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Becoming A Local

By Kinchem Hegedus

There’s nothing quite like the fresh eyes of delighted visitors to help us see Springfield anew and remind us that there’s no place like home.

June seemed to come and go in a blink. The Southern Highlands gradually reopened and for many it is now ‘business as usual’. The rush of city folk, hungry to breathe in the fresh air and spaciousness of country life, were welcomed by our friendly locals. We too have reopened and hosted our first retreat in months and it was a joy to see the wide eyed appreciative faces of our guests as they soaked in the beauty of our locale.

Back in 2009, when we were living in Singapore, we first visited the Southern Highlands on our son’s cricket tour, and we’ve been living in the Highlands part-time ever since. There’s simply nowhere else we’d rather be, so two years ago, after looking at 100+ properties and driving local real estate agents crazy, we finally moved here to Springfield.

In total I’ve lived (at last count) in 34 houses, in 5 different countries and moved more than 20 times and it is an unbelievable delight and relief to think that Springfield might be our ‘forever home’. Those of you who know me will shake your heads and declare “That’s never going to happen!” Is it possible that I might finally give up my nomadic ways? It is true that for most of my life I’ve said ‘ yes’ to adventures in exotic far away places, but for now what is more enchanting is the idea of becoming a local and putting down permanent roots.

Travelling around the world and expatriate life did seem glamorous back in the day, but now what I desire most is deep and lasting community. Living close to friends and growing old with people who remember me being (relatively) young, would be a dream come true. Online communities are one thing, but they can't replace hugs! Without Zoom many of the dear friends I’ve found whilst living abroad would be lost to me, but let’s face it zooming is no substitute for a good long chat over a cup of tea or glass of vino.

Living more locally, whether we like it or not, could prove to be one of the silver linings of the Covid19 cloud. The timing couldn't be better for me as I am so ready for all the benefits of becoming a local. I was, therefore, excited to read in the latest edition of Dumbo Feather, the good news that, according to Helena Norberg Hodge, localising is in fact “a simple concept with the potential to change the world.” Too often my travels have come at the cost of the “deep, long-lasting connections with other people and with our place on the planet” and this makes localising especially appealing to me. Helena is the Director of Local Futures and in her latest book, Local is Our Future, she connects the dots between our social, economic, ecological and spiritual crises and reveals how economic localization is a timely solution.

Perhaps Covid-19 has indirectly provided us with a perfect opportunity to take a leap in changing values in ways that are increasingly critical. It’s natural to care for what we love, and maybe tuning in to our own country and learning to see and appreciate it in new ways could encourage us to value it more dearly. With international holidays an impossibility it looks like we’ll all be looking much closer to home and exploring adventures in our own backyards for the foreseeable future, so hopefully we will be inspired to take better care of our own beautiful piece of the planet.

Even closer to home, now that our villages are reopening, we’ve been rediscovering many local delights whilst supporting our community gardens and farms, farmers markets, small businesses and local artists. Last week's visit to the Moss Vale Community Gardens working bee was a recent highlight. Getting my hands in the dirt after a full week at my desk was invigorating, but even more refreshing were the many little conversations I had with a diverse, engaged and positive tribe of ‘growers’ that I’d be unlikely to cross paths with anywhere else. It may not seem like a big deal to spend a few hours a week at a community garden but growing food together can and does change lives.

In a world that seems rife with problems I do find solace in knowing that our small daily choices do contribute to creating a better world. Growing our own food, buying local and reducing ‘food miles’ might feel like a mere drop in the ocean, but when millions participate these simple choices do have the potential to create change on a bigger scale. So, we’ve been dreaming up plans for becoming ‘packet-free’ here at Springfield as we get ready to participate in Plastic Free July, with millions of others around the world. Buying directly from farmers, producers and bulk retailers, like our local Source, will make this challenge so much easier too.

The circumstances that have made us stay at home have been frightening, so let’s hope we do learn from this nightmare. Like many others in this increasingly unpredictable world I’m learning that there is so much to be gained from connecting deeply to the people and the land in the place we call home. Who knows, perhaps this myriad of personal, social, economic, ecological and spiritual benefits of becoming local may not only help my own mental and physical health but also keep me enthralled and rooted right here at Springfield for many years to come.

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