Month: October 2014

To Mullum, to Mullum

P1030591 armidale pool   It was three days driving from the farm in Ruffy to our stop in Mullum. It saw us go through Albury, Wagga, Dubbo, Tamworth and Armidale, as well as lots of little towns in-between. collage emma pool armidale   Pondering the journey also makes me think about the variety of accommodation we have encountered to date – in three weeks we have slept in 2 rest stops (on the side of the road), a vacant block, 3 tourist parks and 3 houses – in beds, a tent or caravan. Talk about variety. That aspect has been very interesting. Its also been great for getting used to looking after yourself – setting up and packing down camp continuously will do that – and goes a long way towards becoming comfortable with change.   P1030606 armidale camp
We’ve noticed that Emma has the hardest times at transition – settling in somewhere new and packing up to leave. This was to be expected, and we have been pleased to see the amount of time she needed decrease as we went on. It also highlighted how well she handled all the change and newness during the rest of the time. For a mum and daughter who can be adverse to not knowing or controlling our surroundings – we are doing pretty well so far 🙂
Another heartening observation has been Emma’s ability to connect quickly with the animals and children wherever we have been. For a child who hasn’t really been around animals or had many pets, she has taken a shining to, and solace from, the creatures in our adventure. I’m glad about this – I hope it’s a connection that will stay with her into the future. I also hope it sparks reverence and respect for all creatures and life in nature – we shall see.
Anyway- back to the destination at hand – we were on way to our first couch surfing stop. What is couch surfing? For those who aren’t familiar, they liken it a little to when you travel and call on family or friends in your destination to maybe put you up for a couple nights, or show you around. You know – a nice friendly place to stay, good company to hang out with and a chance to get tips from the locals. Essentially they took that philosophy and built a web-based network so you could do it with friends you haven’t met yet. Cool idea, huh? They refine it with host/surfer profiles, reviews and search capabilities so you find a good match and feel safe in what you are doing. We found our host by searching within Mullumbimby and listed by how recently they had used the site. The first one up was an awesome host with lots of great alternative interests like us, a family of his own and experience hosting hundreds of other surfers. After reading reviews we were satisfied they would be great people to meet and sent a request through. Request accepted, we exchanged some details so we could meet at the appropriate point in the space-time continuum and we were set. Easy!
After shifting around so much on the road, it was really nice to look forward to 3 nights in one place with some insider knowledge. And Benny and Sophia didn’t disappoint – they were interesting, open, generous people. And they put us onto heaps of cool stuff in the area and beyond. Clearly community minded and accustomed to having people flow through their life, it was easy to settle into communal ways at their place .
In fact from where I sit now, i’m surprised at how easy it has been to meet and live with new people. I expected it to be much harder. I’m sure it probably is on a longer term basis. Perhaps it is the transient nature of these meetings and networks (e.g. wwoofing, couch surfing) that lay good foundations for communication of facts and expectations. Whatever it is, when everyone knows a good deal about what is going on and what to expect, things can go much smoother.
And from my experience so far, it seems the other factor at play is having space and time which offer a balance of being together and apart. There needs to be enough communal time to build relationships and understanding, but also time alone to debrief – there are a lot of new surroundings, dynamics and learning to process (as a family or individuals). Not to mention whatever lessons and emotions come up internally within each person.
But back to Mullum – as you would expect there were lots of colourful places and characters around town. We saw numerous outlets for organic and health related stuff like grocers, juice bars, cafes and even a herbal/homepathic shop concocting remedies to order.
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and you thought your local had lots of community notices!

Michael and Emma also had many comrades in their trademark bare feet. We wondered the town, looking at places and people, eating good food (including a cool little cafe called Punch & Daisy) We also hung out at home, watched the ducks, pottered in the garden, went for a walk and recuperated, even catching a community dinner. Between all that, lots of time was spent chatting over dinner and breakfast with Benny and Sophia.  So great to talk things over with others open to ideas or opinions – 1. to be able to express your own and get feedback, and 2. to hear those of others – it’s like exercise for your mind!
A short aside on this topic (warning, here comes an observational musing) – one trait I have noticed: those who seem most open to the opinion of others are usually those most secure in their own. Or more accurately, secure in their own values, from which all else is derived. So I don’t mean they are dogmatic about their own opinions, more like they are secure about what they are and why, which also allows a greater openness to change if it is sensible.
We also checked out the local community garden. It was a pretty cool place to see – it had permaculture demonstration plots, private plots, public picking plots (‘food for all’), a kids area, a shop to sell seeds and plants (and other stuff) a learning space, cafe/kitchen and more. Like a bio-char facility – got a fantastic explanation of biochar and it’s many uses from Don – in fact so many I have to admit it was a little overload for me to keep in my head. Michael’s brain may have been a better receptacle for that info!. Neverthless it’s definitely on our list of things to look into now.
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Even the garden’s toilets were fun – and of the composting variety of course. I feel fairly familiar with composting toilets, having seen and used a few now – but if it, and the whole ‘humanure’ world, is foreign check out this link.
collage mullum comm garden toilet
There was a pretty exciting initiative starting out of the gardens too called ‘Future Feeders’. Our hosts put us onto this and an intentional community called ‘Famunity’. I want to give them both more air time in their own posts though, so sit tight for those 🙂
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In the meantime, I would like to wrap up this post by thanking Benny, Sophia and little Mossy for making our first couch surfing experience a great one – here’s to the fun, sharing and growth of meeting new people – Cheers!
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On the Road Again

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So here is the challenge – 1 hour to write 1 post, albeit a photo rich, word poor one. Sounds easy – unless your me. Here we go…

After experiencing the bio-dynamic delights of Ruffy, we set off for 3 days on the road, en route to Mullum land (aka Mullumbimby). There we would experience couch surfing for the first time. But for now we had driving, lots of driving, ahead of us.

We had a wonderfully surprising morning just getting out of Ruff and to our first stop – upon a recommendation we went to Longwood to see ‘The Rockery’. It is a gemstone museum, in actual fact it is one man’s house and the physical manifestation of his passion for rocks. The personal collection spreads throughout – his kitchen bench literally his shop counter. Although it may sound odd, it was actually very endearing – as was the owner Maurie Brodie. It was a pleasure listening to him recall his many adventures across the world that his love has prompted. I was particularly amazed to hear him recall, with vivid clarity, the exact moment that he became interested in rocks (many many years ago) -he was 17 and his mum showed him a picture in the middle of a Woman’s Weekly magazine. It was of a whole bunch of tumbled rocks – glossy and shiny like boiled lollies he said. I love that – whenever someone can pinpoint a passion’s trigger – I think it’s fascinating.

Anyway, i’m sure that, and having a look around, would have been enough for me to enjoy my time there. And probably the same for Michael. But what made it sooo worth it was Emma’s reaction – I think we have stumbled across something special for her. She was glued to the place – drinking in all the different shapes, colours and sparkles. The fluorescent rocks in the darkroom just blew her away! It was amusing and heartwarming at the same time to observe her reactions. It’s not often I have seen her that in awe.

collage emma rockery

This is what she said about it: “This place is so amazing it makes me want to cry”. Just gorgeous 🙂

After we pried Emma away, and thanked Maurie for sharing his passion, we settled in for a drive. Eventually we decided it was time for lunch and stopped at the next place available. It was town called Benalla in what felt like the middle of Victoria – an ordinary kind of town except for the entrance with an art gallery, boardwalk upon the river and the most astounding piece of artwork I have ever encountered. It’s hard to describe, think clay art gallery combined with outdoor seating/ampitheatre and playground. Whatever it was, it really spoke to me. To be fair, the ‘Clay Mural’ was 27 years in the making – and the outlay is so intricate and complicated i’m hardly surprised. This is where the ‘photo rich’ bit comes in – warning: photo bombardment imminent. See the splendour for yourself…

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Thanks Benalla – your awesome!

Art absorbed, 1 hour post challenge met.

Ahhh – now for a cuppa……

‘Ruff’ing it

P1030481 quince blooms mill springs
As we hoped might happen, we were happily directed to our first unplanned farm-stay at a little place called “Ruffy”, about 2 hours north of Melbourne.
Thanks to Chris from Green Onions, who told Michael about one of their suppliers, saying if you want to see farms, you should definitely see that one – they grow the best peaches. And he didn’t just mean for the area, or last season – he meant the best. Ever.
So Chris gave us their contact details and Michael put in a call. After lots of discussion about good practices for farming and living today, and much reassurance that Michael was indeed not trying to sell them something, we were invited along for a visit and to pitch our tent for a while. An invitation to ‘Ruff it’.
Driving into the area reveals beautiful horse stud flats and hilly green pastures. The farm – Mill Springs Farm – belongs to Adrian and Valda Martin, who come from a long line or farmers and orchardists on both sides. Valda welcomes us in for a good old country cup of tea before heading up to the orchard to meet Adrian and having a look around.
The farm’s main produce is bio-dynamically grown fruit – think beautiful stone fruit, quinces, apples and boysenberries. They also grow olives for oil, sheep for meat, have free range laying hens and are delving into grain.
collage mill springs 1
Everything on the farm is grown biodynamically. specifically to the demeter standard of biodynamics which, analagous to the off shoot of dialects from a common language, holds a particular way of applying the biodynamic principles Rudolf Steiner indicated nearly 100 years ago. The Martins have been using this method for about 20 years now.

Here is a little excerpt from the biodynamic manual Adrian gave us to read:

The [demeter bio-dynamic] system is not simply a replacement of synthetic chemicals and artificial fertilisers with ‘organic’ substitutes. Instead the farmer must learn to think and work biologically.
When I asked why they chose biodynamics, different answers emerge. Valda says it’s because they had seen the effects of chemical use and therefore looked for something different to the conventional practice. Adrian says it’s because of the simplicity – it is how people used to farm before industrialisation. He likes the fact you can do it yourself without relying too heavily on technology or buying inputs.
Oh, and the fact that it works – they are steadfast and serious in explaining the unmistakably good results they have seen in things like:
  • product quality & taste (evidenced by the religious-like patronage they receive)
  • farm recovery times after harsh conditions – (they seem to be the first to spring back to life, probably owing to next on the list:)
  • soil quality & life and
  • decreased water requirements – (several reasons but one stand out for me was that trees are grown such that they source water and nutrients as needed from healthy soil, rather than the traditional overfeeding of fertiliser which results in a thirsty tree  and more water consumption)
As well as taking the time out to chat with us, the Martins very kindly offer us more than we could have hoped for in the way of facilities, including some land to perch on for a few days. It is a beautiful place to stay – with trees, life and birdsong rounding it out.
P1030477 cherry rows and berries
I really enjoyed the way things unfolded there: Michael and I each found something to help with; Emma flowed between farm activities and contented alone time and we got to know the family a little more through tea, chooks and conversations.
Chris described Adrian as just one of the most genuine people you will meet, I wholeheartedly agree. What a good old fashioned country farmer – quiet, but kind to the core, and full of common-sense wisdom. Valda, his wife of several decades, is quick to point out that Adrian doesn’t go on a lot about things (skyting, as they call it), and is overly humble about his level of knowledge. He obviously makes up for it with his openness – all you need do is ask him a question.
Valda is remarkable in her own right. Generous with a no-nonsense attitude and sharp as a tack. She uses her passion for needle & thread to bolster several charity projects, including hospital and prison projects for support and rehabilitation. As we look at her lifetime of crafting and contributions I realise just how much traditional arts and crafts can be a vehicle for healing, purpose and community.
Like most farmers, they work hard – and mother nature throws a spanner in the works regularly. So why do they choose this difficult life? And why is there such a renewed interest in joining them? My own suspicion is because it’s an honest profession which provides a real and tangible connection to the world we live in. For Adrian,  it seems there is a satisfaction and purpose inherent in growing things for others. He says he gets pleasure from growing the best fruit possible. And he has no plans to leave – intent on continuing until his body gives up.
I don’t think the market will have any problem with that either – apparently demand is always growing and, uncharacteristically, Adrian offers up his opinion on why: he puts it down to the young mothers of Melbourne searching out better food for their children. That’s heartening – I would love to see demand for responsibly farmed food become the social norm. Here’s hoping…
This experience left me feeling incredibly grateful. Firstly, as you might expect, grateful for seeing their example in farming – Adrian certainly made a good case for skipping ‘organic’ all together and going straight to biodynamics. But surprisingly, even more grateful for having just met them and their family – it instilled in me something that Michael already had a healthy faith for – the good nature of people. I felt like they were good people trying to do good things. And they met us as strangers, showing great generosity and openness. Thank you!
collage mill springs tractor
Happy Farming. Happy Eating.
xx

Melbourne-town

melbourne rain

 

Our next stop was Melbourne (or Mel-bin if your aussie, as someone recently depicted our pronunciation). After realising last minute, that we have family there, Michael put a call in to his cousin to see if they might have us for a few days. They very kindly said yes. It was wonderful to get to know them better, sharing dinners and impromptu conversations, as well as the everyday house and family-rearing duties (they have three young girls – a total of four girls in the house made for lots of fun, noise and antics!). Emma even got to spend a morning in school with one of her cousins, which she was most chuffed about.

It’s a real priviledge to be able to step back and see how another family does things. So thank you very much to the Braun clan! It was one of those unplanned experiences that turned out to be really enriching.

 

mic and the braun girls - melbourne

 

 

Our first Mel-bin destination was The School of Life. As you might have seen, I jumped the gun on this one chronologically and posted it a few days ago. It was a fantastic place, doing fantastic things – if you missed the post you can see it here. I highly recommend taking a squiz at their site. It felt really great to be in the city – pity we didn’t have more time to just explore. We did have time to squeeze in a quick visit to a little shop around the corner though – a place doing Japanese soups and salads, but with organic ingredients. It was really heartening to see what seemed to be a trend (we saw it at this place, an indian restaurant and bakery in the space of a day) – your usual kind of establishments doing a typical menu, but using organic (or in some cases bio-dynamic) as standard. In fact, while I was pfaffing around at home getting ready to go to the city, Michael wandered down the street and found an awesome organic grocer! As it turned out, Chris at Green Onions ended up supplying us with more than just fruit and veg – but i’ll get to that in our next post… Meanwhile, check out Michael’s description of Green Onions organic grocer  here.

 

green onions front window

 

By the way, we have decided to list the cool places we visit in a kind of quasi-directory/review list – under “Good Stuff” on our menu. So have a look 🙂

The following day we got off to a cracking start – out of the house by 7am! Our mission was to visit a little organic bakery mic had found for breakfast, followed by the Ceres Environment Park.

The bakery, called Loafer Bread, was pretty darn cute – they even had their own delivery bike!

 

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More impressive though, was their menu and the ingredients they used. Not only did they use organic where possible, they also only sourced meat from farms they had some kind of direct contact and trust with – Andrea (the owner) ordering from the farmers themselves, who delight in updating her on how the season is going and what she might expect from their product. Now that’s knowing where your food is coming from! And Bio-dynamic milk was used as standard in every coffee – great to see products farming with ‘beyond organic’ methods becoming more common (the whole organic VS bio-dynamics VS every other method out there debate is something we’ll likely look at down the track. In the  meantime, I encourage you to do your own learning – find out how your food is grown!). While Andrea described it as more difficult to balance the extra cost of doing things that way, the customers and relationships built with them made it possible. Indeed it’s that ‘people’ aspect which seems to drive the businesses/projects/people we have spoken to so far, to forge ahead through challenge and make things work. So, in addition to our native Home Grain Bakery, we have added this to our mental list of great bakeries to patron. You can see more about loafer on our ‘good stuff’ page here (once written!).

 

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After filling up on Loafer’s delightful breakfast menu (including house-made granola, bircher muesli and stewed rhubarb), and taking some more traditional bakery items with us for later, we headed to Ceres.

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The title Ceres Environment Park is another all-encompassing label to try and bundle in many sorts of awesome initiatives happening out of the one place. In this case, Ceres is an educational hub set on 4 acres of rehabilitated land – a former rubbish dump which has been resurrected to host community and market gardens, children’s playspace, a village green, organic market, cafe, nursery and numerous educational spaces (a global village and teaching centre, an alternative energy demonstration park and areas for local classes & workshops). There’s a lot going on! Read about it on their site here.

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They are also kicking off a ‘fair food’ movement, encouraging people to get to know the source of their food and their farmers, cemented by their supply of organic fruit and veg in a ‘seasonal food box’ type of offering – details here.

 

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It seemed the history and creation of Ceres reflected a down time in the area and community, which highlighted a common equation I’m seeing:

community need exists + some imperative or crisis = grassroots action activated

then, if a dedicated group of local volunteers exists you get continued action + word of mouth = organic growth

add partnering with other groups, grants or networks = more growth and impact in the community

 

What happens after this, isn’t so clear to me thus far – but extremely important. I’m keen to see how the momentum and health of an initiative is maintained. Hopefully that too, will reveal itself.

Mel xx

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Week 1 – The Places and the Lessons.

nelson glenelg river VIC

Well, this may or may not be another short post as I consume a cafe’s internet for the price of a hot chocolate – and Michael and Emma play at the playground down the road in Coonabarabran. By the by, that’s something you certainly notice on the road – our place names. No wonder the tourists are confused – i’m Australian and have no idea how to pronounce half of them! Sad really…

Nevertheless it didn’t hold us back – the first week was a beautiful blur of camping and ocean views, with the obligatory specky coastline the Great Ocean Road is known for of course.

We had not done the Great Ocean Road before. I’m so glad we decided to make it part of our trip – it really is beautiful. And there were so many postcard nooks, lookouts and towns around every corner – not just the stuff they put on the tourist maps. In fact some of the other sites we stopped at were nicer in our opinion (and less populated). For example this picturesque beach below was completely deserted! Hello lunch spot.

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But before we even got to the ‘Road’ itself, we already had a bagful of fun. In fact when I asked Emma and Michael what their highlights were, they came from the places beforehand. Michael enjoyed cooking on the fire at our ‘rest stop’ camp just outside Beachport in SA.

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And also swimming in the Great Southern Ocean at our next camp spot, in a little vacant block abutting the bush and on the esplanade of a quiet beach.

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Emma’s favourite was Portland and watching all the goings on between ships, trucks and mountains of grain.

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Portland, Victoria – down at the busy activity of the port foreshore. If you look carefully you will see what looks like sand is actually a monster mountain of grain and a truck (yes, a whole truck) being tipped up to pour out.

As for The Great Ocean Road itself, it was smaller than I anticipated, not that it mattered. What I found interesting was how it seemed to be a shapeshifter – moving from dairy country and sleepy little towns to drier scrub, then mountainous forest – dotted with mega tourist hot spots, surfer havens or family friendly & funky locations. What a kaleidoscope!

Port Fairy was a quaint, quiet and pretty place – would be lovely for a recharging hideaway I think.

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Apollo Bay was my personal favourite – we hauled up at the local Recreation Park, right on the river overlooking the range and endless farmland. Then a short stroll down the street reveals a vibrant High Street with rolling grass, playground and views to die for of the coast, ocean and range – just gorgeous.

camp apollo bay rec park

And the surprise of the trip – Cape Otway Lightstation. We thought it might be nice to visit a light house so we drove down the (rather longer than expected) road to see the touristy looking car park and frontage – ok, here we go. We needed water so we went inside anyway. Without seeing the entry fees (that should have been our first lesson) we said we would go in and Michael coughed up what turned out to be $50 for all three of us – he did a great job of not choking on his drink. But it turned out to be  a whole complex of lovely sprawling grounds with lots of interesting things to do in addition to the lighthouse (which by the way is staffed by a guide up the top so you can ask him anything you want – (I thought that was cool). There was also an aboriginal culture centre (which is actually a super cool hut) – also staffed. Dale offered to let Em throw a spear he’d made with an aid called a ‘woomera’. She loved it. Michael and I had a go too – of course Michael picked it up straight away as he usually does! And they had a beautiful map and activity book for the kids – Emma took great delight in following the map and ticking off our adventures. Talk about value for money – it was a great spot to see the ocean, take a walk and learn about history, physics, electricity, maritime navigation, aboriginal culture and a myriad of other things – including how there used to be dolphins and flamingoes living in the centre of Australia (ahem…millions of years ago in the permanent inland lakes) – that blew my mind!

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And speaking of surprises, we found out the hard way that Emma gets car sick on long, windy drives…… oh dear. Poor poppet!

So those were some of the places. There were also ‘lessons’.

What became painfully obvious to me, almost immediately after setting off, were the lessons we were being forced to learn – and quickly. You would think that after 15 years together Michael and I would probably have the whole communication thing down, right? Apparently not!

What seemed like a new phenomena for us was more likely just my amplified reactions to our situation. It was hard to believe just how immediately these things cropped up, and the ferocity of it. Up until now I have been able to avoid dealing with some of my shortcomings by escaping to another part of the house or busying myself with some other task. I no longer have that option here. My issues have been dragged out into the stark light of day by the challenge and change we put ourselves in. I don’t like seeing that side of myself – it is ugly and bitter. But, at this point in time, it is part of me – and part of why I put myself here. I knew those issues needed to be faced – so I keep choosing to do things which make me decidedly uncomfortable.

But the upside is growth, hard won strengthening growth.  And awesome, mind-opening experiences. To my amazement, Michael and I are already so much better at making plans on the run now – that’s been great!

Of course just when you think you’ve got it, something else comes along. In fact it seems to go in waves. We will do really well, then hit a hole again. I realised why – there were two lessons. We had both gotten better at communicating more effectively by being open, honest and forthcoming about what we want and what we think. The problem was the second lesson (and me) – doing it diplomatically. I hadn’t (and seemingly haven’t) figured out how to do that when i’m struggling. There’s nothing like being lost, late or constrained to make me really uncomfortable – and therefore less than pleasant to be around. What can I say – I’m a work in progress!

I love what this trip has given us already – not even two weeks in:

I love the experiences we have had, the things we have seen and the people we have met.

I love how astonished I am at the intensity of work my character is being put through, and equally by how fast we are all learning.

Boy, oh boy – what a crash course in how to be better – I love travel!

Lastly, I wanted to include this passage was that I thought was apt. It comes from a book a friend gave me to read – My Year Without Matches by Claire Dunn. In it she includes a little Rumi poem her friend sent to her:

Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled.

So wild flowers will come up

Where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.

Try something different. Surrender.

mic & mel great ocean road

Mel x

The School of Life – Melbourne style

school of life with piggy & emma
Tuesday:
Slow start-stop morning. Rush to finally get sorted and out of the house – doesn’t happen until after lunch – kicking myself, never mind. Then onto learning about the trains on the fly – whoops, missed one, oh well. Caught the next train. Then suddenly it says the destination is now where we came from – what? We jump off – only to see it progress to where we thought it was going, bugger. Apparently the ‘city loop’ messes with what I would consider the conventional naming of things. Mel has a mini-meltdown, Michael and Emma vacate the platform. We regroup and jump on another train only to find out from a passenger that this one IS actually going back to where we came from – seriously?! Jump off again to the one across the platform and lo and behold – it goes to our station! We ask where Bourke Street is – apparently we are already on it – ha, awesome! Such tourists….
After the shenanigans of the train, finding our destination turns out to be super simple – it was just down the street (yay!). The School of Life, Melbourne, sits on Bourke St – mere metres from Southern Cross Station. When we arrive we are greeted by the wistfully pleasant Genevieve, who also turns out to be the queen of books (later walking us through some of the must reads on the shelves – i’ll be adding them to our reading list). We are here to talk with Jess, the Community Manager, who meets us with a great openness and honesty. She has kindly agreed to chat with us about the workings and passions of The School of Life Melbourne (which I shall hereafter designate TSOL for the sake of my typing fingers and sanity).
It turns out that describing TSOL to people is hard for us when mentioning this as one of our Melbourne-town destinations. I think that’s because it’s a new kind of beast – part education centre, bookshop, cafe, art house, community/connection/conversation builder and purveyor of fine inspirational goods & tools (like their awesome conversation cards, the 15 minute important life activity hourglass timer or the hilarious tote bag labelled “emotional baggage”).
mic school of life
The original TSOL was founded in London by modern-day philosopher Alain De Botton. A group of super interested social-doers, through a local Melbournian social enterprise (who are also responsible for the Dumbo Feather publication you may have seen kicking around) approached the SOL about trying something here. The result was a pop-up that piloted last year – for which they had a wait list of 800 people wanting to take a class with 26 spots – clearly there was something in this! So the dedicated group forged ahead and this permanent – and first – international outreach was born in Melbourne. There are now 6 others in places like Amsterdam, Rio and Paris.
I asked Jess what she thought it was about TSOL that made it unique – she said it seems to fill a gap for people, that something is missing and it helped give them insight into themselves plus a connection to others. That pretty well seems to reflect TSOL’s core business – developing emotional intelligence.
Now don’t be scared off by that. Really – it’s just useful stuff we don’t seem to get taught in school or society much these days (in my opinion). Class titles like ‘how to be confident’, ‘how to be creative’ and ‘how to face death’ start to paint the picture. Here are some others (or check out the full program for Oz here):
– How to balance work with life
– How to spend time alone
– How to make love last
 I feel like lots of people spend decades pondering these topics in solitude before ever getting a breakthrough or finding the insight they seek. What a grand idea to have an inviting, funky, well run place for the general public to come and engage in such important inner work.
The demand for their classes hasn’t waned, regularly selling out. I want to ask what it is about this educational model that makes it work, but before I can, Jess gives me the answer in describing how TSOL is unique – seems they are one in the same. She describes how classes deliver a great mix of elements like historical & current wisdom or philosophy, questions & workshop activities, individual and group time as well as pre-class tasks & post-class reading references. They also lash out a heavy dose of culture – think literature, film and art as a tool for examples, therapy and insight.
I suspect it would be hard for someone to come away without something useful. Jess also says the classes have a kind of practical “immediacy” to them – and she should know. After enrolling in “realise your potential” (because that was the only class not sold out), she quit her job the following day! She also put her CV into TSOL and hey presto – that is how we came to find her there! Pretty good embodiment of what goes on there i’d say.
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I ask a last question – what is the most important job of TSOL? ‘developing emotional intelligence through the use of culture and community connection’  says Jess – if we can learn to find comfort in speaking and listening to strangers, perhaps it will help break down the barriers to open, richer relationships with those we love. We could even find others have similar situations, feelings or thoughts.
We thank Jess for her generosity and stay to look around (and maybe we had drinks and cake too – not telling). So much goodness to be had – I only wish we could have taken a class while we were here. But as I said to Jess, Adelaide isn’t far away from Melbourne – we might just come on back one day!
This quote was up on the wall for the day – I thought it summed up nicely one of the reasons we are travelling and why we consider it important for Emma to see other places:

“For those who feel simply trapped under their responsibilities and can’t summon the initiative to quit, exposing yourself to how other people live loosens the mind. You can comprehend how many ways there are to get by. Choosing a new way seems possible”

Po Bronson – ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’

You can explore the website, classes and shop here or check out their new youtube channel here – I encourage you to have a look.
May we find solice and solidarity in our shared stories.
Mel xx
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Funny Emma Quote #2

Loch Ard, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

After we pulled into a lookout and were suddenly confronted with a mass car park I announced “Ah, there are the hoards”, to which Emma replied “Are these the tourists?”. Yes dear, these are the ‘tourists’ you have heard about – but guess what, now so are we…

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