Goodbye NY, hello Holland
On the 18th of August, 2007 I had fulfilled my one year volunteer commitment with Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) at the AHEAD Energy project, located on the campus of the University of Rochester in New York. At the same time, I was considering committing to another year at the AHEAD project, after receiving an invitation from AHEAD's Director, Dr. Mary Jeanette (MJ) Ebenhack, and already deciding to continue my volunteer service with BVS.
A month earlier, I had received an offer through BVS from the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), a 90 year old peace and human rights NGO, to come to the Netherlands, again as a BVS volunteer, and serve as their Communications Officer. Although I enjoyed my work at AHEAD and living in Rochester, an opportunity to focus directly on human rights was more important to me. I'd had an interest in such issues, since my early days as the Special Reports editor for KFBK.com, and had begun a blog in 2004, where I was reporting on international events.
After an interview and much correspondence with IFOR and Kristin Flory (BVS's European Director), informing me on what I was getting myself into, I was off to a rather small but historically important town in North Holland called Alkmaar. For the next several years I will be serving the IFOR International Secretariat, utilizing skills that may be readily available in the US, but may be more appreciated in other parts of the world. I will learn to speak Dutch, to read Dutch newspapers and literature, to sing classic Dutch songs, to ice skate on canals, to do everything on a bicycle, and find out what it is like to live as a Nederlander.
In the meantime, I've already achieved another goal, begun around the same time and really an experiment in taking success to the next level. That is, a life based on Voluntary Simplicity. It took the first year of my quest to convince me, but before I left for Holland I had sold or given away most of my possessions―an agonizing but thought-out process. Yes, I, a capitalist for 25 years, have now arrived at a life of simplicity and turned my back on the material world, giving up my cellphone, my Dodge Ram 150, my furniture, and even my own home.
It has taken a total of two years to complete my transition from capitalist to simplicity.