Editor’s note: We have lots of talented and interesting eco-conscious readers from across the globe. In this new feature, we want to share their stories, in their words to inspire you to be better, to do better, to help you reach your unique version of ‘eco’ brilliance. If you are a loyal reader and have a story that you would love to share with the rest of the community, please get in touch! (This piece has been edited for length and clarity.)
I am Emilia, 29 years old, and I was born in Argentina, but I’ve lived in Belgium for 20 years. My entire family is from Argentina. I moved with my parents and sisters to Belgium when I was six years old. My parents decided to leave our home country to pursue a better quality of life and opportunities. My parents are scientists, and back then in Argentina, work in this field was very restricted.
On the one hand, I feel enormous gratitude to my parents (and the universe) for having grown up in Belgium, which has given me a good quality of life; education, safety, friendships, travel opportunities, an open mind and independence.
On the other hand, growing up in a completely different culture with its own way of life, had significantly affected me. I didn’t feel like I belonged; in Belgium nor in Argentina. So I became more of a people pleaser, always wanting to be liked by others, trying to find this sense of community and feeling of belonging.
Also my parents were the only connection I had with Argentina, so I wanted to make them proud, especially because of all the sacrifices they made to move the family to Belgium. But, somehow, I always felt like I was in a black hole; like I was missing something.
Trying to fill this hole, drove me to two life-changing experiences. The first, was when finishing university. I decided to return to my roots in Argentina – a solo trip for three months – to get to know my family, the culture and the country. My parents were terrified, scared that I was throwing away my good Belgian education and would never come back, or they feared I’d come back with an un-educated, hippie-like Argentinian guy.
The first did not happen, much to their relief.
But the second did.
I met my husband Luis in Argentina on that trip back. Luis has no university diploma, but is the most intelligent person I know. I would not be where I am today if it was not for his love and support. This caused a lot of drama with my parents, but I leave this story for another time. I want to focus on how I changed my life…
Three months ago, I was living a life seen by our society as ‘successful’: A very well-paid job at a multinational corporation and a beautiful apartment in the most prestigious area of Brussels where I lived with my husband and cat. Even though I had all I strived and pushed myself for, I was the unhappiest I had ever been. I blamed my job. It demanded all my energy and attention, and because of this extreme focus on my work, I started getting health problems.
Because of this, I stopped working out and going to dancing classes. I had no energy to meet friends over the weekend because I needed to recuperate the energy for the big week of work ahead. Due to stress, I lost weight. I was always irritated and I basically became a slave to my work which fed my identity, all the while thinking, It will get better soon…
Fortunately, I had the sense to book a holiday. My sister had asked me to go with her to a yoga retreat in Portugal. I had never practiced yoga before, but from what I knew, I imagined it would help me to relax and recover energy.
We arrived at the retreat in the middle of the night, to wake up in the morning surrounded by mountains, trees, flowers, birds and sun. That week changed my life. I learned how to breathe correctly. I learned to listen to my body. I met people who were aligned with their purpose. I learned about vegan food. But most importantly, I found time.
It was at the retreat where I had the full realization of just how unhappy I was.
So I made a conscious choice to do something about it. I decided that I would start doing things that made me happy.
The week I returned to work, I quit my job. I had no idea what I would do next, except recover and do only the things I really wanted to do, like reading, meditating, practicing yoga, meeting friends and enjoying just wandering in nature or in the city.
Some weeks later, my husband was offered a job in another city. It wasn’t a fixed contract, just a three-month contract. We didn’t want to leave our gorgeous apartment or rent a new apartment (too risky given it was a short employment contract) so we found a temporary solution: we decided to go camping for three months for the duration of his employment!
So with two little tents, we made a tiny house of seven square meters. Here we have all that we need. And yes, our cat too is camping with us. She loves it just as much as we do! In fact, I’m at our new ‘camp home’ as I write this.
Living close to nature and doing things I love has really helped me get centred and find peace. My health has improved, my weight is back to normal, the relationship with my husband is so much better, and I’ve transformed my relationship with time. And…. I am excited to say…I found my mission!
I believe in a world where our urban lifestyle doesn’t compromise between our comfort or nature.
I started a blog called The Green Choice, where I write about how we can transition our lifestyles so that we still have the comforts of modern life – trendy clothes, luxe cosmetics, healthy foods, and travel – whilst respecting and connecting with nature.
Now I understand why I felt like I was in a black hole. I had lost sight of my true self. Being separated from my birth place and my family in Argentina; studying marketing and then going on to a career where I had serious ethical concerns about the companies I was required to work with; with people I felt no connection to; in an environment of ruthless competition, with managers that seemed to care only for their wallets; and my unrealistic expectations of myself, was slowly, over time destroying me.
But I’m glad I’m here. Writing this. Sharing my story.
And what I’ve learned so far and the message that I want to bring to the community is this:
Do what you love. Even if your friends or family try to talk you out of it. Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body. Search to connect with your true self.
Just make the decision. You’ve got this.