Our backpacks are packed and our family members are blinking back their last tears: It’s time to say goodbye to the Netherlands again. We will spend the next five months in Chile, where we will work on several farms through WWOOF.
It may not seem the most logical step after obtaining a PhD degree (Freddy) and starting a career as a researcher (Maaike). And maybe that’s exactly why we are doing it. In the past few years we have mainly worked with our heads, which practically meant sitting behind the computer all day. I increasingly got the feeling that there must be more; that as a human I am not designed for such a life.
In this TED talk by Satish Kumar, he says that manual labour should be part of education. According to him, it is important that children learn to work with their hands, and have contact with nature: “Nature is the greatest teacher.”
I encountered the same idea in a book from 1890: ‘News from Nowhere’ by William Morris. In this utopian novel, the protagonist ends up in the future, where he is shocked to find out that scholars and students no longer stand on the top of the social ladder. His guide explains that manual labour is valued much more than learning from books:
You see, children are mostly given to imitating their elders, and when they see most people about them engaged in genuinely amusing work, like house-building and street-paving, and gardening, and the like, that is what they want to be doing; so I don’t think we need fear having too many book-learned men.
We will see for ourselves how it will be to work on the land. No doubt we will need to get used to it… I hope to meet inspiring people who are living with the elements of nature. Until now I have mainly read books about spiritual ecology, and I would like to apply it more in practice. That means going back to the earth or rather: Volver a la tierra!