This spring my family and I stayed for ten days at a small Bed and Breakfast, Baan Rao, on the island of Koh Lanta in southern Thailand. And the way the lovely family that owns and runs the Bed and Breakfast live their life, made me remember a dream that occasionally pops up in my mind. A dream of self-sufficiency and minimal consumption. A dream of simple living and peace. A dream of minimizing expenses and of oceans of time – for creative urges and for my child. A dream that makes me a symptom of my time.
Urban farms, food co-operatives, and communities that exchange food, work, clothes, toys etc. are popping up everywhere these days, unveiling a need for independence and self-sufficiency in our time. A need for not being (too) dependent on big-scale manufacturers. A need for limiting the over-consumption that is a part of modern life (I am, on a daily basis, frustrated by the amounts of packaging that must be pealed off and thrown out before consuming my avocadoes or tomatoes) and for limiting expenses. For re-using and re-cycling. And a need for self-made communities and self-chosen relationships of dependency based on mutual respect and responsibility. Growing your own vegetables and herbs, and exchanging favours instead of buying, cover a holistic dream of co-creation, community-thought, and harmony between man and nature.
The symptomatic dream of our time has been given many names; Substantialism, Escapism, Back to Basics, Simple Living, Slow Living… Names that refer to a search for authenticity, for something lasting, for meaningfulness, for slowing down – or for phenomenon, experiences, and relationships with substance (which oppose to superficiality). The dream is about escaping stress, information-overload and the “online” modern life. About believing that peace fosters creativity. About longing for focused, mindful activities. And the dream also involves a romanticized focus on the most basic of human needs: eating, sleeping, loving, being loved, touching, being touched etc.
On a visual level, this dream could seem diverse; if I was to make a collage to represent the artifacts of this tendency, I would add photos of homemade meals, “hand-drawn” logos, wooden furniture, slowly knitted wooly hats, wooden computer-sleeves, leather bags, “handmade” websites, slow travel sites, bicycles with leather seats and bike-bags, and dresses with visible stitches. Photos of objects that initiate touching, tasting, the pleasure of natural materials that age with beauty, slow, visible processes and of sustainable products. Core words of this this tendency are simplicity (which represents an antithesis to our modern life’s overload of activities, relationships, tasks, roles, products etc.) and sensuality (an exotic antithesis to a world that with our smart-phones and computer-screens has become very two-dimensional and non-tactile).
Baan Rao and the island of Koh Lanta was a welcome break from a busy city-life, and it reminded me of a dream I have. A dream of living from papaya salad, freshly caught fish, and self-grown bananas. Of living a simple life in a lush and plentiful environment.