I grew up in southern England, in suburbia but with enough freedom to spend a lot of time in the woods, up trees and in streams as well as in the less natural environments of railway sidings and pavements.
Apparently as a child at home I talked a lot and somewhere in my early years I must have learnt that this was not a positive trait as I have spent my whole life coming out of the shadow of quietness, shyness and reserve. My mother first learnt I was quiet from the teachers at school. I also have early stories of not being invited and accepted by my friends and whether true or not these beliefs have probably been a driving force in my urge to be in community and feel accepted. I still observe my tendancy towards unfriendly uncommunity behaviour when I am in the habitual unconsciousness of my life.
I was drawn to travel after a school cruise on the SS Uganda a treat of many who were at secondary school in the 70’s in the UK. I was 15 and we visited the Mediterranean Venice, Athens, Crete, Malta and Pompei. It was the exposure to the ancient world of the Greeks that inspired me most and I have been drawn back to Italy and Greece ever since.
My first experience of communal living, apart from the cruise ship where my main memories are of the stench of garlic from the crew quarters and lying flat on deck staring at the stars and giggling about the boys, was in Israel.
I took my first of many years “off” before going to University. Ein Gedi Kibbutz was my second destination after six months doing “something useful” and living in France and learning French for six months. Ein Gedi Kibbutz was a wealthy kibbutz with money coming from tourists bathing in the Dead Sea. The wealth meant we were given beer and cigarettes every Fridays and so weekends became party time with dancing in the bomb shelter. I loved it – the shared comaradarie of working together but no exchange of money and no having to buy anything to survive. I went again to another kibbutz, Haon, a few years later. Here again I found I fitted in and by having an Israeli boyfriend I became the connection between the volunteers and the kibbutzniks and I remember the strong feeling of being connected and of being able to do what I wanted to serve. I painted a mural in the kitchen and worked hard in the date plantation.
My final destination that year was Camp America and again I experienced the feeling of being part of a team with a common purpose and although I remember the Americans thought I was a bit “dreamy and out of it”. It was the spirit of community that I remember.