I wasn’t always broke…
I worked long hard hours in the hospitality industry, and while I loved the work (and the play!) I always felt that I was missing out on actually living. I had convinced myself, however, that I needed to work as hard as I did to earn the money to enjoy doing the things that I did, which was mostly eating, drinking, partying and travelling.
In the last few years I have turned my life upside-down. I came back from living overseas, quit all my jobs and went to uni for the first time at the ripe old age of 27. I guess I had what you could describe as a paradigm shift – I remember distinctly one day many years ago now where I stopped for more than two seconds, looked at my life and thought, this is unsustainable, and something is about to give. I’ve always believed that to get something you have never gotten before, you have to do something you have never done before. By that, I mean if you want change in your life you have to change something about your life. You can’t just sit by and wait for it to happen to you.
Drawing on past experiences gained (while travelling!) I decided what I really wanted to do was to go to uni and study a conservation biology-based degree, focusing on marine environments and coral reefs. A reaction I got a lot when talking about this with friends was, “but how will you afford it? And how will you afford to live?” My answer to that is where there is a will, there is a way. It’s not about money for me, it’s about what I can gain from the experience personally.
Right now, I am living off a student allowance with no job supplementing my income, and for the first time in my life feel like I have the time to get involved in all the things I always wanted to. I have taken part in a number of community volunteering days like Clean Up Australia, and weeding/planting/nursery days for a group that is re-vegetating our local waterways in Brisbane. I have time to invest in my garden (and hopefully something will actually grow so I can save money on grocery bills). I have time to spend with my friends. And most importantly, I have time for my studies.
The direction I imagine myself taking in the next few years is getting back out in the workforce after finishing my degree… I know it has to be done! But this time I aim to be working somewhere outside, hopefully on a reef collecting data and investigating the effects of climate change or plastics in the ocean. Ideally, I would like to get paid to travel around the world living and working on tropical beaches… for totally noble reasons of course. I consciously chose this path I’m on now because I really wanted to feel like I was doing something worthwhile with my time, and putting back into the planet. I want to have the knowledge and opportunity to be able to engage people with their natural world, and perhaps open some eyes to the life that exists around us, and the care we need to take with it. I hope to be able to educate local communities in developing (and developed) countries on how to look after, defend and care for their natural environments.
I would eventually like to break away from the mainstream and live in a sustainable community: ‘off the grid’. My parents are a great inspiration here – they have just finished building a house, just the two of them, from scraps and materials that my Dad has been collecting basically my entire life. There is a genuine cast iron bath tub in the new house that was under our previous house for as long as I can remember. Help was gotten from friends in the form of labour/goods exchanged – rarely money. They have their own solar panels, water tank and septic systems. Mum grows most of their food, and they are also heavily involved in local community gardens and trading initiatives which embody community living to me.
I personally try my hardest to break away from the consumerist capitalist mentality, I shop at local farmers markets, reduce and reuse everything I get my hands on, don’t buy the cheapest breakable plastic items, say no to plastic bags! I feel each step I take in this new direction I have chosen is opening my eyes a little more to the world around me, and what I can do personally to get the most fulfillment out of my life. I hope to be in a position where I can help people see there are other ways to live than the one that seems to be indoctrinated in this modern world – and work towards fostering that nowadays elusive concept of community where people actually interact and look out for each other.
So, although I may be broke, my life is far richer than it ever was before.
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