In Search of the Perfect Community

The more I think about it, the clearer it gets for me: happiness has a lot to do with the people I am connected to in my community.

Lifestyle inflation, a bigger home, a fancier car and the latest tech gadget have absolutely nothing to do with my happiness level. In fact, shit I buy for entertainment in a tech shop, online shops or the llike are mostly just distractions from one of the biggest goals in life: happiness.

Of course it’s nice to have a good meal in a restaurant once in a while even if it’s expensive. It’s exciting to buy the latest smartwatch and play around with it, but how long do these things make me happy? Not very long.

Visiting family in Transylvania

A couple of weeks ago, the W family made a short visit to one of the deepest corners of Transylvania, to the tiny village hidden between beautiful hills, vinyards and forests where my mother was born and raised. My godmother still lives there. It’s a place I don’t visit very often, not because I don’t like it but because it takes a lot of time and planning to get there, even if you have a car (which we don’t).

View from the Winecellars

View from the wine cellars

Little Miss W had never been there before, and although she’s quite shy and not very open to strangers, she felt at home about five minutes after we arrived. (Edit Mrs W: This may or may not be down to vast quantities of sweets and popcorn lavished on her by said godmother.)

One of my goals while I was there was to seek out my more distant realtives, visit them and get to know them. It wasn’t a difficult task. Only about 2000 people live in the village and almost everybody knew or had at least heard of my family. In fact almost everybody is related to everybody somehow. It’s very strange. In a nice way. (Edit Mrs W: It’s true, they weren’t deformed in a wierd inbreedy kind of way. They were totally normal.)

Just after we arrived we went to buy stuff from one of the two shops in the village. I ran into one of my second cousins who I knew. She immediately invited us to her house. A few minutes later I walked into another cousin (whom I had never met) in the same shop. (Edit Mrs W: Mr W’s godparents had to point his relatives out to him.)

The next morning me and my godfather went to buy bread. I told him I wanted to buy some wine from a local producer. You know, why the hell should I buy bottled wine, when every second family in the village has a small vinyard and makes their own wine?

We left the house at 9:30am, before breakfast. The first guy we asked for wine immediately drove us about five minutes up the hill to his wine cellar. It was the most beautiful place. Naturally we had a small wine tasting before buying some wine. I still hadn’t had breakfast.

Winecellars

Wine cellars

Next, we stopped at the house of a guy who went to school with my mum. He was so happy to see me, he invited us to his wine cellar (yet another wine cellar…) in his yard and, after another glass of nice red wine, he filled a bottle for me and wouldn’t let me pay. Breakfaaaaast! My stomach was yelling for something slightly more solid and less alcoholic! Still…no breakfast in sight. Instead…more refined alcohol.

Hill with Wine Cellars

Wine cellars hidden in the hillside

Finally we stopped at another house where my godfather had some business. Of course they gave us a shot of their homemade pálinka (grappa) before we even sat down (see picture below…the Transylvanian whisky). It was now 11:30am. I’d had so much wine and pálinka that I already felt a bit tipsy, but I still hadn’t had breakfast. Luckily they also offered us some ridiculously unhealthy but astonishingly delicious deep fried bread-like stuff with jam in it. A punch in the face for anyone who’s even slightly on a diet. Great stuff.

palinka

Pálinka (not Johnny Walker Red Label)

Try doing that in Germany

After all that, I started thinking about whether I would be able to do someting like that in Germany.

Even people we know would at least look at us strangely if we turned up in front of their door without any warning or appointment. I miss the casual spontaneity of life in Romania.

When I was a kid, if I didn’t like the lunch my mum had cooked, I went from neighbour to neighbour, sat down at their lunch table, checked whether I liked what they had cooked, and if it was OK, I told them I hadn’t eaten yet so that they would let me eat there. Sometimes I did that with two or three neighbours within an hour or so. They knew what was going on of course – they had great fun too and nowadays they still like to talk about those times.

What happened to our society?

Of course I partially know the answers, but still, why are we not that connected to our neighbours any more? I think it should be natural to be more open towards our community: to help one another, be more active, help build it up or help organise events. I could get better at those things as well.

The Tempelhof community

Visiting the Tempelhof community in southern Germany last year was also an eye opening thing for me. About 130 people are trying a community experiment there that is truly amazing. They produce most of their own food, raise most of their animals (although they eat mostly vegetarian food), discuss and decide together about the most important issues and much more. They even built an Earthship, a self-sufficient house, built from used car tires and lots of rubbish. The house produces its own heat, electricity and water. Great stuff. We need more of these experiments in the world.

My idea of the perfect community

Whether a lost village in Transylvania or Tempelhof is the ideal place for me I don’t know. I’m not sure, but it does make me think about what kind of community I want to live in and what I don’t like about our community (or lack of it) in Germany.

Here are some thoughts about a community scenario that might work and be great fun. Just playing with my thoughts…

Location: Let’ts move to a small town, somewhere in hilly Transylvania, about 40-50 km away from a bigger city. That way we can profit from the silence, be close to nature but also enjoy all the benefits a bigger city provides: good hospitals, concert halls, an airport. I think 30-40 minutes by car or train is a good distance.

Apart from the hills, my hometown in Romania fits the bill well. Plus it also has a good hospital for emergencies and super fast internet. These are the two most important things in life! Agree?

Accomodation: We buy a small house with a big garden for about €15-30K. Fortunately for us, there are plenty of houses in the neighbourhood for sale because everybody here is moving to bigger cities or to different countries because of the low wages here. It’s wishful thinking, but let’s imagine there were 8-10 houses for sale (or rent) very close to one another.

Community members: I am thinking of semiretirees, or retirees, digital nomads from all around the world. People who are not happy with their community and can’t have a meaningful conversation with their nine-to-five working neigbours.

Rules: Since I am not thinking about a closed community, but rather living somewhat together with locals, there can’t and shouldn’t really be rules. However, hopefully (and probably) only people who have the same sort of values and priorities would move there. These values include trying not to be an arsehole, not being consumerist, not being afraid of learning new skills, wanting to live closer to nature, respecting it, being mindful about the environment, being helpful and openminded…you know, things like that.

What’s the point of all this? Imagine living in a neighbourhood with a bunch of cool people/families like that. How would it be if conversations at a barbecue evening didn’t revolve around showing off the latest designer clothes, posh cars, expensive and useless gadgets we bought for ourselves or our kids. Instead, we could exchange ideas about making our lives more meaningful, learn from each other and teach one other.

Even if we could just eliminate “envy” from the equation and replace it with the concepts of “help” and “support” instead, I think everybody would have a lot happier life.

Another thing I think is really important is to see our kids playing with and making friends with kids whose parents share the same main values.

I know that people are different and have different goals and life situations, but what’s important is to share some of the basic values I mentioned. It would make such a difference.

I could continue for another three pages or so about this topic, but I should really stop now. Instead I’d like to ask you to share your thougths in the comments below. I really hope to see a lot of long, well-considered comments here.

If you’re a blogger, here’s a call for a blogging carneval (or Blogparade in German). Please write a post about this topic and put a link in the comments section so we can write a summary of all the posts. I’d be very happy to see some posts here from all over Europe (or indeed the world, since this is a universal topic).

 

  • Balkan ER

    “Perhaps this is our strange and haunting
    paradox here in America — that we are fixed and certain only when we are in
    movement. At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was
    never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And
    he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there.
    It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.”
    -from the book “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe —first published in 1940

    https://www.amazon.com/You-Cant-Go-Home-Again/dp/1451650493

    And Wikipedia/ Susan J. Matt on “Homesickness: An American History”:

    The phrase “You Can’t Go Home Again ” has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated
    metropolis you cannot return to the narrow confines of your previous way of
    life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.

    Well , I am almost certain that every young family in that village
    will swap their Romanian life for W’s
    life in Germany, any day. Start living
    there and you will find out their rational reasons soon. Or perhaps try to dig
    in your memory what were yours for going West.

    I like your blog very much. Thank you.

    Fellow Balkan ER

    • Hi Balkan ER and welcome to our blog.
      I see your point and I agree with it. I know why I left and I am also very aware of the fact that I won’t find my childhood here again. I am not even sure I want to.
      If I was to move back to my hometown, it won’t be because I am homesick. I don’t feel homesick very much. In fact, most of the people here are not very pleasent and have totally different values.
      The point is to think about the perfect comunity as you, me or anyone would imagine it. Everybody will have very different expectations and ideas.
      It’s never te place, it’s always the people that matter. So wheter that “perfect comunity” would be in a small town in romania, or a big city in the USA, it doesn’t really matter if basic requirements are met. But it’s really important that you have a good comunity. Of course if the place is nice and if you have some vinyards around, it won’t hurt 🙂
      Where are you from?

  • this is the advantage of small community where the people has no day job: this is the life of big family. Just too much alcohol and too much insisting – I hate this ( I am more a lonely wolf).

    Personally, I appreciate the communities where people are living in the harmony with the nature.

    • Hey arakelian! Thanks for stepping by. I didn’t get the part with the alcohol and insisting. What do you mean?

      • ( I hate the wine and palinka :D, and in my extended Romanian family they are upset every time I say this and I refuse it )

        • aaah. I understand. I’m not into drinking much palinka, but I’m always up for a nice glass of wine.

  • Here we go!

    http://retireinprogress.com/i-have-a-dream/

    Amazing Idea Mr.W, you made my day!

    • Holy sit Mr RIP. That was quick. How tha hell did you manage to write such a good post in such little time? Looks like I’m not alone with this topic.
      That’s the sort of stuff i like. Keep up the good work boy! And hopefully see you soon!

  • Your hilly Romanian hometown sounds like an ideal place for me. I love hills as they make you and keep you fit. Right now I live in flat lands and can’t find even one substantial hill within a 30 km radius of me. If I could, I would do repeats (up and down, over and over) just to get my fitness level up. Great topic! Will post my blog link when I have it ready.

    • looking forward VeganNomads!

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  • Ex-Studentin

    Nature and family sounds good to me. Thank you for your story!
    .. But the part with the alcohol and a town full of relatives isn’t my dream of a perfect community. Here is my article about it: https://exstudentin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/blogparadeblog-carneval-in-search-of-the-perfect-community/

    • Hi Jenny! Very happy you wrote a post as well!
      The part with drinking session is not how I imagine a comunity. And heavy drinking is not what I like. So that story is just a story to show how open people in that village are. You can visit your neighbours anytime and you will be welcomed. In bigger cities and in the west that is not the case.
      Having many realtives in my town, its not a bad thing for me, as long as the relationship is good.

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  • Finanzglück

    Hello together!

    Here is my contribution. You are witnessing two world premieres! My first participation in a blog carnival and my first blog post in English.

    The title is “A tale of pigs, rifles and a bottle of whiskey”.

    http://finanzglueck.de/perfect-community/

    I hope you enjoy it 🙂

    All the best, Nico

    • haha, great stuff. Ver cool you wrote too and congrats to your first english post! You should do more of them!

    • Thanks for the post! No problem that it’s in German – maybe that will open the discussion up within the German community too. Your ideal community sounds very similiar to ours. Lots of trees and no Joneses to keep up with. We’ll let you know when we start looking for people to build our community with!

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  • Monika Reich

    Hi,

    here is my description. A long version in German, a short version in English. Its not a plan, its just reality. But reality feels perfect!
    https://klunkerchen.wordpress.com/2016/08/03/leben-in-gemeinschaft/

    Bye Monika

    • I am glad you wrote a post as well since you told us in our skype call about your little community. It sounds great and I’m happy for you that you managed to build up/find it! It’s good to have a report from somebody who’s actually living in her ideal community. Thank you!

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