Adrienne is – with no understatement – a huge part of putting our events together. In recent months Adrienne has been responsible for planning the trips, which consist of all contact to our suppliers, organizing everything.
We met Adrienne at the location we have used in Italy, where she worked. While working at the farm, she also started doing freelance work for Refuga and is now permanently on board, while she also works with a few other projects. Adrienne has a great story and some interesting insights. She changed her life completely, going from living a busy life in London to now living in the countryside of Italy. She has been to multiple Refuga events and meets a lot of people while being a host on our Italian location, so she knows a bit about people.
We asked her a few questions and here is her story:
First, can you very shortly describe what you do in Refuga and how a normal day look for you?
For Refuga, I handle logistics and liaison with our venues and guides…all the little details, like airport pick-ups and room set ups. I also work with Nik on coming up with new concepts and trip ideas.
A normal day for me is a juggling act! I love the freedom and variety of working on various different projects, though it does take skill to get the balance right.
I try to limit work on the computer, which is the mainstay of my work, to 5 hours a day. For the last couple of months, I insist on allowing myself spend two hours a day outside, and that has massively improved my day to day well being, and my productivity. I aim for an hour of yoga at least every other day. And I really try to make sure I am just focussing on the thing I’m doing, while I’m doing it. I experiment, fine-tune, and adapt! Always a work in progress.
You previously lived and worked in London. Can you tell us what you did and why you decided to change path in life?
In London, I helped plan and run a major exhibition. I was in that job for three years, and it was a great time…as far as office-based jobs in a big city go, I was on to a good thing!
Changing path was a mix of factors. A major one for me was environmental stress – sounds, lights, air pollution. I was really struggling to feel okay, even though my own life wasn’t actually very stressful at all.
Alongside that, I started waking up to the reality that despite the fact that I liked my job and felt proud of what I was doing, I was nonetheless on the hamster wheel – earning money to buy more and more stuff, and pay rent for a place to keep it all. Basically working to support the life I had created around work. I figured there had to be another way, though I really didn’t know what it might look like.
I guess all that was brewing for a while…
Then one day, I literally woke up and decided to quit my job. And I did. That day. No plan, no savings, no idea what next.
One of the Refuga groups Adrienne has helped host in Italy.
You did a big jump, going from London to living at a remote farm in Italy. How did you find that job and how was the change?
Finding the job I have now was an epic moment of synchronicity – one that reminds me to always keep the faith that solutions will present. I had thought about living in Italy when I first left my job, because I was lucky to learn the language in high school, and I’ve always felt quite at home in Italy. People told me I was nuts…that Italy was in an employment crisis and I’d never find work.
So I shelved the idea, and spent several months unemployed in London, praying that inspiration would strike and things would come clear. They didn’t. Life got more and more confusing, and I was utterly broke financially. The big epiphany I had been hoping for didn’t seem to be anywhere close.
I knew I had to get active, so I made myself start to apply for one job a day. Whether I wanted it or not… I just had to get energy moving. I remembered some months before someone had told me about Escape the City, and I used that site as my main resource. I think I was about 9 days into my one-a-day regime when I say the ad for the job I have now. I knew that was it. Less than a month later, I’d moved to Italy.
How the change was and is – that’s a long story! In short, it’s been overwhelmingly positive for me. I can honestly say I have never missed London, nor seriously considered moving back. I went from being in a place that frazzled my nerves every minute of the day & night, to being immersed in a green landscape that soothes my soul, lifts my heart and inspires my thinking. There is no price I can put on that.
Since my move, I’ve been blessed with other great opportunities, Refuga being a case in point! It’s amazing to be connected to and active within a global project, from my home in the depths of the countryside. The possibilities are endless! I’ve also qualified as a yoga teacher. So my professional horizons are expanding, my autonomy and independence are growing, and the story continues to evolve.
That said – it’s not all rainbows and sunshine! Life changes mean challenge. And often in wholly unexpected ways!
I think a lot of people wants to do something similar, but they are scared or just doesn’t take the jump. Can you give a bit of advice for them?
I meet so many people who come to stay at the farm where I work who are in transition, or want to be. I believe it’s so important to stay positive in those phases, and to challenge limiting thought patterns. At the same time, it’s okay to admit that major steps require courage, and even the most amazing opportunities may require you to stretch and grow more than is always comfortable!
I don’t think ‘perfect’ exists, and maybe that’s just as well. Wherever something expands, something else has to contract. There’s no 100% solution.
I also think there’s a delicate balance between the passive and the active – between allowing time and allowing space, and taking action. Everyone’s alchemy is different and the challenge is to find your own sweet spot. Too much of one or the other leads to ongoing inertia and naval gazing….or unhelpful, quick decisions.
I had no idea what I was going to do. I didn’t ‘vision’ the life I have now in all its details. What I think I did do – and what worked for me – was to focus on a core essence of how I wanted to feel. I wanted mental spaciousness. I wanted sunshine. I wanted clean air and the joy of breathing deeply. I could feel into that place. And then life arranged around it.
I also reminded myself – and still do – that nothing lasts forever. It’s all just another step on the way. There are few – if any – mistakes that can’t be righted, if need be. So be real, but be bold!
Moving from busy London to farm-life in Italy, is also very much a question about what kind of lifestyle you want. With your experiences form different lifestyles, can you give us a bit of advice on how to life a good life?
I think that to live a ‘good life’, each individual needs to empower themselves to create their own definition of GOOD. For sure, the life I live now is not for everyone…a lot of folks would go stir crazy up here on the mountain! But it absolutely works for me, for now.
I believe a key for me was finally being honest with myself about what I wanted, and being ready to prioritize those elements. Everyone has different goals, different aspirations. As long as we’re trying to fit in with other people’s ideas about how we should live or what we should want, I believe it’s hard – if not impossible – to find satisfaction. We give life mixed signals and find ourselves pulled in conflicting directions….
I believe inner clarity plus courage is the way to whatever you truly want. Easy to say, not always easy to embody!
You have been at Monestevole with so many different people, so many nationalities. What have you learned about people being close to so many strangers?
We’re blessed with amazing guests at Monestevole – open-minded, well-traveled, and almost always asking themselves how they can do good in the world. It seems to me just about everyone I meet – regardless of where they’re from, age or financial standing – is somehow grappling with the same big questions: how they can live well, provide for their families and be an agent for positive change, whether large or small scale.
The quest for that elusive ‘something more’ seems universal…perhaps more and more so now, in these increasingly materialistic and digitized times. Seems, though, in our over-packed modern lives, something MORE for a lot of people is turning out to be choosing something LESS!
The place where Adrienne now spends most of her time.
You have been to three Refuga trips. Can you tell a bit about the atmosphere in a group and what you see people getting out of it?
The energy of Refuga groups is astonishing, in such a positive way! I remember when the first group was coming to Monestevole before I myself did any work for Refuga. I was confused. I thought it was going to be a very tedious few days with people on laptops.
As it was, it was one of the most memorable few days I’ve had here! The diversity of the businesses people were working on combined with the level enthusiasm and willingness to share was so inspiring. And FUN.
I’ve often heard it said that the way a person does one thing is the way they do everything. I think that a really useful bit of wisdom to reflect upon, and in my experience, totally applies to Refuga folk! The people who come on these trips are passionate and curious and motivated in their work…and passionate and curious and motivated in all sorts of other ways too! It Makes for a fascinating and completely uplifting few days.
You’re working on some new concepts for Refuga. What kind of concepts would you love to launch and why?
I’m into ideas that get people in touch with nature – amazing landscapes and the wonder of the natural world. Not everyone needs to live those places, but I do believe incredible environments can take us back to our lives re-invigorated, and crucially with an improved sense of the ‘bigger picture’. That has to be good for us a human beings, and for the businesses and work we are creating!
I’m also interested in more teaching/coaching style models for trips…something that blends the co-working and skill sharing with structured workshop elements on a particular theme. Watch this space!
Our community is all entrepreneurs and people who love to create and those kind of people are always on the lookout for inspiration. Can you share a few favorite concepts, books, website or other things that you’re inspired by, that you recommend us to check out?
Since I lived in London I’m a big fan of The School of Life – I think their approach of making interesting, thought-provoking topics relevant and accessible is great.
Of the many spiritual disciplines and ideas I’ve dipped in and out of, Vipassana meditation made a huge, positive impact on my life. There are centers all over the world, and in stark contrast to the rampant commercialism of the ‘spiritual’ arena these days, the courses are offered on a voluntary donation basis.
And of course… Monestevole the place I live and work deserves a mention here! Such a great way to unwind, slow down and reconnect with yourself and nature.. without having to sacrifice comfort or fast wifi!