recover. Right now I really have to put some weight on, so I am working on that.
While building my tree-house I received the help of a local friend who studied at CAT and knows everything about natural building and alternative technology. I possess the scientific knowledge but never worked on something that hands on. I learned a lot, working next to him every day, and I really enjoy cutting my own firewood or fence poles. Nevertheless, I see myself more as a weaver or strategist – someone who’s able to see the big picture by understanding all aspects of a certain project, instead of being an expert on one single topic. I am not so much a maker or skilled craftswoman, like a carpenter, but I do observe their way of working in order to understand their skill or profession better. I believe it’s beneficial to focus on my strength and collaborate with others who excel in the things I don’t.
Do you still follow certain cosmetic rituals as most women do in the city or for work?
I was never a very make-uppy girl to begin with, but here I sometimes feel the urge more. Due to the high presence of mud boots, chainsaws, and heavy physical labor, I feel I have to nurture my feminine energy more. I love to dress up for the occasional parties here, but I only use cruelty-free and non-toxic makeup, like my favorite vegan lipstick FraLippoLippie from my dear friend Monique in Berlin. Because the water goes straight back to the land I only use natural soap. Still, having four dogs, sloping land and sometimes heavy rain showers, my clothes are most of the days practical and determined by the season. When my house indoor is finished and the cabinets are built so I can unpack more of my clothes, I probably take the time and dress up more again after a day’s work – even if it is only for myself.
And to finish, what do you want to say to people who think this is crazy, or to people who might want to try the same short and long term?
It’s funny because to embark on this “crazy” thing I had to become aware that I had lived an illusion for most of my life. Being born into a capitalist society, we are conditioned from the moment we set foot on this planet. It may not be very clear on the surface but we live in a fear-driven society where our individual power is suppressed by those in power. We are programmed with false belief systems through the media, governments, educational systems, peers, and society, that are not ours but keep us in a constant state of anxiety from a very young age. A capitalistic system is fuelled by profit maximization through exponential growth, so everything in our society is designed for us to consume more and more in order for those on top of the pyramid to benefit. And because of that, we are all subject to mental slavery.
At first it was difficult for me to accept that I had bought into those false beliefs about true love, true happiness, fulfillment and freedom, and that I’ve lived a lie, told by others, for most of my life. Nevertheless anger, sadness, and despair are great motivators for change. I realized that if I didn’t want to be controlled by a system that was not only highly destructive to our own species, but also to all living beings including the planet we live on; I had to stop feeding that system.
Allowing fear to control our lives is crazy to me because in fact, they are an illusion, implemented by those who don’t act in our best interest. To me, that same system is the most anti-social thing to be part of because it prioritizes profit over people and planet. Those of us living in the West are living a privileged life at the expense of other human lives and our environment. I am not against money because to me it’s just another form of energy exchange, but it’s quite apparent now that people and planet shouldn’t be compromised for financial gain. That’s why I try to find alternatives on how our basic human needs can be met independently from big corporations in a social and ecological conscious and responsible way without compromising on aesthetics and modern day comfort. You can read more about that on my website and understand that this project surpasses my individual needs by providing a test and demo ground for prototypes that accelerate the transition towards a circular economy. I am neither the first nor the only one who has chosen a different life path than the one we are taught to follow. There are already thousands and thousands inspiring alternatives worldwide shaping and crafting a new earth, and hopefully millions who follow in their own unique way. To me that is the sanest and most social choice one can make in the world we live in today.
Follow Lynn’s project on www.avidafausto.net, and support it on https://onepercentclub.com/nl/projects/a-vida-fausto-the-luxury-life, you can parent remotely 11 baby trees for €100, or spend a week there for two or four people for €500 or €750.
I also recommend checking out my friend Giovanni Cervi’s artist residence and apiculture farm in Italy on www.valicoterminus.com for diverse wanderlust options.
All pictures by Lynn & Amie at styleandstill.com