Short intro: my name’s Bart, born Dutch (1970), graduated from what was then called the “superior institute for tourism and transport studies” (1996) and working, living and exploring throughout Latin America since 1997. After my graduation it took my wife and me about a year to convince a few potential clients to keep us in the back of their heads, reassure our families – and ourselves – that we were really making the right move to embark on this wild adventure of setting up a travel company in Peru (without experience, money, contacts, or any solid comprehension of the Spanish language), scrape together 10,000 USD in starting capital, pack our bags and run as far away from Holland as we could.
After a year of learning the language, setting up a company, laying the groundwork, losing some 30 pounds of bodyweight (me, due to hunger and amoebas, yes), planning our first routes and almost having to pack up and leave due to utter broke-ness at least 3 times, we signed our first contract and from there everything kind of started flowing. Throughout the years we saw our baby company grow, worked a little harder, traveled a little more, were graced with two beautiful daughters, moved from Lima to Buenos Aires (2004) and somewhere halfway through our 8-year stint there started to realize that life & things had veered off a bit from what we had in our minds when we left.
So 7 years ago now, we decided it was time to do something about that. Having had enough of big city life, crazy traffic, total material focus, etc. we decided it was time to move again, but this time not because of some crazy business opportunity or because the company needed us to be there; no, this time we would move to a place where we could live a more natural way of life, a place to call home.
It took about 4 years of tinkering with the idea, scanning places on the vast, Latin American map that we had either seen before and loved or had heard of and thought we might love, and discarding one after the other because they did not fit our purpose. During that same time, we reorganized our company in such a way that we could eventually work from home or any desired location. And then one day toward the end of 2012 we decided to check out Nosara again.
We had visited several times since 2000 and had always had this strange, tingling feeling, an energy different from any other place we had been, difficult to describe, but definitely good. Needless to say we fell in love with the place, it fit our needs perfectly (apart from the crappy internet), inscribed our kids in Del Mar, made a chaotic move out of Buenos Aires in May, cruised through Europe and Africa for 3 months and finally landed in San Jose end August 2013. And we’re still here; life in Nosara has been amazing ever since the day we drove in. What can I say? It works for us.
Now to the theme of this blog: one of the main motivators behind our drive to move here was that vaguely enthusiastic but overall ignorant feeling of “leaving the rat race behind”. We are lucky to have seen quite a lot of this amazing continent, and since our work sometimes takes us to less-developed areas, we felt we had a pretty good idea of what “off-grid” meant. Not a clue of course, but hey, we are self-made people; who would tell us otherwise? Luckily it took us a good while to get a better idea of the Nosara groove and slowly-but-surely an image materialized of living this independent life, close to nature, leaving only a shade of a footprint, maybe doing some experimental agriculture, having our horses nearby, flip-flops & rain boots, total happiness, you know… Yeah, that’s what it was: a dreamlike idea of what off-the grid, sustainable living would be like. Something like imagining living the life of your favorite movie- or baseball- or other type of all-star; great for daydreaming, but not very realistic.
That all changed when we recently stumbled upon a gorgeous piece of land, just outside of town. 36Ha of rolling hills, amazing ocean views, old woodland, a nice flat valley in between and a little river running through it all. Located 10 minutes from Guiones Main and a similar distance from the South entrance, La Encantada has all we slowly realized we were looking for: lots of space, lots of trees, enough buildable, nicely elevated land, more than enough water, a nice amount of space for the horses to roam and room to spare for corn, beans, mango, papaya and what have you. Time to get serious about sustainable building and living, yay!
So this is where it all begins; step by step I hope to figure out what it all entails, how it works and how I can make it work. As you by now have realized I am not going to tell you what sustainable living is all about, or how one would sustainably build a house, because at this point I really have no clue. But as I stroll along that path toward a new, enriching, healthy and sustainable life, I invite you to walk along with me. Two pairs of eyes see more than one and I’m sure you may have answers to some of my questions, or questions that I forget to ask. Either way, let’s see what we learn and hope we can both grow to achieve a fuller understanding of our new sustainable, off-the-grid lifestyle.
Let me end this piece with a general definition and then I hope to hear some feedback from you to get the ball rolling!
Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet. Proponents of sustainable living aim to conduct their lives in ways that are consistent with sustainability, in natural balance and respectful of humanity’s symbiotic relationship with the Earth’s natural ecology and cycles. The practice and general philosophy of ecological living is highly interrelated with the overall principles of sustainable development.
Lester R. Brown, a prominent environmentalist and founder of the Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute, describes sustainable living in the twenty-first century as “shifting to a renewable energy–based, reuse/recycle economy with a diversified transport system”. In addition to this philosophy, practical eco-village builders like Living Villages maintain that the shift to renewable technologies will only be successful if the resultant built environment is attractive to a local culture and can be maintained and adapted as necessary over the generations.
Sustainable living is fundamentally the application of sustainability to lifestyle choice and decisions. One conception of sustainable living expresses what it means in triple-bottom-line terms as meeting present ecological, societal, and economical needs without compromising these factors for future generations. Another broader conception describes sustainable living in terms of four interconnected social domains: economics, ecology, politics and culture. In the first conception, sustainable living can be described as living within the innate carrying capacities defined by these factors. In the second or Circles of Sustainability conception, sustainable living can be described as negotiating the relationships of needs within limits across all the interconnected domains of social life, including consequences for future human generations and non-human species.
Sustainable design and sustainable development are critical factors to sustainable living. Sustainable design encompasses the development of appropriate technology, which is a staple of sustainable living practices. Sustainable development in turn is the use of these technologies in infrastructure. Sustainable architecture and agriculture are the most common examples of this practice.
Let me know your thoughts…