So happy to see this! While attempting to learn a particular meditation technique in a “wat” near Chiang Mai early last year, my monkey mind kept grabbing at the idea of transforming hundreds of Buddhist temple grounds into permaculture paradises.
Imagine arriving in a brand new country you’ve never been to before. What are you going to do there? What do you want to gain from the experience to bring back home?
While many people travel abroad on holiday with the main goal of relaxing, there’s another way of looking at your time away: an opportunity to learn more about the world and gain skills you can take with you wherever you go. Places like Thailand might be best known for their crazy parties, but if you look a little closer, you’ll find opportunities to change the way you live — no matter where you are.
In northern Thailand, further north of Chiang Mai, sits Panya Project — a design and education center where locals and foreigners learn about permaculture principles first-hand. Panya’s intimate community consists of people from different nationalities with a unifying passion for all things permaculture. With experiential courses in permaculture and eco-village design, it explores everything from adobe brick-making and earth building techniques to “food forestry, kitchen gardening, natural building, intentional community, and nonviolent communication.”
Visitors to Panya learn how to build structures from the ground up. One participant shares her experience: “We dug foundations, poured cement, mixed concrete, used our hands and feet to muck together straw, mud, and clay to form adobe bricks and used wattle and cob to build, strengthen, and decorate.” There’s also classroom time to study the Twelve Principles of permaculture design, along with evening activities like playing music, watching permaculture-related documentaries, and making raw cake. Skill-sharing workshops also add to the center’s supportive community vibe.
So what inspires someone to start a passion project like this? Panya founder Christian Shearer says it was a personal search for fulfillment in his life that initially pushed him to start the center: “I wasn’t very inspired by the options that society was putting out for me. I was thinking, I need to do something on my own.”
From that seed of motivation grew Panya Project, which now helps hundreds of visitors from around the world dig deeper into permaculture. Shearer explains the importance of direct action in this project’s mission: “Inspiration is one of the key words that goes along with the project. We’re trying to tell people, ‘you can do it.’ Whether that’s putting in a garden, planting a food forest, or building your own building — you can do it.”