Ah the joys of expectations. We all have them and when our expectations aren’t met, we can feel disappointed, frustrated and disillusioned. The idea of off grid living is very appealing right now. Many of us want to escape the system, to leave the ‘real’ world behind and start anew. The allure of living in community sounds fantastic. Call me naive but I expected life to be easy, well easyish, rainbows and unicorns and fluffy clouds. For a while it was. I fell easily into a community. I am fairly easy going, a doer, and have thousands of ideas teeming from my brain. I am sociable and outgoing, bit of an extrovert but also quite happy in my own company. The whole idea of going off grid started way back in 2019 when I was told in a meditation to claim the unclaimed land. I had no idea what that meant so headed off into a rabbit hole. I won’t bore you here with where my life headed, if you really want to read about it, you can grab a copy of my book, The Semi Offgrid Journey here.
Anyways, I digress. I ended up in a community. I was in debt when I arrived so found a part time job to get myself back on track. I fed the chickens, collected their eggs and fed them. I dug up potatoes, harvested Aztec broccoli, which took hours, cleaned and cooked and generally got stuck into the way of life that the group already had. Having lived on a caravan site for 13 months prior, I was used to living around people more or less constantly. What I wasn’t maybe prepared for was how, as a group, decisions would be made about not only the project but the people. I have always believed in collective leadership being the future, rather than old style hierarchical leadership. We all work together towards an aim or vision regardless of whether you are there for a month, or three, or longer. However, it became apparent that there was a hierarchy in place with residents being allowed more say and their opinions having more weight than the volunteers. Surely everyone’s voice carries equal weight and importance? Who are we to shut someone down, even if their opinion may be different to ours? And that is the thing about being in community. We don’t always have to agree on each other’s opinions, but we still need to allow everyone to have a chance to be heard. We can agree to disagree on certain beliefs. If decisions are to be made, do we use majority vote or consensus voting or do we keep procrastinating because no decision can be made. I probably have more questions than answers in this blog, however I feel that the more of us who are choosing to live in communities, will at some point be able to collectively share how their community is working and how it can be adapted to work with other communities.
Every community will be different. Different energies, different practical skills, different backgrounds and belief systems. Yet underlying every community will be a common vision and goal. Some common beliefs and values and for me these are what underpin the heart of a solid community. When things begin to fall apart it is because it is like a house made of hay. There is no solid foundation or structure so the slightest conflict or ill ease will blow the community down. An argument between two people will cause a ripple effect amongst the community. If it isn’t solved within the community, this then spills out into their lives outside of the community. Drama is like a hurricane, it has a way of trying to pull you in and keep you whizzing around until you finally make your way out, exhausted in a heap, trying to work out what the hell just happened. Choosing to leave a community is not an easy decision. You have been committed to the project; you have put everything into it. You may have sold your house and moved countries, or you may have financially invested, so how can you walk away? You may start to feel trapped and not quite sure where to turn. What do you do when the community that you thought was your dream turns into a nightmare?
Have a backup plan. Ideally you will have a motorhome/campervan/ or a car that actually has a towbar for your caravan (rookie error for me). Get to know people in the local area so if you need to move you can. Have some money stashed so you can afford an Airbnb or hotel if needs be. It’s a tough call because sometimes when the shit hits the fan, you want to stay and work through it. If you feel you are in a safe space, then great. If the situation however is toxic or you feel as if mentally you are beginning to struggle, then my advice would be to remove yourself from the situation temporarily. Having space to process and see things from afar can massively change your perspective on the community and the relationships you may have had with the people there. I have found it fascinating to be honest, stepping away from the community and trying to understand everyone’s perspective on a number of situations. Trying to understand the psychology of not just myself and the role I played, but that of others too. Sometimes, our dreams don’t work out quite as we expected but what if it is leading you to something greater?
Have you ever lived in a community? Have you ever chosen to leave or walk away? Would love to hear your experiences
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