That’s a lot of ‘romans’ in one blog title.
It’s no coincidence though. This post is a little past its due by date, but I’m going ahead and getting it up because it’s oh so fitting and oh so timely.
You see, I’ve just wrapped up my time in Romania.
I really am on a journey with no end. Home one minute, up and away the next.
I’m not in this to give you travel advice though. I’m here to give you real world reflections from a 20-something year old trying to find her place in the world and hopefully, teaching you a thing or two about yourself in the process. That you can use my words as a mirror of reflection into your own life.
So I wasn’t just in any old place in Romania… but on a beekeeping farm.
Outside of the quaint Saxon town of Sibiu, nestled in the rolling green hills of country Transylvania, I’ve spent the past 2 weeks learning a few beginner basics in organic beekeeping as a stepping stone in my intrapersonal explorations to crafting the kind of lifestyle I want to live and how this fits into the bigger picture (and bigger problems) of this world. But more importantly (and unexpectedly), I’ve found myself on a cultural journey; asking questions about my own life, privileges and biased views of the world. Questions that are freaking uncomfortable and sometimes with shameful answers to follow. Questions that have, to be frank, left me feeling too fizzled and too frazzled to even write here on the blog. More on that another time.
For now, what you need to know is that I struggled with what to write to here. Was I to write about the beekeeping? The ins and outs of a bee colony and the super amazing ‘super-organism’ that they make up. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t muster the motivation. You see, there are so many amazing resources for beekeeping out there already that I can simply point you to them. I’m not the best person to go to for that information. What I DID learn from this experience (not to say I didn’t learn a thing or two about my new favorite insects) was actually far greater than I could have imagined.
I think I know why I felt this way. It’s got something to do with writing and this blog and my life calling, but again, more on that another time.
Back to the beauty that is Romania.
This part of Romania remains somewhat untouched by modern agriculture. One where tradition trumps modernity. Where horses still pull carriages. Here, the cows roam the dirt roadsides to graze in the early morning and evening hours, prodded by their shepherding child. Traditional bread-makers bake fresh sourdough and sell it straight from the family home. Raw milk is sourced directly from the local farmer. Unadulterated cheese is available in abundance of a hundred varieties. The morning is broken by the sound of the cock crowing and the church bells ringing. Clothing is optional for the children. Where I walk barefoot at all hours of the day with a baby strapped to my back (not mine mind you) harvesting wild raspberries to satisfy the sweet tooth.
This way of life is simple. It’s pure.
It’s dangerously romantic.
So much so that we can easily toss it into the ‘idealistic’ basket without considering the other side. The one without our modern luxuries of video games, air-conditioning and the convenience of grand consumer shopping malls with everything you could possibly desire at your finger tips and the money to spend buying it.
The other side to this romantic picture I’ve so elegantly *cough* painted is either viewed as a blessing or a curse. It depends if that’s what you’ve grown up with or not. Speaking to a teenager at the local park while I babysat the children of my hosts (and he may or may not have been attempting to chat me up), in broken English he emphasized how he hated it there. I suppose I could say much the same for the town I grew up in. The difference?
I’m fortunate to be able to make a choice now to decide where I want to live.
For him, I don’t think he’ll have the same opportunities.
But still, I wanted to paint this romantic picture of the village he lived in. After all, I haven’t grown up in his reality and it was pretty close to the idealistic dreams I was having about my own future life on a farm. Except I was leaving out one important piece….
You see, I’ve come from a reality of far more privilege. Where I’m not forced to walk barefoot because I have no shoes to wear. Where I’m not forced to bake my own bread because that’s all I will eat that day. Where I’m not forced to grow food in my own garden because I can’t afford to buy food. Or where I have no choice in the matter of being forced to stay put because this is where the 3 generations prior to you have lived and without your hands in the dirt, your family won’t be able to survive. Instead, I am free to travel the world and experience firsthand another person’s way of life knowing that I can always return home to my luxuries.
All of these things I at least have a choice in the matter.
If you make the choice to strip back your modern luxuries, you will most certainly be faced with some of these ‘challenges’ of everyday living without modern conveniences that we can only see as challenges because we’ve experienced the convenience of not having to deal with them every single day of our life and for it being simply ‘a way of life.’ Have I confused you yet?
For us, or should I say, those of us who have been born into privileged societies, it will never just be ‘a way of life.’ These ‘challenges’ of say, a non-flushing toilet or growing your own backyard veggies, may even seem a novelty of sorts, because it’s not born out of necessity but rather a lifestyle choice. We still have the option of reverting back to our former luxuries if we decide all of a sudden it’s not our cup of tea. Having this choice is a blessing and a curse. For how seriously do we view the current climate and world problems when we know we have the privilege of making these choices for the better of the environment and yet the luxury of reverting back to our old patterns because we suddenly ‘don’t feel like it’.
Could you really forgo a flushing toilet for life? Or the creature comforts of take-out dinners and cinema dates to see the latest blockbuster? Instead, opting to grow and cook your own food, and find your own ways to entertain yourself. Jumping in your car and driving to the supermarket because you forgot to buy the toilet paper? Instead, choosing to make do with what you have or to be bloody more organized. Shedding the modern conveniences of well, most things in favor of a life of inconveniences only because you know what it means to live with convenience.
It’s easy to focus on the romantic aspects of a certain way of life without considering the reality faced by millions/billions others.
It’s because of all this, I feel blessed to be here.
This experience has caused me to reflect on my own predisposition to romanticize the ‘farming life’ rather than dwelling on the ‘unromantic’ aspects. From many past conversations, I get the sense that I’m alone too.
Let’s not let these romantic images corrode the reality.
But let’s not let the reality corrode the potential for a better reality.
I know, I know. I’m a walking contradiction.
For many urban dwellers, we crave space where there is a severe lack of it. We desire re-connection with the land where there is little in the way of ‘natural’ currently surrounding us. We want to be more in touch with our food system where we see a checkout line of consumers with cart’s full of packaged and processed ‘food-like items’.
To experience a sense of freedom from modern pressures.
And the logical answers seem to pop up time and time again. To return to the countryside and start farming, to homestead, to quit the 9-5 job and travel the world, or quite simply, to live more simply.
With these solutions in mind, it’s easy to fixate on the dream.
I’m guilty of this tenfold. Every time I hear the loud honking of cars gridlocked in traffic, the hustle and bustle of fellow pedestrians wearing glazed expressions pushing past you carelessly like you don’t exist, the endless rows of concrete buildings that leave little for the imagination and the general depressive feelings that come with being stuck in a corporate office while the sky shines a gorgeous hue of blue outside, I revert to my dreams of a quiet life out on a farm in the country.
It’s a dangerous dream if that’s all you fixate on without considering the process of making it happen. But I don’t think that anyone who is serious about pursuing their dreams is oblivious to the harsh reality of actually pursing them. Or so I hope. That’s when I think you get stuck in the romantic trap.
When voiced out loud, my dreams are also clearly controversial ones.
Many have tried to convince me that this way of life is foolish. It’s something we’ve ‘advanced’ from. They are so caring to inform me about the hundreds of farmers going out of business each day. The suicide rates. Prodding me with questions about my experience or if I have any idea about the sheer hard work and energy required. Why I would think of wasting my ‘education’, my ‘privilege’, my ‘class’. I’m just a young, naïve, spoiled, white girl.
While in others, I see their eyeballs beam with intrigue; a sparkle of curiosity because they feel a similar draw. Maybe not in the same form, but the principles behind this way of thinking I’ve expressed – to that they can certainly relate.
And with these controversies at the forefront of our minds, it’s easy to be scared out of our dreams.
Wondering if the process would really be worth it in the end…
But what I think is more dangerous, is that we get stuck in the dream.
Not making any decision on the dream at all. Forever sitting on the fence.
Too scared to try ‘giving it a go’ because we’re consumed by the fear of not knowing the outcome. We fear failure. We fear judgement.
We fear being told we were WRONG.
In this most vulnerable state, some will persist in persuading you away from your dreams. From your dreams of a simpler life. From living off the land. From pursing your own lifestyle. From starting your own business and dictating your own hours. From pursuing something worthwhile because it means something to you.
Often, it’s because they are too scared to face their own reality.
You may be scared. Scared that your expectations may not meet your reality. That the process is far too hard and grueling. Unsure if you’re ready to sacrifice things that you don’t even know yet may be required of you to sacrifice. Even worst, you fear being in a position where you wish you were still sitting their idle just dreaming about the result.
The risk here is that the dream was actually better than the reality.
In truth, that’s probably 100% of the truth.
Because dreams are comfortable. They’re safe. They don’t require you to actually have skin in the game. To step out and challenge yourself in ways you can’t possible imagine. They’re warm and fuzzy.
Reality is not warm and fuzzy. It’s not a teddy dear.
It’s a freaking big fat grizzly bear looking to rip your eyeballs out with its claws.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Not if you take a leaflet from the book of the little cub scouts who know their natural survival shit.
In my own situation, within the realm of this ‘farm life’ romanticism, I do, somewhat, understand the reality. Because I’ve intentionally exposed myself to situations, experiences, people and mentors who can provide me with some insight. To learn from them. To hear their thoughts. To gather intel on the journey I’m embarking on. I’m not going in blindfolded but nor am I going in an expert because that comes with time, experience and practice. Cub scout or not, I’ve at least packed my compass.
But you know one thing, I don’t really have a plan B. Because this is it. I want to make this work that I don’t entertain the idea of reverting back to the safety of my plan B and sitting their idling on my dreams once again.
Right now, these things, coupled with my own life experiences, is all I need in order to make a decision to say ‘yes.’
I’ve had enough of a taste of my previous reality to realize that’s not a life I want to proceed chasing. I have made a decision of which path I will now trod down. Because without making this decision, I am simply putting my future potential on hold. By saying ‘yes’, I’m putting skin in the game again and choosing to participate in the ecosystem of life and subsequently, choosing to at least see what happens on the other side. Because that part, my mind – with all it’s doubts and fears – can’t possibly know because it hasn’t yet experienced it.
It’s what I need. It’s what I want.
The shock. The blood. The sweat. The tears.
Because I know enough now that it’s through these things one lives.
What dream have you been too scared to face the unromantic side of but too fearful to face the reality of in making it happen?
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