The Way Home
By Mark Boyle
The Way Home is an interesting book about how one man decided to leave behind technology and all modern conveniences and live a more simple life. Mark Boyle lives on a smallholding in Ireland. He goes to great lengths to remove technology completely from his life, so it makes for a thought-provoking read.
Boyle decided to live without money first and that led him to also decide to live in a way that our ancestors did. Throughout the book, he documents the lives of the Blasket Islanders, who lived on the Great Blasket Island in a very similar manner to Boyle’s life on the smallholding. They had to be completely self-reliant and they learned to survive in a harsh environment.
Boyle begins as a vegan, but he finds that it cannot be sustained in the type of life he has made for himself, so he does eat fish, which he catches himself in nearby waterways. He walks or rides a bike everywhere and refuses to use mass transportation. He hauls wood, manure, building supplies, and just about everything else in wheelbarrows or other human-powered devices. He does not use tractors to work his farm, preferring human power to gasoline power. He writes with pencil and paper and agonizes over having to type the book manuscript at the end.
Part of his farm is a hostel at which people of similar mind can stay. They make their own food, grow their own herbs, harvest wild plants, and eat meat that they hunt or fish. The neighbors are all supportive of his endeavors and some donate items that he uses for building, etc. But, these folks that live in this rural lifestyle also see their way of life disappearing. Large-scale farms and technology are replacing it. Their local pubs and post offices are being closed, as often happens in rural areas. So, Boyle’s book is, in a way, documenting the kind of life that most of us will never get to experience as it is swallowed by the larger tech world.
The pacing of the writing is slow, as befits the fact that it was written with paper and pencil by candlelight. It seems to be more of an exploration of his daily experiences and similar to a diary account in that way. But is it also an account, in real time, of how he gave thought to each step along the way. How he decided what to use in place of the modern technology for each item or project that he completed on his farm. He also explores how these compromises change his life and his outlook on things in general. How doing everything by manual labor improved his overall health. How he felt physically affected by actually spending 12 hours a day for 7 days typing up the manuscript. He noticed the negative effects right away after having become more accustomed to a totally different way of life.
The book is sad as well. I found the times when the forests were clearcut around him, or his favorite wild spot on the river got cut down and turned into a fenced farm, very sad. It’s disturbing to see how nature is slowly being destroyed to make way for humans and our high-tech way of life. I wanted to cry when that beautiful spot on the river was plowed under. It supported so much wildlife and they had nowhere to go.
This book may not be for everyone, because it does move slowly at times. But it is interesting to those of us who would like to try this way of life. It gives you an idea what might be required to do so. It would be a lot of physical work and require some sacrifices for sure. But it would be nice to try it. It can only make positive changes in our outlook. Slowing down is not all that bad an idea after all. We live in such a fast-paced world now that slowing down actually requires us to unplug and deliberately turn away from that pace. In my opinion, this would be a good thing, not only for us, but for our planet as well.
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