Finding Community

I want to share my first sense of authentic community and human selflessness here in rural New Zealand, that has been beautifully surprising in a time when we are told to be afraid of strangers. While we were exploring the Abel Tasman region, we were camping at a campsite called The Barn in Marahau. It had a warm little community of Wwoofers there and we really enjoyed our stay so close to the tranquility of the Abel Tasman. During our time there, we decided to start looking for our own place to Wwoof. If you don’t know what Wwoofing is, it is pretty much just the act of volunteering yourself for some work in exchange for a place to stay – and sometimes food is even provided. Many places offer this in NZ, from campsites to personal homes (we are currently doing an hour a day at a campsite to stay on the land for free) and there are no set rules for this, some places ask for six hours of work per day, others only a couple. There are now far less Wwoofers than ever here, because of the lack of tourists, travellers and fear of the restrictions. This is beneficial to us as it means it’s pretty easy to get work (of any kind) while travelling, however you can sense that there is a feeling of missing something around these little hippie towns as everything is structured around community and they welcome visitors with open arms.

While I had just quickly jumped on the Wwoofing New Zealand Facebook group, I came across one post that seemed right up our street – it was to help at a yoga and meditation centre just over the hill in Motueka. I immediately sent a message without thinking too much about it, as the spirituality and meditation aspect of the post was something we were just talking about – getting back into our magic. We heard back after a few minutes from Dhara – and Lior immediately knew she was Israeli too. She called and Lior spent some time on the phone with her, both speaking Hebrew to each other – I know this made her feel a sense of home – and we had arranged to go stay with them for a week in exchange for five hours of work per day on their organic farm. We later found out that we were the first out of dozens of messages, and the whole ten days there definitely felt meant to be.

As excited as I was, I was also nervous. Sometimes I struggle to believe that I belong in places as spiritual, that my spiritual practice is maybe not “good enough”, or that I don’t have enough yoga experience to be taken seriously and not laughed at. Obviously this is a self limiting belief, and I had already committed to going so I knew there was nothing to do but embrace the fear. A few days later we left the campsite and one month of no real work to head to Vistara – the yoga and meditation centre.

When we arrived, we met the lovely Dhara and Harideva and started working straight away. That first day I spent about 4 hours alone in the soil weeding and I surprised myself by enjoying every second. It was the most mindful, and quiet minded I had been so far.

After we had showered, they introduced me to my first Kirtan meditation, and gave us an insight to their own personal spiritual practice. It’s pretty special when people share their meditations with you – it feels so vulnerable and sacred. They follow a socio-spiritual organisation called Ananda Marga and twice a day, every day, practice a meditation with the universal spiritual mantra of Baba Nam Kevalam – I recommend looking into this further for yourselves, but it is the mantra that love is everywhere. We would sing this together as one, and then sit for our own silent meditations. I can safely say that this practice was so authentic for me, I enjoyed every Kirtan and every meditation. After only a few days I could feel the difference in myself – I was less frustrated about things and moving more peacefully and mindfully.

I’ll never forget the nettle soup that Dhara made us that night, using stingy nettle her friend grows in her garden as the main ingredient1. It was brand new to me, and super delicious. Lior also picked some mint and made me the best tea I’ve ever had. This was the start of 10 days of learning more about nature and it’s power, as well as love and true community. We would take our ingredients from the garden, getting to know the benefit of each and every one. It was so beautiful to watch both Lior and Dhara share many conversations in Hebrew and stories about Israel. I truly enjoyed spending every evening eating meals together alongside hours of meaningful conversations that made us feel a huge sense of family here in a matter of hours.

We spent days in the soil, weeding and planting. They also left us in charge of the farm while they left unexpectedly for 4 whole days. I couldn’t believe the trust they had in us strangers. While we had been sharing meals and spending a lot of time getting to know each other – it had really only been less than a week and they were willing to leave us on their property, caring for the goats and chickens and just keeping the place occupied. When you are given that much trust, you feel so honoured and, thus, obliged to do well with it.

While they were gone, we slipped out of our twice a day meditation routine a little – it’s so easy to miss it when you’re not held accountable – although we did do a good few on our own. We fed the six goats every night and they became so warmed to us that they would cuddle us and run through our legs. Dhara, so kindly, asked if we would like to attend one of our yoga classes and it was such a magical hour and a half of connecting to ourselves through body movement.

The whole time we were there, we were contributing to their community with our daily work, but we were gaining such beautiful experiences and getting to know them, their family and what their life is all about. While that was our first Wwoofing experience, they had been having people join their home since 2006 and even said they much prefer it to paying guests in their BnB.

Having someone welcome you into their home with huge, wide, open arms will restore your faith in humanity, and it’s also our new favourite way to travel as you gain a true authentic insight into how local people live. The whole time they were telling us about the community around the Motueka Valley and how we will always be looked after here. Coming from a city – and the UK – I tend to subconsciously struggle with asking for help or talking to strangers but their advice was nothing but true.

Not only had they made us feel so at home, Dhara’s son Kai offered to take us on the Waka tour that he works on as a guide here2. The week before we had planned to go kayaking around the same area but decided against it due to the weather, and here was someone offering us an even better experience for free – more alignment. The Waka is the Maori watercraft that was used for fishing, river travel and more. Not only did we get to paddle in the Abel Tasman, we had a wonderful guide who taught us so much about Maori history and what our responsibilities are going forward to Indigenous people. We learned, saw seals and penguins and had the most beautiful morning out on the ocean – something I will never get enough of. I highly recommend this experience if you are in New Zealand.

The very same day, on our way home from grabbing a pie after the Waka trip, our van started to leak water on the inside and our AC vent started to smoke. This is not ideal when you live in your van, so of course I started to panic. Just days before, Dahra had told us how if we are ever stuck to just knock on the nearest door and ask for help – which is exactly what we did. The loveliest woman answered the door, tried to reach the mechanic for us but he was out so she showed us around her property. It turns out she really misses having Wwoofers pass through and we ended up exchanging numbers with a plan to stay with her in the future – again, she has no idea who we are but the trust and intuition is so prevalent. This was such an uplifting exchange in a moment of slight panic, but we still needed to sort the car.

Dahra called her mechanic friend for us and he immediately drove to where we were. He sorted the car for us – farmer style – and even offered to drive back to his so he could change our brake pads, which was something we had been looking to pay to get done. After a good few hours of this lovely man’s time, we asked if we could pay him or do any kind of work for him in exchange. He said absolutely not, just have a good trip and safe drive. This is the reason I love being far from a city, the mountains and valleys are rooted in kindness and community – the giving to get nothing. I think about this every day, and it will continue to inspire me and push me to always give whatever I can.

As we have continued through the Golden Bay, we have carried on knocking on doors for help or questions and each time we are met with another human happy to help and connect, we have even picked up a hitch hiker! Whenever I feel nervous about other people, I remind myself of Dahra’s advice, and of the kind people we have met so far.

We must not forget the power of humanity and kindness. There are so many people out there who would be grateful if you knocked on their door and gave them an insight to who you are and what you have to offer, as well as give the same right back to you. Community and love is very much alive, it just starts with one person to pass it on and what these beautiful connections with people have taught me is that it is so much better to trust in people, than to fear them.

As we travel we continue to leave all our valuables charging unattended and doors unlocked – Lior doesn’t see this as such a big deal, this Glasgow girl is a bit more wary. Each day I try my best to trust in people, and the universe as a whole. We need to connect with other humans, we strive when we are kind and generous, and it started with someone showing me that extra kindness to remind me that it’s possible to do something for free, to give for the sake of it or in exchange for a happy person. Those less fortunate benefit from our giving, and if you pass it on enough it will eventually come back to you. Go out and knock on someone’s door, talk to someone you’ve never known before, do someone a favour with your skill. You never know where that decision may take you.

Me, Lior, Harideva and Dorit on our last breakfast together.

I would like to say a huge thank you to our wonderful friends, Dhara, Harideva, Kai and Katya who made our stay with them so homely, so kind and so inspiring. You all have made us feel so welcome in this country, and reminded us what a gift it is to stop, be still and give back to nature. It is a lovely reminder to me that no matter if I don’t feel good enough for something, that saying yes and taking the leap is always more important. I was nervous before going to their home and I left it feeling so energetically restored, with more knowledge than I could have hoped and some wonderful souls who are now friends for life. Say yes to things! Even when they are scary. Even when you don’t feel “good enough” for them.

And just as I finished writing this, I went to grab my laundry and the man in front of me paid for my dryer… ah the Golden Bay.

Namaskar.

1. https://www.amazon.com/Nettles-Janice-Schofield/dp/087983840X

2. https://wakaabeltasman.nz/

2 responses to “Finding Community”

  1. Eilidh this was a delight to read this am. I worked in NZ in 2002-4. You have transported me right back as I drink my coffee. I spent lots of time in Raglan. I too was wary and shocked that people just left their doors open. I had to share accomodation and often stayed in my room rather than join in the communal areas. I too was scared but took the plunge and started speaking to people , I had to slow my Glaswegian accent down though as nobody could understand me. It took a while to realise that when people spoke to me , loved my accent , invited me for a drink or a visit to their home that they didn’t want anything in return , they just wanted to connect at some level. I do remember picking up a hitchhiker one morning as I drove to Waikato , all I could think was ” my dad would go nuts if he knew”
    Your blog is wonderful. I love your honesty and vulnerability. Keep writing , we need more.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for your lovely response! I’m so glad you were able to relate to my writing. I understand the accent thing – I have had to adjust mine over time. Any time I do anything I think “imagine if my mum knew” haha. I am so glad you enjoyed it, thank you for taking the time to reach out!

      Like

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