Escaping an Ecovillage

Recently we decided to volunteer at and Ecovillage in Canada. We’ve been pretty comfortable house sitting our way around Mexico, the USA and most recently Canada, but sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. We’ve wanted to get involved in the community a bit more and add some purpose to our day.

With this in mind we looked into doing some volunteering through Workaway.

ecovillageThis is what we imagined

Having recently become all consumed by the idea of building a tiny house, we’ve binge watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, sought out documentaries and I’ve got a rather impressive Pinterest board going on. Heading somewhere to learn some new skills sounded like a fun idea.

After scouring through a long list, we applied for a place on an Ecovillage. Learning how to become more socially, ecologically and economically sustainable, sounded right up our street.

I imagined learning how to build sustainably and finding out more about sustainable food production.

Upon arrival my romantic dreams were shattered…it looked like a run of the mill housing estate in the suburbs. This was not quite what I had in mind.

I can be pretty quick at jumping to conclusions, so as we arrived at 10pm at night, I thought I should maybe reserve judgment until the light of day.  Sometimes things do look worse at night.

The warning signs kept coming.

We were shown to our room, it was ice cold. At -4°C outside a bit of heat might have been nice.

I went to the bathroom; there was no toilet roll or towel to dry our hands on.

We got into bed and it smelt like cheesy feet.

To me these are just the basics of making someone feel welcome in your home. Clean sheets, a bit of heat and some toilet roll don’t seem like too much to ask…do they?

In the past I may have started moaning about this to Rob, but over the last year I’ve learnt lots of things and one of them is sometimes I just have to shut up and get on with it. I do enjoy a good moan but it doesn’t really solve anything and can just make an already bad situation even more negative.

I said nothing.

We woke in the morning. It was still cold. I could see my breath as I lay there in bed; this is never a good thing. I had to prepare myself mentally for the step from the bed onto the freezing tiled floor and did a cold dance as I got dressed in record time.

I still said nothing.

After breakfast we were shown around the whole Ecovillage.

ecovillage-realityA smaller version of this was closer to the reality

My initial impression of a housing estate was correct. In fact, the community aspect of the Ecovillage was that they houses were built close together so that everyone on your street could see into your kitchen. Apparently this was to promote community cohesion.

In our walk around the estate I didn’t see a single other person. People live there, but seem to go off to work during the day coming back in the evening to go home cook a meal and watch TV.

Ecovillage jobs

Moving stones, raking leaves and painting.

Not quite the skills I was hoping to pick up. I’ve haven’t spent any dedicated time learning to rake leaves, but I’m pretty sure I’d be ok it if I just gave it a go.

Having still not said anything to Rob, we layered up and headed out into the sub zero temperatures to rake leaves.

After about an hour Rob walked over to me.

“It’s shit, I don’t want to stay.” Was all he said and hugged me.

I was pleased for 2 reasons, firstly he was feeling the same as me and secondly he said it first.

“Me either!” I replied, although my facial muscles were now completely frozen, so it was probably more like a Chewbacca noise.

Rob pretty much has the attitude of ‘Just get on with it’. He isn’t usually a moaner, when he is ill he just gets on with it, when he has a problem he solves it, no moaning required. I knew it must have been bad for him to break first.

Decision made, we then had to find a way to leave.

Rob set off along the road to enquire about public transport to make our escape.

He returned 20 minutes later with the news that there was in fact no public transport for several towns around.

We might be stuck. The more we searched for a way out, the less likely it seemed. I’m sure the owners would have given us a lift, but the conversation of, “We don’t like it here. Can you help us leave,” would have been an awkward one.

The escape route

On this journey we’ve been lucky enough to meet some truly wonderful people. None more so than Lynn and Chris, the last homeowners we sat for in Vancouver. Before we left they’d said, “If you don’t like it (at the Ecovillage), just come back here.”

I fired off an email to them asking if we could indeed return. Immediately Lynn replied with, “Yes of course”.

Relieved but still stuck, and busy tearing our hair out whilst looking for any form of transportation out of our predicament, our mobile started to ring.

It was Chris our saviour! Offering to come and pick us up after he finished work, driving 2 hours out of his way and refusing to accept any petrol money.

We only spent a few days with Chris and Lynn, but they feel like old friends we have known for years. We can’t thank them enough!

Escape route planned, a sense of calm was once again restored.

What did we learn from this?

We were incredibly naive. We have some experience of sustainable living and ecovillages, which were part of the inspiration for us doing this.

We should have asked more questions, found out more about the Ecovillage and what we’d be doing there. Not just assumed they are all the same. The place wasn’t awful, the people we were staying with were friendly.

We could have stayed, hated our entire week and moaned the whole time. Ultimately life is too short to do this, so we chose not to.

Being fair to the folks there, they have a vision to create a community in a society where you often don’t know your own neighbours. Throughout the year they reap and sew organic fruit and veggies from their land and have building projects which we would have loved to get involved with. It just wasn’t the right time of year or the right place for us.

It won’t stop us looking for similar opportunities, we’d just do MUCH more research next time.

The silver lining

Instead we headed over to Vancouver Island and spent a wonderful few days in the very beautiful Ucluelet. We found an amazing space to call home for 4 days. It was cold, windy and raining when we got there, but we were taken in by its instant charm. The coastline reminded us of our beloved Scotland.

Our time there consisted of walking along the dramatic driftwood covered beaches, in amongst the beautiful forests and eating delicious food in cozy pubs by the sea.

ecovillage-ferryThe ferry trip over to Vancouver Island is pretty special on a sunny day, apparently you occasionally see pods of orcas and other sea life!

ecovillage-bedroom

ecovillage-escape

ecovillage-food-cozy

ecovillage-long-beach-driftwood

ecovillage-long-beachWe stayed in a lovely cosy self-catering place via airBnB in Ucluelet, explored Long Beach Tofino and ate delicious food at Shelter restaurant. Definitely all worth checking out!

We spent less than one day doing something we didn’t like. It may have improved and maybe it’s a little harsh to judge something on such a short space of time. But first impressions go a long way and boy did it make us appreciate our unexpected adventure on Vancouver Island so much more.

Every cloud and all that….

29 Replies to “Escaping an Ecovillage”

    1. You know what it just made me appreciate the things I often take for granted, like toilet roll. I feel so grateful for this now, even the slightly rough stuff.

  1. Hahaha! Yes, good call! I can almost hear the words, “It’s shit,” coming out of Rob’s mouth (okay, so maybe I am imagining Karl Pilkington’s voice, but since they are the same…) An adventure you are not likely to forget! Plan B looked absolutely lovely. Happy new year guys!

    1. Plan B was one of the best things we’ve done since we left the UK and probably made all the sweeter because of said previous experience. At least bad experiences made for a good story 😉

      Happy New Year Sarah x

    1. I’ve been working on my decision making skills, so I’m happy that others are now seeing improvement 😉

      Least the shit makes you appreciate all the other stuff so much more…mmmm heat and clean sheets.

  2. Oh man, nothing is worse than getting out of bed when it’s literally freezing outside of the bed. I hope you guys get to have some practical experiences with sustainable villages and small homes. That would be so interesting! We just moved to Asheville, North Carolina (USA), and have met a ton of people who are building small homes or living in various eco-friendly communities. If you’re into local farm raised food and locally brewed beer at every restaurant and meeting people who *might be* labeled as hippies but are living their dream of sustainability and community, come visit us in Asheville! 😀

    1. We’ve been told about an eco village here on Vancouver Island and it looks much more like our romantic vision. Hopefully we’ll learn a thing or two when we visit there.

      Asheville sounds like a great place, people who are living their dream of sustainability and who *might be* hippies tend to be pretty inspiring people. We’d love to come and visit you 🙂

      1. You guys are brave choosing to go to Canada to work outside in the winter. Wowie! Maybe Vancouver isn’t as frozen as the eastern side though… 🙂 Yes, please do come visit, we offer heat and a toilet roll. And if you’re lucky there might be a warm cat to snuggle with. 😀

        1. There have been a few cold days but right now in Victoria, BC it’s pretty warm compared to Scotland. This will all change when we get to Edmonton next month. What can I say after 10 months in Mexico we just wanted to be cold.

          Heat and toilet roll…we’re there!

      1. We’re not wwoofing here, but we thought about it. We wwoofed in the south of France in September and October and decided to go on a different path for now. There are a ton of great farms around here though, so I’m sure once spring comes I’ll get to meet the farmers at the market. 😀

  3. I would certainly have felt the same way you did and I’m impressed that you were able to keep it to yourself for as long as you did! Have you seen the documentary ‘Tiny’? We recently watched that and are pretty amazed at the Tiny house movement. Do you think it is what you will do once you are finished housesitting?

    1. It’s not my usual style not to moan Yalanda but I’m trying something different out.

      We have seen Tiny and we recently met someone who had worked on another documentary about building a tiny house. We’re OBSESSED!

      We’ve 6 months of travel left, house sitting and then travelling through South America, before we head back to Scotland. Where first we’ll get a dog and then buy a van to convert into a tiny home of own.

  4. Good for you for having the balls to get up and leave when you know something just isn’t right. It’s a terrible trait of us British folk to just grin and bear things and never say what we actually think – if you know it’s not for you then you just know.

    And you got to spend the most magical time in Ucluelet, how amazing are those beaches?! Vancouver Island is up there on my ‘I could live there’ list.

    1. Stiff upper lip and all that! We’ve clearly been in the americas too long, it’s beginning to train all our Britishness out of us…

      It was such an amazing place Maddie, we just loved it, even extended our stay. We are loving our time on Vancouver Island, next week we head up the coast to Qualicum Beach for a months. I think we’re going to really like it there too.

  5. I have a similar tendency to you, Kellie. I will moan because it’s my habit, and Zab often gets frustrated with it. I’m impressed you managed to keep it in and Rob broke first! I need to try forcing myself to do that. Indeed, life is too short to stay somewhere you hate for a week. Good for you for getting out early!

    1. I’m a moaner by habit too, Rob is slowing helping me break this though. It felt a nice sense of achievement when he broke first and perhaps there was just a little bit smugness 😉

  6. I’m glad you were able to get out instead of grumble through it. I like the idea of Eco Villages too, but if I ever do one up here in the Great White North it will definitely not be in the winter! 🙂

    1. I think we could have stayed and moaned the entire week but that’s not the experience we came looking for. We had a great experience at the Solar Living Centre in California. There was everything sustainable living, organic garden, renewable energy and best of all sunshine

  7. As I read through this post I was kinda thinking someone would have to give or explode, which I guess could have been the case. I know for us (Moni & I) that probably, no definitely, I would have moaned before the morning had come, probably all night in the cold bed…lol

    That might be the whinging pom in me but I am trying.
    Anyway a there is often a reason behind most things, not sure what would be in having a cold room, dirty sheets and no bog roll.

    Great read thank you and it was my first time here. 🙂

    1. Welcome welcome welcome! Glad you could join us 🙂

      Ha, Kel is a much improved moaner I was very impressed! I am only too happy to break first when I have had enough of something, but I like to make sure first.

      Give a go, if you don’t like it leave. That’s my mindset 🙂

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