If I’m going to go to a degrowth conference then I sure am going to get there in degrowth style. Slow, sustainable, and with happiness!I’ve been feeling excited about the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest ever since the special session I’m involved in on Money and Happiness got accepted earlier this year. We’ll talk among other things about the possibility of happy degrowth, I went to the last international degrowth conference in Leipzig two years ago to give a talk on a similar topic. For me the best thing about the conference in Leipzig was that we didn’t just talk about degrowth, we did degrowth. A 3,000 strong conference preparing only vegan food and offering camping as an accommodation option was like a dream coming true to me. Naturally, of course, I hitchhiked there. I had many co-inspirational conversations along the way and at the conference that led to real changes – in my own life at the very least. My personal degrowth path progressed, and that is why I’m making another degrowth journey, this time to Budapest.
But how should I get to Budapest? It’s about 2,500 km from my home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sure it would be easier if I just flew but I want to travel in a way that nourishes not just me but others too – directly and indirectly. My thoughts over the last months about how I can tie in as much degrowth as possible to my travel have brought me great delight. For me it has always been about the journey and if the journey isn’t enjoyable and wholesome then I’m not sure the destination can be either.
My loose journey plan
Currently I have a fairly loose journey plan (especially for the return) and so if you are reading this (whether you know me or not) and feel you might be able to link into this degrowth adventure then let me know. So far I’m thinking something like this:
First stop Bristol: I have a few good friends in Bristol with whom I want to re-connect with and so I will begin my journey with a happy hitchhike down south. What I like most about hitchhiking is the openness of the people that offer me rides. They’ll share their story, and I’ll share mine. We’ll connect, we’ll (de)grow.
In Bristol I have a few friends that I’m hoping will host me – no doubt we will cook with one another, we will smile and laugh. No contribution to the economy but maximum contribution to our sense of well-being.
Over to London for Critical Mass: My travel happens to coincide with the last Friday of the month, which as any “serious” cyclist will know means there will be a Critical Mass cycle ride (where cyclists across the world take back the streets for a night – read more on what Critical Mass is) and is something not to be missed whether on your on way to a degrowth conference or not. There is no better place to be than riding in my home city London, where there will be hundreds, if not a thousand or so, cyclists out riding together. And so my journey after Bristol will see me hitching a ride to London and stay with some of my bike loving friends and we’ll ride the Mass together. Maybe you’ll be there too. We’ll teach those car drivers a lesson about sharing the road and go home feeling happy and empowered.
Family matters: I had considered hitchhiking all the way to Budapest but some very important family things have come up that I need to attend to. I have a sad feeling when I think about how our societies seem to value economic growth and more income (i.e. working harder and longer) over having a nourishing family life. We need to focus our resources on supporting one another emotionally – all relationships need that. I’m currently going through a process of giving greater reverence to my core emotional needs and asking for support in getting them met by loved ones – needs that the economy has never been able to meet.
Train via Paris: From London I’ll then take a train to Paris – staying with a friend who as I remember has a very beautiful permaculture inspired garden. I’ll then spend a day on the train finally getting to Budapest. In Budapest I am hoping there will be a space to pitch my tent in someone’s garden.
Hitchhiking the return journey: But perhaps the real adventure will be the return trip. It will be my most ambitious hitchhike to date – from Budapest to Edinburgh. My estimation is about 5 days – it could be more, it could be less. Who knows what will happen along the way? Maybe we’ll ride together or you’ll let me stop by for a tea. I will try to glide through each moment spontaneous and free, being me. I’m excited. I’m open. I’m nervous.
And that will be a degrowth journey – slow, sustainable, and with happiness.
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