WWOOFer arriving home – Barcelona 3 months later. November 2015

I made it home pretty late at night and was welcomed by my flat mate Robin and his girlfriend. We had a nice chat, talked about what’s new (or same) in our lives and then I was left alone to myself again. I probably should say that it was nice to be home but actually it felt kind of strange to be back there. My apartment looked the same, familiar and neat, cozy in its simplicity and full of memories of the moments lived in it. My painted white room with large and comfortable bed and huge closet crammed with clothes for any occasion looked unwelcoming to me. I decided to leave unpacking for the next day and went to get some groceries.

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Barcelona by Stan Baranski

Reflections upon… Food

It was around 10-11 pm on the weekday and at that time the only place opened was the Pakistani mini market around the corner. It was small and piled with stuff of any shapes, colors and packaging, stuffy without air-conditioning it felt like I was in a turned-on oven. Mostly everything over there looked to me like garbage in a packaging, all that industrial, processed food of rather very low quality. Bottles and cans, plastic bags and boxes stuffed with food coloring, artificial flavors and its enhancers, made from products grown on pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, that are often genetically modified and created in laboratories.

Do you ever read nutrition and ingredient labels? Do you wonder what’s inside that bag of potato chips or chicken pate you are buying? How much of peach is in your peach soda? How was grown that tomato when it’s actually not a season for it yet? How far had to travel that mango, which obviously doesn’t come from where you live? And how come these apples don’t rot for so many days even though they came a long way to reach your kitchen table? Well, maybe that’s the right moment to start paying more attention to these things. I used to read labels, but not as closely as one should. I began “to study” descriptions of all bought goods at the beginning of 2015 when I learnt about my intolerance for quite few products. And that was when I found out how much shit (pardon my French, but there is no other better word to call it properly) is stuffed in food we buy. Who would think that ham or sausage are not only made of meat, but also could include wheat, corn, milk and other alike additives? Often it’s modified corn and of course it includes multiply artificial ingredients that help the flavor and color of it. And I could name dozens of examples like this one, each of them as shocking as the first one. When something tastes good it doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good quality, but I believe you know that already.

So why we don’t do anything about it even if we know these facts? There are few reasons that occur to me right now. First of all, this food is cheap and easy to get and usually it comes in big or large packages (or buy 2 get 3rd for half price offers!) Also it’s usually either ready-to-eat or easy to prepare. You know, all sorts of convenience food like dry and canned products, frozen foods, prepared mixes and snacks. Nowadays when everyone lives in a rush, working extra hours, taking additional classes and so forth, we try to decrease the time we spend on grocery shopping or in the kitchen. Usually thinking that it is a waste of our time and effort we go for eating out or buying some pre-cooked and easy to make food. And that’s a pity! Of course not everyone has to be a kitchen enthusiast but cooking doesn’t have to be very complicated or time consuming. Food is our gasoline; if we deliver poor quality gas to our beloved cars they will break sooner and the same happens with our bodies. Pharmaceutical companies are well prepared for these occasions offering us a wide range of medicine and supplements that will help us with all side effects of poor diet and lack of exercise… and cause us even more health problems in the long run. But let’s not get more into the details now. My point is – the more fresh, local and seasonal your food is the better will be your health and overall well-being.

The city that never sleeps and consequences of it

You can probably imagine that after so many weeks of sleeping in pervasive silence it was hard for me to fall asleep in my Barcelonian flat. Unfortunately I used to live close to one of the major widest and busiest streets of the city. But it wasn’t only that. Somehow I managed to forget that the city never sleeps. If it’s not a car or motorcycle, there’s always someone wandering around, talking very loud one to another, skating or dumping glass bottles in the garbage bin. The streetlights illuminated my room making it even harder to get lost in the world of dreams. The air didn’t smell with the same natural freshness. The truth is I could not sleep. Almost every night I was laying on my bed for hours begging for sleep to come.

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Barcelona by Stan Baranski

Too much stuff too many choices

In the next few days I also realized that having too many choices is absolutely overwhelming. My closet terrified me. I had way too many things there. Going out see my girlfriends became a real challenge as I didn’t know what to wear. We were supposed to hang out having drinks and some food, nothing fancy, very casual. However, once you have choice you start wondering what is the best for such an occasion. Maybe a dress? Then which shoes and bag should go with it? The black cardigan or maybe a denim jacket? Don’t get me wrong, I was never a fashion freak compulsively shopping for clothes. Jeans, regular fit t-shirt or a simple dress with a pair of sneakers is what I usually wear. But on some rare occasions when I’m going out with friends it strikes me that choosing what to wear becomes a bigger issue. You maybe start wondering what the others are going to wear? What will match the occasion? The place? The time of the day? The method of transportation you will use? List can go on but I’m sure you’ve got my point. It was so much easier on the farm. You didn’t have to bother what to wear as long as it was appropriate for the weather and comfortable to work in. No one looked at you strangely when you were wearing same trousers for a few days in a row. And getting ready in the morning took me about 2 minutes so I could sleep longer before starting with my chores. For three months I travelled with couple of things I could stuff into my bicycle panniers and not even once I longed for my big closet! Honestly, it was a relief to stop worrying about my daily outfit.

Moving sale and packing stuff up

This way while days passed by one after another I became aware of the fact that for me there is no coming back. I could not live happily in a city anymore. At least not now. Maybe in the future it will change but for the time being I couldn’t imagine myself living my old life again. I had to move on. Continue with WWOOFing, gathering more experience from farms, learning about permaculture and bio construction techniques. Living simple life in surroundings of nature. I made up my mind – I decided to resign the contract for my flat.

Next days I spent on organizing the flee market sale of my clothing and moving sale of my furniture, utility goods and other gadgets. Deciding what to keep and what to sell or give away was definitely not an easy task. However, I noticed that each time it happens, saying goodbye to objects becomes easier. My goal was to get rid of as many as possible things and save all the money for traveling and volunteering. My awesome friends helped me out not only by supporting the idea but also by buying stuff from me and throwing in their old gear for the flee market sale. It felt good to free myself from these objects. I felt an instant release and joy.

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Flea market sale

From among things I decided to keep, some of them I shipped home to Warsaw and the others I stored at my friends’ flats. Alba, Carmel, Carlos & Paul, Dasha & Jesper, and Kathi became my longterm saviors. That’s where the rests of my belongings and both bikes are peacefully resting now. Again I understood how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many beautiful souls who are willing to reach out to a friend in need. Thank you guys, you rock my world!

When all was set, I was ready again to go back on the trail of volunteer opportunities and my journey of personal rediscovery. I arranged for December WWOOFing at Fundació La Plana located in Catalonia, about 70 km from Barcelona and decided to go home for Christmas. After three years abroad it was to be my first Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Poland. I was excited with this perspective of spending holidays at home with family and friends. In January I would be back in Spain to Wwoof in Andalusia. That was the plan!

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DECISION MAKING AND GETTING READY. MAY-JULY 2015

I came back home in Barcelona from a cycling trip in Flanders at the end of May. It took me only a few days to realize that there was nothing more to think about, because the decision was already made by me and there was no turning back. I wanted to get out of the city and leave it all behind without worrying about the typical “I have only 5 more days left of my holidays and then back to reality” stuff. I needed an unlimited time and space to think things through, clear my mind, open my heart, eyes and ears. Breathe it in and breathe it out. Loud and deeply. With no rush and no one else around. Only the road and me. No big expectations, rules or fixed deadlines. A soul-searching kind of trip. The one that was calling me from far away for a long time already. So now, once the choice was taken, the preparation began.

First thing I did was to google “voluntary work on organic farms” and the website of WWOOF popped out. “Right!” I instantly realized that I heard of it before from a good friend of mine. He did WWOOFing with his brother in a few countries. Its basic target is to bring together organic farmers seeking additional help on their farms and volunteers who would like to live this experience while learning more about natural agriculture. It’s like an exchange program, but where the rules are very flexible and mostly depend on the hosts. Good and interesting experience, my friend said. Researching the website and scrolling down through different farms’ profiles I already got so excited about this idea that I could pack my backpack and hit the road straight away! I still can feel the thrill of it passing over my body when I think about that day. So this was it. I decided to go WWOOFing. But where and how?

It took me weeks to decide on my destination. I thought of many countries and ways to do it. Then my dear Swedish friend came to Barcelona for her holidays and all became crystal clear. Sweden! It has to be Scandinavia that I dearly thought of for many long years. Its endless tall forests and clear lakes surrounded by wooden red and white houses. I would take my bike and cycle through this stunning nature. Letting my imagination freely flow and unfold ideas the perfect plan was shaped. First I would fly with my bike home to Warsaw and spend a month among my friends and family. Then I would take a ferry from the Polish seaside to the Swedish east coast near Stockholm. From there I would get to the farm, spend about a month WWOOFing and finally cycle all the way through Sweden to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. That would be my first solo trip of this kind and I was absolutely ready and eager for it.

In the next weeks I said goodbye to my colleagues from work and had dozens of talks and Skype chats with my parents and friends from all around. I caused a stir of surprise and questions among them, but also received inspiration and encouragement. I went through my closet and shelves and got rid off anything I found useless and unnecessary. Later I sold it at a flea market and felt… truly wonderful. A bit lighter and released from the piles of clothes I never wore and gadgets that only occupied space and gathered dust.

It was difficult to get used to the thought that I had to leave my beloved cat Tobi behind. My furry ginger love that moved with me to Barcelona from Poland. My heart broke into many pieces but there was no other way around this time. I found him a perfect home with my super cool friends. I knew he would be safe and happy with them. And I think I will be eternally grateful for their help.

I was also super lucky that my friends said that they will consecutively took over my room and that my flat mate supported the whole plan and agreed to look over our flat during my trip. After that it was only to pack my backpack and say “see you later” to my friends and Barcelona.

I left Barcelona and flew to Poland on 29th of July 2015.

tobi computer bcn july 2015