The first shower after 10 days is the best shower you’ll ever have

Sometimes when I’m acting ‘all professional’ in my current office work, I like to think about the time that I lived in an un-powered caravan and didn’t shower for 10 days. Other times I think about the times I hitch-hiked for groceries. Or any number of strange situations I shouldn’t attach my name to on the internet.

Haha. You people don’t know me. I’m even wearing makeup!  You have no idea…

NB: I would never voluntarily avoid showering for 10 days. Except in those cases where the outside temperature and the (deliciously chilled mountain) water is just above freezing and there is no way of getting dry.

2014-10-31 08.21.57
Deciding what to do the week before. I chose the most uncomfortable option

Back in October/November I decided that I would like to have the experience of living and working in Portugal as well as the experience of living on a farm. I was able to organise working on a Permaculture farm through Workaway, although this farm was also advertised on WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). If you are looking for similar projects you are probably better off looking there.

The idea behind ‘WWOOFing’ is that one works for 4-6 hours per day on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. This supplies a farmer with cheap labour yet, also allows for a ‘worldwide’ spread of (local) knowledge and ideas on organic and sustainable farming practises. As with all other work exchanges, it also allows for an excellent cultural exchange and is a means for budget travellers to travel longer and see places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

“Permaculture” is organic farming taken one step further. It is hard to find a simple definition on the internet, so I will try my best. It is an integrated whole-systems approach that works with, and involves people, society and nature to ensure the sustainability of agriculture. Was that clear? 🙂

Working hard

The particular farm I chose to work on was un-powered. I don’t mind feeling disconnected from time-to-time, so I thought this would be three weeks of labour and learning, with limited facebook access while eating very fresh, organic, vegetarian food. WORLDS CHEAPEST DETOX.

Yet I didn’t consider the real consequences of the lack of power before signing up.

No hot water. No light. No getting dry. No warmth.

I think I would have been fine if it had been summer rather than late Autumn.

Despite that I’m glad I did it. I’m all for diving into experiences head first, just to see how they turn out. If I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve done the following:

  • Showered in 5C water in 5C temperature, and then avoided showering for ~10 day

  • Gone on a hr long road trip for the sole purpose of paying for a hot shower
  • Slept in my ‘holey’ caravan with all my clothes on each night so I was warm enough to sleep (another ‘what am I doing with my life’ moment)

  • Was vegetarian for 2.5 weeks, ate plants I’d never seen and felt absolutely fine.

  • Lived with people who produced 95% of the food they ate, and only worked a few months of the year.

  • Done the dishes for 3 meals, for 8 people outside – at the outside sink, in the rain.

  • Not been able to get dry for hours due to the cold temperature and lack of power.

  • Spoke to the son (of the English immigrant) who said his favourite subject at school was P.E. because he got a free hot shower afterwards. He didn’t shower at home in winter.

  • Walked 45 minutes almost every day to the nearest town so I could sit in front of a fire and get dry, connect to the internet and power and drink 0.50 euro cent coffees (x2) in the little cafe where no English was spoken.

  • Been pitied by the old Portuguese lady who owned the cafe. She would gift us with things like roasted chestnuts and biscuits (because in her mind we’d have to be pretty poor to be working on a Portuguese farm in the middle of nowhere)

  • Seen the absolutely most beautiful scenery on this walk into town, which I could never take a photo of – because my phone would always be dead by this time.

  • Not been able to eat goat cheese,  because it smelt too much like the goats from which it came. That, and the smell reminded me of cleaning all their shit (‘mucking out’) out of their ‘enclosure’.

chestnuts

The trip back into civilization (aka Porto)  was a journey in itself. I had to navigate a taxi, bus and a train while at my peak homelessness appearance. I was just incredibly thankful for the beanie (toque/hat) that I had to hide the 10 day grease on my hair that normally needs to be washed daily. The whole journey is etched in my mind and the shower anticipation was incredible.

Once I returned to society I was just so unbelievably, incredibly happy just to be in a state of mundane normalcy.

Powered, showered warm and with a salty, greasy ham and cheese sandwich in hand I did not venture outside the hostel for 1.5 days.

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