This escape is not a race to the exit but rather a paced and powerful revolution towards my fulfillment. My sabbatical, which signals this escape from life as I know it, takes place over three phases across three months. In this post, we get into phase one.
Phase 1: Relax & Refocus
This phase is all about getting rest, listening to my body & her changing needs, and recalibrating my life approach to become my best self. My objectives are:
- Spend time in nature
- Refocus – Quit that does not serve me, including work and relationships
I reflected on this newfound journey while cloaked in the dry heat of inland Southern California. After three weeks of meditating, vegging out, and avoiding as much work as possible, my partner and I signed up for WWOOF to pursue our growing interest in becoming self-sufficient homesteaders. It would also serve as a refuge from the screens that surround us in our downtime. With the constant headaches the more I look at screens, it’s important to rest without technology jutting into my vision. Pull away I must, and lean into the heat we did.
Located in North San Diego County, the 17-acre homestead grows vegetables from containers, raises chickens, and uses all-natural fertilizers from worm farms. It also has a running creek that provides water to wash and drink (if you’re brave enough). It’s completely off-grid & made more enjoyable with a handful of solar panels to power the humble outdoor kitchen. There is a toilet, which I was both grateful for & scared of; it was well on its way out with a mickey-moused flushing connection and colorful rust stains across the seat and bowl. Not recommended for anyone who hasn’t roughed it while traveling or camping.
The hosts were a father and son who were friendly, laid-back, and incredibly knowledgeable in their pursuit of growing organic, nutrient-dense foods in the high heat. WWOOF allowed us to reach out to them and request a week-long stay in exchange for a few hours of work each day.
In terms of travel tips and tricks, a live-work exchange is an incredible opportunity for people with limited funds. While WWOOF focuses on farming, other platforms like Workaway offer non-farming opportunities for those who want to contribute to hosts in other ways. For my partner and me, who are both in transition “between jobs”, this gave us the escape we needed without hurting our savings.
You know what did hurt?
The heat hit us like a blanket of hot, hot bricks. As much as my partner and I were ecstatic to learn on the farm, the reality set in like the sweat above our lips. We woke up to our vulnerability as modern humans trying to live in the elements. We endured and inevitably came to a practical if not wholly spiritual conclusion in the sweat lodge that was our tent. Mother nature is a savior but it is not enough. We also need AC.
Jokes aside, this trip was more than heat exhaustion! We fed chickens, watered plants, mixed concrete, and helped erect steel poles for the hosts’ new shade structure. We showered in an old greenhouse that had tattered gardening fabric and remnants of past WWOOFers as we ducked under a hose funneling warm water from the creek. After morning chores, we spent days lounging looking out at the canyon and listening to the sounds of nature. We also visited a local market and the public library for groceries and, yes, AC.
The moral of the story is AC. Just kidding. The moral of the story is that this journey is not black and white. Not in my escape – because I cannot and do not want to leave everything in my life behind. Not in the lifestyle I pursue – because no situation is perfect & the unexpected shall be expected. And not in my approach – because being able to adapt while upholding my self-respect is critical. Accountability reigns, and it’s reflection, flexibility, and resilience that will help me power through, especially in this heat.