By Frederike Andrée Wiltens, founder of BANYU
Waking up to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. Starting your day off with a fresh coconut. Living barefooted and dining in the moonlight underneath the stars. The ultimate island life.. It’s something we long for more and more in these turbulent and hasty times.
For a lot of people, this hasty western society is becoming too stressful because of the pressure that they experience to achieve certain things which, in my opinion, aren’t always as essential as they seem. Things like corporate achievements and making more money for example, instead of friendliness, happiness and peace of mind. It made me wonder whether the way that I lived my life was the right one for me. So often we take on a certain way of living as if it is an obligation, but who says that this way is right for everyone. As I’m getting older, it’s becoming more and more clear what matters most to me in life. I have ADD, which is a concentration disorder that often causes my mind to be turbulent and chaotic. I realize that I want to choose my own path in how I live my life which corresponds to who I am and what I need.
In order to find this healthy and balanced way of living that
I was longing for, I travelled to the group of islands of the
Republic of Vanuatu. In the culture that I experienced there,
peace of mind, health and family are still the most important
things. In this journey, I found six inspiring core values that
were really evident in the way of living of the people of
Vanuatu: sustainability, togetherness, positivity, honesty,
peace of mind, and simplicity.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in this world. In the island life on Vanuatu, this is not a new trend, but part of the culture. All elementary schools, for example, have vegetable gardens and gardening is part of the curriculum. The locals, called the Ni-Vans, live self-sufficient. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and meat of their own soil, electricity from solar panels and cooking is done on coals. The people live by the period of the year: they eat what the land offers them. The extremely fertile land is the most important possession for the Ni-Vans and that’s why they treat the environment with the highest respect. Waste is minimal, everything is reused or recycled and every seed or pit is replanted.
1: Live local
If you want to live sustainably, you have to live local. The more you can eat, buy, and consume locally, the better. If you’re looking for a fun, sustainable and local restaurant, Instock is a good place to be. Every day, they select a different menu based on the harvest of the day. It is located in The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht.
Restaurant Instock (https://www.instock.nl).
2: Separate your waste
Through separating your waste, you are contributing towards a better environment. A nice app to help you separate your waste is Shop&Drop. This free recycle app makes it easy and fun to separately ‘drop’ your old stuff.
Vanuatu was selected as the happiest place on earth in 2006. One of the reasons for this high ranking is the strong social connection that exists within communities.
Here, every family forms a separate community with their own standards, values and language. In villages where there are multiple families, a democratic system is installed in which the ‘chief’ takes decisions in consultation with a representative of every family.
Within the families, the older women or ‘mamas’ make the decisions. This social system proved to have a lot of upsides in regard to the western way of living. The elderly people are never lonely and people are never hungry. There is a certain natural care system in which the young take care of the old. When parents don’t have funds to support their children, they are often adopted. This serves as a kind of social insurance.
Build rituals with your family, go away for the weekend once a year for example. Rituals enforce the relationship between loved ones and family. ‘Psychologie Magazine’ gives seven tips to assist you on this matter. A book tip on rituals would be ‘The Book of New Family Traditions’.
‘De kracht van rituelen, Psychologie Magazine’ (https://www.psychologiemagazine.nl/artikel/de-kracht-van-rituelen/).(Dutch)
The Book of New Family Traditions, Meg Cox, € 15,96 (Bol.com)
2) Young meets old
Plan something with young and old people. It will amaze you how much they can learn from each other. The Curious Case of Benjamin displays an interesting story on how love can survive the biological clock.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher, 2008
The local people of Vanuatu; the Ni-Van. Also for sale in our store, find it here.
Positivity is another core value that makes the Ni-Van culture so strong. A characterizing example is the way the people dealt with the destructive hurricane Pam in 2015. Pauline Stan, who is an expat living on Vanuatu described the clear difference between the Ni-Vans and the locals. The Ni-Vans remained positive and saw things in perspective. They looked towards the future and worked together to rebuild their land. The expats however, they continued to mourn over the damages.
1) The Notebook
Write down what makes you happy this day and keep a list of compliments you received and things you are proud of.
“Thoughts and beautiful moments”, Marian Palsgraaf (Dutch) € 14,95 (Bol.com)
2) In control over your own thoughts
Don’t let negative thoughts guide you. They are only thoughts and often not the truth. “Birdman” of director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a good example of how thoughts can control you.
Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014
A beautiful scene of the Vanuatu environment. It is also part of our wall art collection. Find it here.
What is remarkable in the Ni-Van culture, is the honesty and authenticity. Foreigners don’t get charged with higher prices in the local markets. Another example comes from my own experience. It happened to me on several occasions that the ‘mamas’ wouldn’t sell me products because they were of a lower quality. Honesty was more important to them than money even though the people are in need of it.
1) True to yourself
Don’t only be true to others, but also to yourself. Painful memories and experiences have a negative influence on our lives. In the book ‘Be true to yourself’, a strategy is offered to turn pain from the past into strength for the future.
Be true to yourself, Keith Ablow, (Dutch) € 19,95 (Vanstockum.nl)
Invest in friendships, just like a relationship, by expressing what you expect from each other. This prevents a lot of misunderstandings and will bring you closer to each other. Rudolf Kampers and Jan Ewout Ruiter are the founders of ‘Learning to Philosophize’. They offer courses on philosophical debates. Philosophizing on friendships is one of their themes.
Philosophizing on friendships, Learning to philosophize. (http://www.lerenfilosoferen.nl/filosoferen-over-vriendschap)
PEACE OF MIND
It’s clear how hasty the western society is right now. This turbulent way of living is the contrary of the peace of mind in the way of living on Vanuatu. An example comes from an interview with Sally Dunn, an Australian woman who grew up in Vanuatu but went to college in Australia.
“When I’m waiting in Australia, in traffic or in line for the supermarket I can get very agitated. People honk their horns and complain. Here, it doesn’t matter, time doesn’t seem to play a role and something so unimportant can’t bother people.”
Start your day off with 10 minutes of meditation. This will make sure you start your day with a peaceful mind. Meditating isn’t always easy but very effective. Do you find this hard, practice through the help of meditational techniques.
2) Mindfulness with your child
Sometimes, you don’t get to enjoy your time with your children because your mind is elsewhere. Rob Brandsma teaches courses in Amsterdam on mindfulness for parents who want to have more peace of mind when they are with their children.
Mindfulness for parents, € 550,- (www.centrumvoormindfulness.nl)
The most inspiring core value for me was the simplicity of the way of living of the Ni-Vans. An example of this within families was the amount of trading and sharing that took place. Materialism wasn’t important, because of which greed or stinginess are rare or don’t exist. This simplicity is also visible in the local legal system. In a dispute, the chief sets the verdict which is paid in pigs instead of money. After this the matter is done, there is no reason to distrust or hate anymore.
1) Either no or hell yes
When you can’t enthusiastically say yes, it’s better to say no. Eric Ravenscraft provides some insight on how to do this on lifehacker.com
Eric Ravens- craft: (http://lifehacker.com/only-respond-to-commitments-with-either-no-or-hell-y-1714400973)
2) Be aware of your food
We often know how to eat good and healthy. But often this isn’t as simple and we don’t always succeed to put this into practice. Susan Albers gives an approachable action plan to avoid stress eating or to hide emotions.
Eat Q, Susan Albers, (Dutch) € 19,99 (Ten Have)
Experiencing and seeing this way of living has taught me a lot and inspired me. It gave me more balance in life as a person. This research is a big source of inspiration for us at the BANYU team. I hope to inspire and motivate you to sometimes go back to the basics, taking a step back and through that finding more balance in life.