Today it’s continuing on from a new series I started at the end of last year, Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some truly inspiring things. These are people quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.
Today though, someone who often shares ways in which we can all slow down a little and make time for the important stuff is Tricia Hogbin. Otherwise known as @TriciaEco on her popular instagram handle, or where I first was drawn to her words and way of living, her blog Little Eco Foot Prints.
Grab a cool drink, put your feet up, and I hope you enjoy Part II of Conversations with Community.
Most important question first up… tea coffee and favourite thing to eat for afternoon tea? (Cake, biscuits, savoury, sweet? What shall I bring?)
Tea. Super strong with a good dash of milk thanks.
My response would likely be different at any other time of day. Pausing for a cuppa is something I treasure and I even have a cuppa routine. First thing in the morning it’s tea, then one strong coffee, then too many teas to count. If it’s just me i’ll simply toss loose leaf tea into a cup and drink bushman style – leaving the tea leaves to sink the bottom. If I’m sharing, I’ll be more civilised and use a teapot. Late afternoon I switch to herbal teas. Mostly home grown. Current favourites include lemon balm, nettle or camomile.
Biscuits would be lovely thanks. Preferably hard and sweet, like biscotti or gingernut (perfect for dunking in tea). I’m obsessed with baking Swedish biscuits at the moment so I reckon I can rustle up something to fit the bill.
You recently ran a workshop through Newcastle’s Fair Share Festival. Sharing with participants some of your story on simplifying life and changes you had made, (both as an individual and as a family) while also helping others in how they might be able to learn to live better with less. It’s a topic that seems constant as more and more people are wanting to step off what they’ve often unknowingly signed up for. While actions like this can often seem unachievable to people, words and stories like yours become more and more important. As it gives hope, encourages change, and while offering an opportunity for resilience within our communities. All things that many of us hold importance to. What are some of those things in life that are a priority for you?
Health and resilience – mine, my family’s and that of our environment are my greatest priorities. It’s a simple statement – but it captures all that is most important to me. Its brevity doesn’t reflect the time I’ve put into considering and defining my priorities.
A clear vision of what is most important has helped to ensure that I spend my time on my priorities. I’m now less distracted by other people’s priorities. It’s easier to say ‘no thank you’, even to great opportunities.
Knowing what is most important also gives me the confidence to make decisions that others may not understand. Many people won’t understand why we’ve chosen to live in a tiny home – and before that a shed and even a tent when the shed was too hot. But I’m not concerned with what other people think – because my family’s priorities guided these decisions. Patience and compromise enables us to live on a rural property without being burdened by debt. We’ve made choices so that we aren’t forced into being a dual income family. The life we want to live can’t happen if both my husband and I are away from home most days.
Making time for what matters is something I know is close to both our hearts. While I seem to regularly need to remind myself of that, do you think it’s something that comes easy to you?
Making time for what matters has been a challenge. I’d shuffle my actions to more accurately reflect my priorities – and feel that everything was under control. Then I’d slowly start saying yes to more opportunities. Because how could I not – ‘it’s a great opportunity!’, or ‘it’s for a worthwhile cause’. Then I’d find myself back where I’d started – sick, or overwhelmed and making decisions that didn’t always match my ideals – because I didn’t have time to do otherwise.
I see-sawed like this between overwhelm and calm for many years – until two years ago. I injured my back and was forced to step away from paid work for a few months. A few days after my injury, Plain Buddhist Monk Bhante Jason Chan, who I had met only briefly a year earlier, turned up on our doorstep and asked if he could stay for his rains retreat – a time when wandering Buddhist monks traditionally stay put for a while.
For three months I fell into a slow daily routine. Each morning in my kitchen, while I prepared wholesome nourishing food, I’d ask Bhante a question or two about simple living. Then I’d listen to him chant before his meal, and then I’d spend the afternoon contemplating what I wanted to achieve with my life. It was a luxury I’m extremely grateful for.
Pausing and giving serious thought to what I wanted to achieve with my ‘one wild and precious life’ (to quote Mary Oliver) gave me the confidence to say ‘no thank you’ to my dream job. Just days before my back injury I’d finished one job so that I could accept another. It was a position I couldn’t resist – working in science, communication and conservation for an organisation I respected. But the position would have turned our family life upside down. It meant regular trips to Sydney, juggling before and after school care, and left little time for me to garden or simply wander through the forest. In that three months, I realised that despite it being my dream job – saying ‘no thank you’ was the right decision for me and my family.
Since that one hard decision – all other no thank you’s have been easier. Prioritising what’s most important becomes easier the more you practise it.
You have a big following on instagram, with people looking forward to your posts in both words and pictures, drawing their own strength from within that. How do you think it fits with today’s fast media culture, and living a consciously slower lifestyle? Where do you draw your strength from? (doesn’t have to be social media based!)
I love that social media is an easy way to inspire and be inspired. I love the enthusiasm the Instagram community has for (hashtag) slow living, foraging, growing your own food, zero waste, minimalism, and tiny houses. These ‘trends’ each have the potential to contribute to people living a more sustainable life that is kinder on our planet.
But note I say only ‘potential’ – to truly change the way you live you need to be grateful for what you have – rather than continually yearn for more. Social media can feed that yearning for more.
Social media can also be a mindless distraction from being present. Spending too much time looking outwards also leaves little time for looking within.
I don’t feel comfortable contributing to the mass of online noise – so I am very careful with how I use social media. I consciously use it in a way that points people away from the internet (to their garden, to their family, to their kitchen, to their neighbourhood), rather than deeper within.
I also set boundaries for my own social media use. I use only one channel – Instagram. I could easily auto forward my Instagram posts to Facebook and Twitter – but doing so would feel like barging into a crowded room, shouting out a few words, and walking out again. Instead, I set aside time purely for Instagram (at the moment it’s one or two brief moments throughout the day). I share a snippet from my life, respond to comments, and visit and comment on other people’s feeds. I try to avoid mindlessly consuming (liking) without creating (posting). I value my Instagram community and treat my time in that space with the same respect I would a real-life conversation.
I also take regular breaks from social media when I feel like it’s interfering with my ability to be present. In the past I’ve declared weekends screen-free or enjoyed screen-free months. Now I simply set a timer and log off once a set period of time has passed.
I’m inspired by people I follow on Instagram – but my greatest inspiration and strength comes from real-life interactions. I gain strength from conversations with friends and family and even brief chats with other people in my neighbourhood.
I’m also inspired by memoirs – particularly those where authors share their every day in a meaningful way. Reading a memoir gives me the same sense of taking a peek into the lives of others that I get from social media – but at a slower and more meaningful pace.
Is living in a sustainable manner something that you grew up with?
I was fortunate to be greatly influenced by my grandparents. My Gran and Grandad lived a simple life – sustainable out of necessity. They lived in the house that my grandfather and great grandfather built and lived in the garage for a few years while they built the house. They ate from their garden, they mended, they made, they lived without much but yearned for little.
My Grandad kept bees and my Gran was the one who taught me to sew and garden. They gave me my first chooks. They even built me my first shade house when I was ten so I had a space to propagate my own plants. My love of nature, and particularly plants, was inherited from my Gran.
Although sustainable living wasn’t something my parents consciously thought about – they gave me a childhood with ample time to explore nature. Weekday afternoons were spent roaming local bushland, weekends were spent at the beach and we went camping a couple of times each year. I believe it is this time in nature that sparked my passion for nature conservation and in turn sustainable living.
You live in a small home (14.5 sqm or 29 if you include the verandah) with your partner and 9 year old daughter. Surrounded by vegetable growing, micro greens, chooks, dogs, horses and a rugged mountain backdrop for your morning garden wanders. Where did you imagine yourself to be 10 years ago? Was the imagery anything like the reality you now live in?
Ten years ago I was working full time, and we were renovating a small inner-city cottage as our ‘forever home’. Childhood dreams to live in the country had been abandoned (because work was in the city). I couldn’t envisage any other life at that stage. Urban sustainable living was a passion – because that’s all I thought was on offer for me. I couldn’t (or wouldn’t dare let myself) have imagined a life like the one I’m now enjoying.
I’m grateful that we noticed an opportunity for change, fell in love with a piece of land, and were willing to take risks.
Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?
Ten years from now I hope to be travelling Australia in a camper van with Mike. Liv would have finished high school the year earlier – so our attention will shift from home to exploring and adventure.
In the meantime we hope to plant an orchard and build a larger, but still small, home. I’d be happy in a tiny home indefinitely, but Mike wouldn’t be. And I’m guessing Liv will grow tired of sharing a room with her parents one day. I hope the next ten years also includes a flock of ducks and a herd of milking goats.
What do you get asked the most when people find out you live in a tiny home?
‘How do you cope?’ is probably the most common question.
Having a clear vision of what we are working towards (a resilient and debt-free future) helps us cope with the challenges of small space living.
It also helps that we choose to laugh rather than cry. There’s been lots of laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.
Having other spaces to go when we need quiet also helps. Mike has the shed to retreat to. Liv has an old caravan set up as a playroom (a space I am especially grateful for when she has friends over). And if I need my own space I plead with Mike and Liv to “please go away for a while” – always said with a laugh and a cheeky grin. It’s impossible to hold grudges or drag on disagreements in such a small space.
“Learning to live better with less” and “Trying to tread lightly. Growing, foraging, simplifying and tiny home living.” Are both tag lines that you go by, if you wrote a book, what would the title be?
I change my mind often about what I want to the title of my first book (a memoir about our ‘tree change’) to be.
A current favourite is ‘Not a shed, or a tent, or a caravan, or a shipping container – but a real house’. They’re my daughters words. Her teacher was laughing as she relayed them to me. The class was asked what they wanted to remind their adult selves. Common responses included “to not drink” or “to not smoke”. Liv confidently responded with “To live in a house. A real house. Not a shed, or a tent, or a caravan, or a shipping container – but a real house”. She’s lived in all these places over the past few years. Its an experience that even she acknowledges has been worthwhile. I love that she knows happiness is possible no matter where you live. And I especially love she’s learnt to be patient and to be grateful for what she has – rather than always wanting more. I know she is a far more resilient person than she would have been without this adventure.
What are some of your favourite things in life in 10 words or less?
Shared cuppas, homegrown & foraged meals, laughing with Mike & Liv.
A perfect ending to a wonderful chat. Thank you Tricia, for always inspiring.
Conversations with Community– a new series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.
Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet these inspiring wonderful women here.