Coming from the Suburbs of New Jersey, born and raised in the small, not terribly diverse town of Long Valley, my household is like most in the United States. We have electricity, running water, cable, wireless internet.
My mother cooks meat most every meal and we often eat American-Italian dishes. We drive our own separate cars and socialize with other Long Valley residents within the same socio-economic bracket.
I opened my world to a brand new social and cultural environment when I became a volunteer with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). WWOOF is a program connects people who would like to learn more about the organic movement with farmers who want to share their knowledge.
The phrase “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” comes to mind whenever I think of Raven Crest Botanicals, the organic herb farm in New York that I visited. There is no cable at the farm and many of the visitors are learning how to live entirely off-the-grid. I have never felt farther from Long Valley, New Jersey, in the best way possible.
Susanna, my host farmer, is from Germany, her partner is from Israel, and some of her house guests were from Denmark, others have traveled to Spain and Chile. There are often a number of different languages and idioms being discussed, and music always fills the air.
The first night I was there, I listened to Susanna play the didgeridoo and the Shruti Box, and acquainted myself with Tibetan singing bowls.
I put my iPhone away whenever anyone was playing and immersed myself in the new music. Any of my friends could tell you that I am quite talkative, but while I was on the farm, I felt it was best to listen more, so I could learn from everyone and become a part of their world.
Another volunteer Thomas and I became close after a few days. At first, he would often hand me a flower blossom, root or leaf and ask me to “Eat it,” when I asked what it was, he would simply reply, “Do you trust me?” I always ate what he gave me and I haven’t died yet. I also ate every meal Susanna made, raw food, meatless meals; it was all new and delicious.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my experience on the farm, the work that I do to help protect the ocean and stop ocean pollution, and how I want to impact the world. Having a birthday coming up tends to do that people. I have spent time reflecting on the last year and what I want to accomplish this next year coming up. I’ve thought a lot about a quote from Soledad O’Brien’s The Next Big Story, a book my parents got for me right after the journalist spoke at my University of Delaware commencement: “I can’t change the entire world, but I can work on my little piece of it.” This quote calms me and makes me feel more satisfied with the impact I have made thus far, and motivates me to keep dreaming big and promoting positive social and environmental change as I continue through life’s journey. Good things are on the way.