Living on the edge of society

Although our finca is only 1km from the village, most days it might as well be 100km away! And we like that, it’s what we wanted. When we first viewed here we were a little worried that it was too close to civilization, but everything else we had looked at was too remote (I know, there’s no pleasing some people 😂).

So I thought I would investigate why we felt so compelled to leave society behind three years ago, and whether we have really achieved that.

I think one of the main problems we had with life in the UK was the fact that there is an expectation that you should live to work, rather than work to live. The people that were still sending emails at 2am were the ones to get promoted – ooh look how hard they work. I have been in this situation, and oftentimes felt so tired that I literally cried. This is not living.

Then there’s the need for more and more useless stuff. I too was caught in this trap, and the day I spent £995 on a handbag I suddenly thought ‘what on earth am I doing???’. Work harder so you can earn more money, and then spend it on useless crap that maybe makes you happy at best for a fleeting moment. Now I have no issues with working hard to earn my money, the difference now is that we buy things we need, with just the odd exception! I don’t think we’d be human if we weren’t occasionally drawn to something glittery. But it is just occasionally now, rather than the weekly or monthly norm. I wish I’d saved more, rather than spending it on unnecessary things – it would’ve made the escape a little easier.

The third reason is just how unkind and judgemental society seems to have become. There’s a real streak of selfishness running through many cultures, and quite frankly, it makes me sad. We came off Facebook a few years ago, although we have recently rejoined. The difference now is that we’re very careful who we add as friends. Mostly it’s family and a few friends, as this is a good way to stay in touch with the ones we like! It also means we can keep up with things that are happening in the village, and although we don’t always go and join in, we do occasionally go and show our faces to be part of the community. One thing though, we make sure we don’t get drawn into any politics or arguments in the village. We smile and walk away …

We went and joined in with tree planting in the new park in the village. This is the expat tree and between us we represented Ireland, England and Scotland!

For Rog, he said his main reason was how het up people get over things that just really don’t matter – the fact that people rarely look at the bigger picture or overreacting to minor issues. Now we’re far from perfect, and we do still get wound up over stupid things, but I like to think that we realise it quicker now when we’re doing it and stop ourselves (or stop each other).

The last reason of course, is the environment. We wanted to live a life with a gentler touch on the planet. This, we have achieved, and it makes me happy that we are contributing less now to the environmental catastrophe that’s happening to Earth.

So looking back at those reasons, there wasn’t an awful lot left that we did like!

The hardest thing about doing what we did was leaving the family. We do miss them, but that’s where modern technology does improve life, being able to video call regularly. And these days we do actually have the time to talk properly to them, without clock watching, or having to dash off somewhere.

So now, the big question – have we achieved our dream of dropping out? Well, no, not totally. I think, as the title of this blog suggests, we have achieved living on the edge of society – we’re on the hard shoulder of life, but haven’t quite made it into the field on the other side of the hill away from the motorway 😂. But that’s fine with us.

I don’t think we expected to form some good friendships, but we have – and it’s nice having a handful of people that you can call up and go ‘help!’ – and help them in return when needed, or to just drop in for a coffee. I think the best thing is that our few good friends know we’re oddballs who moved here to get away from people, and so there’s no pressure on us to meet up regularly, or join the whist club or pétanque team (one person did suggest that we join them on a Sunday afternoon for a game but I think the horrified look on our faces was enough of an answer!). When we do occasionally meet up for lunch, we enjoy it, simply because it’s not every week.

Even here though we do sometimes meet people we’d rather not have anything to do with, but living where we do makes it easier to avoid them! We try not to venture away from the finca too often, usually a couple of times a week just for a few hours, as when we’re here we’re generally undisturbed. Whilst it’s nice to go out occasionally, I always feel happy to get back here again. It’s definitely become our sanctuary away from the world.

Best of all, we enjoy more freedom than we’ve ever experienced before – real freedom. No one telling us those trees have to be pruned today, or that we have to work late to get things done. They do say that people are their own worst bosses, and I agree with that – at the start of this journey we had a grueling amount of work to do to get this place in shape, and we did put ourselves under pressure. We’re learning to slow down now though! We have time to sit and talk, and sometimes to just sit and enjoy the scenery, watching the swifts dive around at sunset, or just hearing the golden oriels in the morning as the sun rises. Summer afternoons are for reading or sleeping in the cool. This is living to us. The longer we’re here, the more certain I am of the decision we made, and the more sure I am that we could never go back to our old lives.

As for the other aspects of being part of society – paying your bills, making sure you’ve filled in all the forms for everything, going food shopping etc etc, well there’s no escaping those things is there! But these are things we can live with!

World Environment Day

This special day is celebrated tomorrow (Saturday 5th June). It’s a day when the UN seeks to focus the attention of investors, businesses, governments and communities on the increasingly urgent need to restore the Earth’s ecosystems.

People will be marking the day all over the world by planting trees, cleaning up beaches and woods, and generally trying to make a difference.

Here in Illar, the Ayuntamiento has recently made a new park area for residents to enjoy, and they have invited the local community along on Saturday to plant the trees – what a wonderful way to celebrate!

Here are some ideas for ways to join in:

Go to your local park, canal, beach or woods and litter pick

Plant some insect friendly plants or a tree in your garden

Spend the day avoiding using any plastic, or maybe reducing your consumption of electricity!

If you’re going food shopping, avoid buying anything that’s packaged in plastic, or highly processed. Maybe look for a local farmers market to support instead of a big supermarket.

Go meat free for the day, weekend or even the week – maybe commit to one day a week without meat?

It might be the start of some easy changes you could introduce into your every day life. We’ve been amazed at just how easy it is to live with much less electricity than we used to have!

The way that we’re living on this planet is not sustainable for life in the long term, and we all know we need to make changes. Whilst many people see the responsibility lying with governments and industry, we can all make small changes that will make a difference now – and if everyone made a small difference, it would add up to a big change. We can’t keep waiting for governments and commercial industries to stop talking and start doing, every single one of us is responsible.

We have two homes – our planet and our body – look after them both.

Plants to improve air quality

I mentioned the other week that we were going to try using house plants to improve the humidity in the house when Rog got ill.

Well, we’re a few weeks on now, and I can reveal whether this method has been a success!

The short answer is a resounding YES!

Two of the peace lilies which are good for purifying the air

In our main room, which serves as kitchen, dining room and living room, we have two reed palms and three peace lilies. Then in the bedroom we have another, slightly larger reed palm and a mother in laws tongue. We have also bought a Himalayan salt lamp for the bedroom, which we put on for a couple of hours in the afternoon – we don’t have enough electricity to have it on longer, but combined with the plants, we can both really feel the difference.

Reed palms reduce humidity

We have a weather station here, and one of the things it measures is indoor and outdoor humidity. A comfortable range is 30-60% humidity. A few days after I put the plants in, we started to monitor the humidity more carefully, and for the last two weeks it’s hardly gone over 60% indoors! We had a day last week where the humidity outside was 97%, but we we’re still all good indoors!

The fact that the house now rather resembles Kew Gardens is a lovely bonus!

It’s been a perfect example of thinking outside the box. Not having access to unlimited electricity means you have to find other ways, and I think you’ll agree that these are much better than running some ugly, noisy dehumidifier!

I was also planning to try making a home dehumidifier by placing one pot inside another and adding rock salt to draw the moisture in – I haven’t managed to get my hands on any rock salt yet so haven’t made these, but I’ll let you know how I get on if I do manage to get some!

We need to go and get some more plants now for the spare bedroom, which is the worst room in the house for damp!

Natural ways to feel better …

I have always enjoyed learning new things in my spare time. One of the areas I studied in our old life was complimentary therapies, and I achieved 15 diplomas in various treatments.

As the last year has taken its toll on all of us in various degrees, I thought it would be useful to share some easy things we can all do to make us feel a little better!

Remember I mentioned a few posts ago about having a little corner or den where you could escape? Well, there’s a few things you could put in that corner to help you to relax …like an alter to your own well-being.

I find that being surrounded by nature is one thing that really lifts my spirits, so why not pop a little vase with a couple of daffodils in it in your corner – who could fail to be brightened by the sight of those gorgeous sunshine flowers! Having something to concentrate in when you first start meditating is really helpful too to stop your mind wandering.

Just getting outside to do some gardening can help to reconnect you too. If you don’t have a garden, you could get a couple of houseplants that you can look after.

Essential oils can be used in many different ways, but you don’t have to buy expensive carrier oils and then beg your other half for a massage! Milk works as a good carrier for oils in your bath. Add a few drops of your favourite oil to a cup of milk and add to a nice warm bath – lie back and inhale deeply! The best oils for relaxation are lavender, geranium, bergamot and ylang ylang. If you don’t like really sweet flowery fragrances, you could also use orange oil.

If you haven’t got any oils, don’t worry! Crushed orange peel added to your bath will work too – just let the peel soak for 10 minutes before you get in it for maximum benefit.

You can also use oils in diffusers or oil burners, use scented candles or incense. Our sense of smell is the strongest sense – just think about how a smell can transport you back to a moment in your childhood in a split second!

Our bodies have many pressure points, and knowing which ones to activate in difficult times can be really helpful. Best of all, you can do this anywhere at any time, and it’s free! Here are a few that can help:

The first one is in between the eyebrows – your third eye – apply gentle pressure with your finger and massage in a circular motion for 5-10 minutes. This can help alleviate anxiety and stress.

Another one is in the webbing between your thumb and index finger. Gently massaging the area using your finger and thumb of the other hand for 5-10 seconds can help to reduce headaches and neck pain. Please don’t use this pressure point if you are pregnant as it can induce labour!

A third one can be found in your arm, three fingers width below your wrist. Turn your palm upwards and measure three finger widths down – the pressure point is in the hollow between your tendons. Apply gentle pressure and massage for 5 second to relieve nausea and pain.

Our bodies are literally covered with pressure points, but I chose these three as an introduction as they’re easy to find and you can access them on your own!

Crystals can also help – their vibrations resonate with our own to help balance our emotions. If you’re anxious, try having any of the following crystals near to you – howlite, amethyst, rose quartz or moonstone. Pop them in your bedside table at night, or leave next yo you in your desk during the day. When using crystals for healing, it’s important to re-charge them. The easiest way to do this is to place them outside for a night in the light of the full moon. Another excellent stone for healing emotions is Kunzite too – there are so many to choose from! Just pick the one that feels right for you – your intuition and instinct won’t be wrong!

Moonstones gentle healing properties can help you achieve restful sleep when placed under your pillow or by your bed at night.

In today’s hectic world it can be difficult to find time to look after yourself, but these simple methods are quick, easy and inexpensive ways to help you feel better!

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough

We recently watched this documentary, which the great Mr Attenborough calls his witness statement. I felt compelled to share the information about this program and would urge every single person to watch it, and ask them to then tell everyone they know about it. My Dad is reading the book at the moment, and we enjoyed an animated discussion on the contents last week – it’s great to see that the message is getting through to young and old alike.

The first half of the program charts the changes that he has seen throughout his life, including information about population growth and the decline of the amount of wilderness on our planet. He shares his thoughts on the fantastic opportunities he has had, the animals he has not only seen, but also introduced to ordinary people through TV, who would otherwise have never seen a pangolin, or a baby seal, or a mountain gorilla….

But it’s the second half of the program that had the most profound affect on me. I have read about predictions for the future of our planet. In fact, we felt so strongly about what we were doing to our planet that it lead us to living the life we do now. The way that the program lays it out in such a straightforward way reduced me to tears. Before our grandchildren finish their working lives, much of this planet will be a wasteland; the delicate ecosystem that our planet depends on, destroyed; rainforests and their inhabitants, gone. Decades of intensive mono farming will have effectively killed the soil.

If we continue on the destructive path we are currently on, we will not be able to live here, it’s as simple as that. What will all of our children and grandchildren do then? Where will they live?

The program ends with answers – changes we can make, and changes we need our governments to make, to heal the planet. It can be done.

This is not someone else’s problem – we all have to own it and we can all make a difference – each and every one of us.

Please, watch the program, inspire others, and give our grandchildren, and all future generations, a life worth living.

Thank you.