It Happened To Me: I Ditched My High-Paying Office Job And Rediscovered Happiness At A Hippie Community

What do you do when you’re bored of your daily office life? You leave your job, start hugging trees and get rid of all your preconceptions of normal human interaction.
Publish date:
May 13, 2013

Last year was the year when a lot of people around me gave me the approving nod and welcomed me to adult life: I had landed a well-paid job in a big international company, I had just finished my first MA term at UCL and I was in the middle of organizing my first photography exhibition at a big venue – in other words, life was good.

There was just one tiny little detail that was missing in the complex equation of a successful life – namely, happiness.

It wasn’t that I was miserable. I was just bored to the core. I would drift off in the middle of job meetings or nights out with friends and wish for something new: some kind of new experience, new emotions, anything new, in any shape or form. This wasn’t it right? This couldn’t be it. I refused to believe that my amazing crazy teenage years of traveling and partying had culminated to this dusty bathos.

Was this what all of us had so desperately been reaching for, all those years with fake ID’s and dreams of complete freedom: was this really adult life? It was like having sex with Ryan Gosling and never climaxing – something that was completely unacceptable. I felt the world around me losing all its vibrant colors and the wild soundtrack of my life suddenly becoming replaced with adult murmurs and the rustling of old newspapers.

The most screwed up thing was that people around were nodding their heads in unison. From the older generations to my own one: Yes Camila, this was life! Working at a fancy office, getting 5 weeks of holiday a year and saving up for a nice summerhouse – of course this was the life I should want!

Well, if this was life, then screw life, I thought, and injected myself with heroin. I kid, I kid. Instead of letting drugs give me a new internal environment I decided to simply just change the exterior one around me. So I left the grey city and went to the colorful woods.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, to be honest. I stumbled across an independent health magazine and saw an ad for a Raw Life festival that took place on a huge meadow surrounded by woods and an awesome looking lake. I decided on a whim that I was going to this place – I was tired of computers, suits and water cooler talk and I needed something completely new and unexplored in my life. I called work and took some time off, borrowed a sleeping bag from a friend and hopped on a train that took me to back Woodstock 1969. Kind of.

You have to understand the shock that faced me when I reached this big meadow hidden in the woods: I had for the past six months spent most of my days in an office which was literally grey, working with numbers and computers and drinking coffee with people whose small talk was confined to numbers and computers.

When I stepped into this meadow I remember seeing a woman dancing around by herself with her eyes shut and her arms lifted up to the sky. This woman alone embodied everything that I experienced for the next few days there. I had reached the Raw Life festival, a festival that celebrated the Raw Food lifestyle, the spiritual awakening and the self-healing. Yup, there I was and I had no time to reconsider my impulsive trip before I was taken to the Big Barn where I found myself chanting with a big group of people about mother nature’s awesomeness.

The following days are still a bit of a blur, not because of the ayawaska (say what) but because of all the new experiences that hit me all at once. I had reached the type of community that I thought was extinct since the seventies; a community that was nearly self-sustainable and that preached peace, love and understanding. After the chanting I was allocated into a group of people that I had to meet once a day for what was called Sharing – an hour where we would share our emotions and thoughts. Yes. I was also assigned kitchen duties; I would wake up at 5:45 every morning and help to prepare breakfast for the whole camp.

Since it was a raw food festival we made things like almond milk, raw gingerbread, fruit salads and green juices. The days were filled with Yoga, Shamanism, Meditation, Tantric wisdom, Satsang workshops and creative dancing. I met the craziest, oddest and most wonderful people there.

I met Billy, an American poet in his seventies with braids in his beard and flowers in his hair who spent his days writing poems in the surrounding woods. I met Angela, an older woman from Casa Blanca who traveled all around the world as a photographer and had come to the festival to get some “raw energy”. I met a young woman named Veronica who was eight months pregnant at the time and who is now raising her baby in the community. I also met Frank, a creepy guy from Texas who had shot a guy and described it to me in full detail, and then I met Dan, a former IT-technician who lived in the woods 9 months a year.

Coming from being stuck in a conformed society with little space for surrealism, this was heaven for me. There were hippies, nutcases and nude people who broke all my preconceptions of normal human behavior. People would randomly hug each other or start a massage session in the lunch queue. They would ask you about your energies and tap your head to give you positive vibrations.

I even remember an open mic night where one girl took the stage and screamed like a goat for ten minutes, a performance that moved people to tears because of her powerful aura (…). The lady that came on after her shared a twenty minute long poem about breasts and in the middle of the poem she took her top of so we all could see her glorious bare tatas.

The world got its colors back, the soundtrack of my life started playing again and the one thing that I had been missing for almost a year returned to me in full force. Hello happiness.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everybody should leave their daily lives for a crazy hippie community in the forest to regain some of their happiness. But for me it helped. The experience was so random and surreal that it kind of woke me up again; woke up that sleeping child in me who loves everything eccentric and odd.

I realized that life could be so much more than what is continually advertised in the subways and on TV. A well-paid job, 2.5 kids, a spouse, a house, a car and some weeks in the sun every year does not have to be my future. I mean it can be if I want it to, but it doesn’t have to be. That future is not the sole recipe for happiness. Every single person walking this planet is different so it doesn’t make sense to try and fit everybody into one mold. You make your own happiness and I’m sure I could have figured that out without going on a shamanic trip and meeting my spirit animal, but it was more fun that way. And I like to have fun.

Camila-Catalina Fernandez currently blogs on