How to design your very own Alternative Lifestyle

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When we think of embarking on an Alternative Lifestyle, what are we thinking to be alternative to? Everything in every society is built upon layers of various cultural and historical contexts and varies from different ethnicities of the society to the different ways in which people enjoy living their day-to-day life. But often, we find ourselves searching for more… for a sort of transcendence of the mundane.

Each society is built in a stratosphere of interdependence that goes from the individual to the communities they are in, to the institutions they adhere to, the sectors they thrive in and the system all these individuals help build. Is by no means a cliché, actually, it really is a very hard truth, that we truly need to “be the change we want to see in the world” because it’s by being the change and helping others be their own version of change as well, that societies evolve and change to be always better than before.

Make three lists ✍️ 📝

In order to understand what we want to build alternatives for, we might start to make a mental list of the things we do and consume every day and how these contribute some sort of harm to ourselves, our communities, and our systems. Each system, or larger systems, are part of the ecosystem of the world, so it’s important to also understand, particularly in these days of aiming towards sustainable efforts and sustainable regeneration of our human presence, that what we do, every small action, influences the world around us in unimaginable ways.

A big example is if you eat a small piece of fruit, the huge difference between having an apple tree and eating a piece of fruit from it or buying a pack of apples from the supermarket, is something a lot of people don’t think twice about. But from the very production of the apples to the distribution and actual selling of the fruit, to the salaries and work conditions of the farmers, the distributers, and the supermarket employees, it’s a hard task to understand the level of sustainable efforts that takes to eat a simple piece of fruit.

So, in order to not get completely lost in the despair of how horrible everything seems, I would aim for something more positive and starting to write three lists, there is no minimum or maximum of things to add and subtract.

Deepest desires 🌠🎋

The first list is called “Deepest desires”, and it should be of things you would love to do, from traveling somewhere to learning Beekeeping, to having your babies on a Costa Rican beach, and even marrying a K-Pop artist. Remember, this list is for yourself and no one else, if one or more of your deep burning desires is something people around you would frown upon, pay no mind to other people’s judgments and just write it down on the list, it’s your list, not theirs. There isn’t exactly any level of an impossibility here, you may want to keep things real, but trust me, in the world of the alternative, there is rarely something that can’t at least be tried out. If there are people who identify as cats, remember that you can be anything.

“Your dream quotidian”💭

The second list is called “Your dream quotidian”, meaning, writing a schedule that goes from 8 am to 10 pm of what would be your dream day. From starting small to going big, you can dream of anything – want to wake up and watch the sunrise in Thailand? Put it on the list. Want to eat authentic Chinese cuisine for lunch? Put it on the list. Want to go spend an afternoon in a Sweat Lodge? Put it on the list. You always wanted to try Brazillian food on a paradise beach? It can be on your dinner schedule. You can write several of these schedules, to have an idea of what an ideal life for you would be, also, it’s fun and it’s a great way to daydream, too.

Looking at both of the previous lists, you now have an idea of what kind of life you’d wish to have. Now give it a name, something that may be too out there or maybe not, but something that fits the types of genres your ideal life would be. After my last “changing everything about my life” phase, I started seeing myself as a “Post-Bohemian and Kind of Rural Hippie Chique” type of girl. Does it exist? Do other people live it? Most likely, very probably.

Now, this part is a bit more extensive and requires some deep research that can go on for days, months, or even years. After looking at your wishes and your dream day-to-day life, what kind of inspiration do you need? What are the tools you need to accomplish these goals? What kind of things need to change?

I say this is a lot more extensive because, if you wish to start making your own clothes, you may want to start learning how, from taking classes in your community, or online, you need to find something suitable for yourself. If you want to travel the world, you may want to get some money, find places to go, and please remember to check for visas, passports, and vaccines needed. Anything that actually changes from your regular daily schedule to your dream schedule needs research on how to do it. Find and talk to people who already live these dreams of yours and learn with them how to make certain exclusive changes.

Looking at both your lists, from your most ardent desires in life to your dream daily schedule, maybe some stuff seems incompatible, but sometimes and most often than not, it may not be. One year you may be running a communal computer repair shop in your home town, the next year you’re volunteering in a refugee camp in Greece. Whatever it seems that you’d like to do, if you really want to do it, you’ll find the time and place for it, you just need to know how to do it.

Good ideas to help you on this third part of the designing of your Alternative Lifestyle: Use Ecosia instead of Google for research, at least your data isn’t mined and you help plant trees. Use Pinterest for ideas, or even to learn how to make DIY cosmetics, or learning to make your own clothes. And start cooking! Learning how to cook is one of those indispensable skills that everyone should have on their skill list. First, you can eat whatever you wish, and second, and remember this rule of thumb, every lifestyle starts with the type of food we eat.

Make a mood board 📌

Then, make a mood board! A mood board is really cool because it helps us get a feeling of what we are looking for. We use mood boards in design for things like, getting the feeling of a restaurant we’re designing, or what type of style we want in our fashion collection, or what type of trees and herbs and flowers we want when we’re designing our gardens. So in designing a lifestyle, putting together some pictures of things you want to do, have or make, is a good start to have a visual statement of what you really want in your life. You do it on your computer or in the old-fashioned way of cutting and gluing it to cardboard, whatever way you go, keep it close to you after you’re done.

The “make it happen” list  ✔️

Now for the third and final list, “Make it happen”. This is an ever-changing and ever-evolving list. It’s best to keep a notebook with you at all times to do this. Aiming for your second list of the ideal quotidian, you may want to start to make some changes in your regular day-to-day life. If one of your goals is to dress more sustainably, maybe one day of your week you’ll go to a thrift shop and buy some second-hand clothes. And maybe, those clothes are more in tune with the style you’ve created than your regular, past lifestyle clothes, and there you have it: two new items on your “make it happen list”.

If one of your goals is learning how to cook Portuguese food, you may want to find some recipes and also ingredients. As soon as you find those, list them! If one of your goals is to travel at least once a year, arranging some part of the trip or making a realistic trip schedule, might be on the list too. And so on. That’s why it’s ever-changing and ever-evolving because you just keep adding. As you keep adding and doing things differently, you are already building and living your new and very own Alternative Lifestyle. And you’ll also realize what works for you or not, you might find that you need more time to make certain changes or you may just change your mind entirely. Whatever happens, you’re doing it.

It’s important to remember that while we do this, we need to respect our own ancestry, our own cultural identity, and our own communities. It’s important to remember this, so later you don’t feel too much of an outcast in your own life! Sometimes we make such radical changes, that it’s not sustainable for our family life, or to keep friendships we truly cherish.

Remember what’s good in your life right now, and remember to count your blessings. From there on out, your life is your oyster.

Alternative Lifestyles Pic: The picture is creative commons licenced from FilipUrban from Unsplash


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Author: Matilde M.

Ecologist, Regerative Designer, Artist, Teacher and Multidisciplinary Healer, lives in Southern Portugal and thrives to build a self-sufficient life, working mainly on setting the building blocks for the health of our future generations and the planet. Writer for Permaculture Women's Magazine and her own publication Comunidade Lotus.

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