This is the third in a 4-part series (read part 1 and part 2) telling the story of Mick Crear’s decision to leave his job, and all the baggage that came with it, to pursue a simpler, richer life as a permaculturist cycling around Australia.
The feeling of loneliness ended when, on the 19th of February 2018, I pedalled into Krishna Village in Eungella. At the time, I thought any form of religion and spirituality was just foolishness and I was a little scared heading there. But I was only going for three weeks of volunteering while they were running a Permaculture Design Course. While there, I was hoping to meet some other cool permies, then be on my way.
Well, the course was cancelled and I fell in love with the people and the place. The village, which is part of a wider Hare Krishna network, is home to about 40 short-term volunteers, as well as retreat guests and course participants. After two weeks, there was no way I was leaving and, having only ever done maybe six yoga classes before I arrived, I signed up for the next yoga teacher training course. Initially, I was only interested in the physical side of yoga and really just wanted an excuse to stay around a community of hippies and backpackers for longer.
After a couple of months, I became more and more interested in the philosophy and teachings, and it ended up changing my perspective on life, religion and spirituality. I found complete fulfilment in giving all that I could to the community that gave me so much. I worked in the syntropic garden with Thiago, built new infrastructure with Luis, taught yoga twice a week, ran workshops on foraging feral food, performed Kirtan with Lila, ran men’s circles with Jamie and cooked wood fired pizza on Fridays with Sean. The work ethic I inherited from my father paid off (perhaps in a different way than he would have liked) when I was offered the job of Manager of the Volunteers. To be paid for doing what I loved doing, while working alongside Damodar who I consider my spiritual mentor and friend, was enough to convince me to stay forever.
At times, the project manager in me would show themselves, for better or worse. I had a vision that the harder I could get everyone to work the more self-sufficient the community could be. Permaculture is hard work after all. There were a few who did not see it the same way I did and were comfortable just doing enough to stick around and take advantage of what was offered. My time came to an end when I was seen having a beer and BBQ at the beach on a weekend, the Hare Krishnas being strict about abstaining from meat and alcohol. After a serious discussion and a few days of contemplation, I decided to voluntarily resign and leave the village on good terms.
Further along in my travels, I arrived at the busy little city of Grafton where I sat at a fancy café enjoying a coffee. Coffee drinking became a bit of a habit which had me questioning my frugality at times. But I figured that the motivation it would give me when riding towards a town and the opportunity to give a small amount to the struggling town economy made it worth the financial compromise. On the way out of Grafton, I sucked up my introversion and asked a stranger if I could fill my water bottles. Mac is a self-employed bikie with a big beard and tats; he was very helpful and we had a nice chat.
I had planned to stay the night at the town of Clouds Creek. Again, my map reading skills proved somewhat poor because there was no town and no creek in sight. But I found a nice camp in a pine plantation. There were a lot of bikies around on their way to an event on Phillip Island. I couldn’t help but feel connected to them; very different, but very similar at the same time. Somehow, they seemed to understand me. One of the struggles of inland cycle touring is access to good food. I arrived into Ebor excited to stock up after a few days to find they did not even have fresh bread. At least, jam and peanut paste on flat bread is delicious.
With my knees in a bad state, I finally arrived in Armidale and went straight to the market. In my exhaustion, I bought a coffee in a disposable cup. This is not something I normally support but I needed to spoil myself after such a difficult morning. As I sat sipping my flat white out of landfill, I researched the carbon emissions associated with disposable cups and petrol consumption. On the back of an envelope, I calculated that with the 50km I had ridden that morning (and not driven) I had saved the carbon emissions equivalent to 100 takeaway cups. Of course, we should not be using disposable items, but there is the risk that once we buy a mascot like a keep cup, we become complacent. The ignorance around fossil-fuelled transportation is huge. People driving to the coffee shop with their keepcup; students flying across the world to study permaculture (like yours truly); vegetarians importing soybean. We ignore it simply because it is so convenient. We can live without the convenience of disposable cups but we do not seem to be able to live without the convenience of fossil-fuelled travel.
Read part 1 and part 2 of the series, and watch out for the final instalment next month