Welcome to our impuls section!

This section contains everything we come across, but that doesn’t fit into our article format. That doesn’t means it’s less fun – or less important! Quite the contrary! Here you may find inspirations, questions, experiences, diary entries, recipes… whatever. There really are no limits. Check it out!

20
Jan

Why I like to travel alone

There are two main reasons to travel alone: freedom and conversations. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy traveling with others, too – certain others that is, it won’t work with everybody. Still, traveling alone has its own advantages!

Relaxing freedom

Firstly and most obviously, traveling on your own comes with a lot of freedom. For me it is the kind of freedom that allows for total relaxation. The relaxation results from not having to make any plans. I would generally have a vague idea of what I want to do with my day, but then something else might come up and I’d often end up doing something completely different – and that’s fine!

It’s really interesting and inspiring what kind of things you discover if you just follow your gut and have a stroll around a place you don’t know. This is somewhat harder when you are traveling with others. While you might be able to reach a consensus on what to do quite easily, just having to discuss and agree on something changes the feel of the moment. Furthermore, traveling alone relieves this self-induced pressure to make sure, the other person is having a good time.

When I travel alone, I don’t have to feel guilty if something I wanted to do on the trip turns out not to be that great. I know that the people I have traveled with before, would like to chime in at this moment and tell me that I don’t have to feel any guilt when I’m with them either, and I know that. However, for some reason I still do. So, just being able to turn off the guilt for a couple of days, not being responsible for anybody but yourself, is very relaxing.

Releasing coversations

Travelers alone somehow seem to have a radar for other lonesome wanderers – so you meet and have a conversation. And what’s so great about it, is that you have no prior knowledge of each other. You (ideally) don’t have any prejudice or preset idea of how that person is and what to expect of him or her. Of course that’s true of every time you meet a stranger, but most of the time that stranger is a new colleague or neighbour. That means there is a certain pressure coming with the meeting – you’d better get along, as you’ll be stuck with each other for a while.

You don’t have that pressure when you’re traveling. You meet a person, you talk and whenever you feel like it, you go your separate ways again and no hard feelings. It makes for a much more free and relaxed conversation. You feel like you’re getting the real people, not some filtered version of themselves. But of course you’ll never know for sure, because you won’t meet again and that’s okay.

If you’re traveling with a friend or partner, not only meeting people itself isgetting harder. If you do meet people, you will never have that totally relaxed and unrestrained conversation, because there is someone there who has prior knowledge of you. For me this feeling of not having to adhere to the social construction of yourself appears somewhat similar to what many people experience on festivals – a place where the perception of normality shifts. The setting of a festival, so far away from reality, allows you to try on different versions of yourself, versions that might have gotten lost in your everyday life, but that are still part of you.

Talking to strangers in a foreign place gives you a similar opportunity. Most of the time those meetings end with you having a head full of new ideas, while not even knowing the other one’s name. But sometimes these meetings result in long-lasting friendships, which are strong simply because of the way in which they developed.

Inspiring loneliness

As a bonus reason, there is something very mind-opening about the loneliness itself. While you often have these great conversations with fellow travelers, you tend to also spend a lot of time in silence. Simply because there is no one to talk to. The silence in combination with being in an unfamiliar place away from all the things of everyday life, which your mind usually attaches itself to, somehow allows the thoughts to wander more freely.

I get the feeling that being quiet for a while, not talking to someone or distracting yourself with a book, movie or your phone, allows the mind to clean and reset itself. When coming back from such a trip, I feel that I can think a lot more clearly and have more inspiration and creativity. I am almost certain that a lot of this inspiration is due to being silent in unfamiliar surroundings.

 

       To travel alone might not be for everyone, but for me this mixture of fun conversation and silent inspiration is the perfect way to allow the (slightly dominant) introverted part of me to restore itself, while keeping the extroverted me happy, too. So, if you feel like you need a recharge – dare to give it a try!

26
May

Hormones on the skin? No, thanks…

We had a nice and informative evening at a BUND event, dealing with hormonal active substances in cosmetics. However, it was also quite scary to see what toxins we generally put on our skin. Therefore, we brought some alternatives, including lemons, soda or oils. These are not only more healthy for us, but also for the environment and in most cases even for our purse!

It might sound strange at first, but soda is not only very helpful against heartburn, but you can also use it excellently for creating deodorant (and yes, it works! I will tell you more about this in a field report soon). (Organic) Lemons are multi-tasking products as well and can replace facial tonic and peeling as well as chemical cleaning agents for your spring cleaning. Chestnuts can be used for making laundry detergent or shampoo (how this works we will tell you in more detail soon). Depending on your skin-type, you can choose between various pure oils for face and body: almond oil, argan oil or coconut oil are for example very suitable for sensitive, combination skin and even blemished skin. For dry skin you could also use olive oil. A dash of aloe vera gel (which can be obtained directly from the plant) provides the whole thing a bit more moisture; or just use the gel alone to mitigate skin irritation.

Well, and the beer we personally prefer to drink, but in case you won’t finish it: Pour it over your hair!

photo: facingchange
14
May

Living real alternatives: impressions from an ecovillage

I had a rough idea how the ecovillage ‘Sieben Linden’ in eastern Germany might look like, but I couldn’t guess how strongly it would affect me. An idea, because we already visited an ecovillage in Ireland last year: Cloughjordan about 150 km south-west from Dublin. However, the experiences there are worth their own story, especially since we did this trip together with the other fellows from our studies as ‘global change gang’.

This time we both travelled alone and linked our visit in Sieben Linden to a three-days cycling trip, starting from our current home base Leipzig. In three stages we covered a distance of 280 km with two stopovers, one in Dessau-Roßlau and another in Magdeburg.

Why taking this effort by bike and spending two nights at places, that are not really among the top 10 of most stunning cities in Germany? Well, because we think, that visiting an ecovillage deserves an appropriate journey. Plus we like biking, the route up there was leading us through a beautiful landscape along three rivers and because active holidays are much more exciting anyway. Furthermore, and you should better not underestimate that point, a cold freshly tapped beer tastes even better after biking 85 km than after a train ride.

     So it happened that we arrived on the very Friday afternoon in Sieben Linden, slightly exhausted and sweating , with only one goal: Finding Fred, an inhabitant who should show us around. Fortunately, we found him immediately, since Fred was already waiting for us, enjoying his cup of lupine coffee and significantly younger as we expected from an ecovillage-resident with the full name Manfred (a German name of a rather older generation). Directly I realised the comfortable ease Fred radiated and I should learn soon that this peaceful atmosphere was spread all over this place.

Just after arrival, Fred already led us to a first little highlight: A site caravan – our accommodation for the following two nights. I had been looking forward to this since days (Yes, seriously!), because living in a site caravan, has always been a little childhood dream of mine. Probably this correlates to my former addiction to a well-known German TV series called ‘Löwenzahn’ (German for dandelion), where a guy living in a caravan was teaching about nature. Gladly I did another check mark on my still way to long ‘I-want-to-do-in-my-life’ list. And like so often in life, it are the small things that make us happy.

Inside, the caravan was small and cosy, furnished with two single beds and a wood stove that we didn’t need to use during those warm spring days. A toilet was not integrated, but this was not necessary since there were plenty of possibilities outside.

bauwagen
Lovely site caravan: our home for two nights (own photo)

     The entire village exclusively provides compost toilets that don’t need a flush. Basically, these are nothing else than privies. From a comfort point of view, they don’t differ much from usual toilets; well, at least not the indoor ones.  Lid closed they look exactly the same, the only difference is that they are not connected to a sewerage via water pipes and instead consist of a broad pipe vertically leading to a collecting tank. What goes there is not visible from above. Guaranteed. Adventurous people can find rather typical privies outside: a wooden board, a hole and a wheelbarrow; that’s it. Also something you should at least try once in life. In all variants the – let me put it here as material is collected and professionally stored at a special place outdoor for composting. Give it some time and it will transform to soil – a closed cycle, that saves resources and shows how everything on earth is interconnected.

priviesOutdoor privies (own photo)

     Let’s come from toilet to table, particularly to the food on it, one aspect we were really looking forward a lot. Firstly, because we simply love to eat. Secondly, because we already knew that the vegetarian or vegan meals are getting prepared out of organic products, mainly derived from regional or even own agriculture.

The common storage room, we could catch a glimpse of, looks like an organic grocery store and the fields and gardens belonging to the village represent an own little Land of Cockaigne: apple trees, rhubarb, redcurrant bushes, tomato plants, potatoes, salads and much more. Instantly, I felt like returning to this place during main harvesting season and trying all these goodies freshly from the field. Maybe I could do this in combination with a field-working week offered by the village?

As if I was not already fully captured by all these impressions, I realised another, pretty handsome detail in the middle of all this: A young man was standing there, barefoot and naturally tanned, with long dark-blond dreads and dusty skin and was planting offshoots into little boxes with soil. It just looks as if he was destined for being exactly at this place… Shortly, I was wondering, whether I might have had slightly too much lupine coffee and if this could lead to any psychedelic effects.

But no, I am quite sure that this inspiring deep relaxation I felt was real. Everything at this place just made sense to me. Usually, I regularly come across things (or sometimes even people), which drive me nuts because I don’t see any reasonable sense behind it. Not so in Sieben Linden. Nothing there was redundant but nothing was missing either. Everything was in close communion with nature and therefore perfect in a reassuring way.

This also applies to the houses there, which do not look like grass covered hobbit caves (surely this would be nice as well!). They are rather pragmatic artistically designed constructs with a low energy standard, arising from a mixture of modern techniques, artistic freedom and sustainable materials: mostly wood, clay and straw. A top insulation is achieved by straw bales that are integrated within the walls. Solar collectors on the roofs or spread around the area serve for heating as well as for hot water processing and via photovoltaic panels the village also produces significantly more than 50% of the electricity they consume.

example house eco
Example house, showing principal building style based on wood, clay and straw (own picture)
houses eco 1
common houses with solar panels (own picture)

     The entire life in the village is based on strong solidarity. Several families or single persons are sharing houses. Of course, everyone still has some privacy space; however, there are community rooms that are shared by all group members, including a common use of kitchens, washing machines or toilets for instance. Basically this is like a shared flat you may know from your student life, just with the difference that in Sieben Linden this is not an intermediate state, it is much more a fundamental part of the sustainability concept.

Community life there goes far beyond sharing a home. In a common house residents (and visitors) eat together, celebrate or just spent some time with each other. Each resident further is devoted to specific tasks, for instance in the agricultural sector, gardening, cleaning of premises or managing composting. People take responsibility for nature and their fellow (wo)men, support and take care of each other. This is a crucial point, since the community project can only be successful if all pull together.

After all we had seen so far, we were pretty curious about the local Pub on Saturday night. Already guessing what kind of music they will play there, we optimistically bet on 70ies/80ies rock, soft reggae sounds and live guitar music. We were definitely not ready for that, what happened then. Abruptly we found ourselves relegated to moderate late 90ies disco party instead of experiencing an alternative Flower-Power Revival à la Woodstock. The rotating multi-colored mirror ball did not help to defuse the situation. I was indeed a bit disappointed, but well, after all it could not change my general positive impression. If people are doing so good in anything else, a hint of weird nostalgia can be condoned.

     In the end, I am convinced that it was not the lupine coffee, but indeed the atmosphere of this place with all of its residents that gave me some release. The community shows all the possibilities we already do have to change something and it further proofs how much of what we call normal in our society, is actually unnecessary. This experience allowed me breathing deeply for two days, far away from city noise, mobile phones, mad rush and overconsumption.

Whether I could imagine living there? Yes and no. 100% yes in terms of sustainability, protection of resources, the compost toilets, own agriculture and life close to nature. I could even live with the multi-colored mirror ball. However, I am not sure regarding to the very strong community life that is also quite secluded. It is difficult for me to commit myself to one thing and I enjoy my personal freedom as well as the flexibility a city offers. Above that, I really love being alone sometimes, having time for myself without the need to take responsibility of other people is pretty important to me.

Living in Sieben Linden would also mean, giving up my restless maybe kind of eccentric lifestyle and dedicating to a strong responsible community. I am not yet ready for this. But who knows? Maybe I will be one day.

Because, if I am honest, I believe that finding back to local communities that show global consciousness  and responsibility, is an important milestone humanity needs to set for finally making big changes in this world.

Check the Sieben Linden website for more information
picture source: facingchange
08
May

Where is Fred?

Last post of our Sieben Linden Travel diary – go here to the beginning… or read our full article.

From Leipzig to Sieben Linden – Travel diary – day 3 – arrival in Sieben Linden (subsequent entry)

… We were putting this question only shortly, since a surprisingly young Fred was already waiting for us with his cup of lupine coffee and welcomed us friendly. Fred was sort of responsible for us and showed us the village and our accommodation for the next two nights – a cosy site caravan. From there on, we were supposed to switch our mobile phones to flight mode.

Obviously, cycling the last three days was kind of exhausting, since the first night at the ecovillage, we fell into bed already at 9.30 pm. Except from getting a bit lost in the dark while searching half-sleeping for a toilet in the middle of the night, we got some good hours of sleep. By the way, concerning the toilets you have free choice: different outdoor privys, where you can even choose between squatting or sitting, indoor composting toilets that work without a flush or simply into the wild; everything is possible.

Travel diary – day 3-5 – recreation in Sieben Linden (subsequent entry)

The following two days, we were enjoying the open-minded and tolerant atmosphere, lots of sun, proximity to nature and this particular very pleasant silence the village shows. Besides that, we could get first insights in the sustainable and common life there, construction of straw bale houses or the function of a reed sewage treatment plant.

The whole thing was rounded up by tasty organic vegetarian or vegan meals, mostly made out of regional or self-produced products (a total contrast to our sinful waste producing stay in that hotel previously…)

In short: we were fully satisfied.

Our tour ended rather windy with a bike and train combination back to Leipzig today.

For more experiences and impressions from our stay in the ecovillage have a look at his article.

Photo: facingchange

 

06
May

Meaty morning

Third post of our Sieben Linden Travel diary – go here to the beginning… or read our full article.

From Leipzig to Sieben Linden – Travel diary – day 3 – Departure from Magdeburg 

Three reasons why hotels generally have a bad CObalance:

  • small plastic packages at breakfast
  • very meaty buffet
  • heaps of laundry

hotelmeat hotelwaste

To be honest, we did not consider this while making our travel plans… but well, you can learn from your mistakes! So next time we will think about our accommodations beforehand and will probably camp or look for sustainable hostels.

 … go here to last post… or read our full article.

photos: facingchange
05
May

Beer, bikes and donkeys

Second post of our Sieben Linden Travel diary – go here to the beginning… or read our full article.

From Leipzig to Sieben Linden – Travel diary – day 2 – Magdeburg 

Arrived safely at the outskirts of Magdeburg (basically in the middle of nowhere…), after cycling around 170 km in total the last two days. Had lots of sun, great nature along the Elbe river and came across donkeys and many drunk men on bikes (yep, men do this here in Germany on so called “Father’s day”). IMAG4251Now having our good night beer, while listening involuntarily to some weird flute music in the only bar we could find here.

Looking forward to arrive at the ecovillage tomorrow. We hope, we can keep you updated then, since one rule there is to switch off mobile phones (and another is only using organic toiletries btw.)

So it stays exciting!

 … go here to day 3… or read our full article.

Photo: facingchange
04
May

We’ll be off then: From Leipzig to Sieben Linden

From Leipzig to Sieben Linden – travel diary – day 1 – Ready for take-off

Leipzig-SiebenlindenAfter our excessive restructuring measures on our website, we deserve some holidays (at least we think so). But we wouldn’t be the ecoholics, if we didn’t take this opportunity to explore sustainable way of life. Instead of flying to Mallorca (the Germans most favorite holiday destination), we go to Sieben Linden by bike. This ecovillage is about 220-250 km away from our home base Leipzig (well, depending on exact route and amount of wrong turns we will take…). On the way we will stop in Dessau-Roßlau (which is also place of location of the German ministry of the environment) and Magdeburg.

In Sieben Linden we want to experience, how the residents of the ecovillage organize life sustainable. We are interested in how houses are build and fields are farmed; how social life is shaped and what kind of interesting, creative and crazy ideas people there realized and still plan to.

All this we want to share with you in our travel diary. So, stay tuned!

 … go here to day 2… or read our full article.

 

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