In the year 2017 from 8th to 16th december I attended a permaculture youth exchange titled "It`s our future". It was hosted in Italy near the city of Torino. The week that I shared with about 60 other participants was a deeply touching experience for me and has prompted me to make changes in the course of my life.

Permaculture is a response to the problems we are now facing collectively in the world. It calls us to face the reality of the dire situation in which we find ourselves in and to focus on creating solutions. It provides inspiration and hope for the future by showing us existing permaculture designs that have been already proved to work in the past. We don`t need to create hell out of our existence here on earth. In the ingenuity and creativity of humanity there lies a possibility to create something better for ourselves. During the youth exchange we had the chance to attend 4 different permaculture workshops on the topics of bioconstruction & upcycling, ingenious design using renewable sources of energy, food growing & composting and about economy.  If you wish to see a few exerpts from the workshops then you can access the clips here.

A main theme throughout the youth exchange was connection. One facet of this theme was the planing and talking in what ways we are going to stay connected after the youth exchange. We made plans to create events among the participants but also to visit some of the already existing permaculture events that will be happening in the world next year. We shared with each other what kind of projects are happening in our respective countries and invited each other to visit and participate. We found a need to find platforms online that will keep us connected to each other such as facebook, youtube, telephone and email.

The other facet of connection was the actual quality time that we spent together bonding. We lived together for one week, we ate toether, danced, sang, played music with instruments, shared prolonged eye contact, massaged and hugged each other, we did almost everything together. In this manner we could all enjoy geting our social needs met. The needs for physical touch, self-expression, community, consideration, acceptance, fun, laughter, love, respect, support, understanding, warmth, emotional safety. The inspiration and hope brought on by permaculture along with these two facets was what created a love bubble that stayed with us even after having went each our separate ways after the last day of the youth exchange. We are now compelled to stay connected to each other and share the love in our lives and to find our place in the permaculture movement and to create something beautiful together.

One the topics among others that I found especially of interest to me during the youth exchange was presented by a young lady from Spain during an open space workshop. It was the topic of open free love relationships. She questioned the image of a normal relationship which is usually depicted as the love between a man and a woman, both heterosexual, married, living together, with children, with the expectation that the couple should not touch or engage romantically with other people apart from each other. She argued that this arrangment may be okay for some people but may not be ideal for others and that we may go through periods in our lives where we may have a more favorable disposition towards monogamy and others where we may prefer polyamory or other forms of relationships. She made a point that the needs we seek to get met in a relationship don`t need to be covered by just one person. It is possible for one person to meet your need for romantic love, the other for sexual gratification and the third for attachment. You can have the freedom to give love fully to all the people you feel it for. Just as having a wide net of social connections in terms of friends can be beneficial, so can having several partners. Physical contact releases oxytocin which makes you feel safer. She argued that crucial to any kind of relationship is honesty and respect. You need to be honest with yourself on what you really want in your relationships and to be respectful enough to communicate that to your partners. The main message to take home is to question the standard of a normal relationship prescribed to us by society and to instead listen to our inner guidance as to what we want and need at this particular point in life and based on that to form loving relationships in whatever form these may take.

A few of the takeaways I got from the youth exchange is the motivation to stay involved in the permaculture movement and to contribute to it, to travel more and volunteer, to form open relationships, to keep eating a plant-based diet, to connect with likeminded people, to live with less and experience more.

I feel grateful to all the organizators who facillitated the youth exchange, all the participants who each contributed their wonderful energy, to the cooks who offered us food every day and to the french participants who helped me progress in learning their beautiful language.

Jan Tomšič