Setbacks, perseverance and success in the end

A long time ago, I fell in love with a house on the River Amstel. It was an old, detached house with a big veranda, green and white window frames, a cluttered garden and tall trees. In the city of Amsterdam, but in a green and leafy area. It was along my regular running route and every time I passed it, my heart would leap. I imagined what it would be like sitting on the veranda with my dog at my feet, the sun in my face and a glass of wine in my hand. Unfortunately, it was an unattainable love, because the house was not for sale and if it had been, it would have been way above my budget. That didn’t stop me from dreaming about it, but that’s as far as I got.

Compared with the pioneers in modern-day living we’ve been interviewing for our platform hetkanWEL (weCANdoit) in recent years, this house on the Amstel was no more than a simple dream. These pioneers succeed in getting whole eco-neighbourhoods off the ground, they set up housing communities, renovate farmhouses with their own hands, move to places in the middle of nowhere in Spain, France or Sweden, or decide to live off the grid in a tiny house, a refurbished a floating home or a yurt. Decisions that haven’t only changed their own lives, but also inspire others to reflect on their own situation and to contribute to a more sustainable world.

Every single one of these projects is a lifechanging event, one that wouldn’t have materialised without perseverance and a whole host of setbacks. These are the kind of stories we like to read because they are all about seeing things through, overcoming obstacles, the will to change, believing in possibilities, and all the emotions that come with it. As a reader, you may sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy, but above all admiration.

Every single one of these projects is a lifechanging event, one that wouldn’t have materialised without perseverance and a whole host of setbacks. These are the kind of stories we like to read because they are all about seeing things through, overcoming obstacles, the will to change, believing in possibilities, and all the emotions that come with it. As a reader, you may sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy, but above all admiration.

When we tell these stories, we’re immediately inundated with emails from readers who have plans of their own, asking us whether we can help them find a group of 60-somethings to start a housing community, a plot of land for a tiny house, a construction company for second-hand building materials, or tips on how to get rid of stuff and then go live in a bus. But also emails from architects, tiny house builders, electric camper van sellers, and entrepreneurs offering a whole range of solutions such as sustainable holiday parks and building kits. They told us about their plans, projects and their vision for a sustainable future. And that got us thinking.

We decided it was time to match supply and demand in order to inspire and inform our readers, to bring together people with similar ideas and link them up with specialists. By teaming up, they can bring to fruition even more sustainable living projects. We’ve called it the Alternative Living Month. More than 600 people signed up within a week, most of them keen to live differently – sustainably, in nature, and if at all possible with other people. And they were looking for inspiration.

Whether people are dreaming of large or small houses, with or without a veranda, we’re going to see a lot happening going forward.

The links in this month’s colum direct you to texts in Dutch only.

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Asceline Groot is ondernemer bij hetkanWEL, schrijfster van ‘Het Nieuwe Groen’ en PhD kandidaat aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. In haar columns schrijft zij over (start-up) sociale ondernemingen en trends en ontwikkelingen op het gebied van duurzaamheid.