BY: FRANCESCA WHITLOCK
We’ve all experienced it. That moment on your sweaty, crowded commute, or in the middle of another meaningless teleconference, when you finally think: enough. I’m out. There’s gotta be more to life than this.
But taking that next step? Getting beyond enough? It can be daunting to say the least. Where to go? What to do? How to support yourself? There are so many questions, and it can feel tricky to find the answers, or people who share your dream. Which means that many of us, faced with the challenge, stay chained to our desk, dreaming about what might happen if we took the next step and moved out of our comfort zone.
But around the world, people are doing just that. Linked up and supported by organizations of like-minded souls who get together at events like the annual Global Ecovillage Network conference, every year more people are discovering that ecovillages are the path to a happier, healthier life. Ecovillage communities aren’t just good for people either, but also for the planet.
Intrigued? Here are five breathtaking ecovillages that might just inspire you to take the plunge.
Image © Kevin Faingnaert
Nestled deep in the misty mountains of northern Spain, Matavenero is truly a world unto itself. From its humble beginnings as a handful of yurts in the ruins of an abandoned village, the community has blossomed over three decades into a stunning patchwork of colourful domes, gorgeously ramshackle self-built homes and cozy caravans. There’s a free school, a bakery, a bar, and a warm welcome for those who want to discover what living in harmony with nature – and one another – is truly about.
Picture-perfect snowy winters; long, light summer nights… there’s a lot to love about the Swedish haven of Ängsbacka. The magical village, which looks like it’s fallen straight out of a Scandinavian fairy-tale, may be home to only twenty people, but they’ve honed the opening up of community to the public to an art form. Every year they throw open their doors to thousands of people from around the world with their range of festivals and workshops ranging from tantra, meditation, dance, and this year Europe’s annual gathering of ecovillages and the ecovillage-curious. Their focus is on personal growth, honest communication, and respect for life – all surrounded in acres of deep, luxurious Swedish forest.
Hidden underground chapels built in secret, a community based on playfulness, a mountain hideaway with its own constitution and currency…It sounds like something out of a fantasy movie, but at Damanhur, some 600 residents live this reality day in, day out. In the foothills of the Italian Alps, this miracle of faith and humanity has overcome big challenges to become a thriving hub.
If you’ve ever thought of getting really off grid, you can’t do much better than Sunseed. This small but perfectly-formed project in a gorgeous abandoned village in Spain’s southern deserts runs entirely off solar, wind and water power. Residents revel in spectacular sunrises over the mountains as they start their days with a communal game, before getting to work in the permaculture gardens, natural kitchen, alternative technology workshop and eco-construction department. Days are topped off with a dip with the turtles that swim in the oasis’ natural pool.
One of the great reference points of the ecovillage movement, for over 20 years Portugal’s Tamera community has been an inspiration for those seeking a more loving lifestyle in community. Styled as a “School and Research Station for a Realistic Utopia”, where could be better to learn about how to make our eco-dreams come true? The astonishing array of projects and innovations on offer – from a solar village to the Love School and the Institute for Global Peacework – are testament to its residents’ dedication to creating a more beautiful and sustainable world. That’s not to mention the astonishing work that’s been done to regenerate the land from arid desert to a green permacultural oasis.
So who are these people who’ve taken that step that so many of us have dreamed of? The truth is, ecovillages are full of regular people like you and me, and they show what’s possible when inspired people get together around a common vision. If you want to meet the people who took the plunge, at the 21st edition of the annual European Ecovillage conference you’ll get the chance. It takes place this July in Angsbacka, Sweden, where hundreds of dreamers and doers from across the world come together to dance, meditate, share cutting edge eco-technology and ecovillage visions. And, of course, get inspired by one another to get beyond enough and start making the dream happen. Will you be there?