BY: TIM O’NEAL
Traveling internationally, whatever the reason, can be a very fulfilling experience. Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.” It helps us get out of our comfort zones and relate to other ways of existing. An even richer travel experience might include incorporating some type of service into your journey. Permaculture offers multiple ways to travel the world while doing work to help people and the planet.
Permaculture is a set of principles and techniques for agricultural production at any scale that focuses on mimicking natural systems, instead of competing against them. It can apply to any space, from a small container garden on a balcony to a large scale farm. The techniques are also suitable for any climate. The benefits include eliminating the need for pesticides and providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
There are three core principles at the core of permaculture. Care for the earth and care for the people are the first two. The third principle, return the surplus, means to take only what you need and return waste back into the system as a resource.
In addition to the possibilities of applying the guidelines to your life and your home garden, there are opportunities in most parts of the world to get first hand experience while traveling.
Permaculture Design Courses are offered all over the world. The course can be in a variety of formats but a two week intensive course is common. For this, a small group of students works with instructors to create a design for a specific site. This provides an introduction to the principles and techniques. The Permaculture Institute provides a current list of upcoming courses. This list isn’t exhaustive so a quick internet search will turn up even more opportunities.
Permaculture Institute Asia (PIA) goes a step beyond the design course by offering internships and apprenticeships ranging from three months to a year in duration. These are intended to prepare participants for work managing a permaculture farm. PIA has internship sites in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Nepal. There is a cost involved, but it goes towards food and shelter and the education provided. PIA provides employment opportunities on farms around the region to help you recoup costs (and extend your trip!) once the training program is complete.
Living Ecology in India offers a ten-month program where students earn their Permaculture Design Certificate and Advanced Skills in Applied Permaculture Design and Rural Development. Participants learn about rain water harvesting, soil building, plant guilds, and natural building. The knowledge is practically applied to a project on an existing farm. Students learn about the community where they’re working, and collaborate with local residents to develop and build a permaculture operation.
For the inspired, the Permaculture Diploma is a longer term commitment that allows the recipient to become a Permaculture Design instructor, which could lead to teaching classes anywhere in the world. It takes two years of commitment to building knowledge and experience, but the expertise gained opens a lot of doors to international living experiences.
Whatever your interest level or availability, Permaculture is a great way to get involved with an international movement to improve food systems and build community. Projects are active in countries of all stages of development, offering tons of options. If traveling the world while caring for people and the planet is your goal, Permaculture can help you achieve it.