I’ve never considered myself to be a farm boy. After all, I didn’t grow up on a farm and in fact, the closest farm to where I did grow up was most likely over 100 miles away. And that’s just a guess because rarely did I find myself passing by or visiting a farm at all during my youth.
However, several days ago I was invited by my friends Matt and Alessa to spend a couple of days in the country town of Trentham, located in the hills of the Great Dividing Range, some two hours outside of Melbourne. This tiny town, the center of which basically consists of one pub, one small supermarket, a couple of shops, a bakery and a cricket pitch, is also home to several farms, and one of those farms happens to belong to Matt’s family.
So off we went for a visit and naturally, I had no idea what to expect, other than a few fields full of potatoes and a few paddocks full of sheep. But only minutes after driving up the gravel driveway and being greeted by the family’s energetic and loyal sheep dog, I discovered that I needed these couple of days in the quiet countryside more than I ever imagined.
SHEEP AND SERENITY
From the moment I pulled an old, worn out pair of boots over my feet, tucked my pant legs inside my socks and took my first step of what would prove to be a two hour wander around the farm, I felt a sudden flame of unexpected enthusiasm run through me. And this feeling only intensified as I began hand-feeding the sheep, eating fruits right off the trees and listening to flocks of kookaburras koo-koo-koo-ka-ka-ka’ing away.
Yes, most of us experience some happiness when surrounded by nothing but nature, but in this case, as the fallen branches crunched beneath my feet and as I exchanged glances with a brown wallaby that appeared behind a tree, I found myself fully transported into a state of being where everything around me seemed perfect.
Despite the cold temperature, a strong desire to roam around this seemingly endless plot of nature for days on end soon took up residence inside of my head. Had there been actual farm work to be done at this time of the year, I would have unhesitatingly sheared some sheep, fixed the dam, removed a fallen tree or even harvested some potatoes, and then I would have gladly woken up early the next morning for more of the same.
What made this interaction with nature so unique for me, was that, for the first time in a long while, I had achieved a sense of serenity and calm that allowed me to think with complete clarity. Most of my daily worries, confusion and frustrations had simply vanished and I was living in the present moment, which, when compared to the normal state of my mind as of late, is apparently not how I’ve been living.
This realization, made while standing near the bank of a small creek, forced me to question my pursuit of happiness in life and wonder whether or not laboring away for hours each day on my laptop is actually the best use of my time.
KANGAROOS AND MEDITATION
When nightfall arrived and what appeared to be every star in the Milky Way shone overhead, my friend Matt took Liz and I on an unforgettable ride, one that truly left me with the urge to toss my laptop into that same small creek and start life anew. We went kangaroo spotting and as we drove across the dark, wide-open fields in a pick-up truck, we came upon a group of over thirty kangaroos, which we proceeded to follow around the farm for ten minutes, while all three of us smiled widely and in awe the entire time.
This may not sound too exciting to some of you but the combination of a beautiful night sky, fresh mountain air, being in a remote location and all of those kangaroos hopping around so very close to me, resulted in a child-like giddiness that I did not want to let go of any time soon. Closing my eyes, I summoned all of my inner strength in order to latch onto that feeling of elation for as long as possible.
(this photo is from my trip to the Great Ocean Road as I didn’t have my camera on me at the time)
The rest of my visit to the farm could not have been more satisfying either, as we explored the entire region, stopping by waterfalls, tasting mineral water from natural springs inside the Wombat State Forest, strolling around a lavender farm and a botanical garden and enjoying a lakeside lunch in the slightly larger country town of Daylesford.
Heck, before we began the drive back to Melbourne I even learned how to drive a tractor, which, by the way, proved to be quite a meditative experience as I sat there alone, with sun roof open, just chugging along at 10km/hour, around and around and around the peaceful green pastures.
LEAVING THE FARM
Eventually, we had to leave the farm and during the drive back to Melbourne, I sat in silence, staring out the window with my mind still full of nothing but happy thoughts. This was a far cry from a normal evening, when I usually find myself worrying about my blog and my work and my travel plans and emails and on and on. Naturally, I’d prefer to have a head full of happy thoughts every single day instead.
And considering that a pair of old boots and a field of lavender has the power to rid my life of all it’s worries, would I not be better off wandering around forests and mountains, working on farms and spending less time on my laptop?
In reality, the chances of me ever tossing my laptop into the creek are quite slim, but I can’t deny that such a move would most likely bring instant and long-lasting inner peace and joy into my life. And for that very reason, I have not been able to get this idea out of my head since my visit to the farm one week ago.
Do you sometimes think about a drastic change in lifestyle? And what do you think drives us to exchange a simple, satisfying life for one with infinitely more challenges?
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There are days when it really does feel like a ball and chain around my ankle to work daily from the internet. On the one hand I continually tell myself operate from gratitude since I get to travel perpetual with my internet work – but on the flip side we coupe ourselves up inside artificially lit roomies, chugging away on laptops and completely away from nature :-/
The urge to chuck the electronics overpowers me sometimes, but I don’t see it happening any time soon – and there is power too in being able to effectively use the internet to disperse information and effect change in a way that others cant, we can, because we “get” it 🙂
Hey Shannon – There is definitely power involved and we are able to enter a once unfathomable world that now provides us with endless opportunities. And in the end, that is exactly what keeps me going and pushes me through the more challenging times. Looking forward to discussing it some more and hopefully taking some nature breaks once I get back to Chiang Mai! See you in a few days!
I really wouldn’t let internet traffic or stats bother you so much. I fully understand about getting your words “out there”, but sometimes the cost of sanity is not worth the pressure one puts on yourself.
If the wonders of analytics takes a dip, and you concentrate on posting more, then maybe you start to make a few typos, or the content slides. Sure comments of 100 plus may some your way, but then that leads to more personal obligation to hit up facebook or twitter more often.
Then you’ll only start to add metrics from social media too. Before long you’ll be hankering online 24/7 looking at klout scores, pages liked and RT’s.
Before long you’ll end up worn down and haggard by the “obligation” and “peer” pressure of it all.
Many people in the “new” travel blog craze are sitting behind desks, or spending more time blogging about travel than actually doing it. And when they do, they end up panicking over ratings, grades and numbers than traveling.
Unless you supported by a hefty wallet, and / or are in a developed country with 24/7 internet, one simply cannot compete with the “business travel bloggers”. And, that’s how they are treating. Instead, I would suggest you create you’re own niche, and go by your own rules.
It makes life, travel, and business a lot more relaxing everyday 🙂 Just my 2cents!
Hey Dave – Your 2 cents is worth a great deal more than that my friend. I really appreciate your comment and I think you summed up the situation quite perfectly. The challenge of blogging while constantly traveling is greater than most imagine and I have yet to find time to even begin analyzing my stats too much. Simply writing consistent posts is time-consuming enough while on the road.
I think you’re idea of creating my own niche is wise and with my new site design that I hope to launch very soon, that is what I intend to do. I’d much rather rely on uniqueness and good content than time spent fiddling with statistics and metrics any day! Thanks so much Dave.
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I can completely understand the sentiment – I’m tempted to hide from my laptop as well from time to time. Wonder if it’s just a matter of taking extended breaks from it; a vacation from the vacation in a sense?
Hey Anil – A vacation from the vacation is exactly what is needed and I for one will start planning more of these for the near future! I hope your travels are going well!
I just spent a few days backpacking though some sweet Patagonian river valleys and stayed at a farm nestled 7 miles into the woods. They grew crops, brewed beer, made bread and tended cattle and sheep…it was so relaxing, so invigorating to connect with nature on the trail and then again on this farm. Medicine for the soul.
I imagine myself an old man chewing on straw and feeling soil someday…
@joshywashington: Patagonian valleys sound quite nice to me 🙂 It gets quite addicting being out there in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by such simplicity and inspiring nature. You just may be chewing that straw sooner than you think!
Don’t throw everything out and become a farmer just yet… for those of us that grew up in the countryside, it’s not always so blissful.
Like others have said, a balance is what’s key. Long vacations from the laptop every month or so should be sufficient. 🙂
Hey Matt – I’m sure there is an entirely different side to farm life so thanks for reminding me of that! And monthly breaks from the laptop are important. The longer one goes without a break, the harder it is to convince yourself to take one.
Sometimes it feels better to be in a quite place and surrounded by nature. It heals our mind and soul, and a temporary escape from the busy daily life.
I’m sure that being on the farm was a much needed break from the norm! The only thing I think about with farms and sheep is that one awesome horror movie, Black Sheep (2006) that was filmed in NZ. 😛
Hey Erica – I haven’t seen that film (or even heard of it!) so I think I need to check it out soon. If you say it’s an awesome movie, that’s enough to convince me 🙂
Sounds like you had an amazing time. Great pictures and glad you were able to step outside of your daily routine. I think we all need that sometimes. 🙂
Hey Ali – We all do need such a break sometimes. I just wish it wasn’t so difficult to step away from our normal routine and leave everything behind!
This is great. And I totally relate to the way you felt about the farm and questioning things. I was lucky to grow up on a small farm and it’s something I honestly think about every day. Someday I want to have a nice farm in the country. Really enjoyed reading this!
Hey Nate – It’s interesting because everyone I know who grew up on a farm, seems to never lose their connection to nature, even if they move away. Having a farm of my own sounds quite ideal to me, even just a large plot of land in the middle of nowhere where I could spend some time re-energizing my life whenever needed. Let me know if you want to go in for halves on a farm one day!
I think we all probably need a day on the farm every once in a while! Sounds sooo relaxing.
Hey Andi – Agreed 🙂 There should be monthly blogger meetups on farms around the world, where laptops are not allowed!
No! No! NO! Don’t leave us Earl!!!!!!!!!!! Ha ha. Does that make up for the HOURS behind a laptop? Seriously, W.E. the grass isn’t greener, I swear!
Hey Jeremy – Haha…ok, ok, I won’t leave you! Seriously, I don’t think I would be able to say goodbye to this blog. If anything, I would prefer to spend more time on the blog and less time with some of my other projects. So I guess I just need to re-arrange some things so that my priorities are straight.
And I do appreciate the support by the way!
Everyday our local sheep farmer brings the sheep past our house and lets them graze on the grass in front. I could sit on my balcony for hours watching them.Noticed two little lambs this week. So cute. Unfortunately, I have to get back to the laptop as charging on an hourly basis but yes, I love watching them as well
Hey Natalie – That sounds so perfect to me having those sheep wander by your house every day. It’s like a daily wake up call to not forget that life is more than computers and work. Perhaps the answer is for me to just travel around the world with a sheep. Thanks for the idea 🙂
I’ve had similar thoughts of throwing my laptop in the river…even without a visit to a sheep farm! There is something purposeful and fulfilling living simply and living off the work you do with your hands – you can see the direct result of your efforts. While one may argue the same thing with online work, it’s not quite the same.
But, as you see, I still have my laptop. Haven’t been able to say goodbye to it yet. But, thoughts of more balance in my life have certainly been going through my brain lately.
Hey Audrey – If that’s the case then I would advise you not to visit a sheep farm any time soon, or else it might push you over the edge!
Finding that perfect balance is no easy task and it seems that every time I try re-prioritize, it doesn’t last very long at all. But I’m determined to find a solution, as you seem to be as well. At least it’s good to know that life on a farm would be a most enjoyable alternative in the event that I do suffer from a major meltdown. Perhaps we should create a rehab farm where unbalanced bloggers and others who work online can go to get their life in order 🙂
Wow, looks like you had an incredible time. Maybe this was exactly what you needed, to find balance. Blogging is an incredible way to make a living, but it does take up a lot of time. Sometimes a situation like this is exactly what one needs. We all left our regular jobs to get away from the rat race and don’t want our dreams to turn into the exact thing that we left behind. A wake up call now and then is a very good thing.
Dave and Deb, you are spot on. I really did need a weekend like this (and actually I’ve decided to go camping this weekend for one more dose of nature) as I’ve been taking on so many projects lately that I have had little time to do anything but work and blog. And as you said, that is exactly what we are trying to avoid with our change in lifestyle.
But hey, I heard the wake up call loud and clear and hopefully I won’t need another one for a long time 🙂
I agree with iamthewitch in that this is a very provoking entry. It sort of takes my ‘dream’ situation and compares it to farm life. My aunt has a farm in Florida and I understand everything you are saying, but I was sort of surprised to see that you feel traveling and blogging sort of as a drag.
Great insight, by the way.
@TravelingAlex: I think what came out in his post was the exhaustion I’ve been feeling as of late. In all honestly, traveling and blogging are far from being a drag, most of the time. But trying to keep up with work, blogging, making constant travel plans and trying enjoy the places I visit is basically similar to having 4 full time jobs. So naturally, there are times when it takes it’s toll on the body and mind. The past few weeks has been one of those times for me 🙂
It’s amazing how Arcadian the Australian landscape can be, isn’t it? Though I don’t see you throwing your laptop away in pursuit of sheep — or even kangaroos.
What a great experience to have, though.
It sure is Theodora. And you’re right, my laptop won’t end up in any creek but perhaps I just need to make sure I spend more time outside in nature instead of staring at my computer screen!
That picture of you petting the sheep’s head as you walk together is amazing. Great post – it’s important to find a place of peace where possible. 🙂
Hey Christy – I like that photo as well. I could have hung out with “Fat Boy” (that was that sheep’s nickname) all day. As soon as he saw people approaching the field, and while every other sheep ran in the other direction out of fear, “Fat Boy” walked straight up to us and followed us around 🙂
I was in Melbourne and the outskirts for a few days too just a couple of months ago, and I must say I could totally relate to what you were feeling. I didn’t stay in the farm but I stopped by many times just to observe the sheeps and the cows and to take in the wonders of nature – the tranquility. Very provoking entry 🙂
@iamthewitch: Glad to know you understand what I’m talking about. And the good thing about Melbourne is that it only takes a one hour drive or so to find yourself in the ‘country’, surrounded by farms and nature and without any indication around at all that you’re close to a major city.
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I’m glad you enjoyed your time on the farm. I used to ride around on a tractor recreationally when I was a kid. I grew up in the countryside (but not on a farm) and there wasn’t a whole lot to do. My father had a little tractor to mow the grass with because the yard was way too large for a push lawn mower, so all of us kids used to ride it all over the place. It’s fun, isn’t it?
Hey Sabina – It is quite fun riding a tractor. Suddenly I feel like buying one and riding it around the world 🙂