An Australian family of five goes on a 5-month worldwide eco-tour. Their adventure begins at Kibbutz Lotan in Israel as GoEco volunteers for 5 weeks. Read about the Wood-Auster family experience, told by dad Arron.
My wife Amy and I (Arron) made a decision to pull our family out of the day-to-day suburban world in Australia and venture on 5-month world trip. We wanted an experience that would expose our family of 5 to new cultures, languages, foods and most importantly different ways in which other families and societies co-exist in a less consumption-oriented way.
But was this possible? One month at Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava Desert in Israel ticked all the boxes and – as we were to discover – many more.
Firstly we requested time away from school for our daughters 9 and 5. The school was very accommodating and recommended home schooling text books. Our plan was to home school an hour a day focusing on areas that we felt the kids needed to improve.
Our goal was to have the kids remain or even advance their over all academic status on return. We rented out our house, requested leave without pay from our jobs and packed our bags.
Once we decided to do it, it is was easy and nearly everyone around us commented about how jealous they were: we were taking control of our own lives.
Kibbutz Lotan is a special place 40km north of Eilat bordering the magnificent Jordan mountains.
Approximately 1.5 km long and 1 km wide it is a working Kibbutz that produces milk, dates, goat yogurt and cheeses. Its 50 members work and live towards a vision of “Jewish Renewal; Equality; Economic Cooperation; Community and Repairing the world.”
Kibbutz Lotan operates as a team with its members, full volunteers (placed by Israel’s volunteer organization) and Go-Eco Volunteers (paying student/workers). There are also a group of paying ‘Green Apprenticeship’ students studying various aspects of permaculture who also work part of the time. Ultimately all these groups work, eat and play together as part of one community.
Quickly our days on Lotan fell into a pattern. It gets hot in the desert so the working day starts early. One parent would rise early and start work. The rest of the family would soon follow. Work duties varied and were carefully selected so as to be child-safe and friendly.
On different days we might construct mud walls and houses, compost or harvest in the organic garden, or paint the children’s eco-playground. Work finished late morning, which was when we did some schooling before lunch.
The afternoons were filled with walks, reading books, playing and swimming in the beautiful shaded pool. Twice a week we were invited to lectures on the principles of ‘Permaculture’ or ‘Sustainable Agriculture.’
There really is something for everyone in the family here. We were all astounded by the free time created by having three healthy meals a day provided in the communal dining room. It was also a great social outlet.
Not having to buy or prepare food left us more time to play with the kids, and watch and help our 11 month old crawl and talk. I loved the work and lectures, and the kids picked up more knowledge than we would have expected.
I’ll be composting everything when I return and putting in a solar oven; honest the food tastes better. The kids loved all the games in Hebrew with their new friends. As Lotan is an enclosed area with virtually no cars, kids on their bikes run this place. Amy enjoyed spending time to understand life on a kibbutz through conversations with members and volunteers. Hanging with the 20’s set was great fun. The entire experience is a good change from the school drop off/corporate slog/rushed meal/bed routine.
On weekends when we weren’t playing in the sand dunes or hiking up to mountain outlooks, we would catch a bus South to Eilat to do some snorkeling in the Red Sea. This was the only time we used cash in the whole month.
Consider that when looking at the charges as it will include all food, all activities and all learning experiences. All in all a great experience where we felt like part of the community. We did it easily with a 1.5 and 9 year old and discovered many simple ways of living without wasting resources and precious time. It has helped us prioritize what’s really important.