About a year ago, as high school was coming to an end, I was told to accept one of my university offers. I didn’t like the way the next four years of my life was already being planned out for me, and to dishearteningly select one of these offers seemed impulsive. My reluctancy to attend more school, right after I had completed twelve years of it, was probably due to a combination of things. It was likely due to my inability to learn the overwhelming amount of abstract concepts being thrust into my brain by “teachers”. It was likely due to my growing obsession with skipping class to take part in things that I was actually interested in, whether it be; rock climbing, reading, skateboarding, painting, hiking, or even researching one of the thousands of subjects I wasn’t being exposed to in school, that I would never be exposed to in school. Whatever it was that pushed me away from a desire to attend university, I was beginning to think differently, more independently. So when I missed the deadline to accept one of my university offers, I was happy. I chose to take a gap year – a year between high school and university, in which I am free to do whatever I please, without the constraints of institutionalized, compulsory schooling. I didn’t know it yet, but, that was the best decision I have ever made in my life. The year ahead of me would be filled with pure, true education.
I never premeditated travelling during my gap year. However, my innate curiosity and desire to explore suddenly materialized into a few inspiring trips. Immediately after high school, I went on a rock-climbing road trip through America where I ascended cliff faces and mountains all throughout Kentucky, Utah, The High Sierra’s and The Rockies. I then flew to Panama and explored the rainforests and culture of this country. My eyes were opened during those couple of months. I developed an all-consuming appreciation for adventure, nature, and culture. I became intoxicated with the idea of travelling. When I returned home, I was already thinking about my next trip and working two jobs to afford it. Four painful, longing months later and I was preparing for a flight to Kauai, Hawaii to volunteer at an organic farm.
Since my arrival on Kauai seven months ago, I’ve remained fairly silent and disconnected from my life on the mainland. It is sort of a guilty pleasure; having little communication with friends and family. I’ve been so overwhelmed with the beauty and lifestyle of this place that sharing it in words or pictures would be absolutely futile (though for the sake of this post, I’ll try). Additionally, I’ve realized the amount of excess time I can have when I eliminate screen time and social media from my daily routine; more time to enjoy the “HI Life”. Secret Beach Organics could not be a more perfect farm; it exceeds any expectations I had. It is located on a serene, 140-acre property on Kauai’s North Shore. Our major crops are turmeric and ginger, but aside from that we have about 700 tropical fruit trees. I could go on for pages about the taste, smell, colour, texture, and beauty of every single rare fruit I’ve encountered, but that’s not really the point of this post. Most of my waking time is dedicated to this farm; pruning, harvesting, weeding, gardening, planting, and building farm structures. I’m nearing 600 volunteer hours, and I feel as though I could do this forever. Farm work is certainly character building and I can feel fulfilled about supporting the organic farming movement. During my time off, I’ve taught myself to surf, helped raise our farm pup Luna, snorkelled the most gorgeous coral reefs, backpacked the Kalalau Trail, made lifelong friends at farmers markets, met unimaginably captivating characters, and read way too many books. Most importantly though, I discovered interests I didn’t even know I had.
When thrust into unknown or uncomfortable situations, it becomes your responsibility to confront and achieve contentment with those circumstances. It is in that process where you truly develop individual character and learn about yourself. Coming to Kauai with a perfectly naive and unprepared attitude was pretty anomalous and intimidating. My travels really could’ve gone any way; being on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – with no solid plan, and not a single familiar face for thousands of kilometres, felt like a pretty bold move. Though looking back on the past seven months, it seems like I’ve been in a beautifully weird psychedelic dream; a life-changing educational experience. I can also say with confidence that I’ve learned more during my time on this island than I did throughout high school. It is amazing what knowledge you can absorb when you have passion or curiosity for the information coming at you, in contrast to my schooling experience where I was forced to memorize concepts with no real-life context, in which I had little interest in. Regularly learning and working with plants still, to this day gives me an overwhelming sense of admiration and biophilia. This feeling alone has given me passion for organic farming, permaculture and health. The methods we implement into the growing of food on Secret Beach Organics, should be a model for other farms; no pesticides, no GMO’s, no chemical fertilizers. And using permaculture techniques just makes sense – creating an ecosystem of edible or soil enhancing plants that beneficially interact with each other in ways that are not only sustainable, but regenerative. How we’ve allowed agribusiness to legally put poison in our food is beyond me, but that is what our capitalistic system encourages; we’ll do anything for profit. Though eating certified organic foods isn’t flawless, it is certainly a vote against many of the worst aspects of the food industry, not to mention an investment towards your health.
Well, my flight off the island is on Monday and I’m currently in an odd dazed feeling. I really cannot wrap my head around leaving Kauai. Choosing to leave was truly the hardest decision I’ve ever made, I was wholeheartedly ready to drop my life back home, become an American citizen and live in this Hawaiian paradise. Many of you may be surprised to read that I decided to go to university in the end; I’d like to give it a chance. Besides, if university is the best way to soak up knowledge, I’m all for it, hopefully it will satisfy my desire to be in the world of academia. So, in September I’ll be attending Lakehead University to study a double-degree of natural science and outdoor recreation. I think the hardest part about leaving Kauai, will be saying bye to the farm family. I would not be content with this post without mentioning them and their influence on my trip. I’ve only known Kevin, Mia, Evan, and Adam for seven months, but the bond we share feels lifelong. Kev’s sheer activist mentality, his ability to defend himself when he’s being wronged is incredibly admirable. Mia’s humble, loving, environmentalist attitude has kept me focused on what’s important. The knowledge and conversation Evan and I have shared, is beyond words, he is genuinely the most scholarly resolute person I’ve ever met. Lastly, our farm manager; Adam, has this remarkably pure determination and devotion to see this farm thrive, the passion and fire in his eyes is something I can only hope to find later in life. I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity Big Dog, the skills and experience I’ve gained from you is more than I could’ve ever hoped for. You guys are bigger role models than you can possibly know, and I can only dream of meeting people as smart as you in university.
Aloha – Mowgli