The power of nature

Social environments are as much part of our ecology as the natural environment. I perceive The Internet as a highly important social environment, but it’s equally important to disconnect and find another connection offline. It’s Fausto who showed me the way to nature. Before he came into my life I was glued to my laptop from early morning till late at night, whether for work or doing research myself. Being an abandoned very sensitive puppy from Lisbon, he required a lot of my attention and naturally I started to prioritize his well-being over anything else. Even though we still lived in the city then, we went out hiking for several hours every day and it made me slowly but surely detach from my need to feel in control and that it was time to say goodbye to the perfectionist in me.

Over the years Fausto has taught me many more valuable lessons about fear and my responses in interactions, he showed me to become a very good observer of subtile clues and signs, he made me every day aware that the present moment is all there is and how unconditional love truly feels. He has proven not to just be a pet or companion, but a true friend, teacher and equal being, who chose to come into my life with a very special purpose.

Now I am surrounded by natural beauty every day I feel the importance of our connection with nature and thus ourselves. I am blessed to be able to work with these energies on a daily base and to have beautiful hikes through the mountains starting on my doorstep. Working on the land, with the trees, water, birds and animals fills me with powerful energy instead of being exhausted after a day’s work. It’s a truly empowering, fulfilling and rewarding experience and I hope to share that with many of you.

Many who visit me, coming from the city, go through personal transformations and feel differently when they leave.

Nothing beats being in nature, but reading Charles Eisenstein’s The Ascent of Humanity, the wonderful Anastasia by Vladimir Megré and watching Terra definitely helped me to reevaluate my personal connection with nature.

A 5 billion star experience

My village is located in the Serra do Açor on the foothills of the Serra de Estrella. Together with the Serra da Lousá they form an interconnected mountain range for millions of years already, where many ancient elements are still present. Although their geographical relationship is very close, geological there are many differences between them which makes it a very interesting and diverse landscape to explore. Somehow many foreigners are drawn to this area without really knowing why, but they all share a similar motivation to work and live in harmony with nature. Only after purchasing my land I started to discover the amazing area I find myself in.

The variety in landscape, abundance of ancient forest areas, beautiful views from the mountains, infinite river beaches, natural pools, lakes and waterfalls, still surprise me and it seems there’s always more to discover.

My land  is facing the Serra de Acor, mountains of the eagle. Within a 5 mile radius you find the stunning Fraga da Pena waterfall with, according to many of my friends, a South-American feel to it. The secret little hiking path through the pine forest up to the natural pools provides stunning views. One kilometer up the road from there you enter the 50ha protected National park Mata de Magaraca, where you are welcomed by many different acient tree species. Benfeita is one of the Xisto villages closest to me, with a popular river beach in summer, music events in the little alleys and a cute square in the center of town with a cafe where you’ll meet the many foreigners and locals who live around here. Coja is a small and adorable town, 8km from me, with multiple river beaches, grocery stores, terraces, restaurants, shops and a bank. Driving up the mountains from my place you can visit Piodao, een Unesco world heritage site. The circular walk through the valley of approximately 2 hours towards Foz d’Egua and back is well worth it. Fajao is another Xisto village and not far from there you find my favorite swimming spot: the hidden natural pools of Poco de Cerca, where you can dive from the rocks and truly fancy yourself in paradise.

My new backyard the Serra da Estrela (Star Mountains) national park is not only perfect for those who want to get lost, but for every person who wants to rewind in a place where time stood still, to experience the fulfilment of nothingness, to breath fresh air and refill your cup with mother nature’s pure energy, to discover the power of silence, to be reminded of your own place within our beautiful universe and to see yourself clearly reflected by the many lakes. During the wintermonths Torre, the top of 2000m,  is covered with snow and I am always up for a good day of snowboarding.  Other favorites of mine are the Glacier Valley, Manteigas with the Burel Factory, The lake with a hole and Folgosinho, a hill entirely made from Rosequartz crystal. Please, whenever you visit me or Portugal, allow yourself some days surrounded by this beauty! You will love yourself for it.

Besides those special places mentioned above I love to go swimming nearby at one of the river beaches. If you have some more time and a car, the ancient town of Marvao in the beautiful surroundings of Serra de S. Mamede national park is worth the three hour trip south through the mountains towards the Alentejo and Spain. On the way you will pass by my favorite swimming spot for a refreshing dive from the rocks. Two hours upnorth from me towards Porto, you find Penedes-Gerês National park which provides in breathtaking views and stunning hikes. I am always excited to park the camper there for the night when visiting my friends Hans and Kate who organize highly recommended retreats at their lovely renovated estate in Torre.

One acre tribe

I personally don’t fit in an isolated community that follows a hierarchal structure, where diversity slowly but surely gets overruled by conformity, where individual power is prioritized over individual empowerment. However I do strongly believe in a transition towards local self-reliance powered by shared resources and skills of authentic individuals. I envision to live on the farm with 2 other permanent families and another house being occupied by a rotating group of international professionals. Because we share the existing woodland, farmland, water, animals, renewable energy, natural building materials, buildings and equipment on the 2 hectare farm and bringing in a diverse palette of talent, network and skills, collectively the chance to become self-sufficient in our basic needs increases. The aim is to become selfsufficient in food, shelter and fuel and share the surplus with hundreds of others. Collaborations and exchanges with local and international likeminds are an essential part of the project in order to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable future for all. The farm will also provide in basic accommodation for short term visitors who attend educational courses or for those who like to taste the luxury life for a little bit longer.

The perfect form of co-existing in a social and ecological conscious and responsible way doesn’t exist yet, but there are many experiments happening all over the world. I do get inspired by initiatives like European Network of Living Labs, Green Art Lab Alliance and Women who farm to name a few.

Kindred Spirits

I am not 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. Here’s a shortlist of those who I feel closely connected to; I admire for their courageous efforts and like minded approach; and who may inspire you as much as they do me.

Laura  & Marko – Awakened Forest Project – Sardal, Portugal

Laura and Marko’s project truly inspires me in every way. No words truly describe these special, talented, loving beings. Marko has helped here building the cabins, showed me amazing round  wood skills and  taught me overall lots about natural buildings. Laura is a  walking encyclopedia if it  comes to wild edible species and revealed a whole new  magical world to me in that regard. Check their website and pay thema visit if you can to  see the beauty they create for yourself.

WendyPermaculturing in PortugalBenfeita, Portugal

I am blessed to have a neighbor like Wendy around who already made the move 8 years ago and finds herself in a flourishing food forests with several Xisto (Schist) houses, the traditional natural building style our area is known for. She shares her experiments and innovations through her website of which the vermicomposting flush toilet is seeing a national breakthrough at the moment. If you are interested in learning or volunteering, Wendy is that offline wikipedia and inspiring person you are looking for.

Andre  ArteraBahia, Brazil

Andre and his multitalented team are on their way to transform a coconutfarm into a thriving art and education center. They combine ancient knowledge and traditions with modern technology and tools in order to ensure self-sufficiency independent from big and unsustainable systems. Their online environment functions as a meeting place and hub for initiatives worldwide that share the same vision on how to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable future through art, education, technology and ecology.

ThomasSchoonschip (Dutch only)Amsterdam, The Netherland

If I admire someone for his perseverance, it’s Thomas, who has been extremely motivated to establish the first floating ecological and social conscious neighborhood in Amsterdam. After years of cutting through bureaucratic red tape, the various houses are now build and 46 families will be able to move in soon to experience the future in a city context.

Dave & SonyaInto the WildAlgarve, Portugal

Four years ago Dave, Sonya and their daughter Jip landed on 40hectares of stunning land in West-Algarve in search of a different lifestyle. Starting out with nothing but a Yurt, they’ve gained a tremendous amount of valuable experiences on off-grid remote living which they now share with those who visit their recently opened eco-camping project “Into the Wild Algarve”. Their warm personalities, strong backbone and great vision make me a proud friend and I am grateful to have them near me.

NickMilkwoodAustralia

Nick and his highly professional team in Australia teach skills for growing, designing and living like it matters. They provide lots of free information and a variety of courses on how to integrate permaculture and organic farming into our contemporary (urban) lifestyle. Knowing that 1000 miles away kindred spirits are working towards a similar goal is a great motivator and inspiration to me.

Stijn & KevinLenguaja de artistaGalicia, Spain

Kevin and Stijn exchanged their Amsterdam city life for a rural adventure in North-West Spain around the same time as I did. They are in the start up phase of establishing a self sufficient eco village for creatives and share their daily experiences through social media, which I enjoy very much.