wHAT LIVING IN TASMANIA TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIVING AN AUTHENTIC LIFE
I had dreamt about living in Tasmania for many years before I was able to make it a reality. The thought of a simple life without the hustle and bustle of the city appealed to me on many levels. The 3 years I spent living in Tasmania’s capital did not disappoint and taught me a lot about living an authentic life.
As the modern world grapples with a rapidly changing environment, a mental health crisis and a widening wealth gap, it occurred to me that there is a lot we could learn from Tasmanians. Particularly about respecting our planet, living a simple life and taking care of each other and our natural resources.
Of course, not everything is perfect in Tasmania. They have an illiteracy rate that rivals many third world nations. The gap between the haves and have nots is vast, with more of their population feeling like they’re have-nots. Still, their philosophy on life is simple and uncluttered and free from many of the problems that are associated with modern life.
Let me share a few of the things that living in Tasmania taught me about living an authentic life.
Living in Tasmania teaches you that the earth can and will provide.
It’s almost impossible to walk down a suburban Hobart street without picking ripe, juicy fruit from a tree. Foraging in Tasmania is like a statewide pastime. Everything grows everywhere. Feel like a snack? Forget the pantry, go for a walk. You’re sure to find apples (it’s not called the apple isle for nothing) pears, berries, nectarines and quince just growing on the nature strip. Or hanging over your neighbour’s fence and beckoning passers-by to taste of its bounty.
If foraging is not your thing, that’s cool. Someone will eventually turn up on your doorstep with a fresh tuna steak from the massive bluefin they caught that afternoon. Or a jar of chutney they made with the overflow of their fruit tree.
Which leads me to my next lesson about living an authentic life…
Living in Tasmania teaches you that we are all connected.
Yes, your neighbour will pop over unannounced with a jar of chutney. Yes, you will have to chat with them. As an introvert and a city dweller, this used to freak me out. Until I saw the bigger picture.
That unexpected visit with the jar of chutney created a connection with someone whom I could call on to grab my mail and keep an eye on the house when I went away.
It meant that we had a community in our street. Life is a lot less lonely when you have people looking out for you.
And when your neighbour goes fishing and shares their bounty with you, it leaves you with a feeling of abundance. There is enough to go around, people care, and the earth will always provide.
Whenever we had guests from the mainland, I would always warn them to add an extra 15 minutes to their itinerary. It’s near impossible to go anywhere in Tassie without someone wanting to stop and chat. A trip to the local store to get milk is rarely in and out, the shop assistant will enquire about your day, the old lady in the aisle will ask you to reach to the top shelf for her favourite biscuits, and then will want to tell you all about the afternoon tea she’s planning for her grandson. People look you in the eye and engage with you. At first, it’s off-putting, weird even, but eventually, you grow to love it. It broadens your feeling of connection, of purpose, and it means that you have to be authentic in every interaction because Tassie is a small place. You will bump into that old lady again. The shop assistant is not a casual employee who only works on Saturday, she’s there all the time. Chances are it’s her Dads shop.
Engaging with people daily is not only good for your mental and emotional health, but it also encourages you to show up as your authentic self. Because this isn’t a random person talking to you, here today and probably never to be seen again. These people are a part of your everyday life.
Living in Tasmania teaches you that you shouldn’t even try to compete with Mother Nature.
There isn’t an IKEA in Tasmania. The locals lament it, but that’s because human nature always wants what it can’t have.
But many people living in Tasmania agree with me on this: why bring mass-produced plastic trinkets and art into your home when nature is showing you real beauty every single day?
Tasmanians are a creative bunch too, they are home to one of the most iconic art museums in the world (MONA, check it out). Most people are either artists, or have an artist in their immediate circle, and what type of art do they create most in Tasmania? Artwork inspired by nature. Whether they are painting breathtaking landscapes, hand-building pottery or making beautiful jewellery, it’s all inspired by the natural beauty that is all around them.
When all of that inspiration is everywhere you look, and it’s free, your need for “stuff” is significantly reduced.
Admittedly I took an epic amount of iPhone snaps when I lived there. I felt I had to capture all the beauty, all the time. But I rarely spent time with my head buried in my phone, it was always eyes up, taking in the gorgeous views, greeting people and making connections.
Your smartphone, usually such a tool of disconnection in our society, is seen as a gadget when compared to the real human connections and experiences that Tasmanians enjoy.
Living in Tasmania teaches you that shiny and new is not necessarily a good thing.
I lost count of the amount of “projects” I had going on in Tassie. So much of what we owned and furnished our home with was second hand or antique. We were gifted old things from grandparents. Or we trawled through second chance shops every weekend and found amazing old furniture that we sanded back, repainted and repaired. The sense of satisfaction you gain sitting in a deck chair that you bought for $5 and painted the perfect blue to match the view of the river is indescribable. It’s all upside and no buyers remorse. And it means that your house is a reflection of who you are. Sure, there’s not much that’s “designer” about it, but it is authentically yours. You made it yourself, and it is an expression of you. I feel that a simple and authentic life starts with you expressing yourself in every part of it, including your home.
All of that old furniture was built to last. These things were created before we were a consumer society. Furniture was built to last a lifetime because our grandparents were coming out of the great depression and WW2. I’m not even sure the word consumerism was invented back then. Living like this meant less landfill, less plywood flimsy pieces of furniture that were only designed to last a season. If you wanted to update your decor, you reupholstered your couch or bought new cushions or painted a new painting.
Without even realising it, the Tasmanians were living in a circular economy.
Living in Tasmania Teaches You TO Appreciate What’s Real.
And finally, living in Tasmania taught me to appreciate the simple things in life.
- Like the vast blue expanse of the river. By working to keep the river clean and free from pollution, we were often entertained by pods of dolphins and the occasional whale.
- Like the greenery and wide-open spaces that gave us room to move and be human. When the Tasmanian government, acting on the wishes of the people banned single-use plastic bags, it meant our parks were always clean. There was no rubbish floating down the city streets, choking drains and animals alike.
- Like the diversity of people around me. Acknowledging that I lived in a small town helped me to engage with everyone around me. It encouraged me to treat people with respect, knowing that I would one day face them again. And because of that, I created connections with people that I would generally have rushed past.
Living an authentic life leads to a more inspired and fulfilled life. Less stuff, less trend following, more abundance, less haste, more connection.
I understand it isn’t straightforward to put some of these practices into play when you’re living in the big city. But choosing to embody even one could make your life simpler and more enjoyable.
Here’s to sharing chutney with your neighbour.