Our Place in the Sun
Lawrie and I met in London in 2015. I come from Poland and Lawrie from South Africa – two very different backgrounds. Poland has folklore medicine and people forage in the forests during the summer to prepare for the harsh winters ahead. It is a place, where children play together on the streets and walk alone to school. My love for animals and passion for folklore medicine is what turned me vegetarian and then vegan. When we met, Lawrie was a true blue South African, to whom the consumption of two-inch thick, half-raw steaks was commonplace.
My first choice of career was to be an engineer, but throughout my school and university years I excelled and enjoyed being an events planner, so I decided to move to the UK to pursue this dream. Lawrie had completed a psychology degree at the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) and became a special needs teacher by day and a reservist Police Constable in Johannesburg by night. In 2009 he moved to London. Starting with just a van, by 2015 he was running his own successful international logistics company, delivering goods and event equipment throughout Europe. In 2015 I joined his team as a PA/events planner. When we met, we both thought we had hit the love lottery jackpot. Two kindred spirits from opposite parts of the globe meet in London and share the ‘do no harm’ philosophy.
It did not take long before Lawrie started taking a serious interest in the science and philosophy of veganism, prompting him to turn his back overnight on the carnivore diet and become vegan. As our relationship grew, so did our passion for ‘conscious living’ and the ‘do no harm’ philosophy, which eventually led us to a whole new lifestyle.
We both loved travelling and seeing the world and Lawrie’s logistics company gave us the perfect opportunity to do so. It also gave us the chance to see the open countryside, meet the people at a grass-roots level and notice the differences in languages, lifestyles and cultures.
One of the most memorable trips for me was our trip to Portugal. Lawrie and I drove in convoy from London to Portugal via the Channel Tunnel. We drove our vans onto the train in Folkstone in southern England. The train took us through a tunnel under the sea. It took only 34 minutes to arrive and disembark in France. Driving across the French landscape through the most beautiful parts of Southern France, we then passed through incredible mountain tunnels and through gorgeous scenery until we reached northern Spain and on to Bilbao. From there we drove across into Portugal, which reminded Lawrie of South Africa – especially the red soil… The motorways were empty, so we cruised at leisure through the countryside and stopped with our packed lunch at a desolate petrol station that had a view to die for. On our way back we did sightseeing in Madrid and drove through Switzerland (alongside Lake Geneva) back home.
As we travelled we noticed that some hotels did not have vegan options on the menu, despite the fact that many traditional European and Balkan cuisines are mainly plant-based. Wherever we travelled, we went on date nights, so we spent a great deal of time searching for lovely places with amazing vegan food. In some countries, like Belgium, it was a real challenge, so we learned always to prepare meals at home to take with us in a portable refrigerator or packed in cooler bags.
Travelling around Europe, we soon found out about the true cost of fast fashion and mass consumption and quickly changed our shopping habits into more mindful ones – signing up for the wonky unwanted veggie delivery box, buying second-hand furniture and clothes and signing up for the soon-to-expire items from shops and food outlets. In a heavily westernised society, there is an abundance of everything – which translates into an immense ‘waste culture’.
Part of our work was transporting equipment throughout Europe for conferences and events which focused specifically on the idea of sustainability within the workplace and beyond. Lawrie was eventually very honoured to be invited to participate and speak at these conferences.
The sustainability conferences sounded just like the place to be for us – however, some turned out to be a bunch of greenwashing. Rather deceptive intentions coated in green PR campaigns, even more so because some of the most interesting and amazing scientists had attended these events with the most incredible ideas, like creating phone covers, crash helmets, and wind turbine components from recovered fishing nets and plastics found in the ocean and recycled. This inspired us to be more creative, but it also demoralised us to see such great ideas fizzle out or get stamped out by the end of the event.
Together we drove through forty countries and islands across Europe and Scandinavia, including North Africa and a long weekend in the USA, allowing us to meet many people, encounter many cultures and to listen to some incredible stories.
In Corsica, for instance, we learned that the free-roaming cows that had once been part of the meat industry, are now roaming all over the island, causing such water pollution that the groundwater became unfit for human consumption. Before big business came along, there had been no cows on that island. In Crete, no paper (not even loo-roll) can be flushed down the toilet as this blocks the ancient small-diameter pipes – so they have resorted to burying or burning or composting this instead. On the Greek island of Santorini, the people recycle almost everything that arrives from the ships – old tyres, pallets and bricks – some practical use is found for everything. In Norway, houses are heated and powered by using geothermal technology and in Germany and France, the land is covered in wind farms. We also learned that the smallest things make the biggest impact.
One of Lawrie’s clients was very interested to learn about Lawrie’s reusable travelling coffee cup. As they chatted, he pointed out to the client that if all the office staff stopped using single-use coffee cups from the coffee machine, they would save thousands of kilograms of plastic every month – plus a great deal of money. The idea went to the head office and they eventually liked and implemented the idea, resulting in that particular branch winning the prize for the greenest office for producing the least waste.
We found Copenhagen to be very progressive, (they even pay paternity leave) and very much into recycling. Some supermarkets even pay their customers for their recycling. As we bicycled through the city on reclaimed bicycles, we noticed how this pleasant and efficient means of transport had caught on, even in a country where the weather is not always favourable. And in Macedonia, it was just as heart-warming to see how the local community and municipality were committed to the conservation of Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe. This initiative has resulted in crystal-clear waters that are perfect for kayaking, swimming, or boating. The tourists have boosted the local economy, whilst the biodiversity of the region has been preserved. Encouraged by such signs of progress, we were eager to bring the same attitude to South Africa, believing that one small change at a time can make a huge difference.
How did we land on the KZN South Coast? South Africa’s very own Bali?
We were offered the opportunity to pack up from Europe and come to South Africa to run a B&B on the South Coast and we literally jumped at the opportunity. We wanted to share everything that we had learned and pass it on by organising events and retreats and turning the B&B into a 100 per cent vegan establishment. However, when we arrived in South Africa in 2021, the offer of running the B&B fell through… We were up the proverbial creek without a paddle, so we decided to use our experience and convictions regarding veganism and conservation to start up our very own vegan-based food production and consulting business. I became very busy on the promotion and organisation side of things and Lawrie put his scientific nosiness to good use in the actual creation of new and better vegan products. We rented a little house which sits in pristine bushland surrounded by banana farms. Lawrie, who has for years enjoyed growing his own vegetables (even from hanging baskets when living in a second-floor flat in London), soon had a vegetable garden going. The South Coast, however, comes with its own gardening problems and Lawrie learned a few hard lessons from Mother Nature. In the process, he also made a few friends and gleaned some great ideas about companion planting, natural and organic bug repellents, and local permaculture practices. Over the years he has become a ‘true organic compost geek!’ As we started to make friends, we were surprised to find that we were surrounded by like-minded souls. Apart from the passionate veggie growers, we befriended people from many different walks of life.
We have met fellow travellers, ex-pats, bakers, carpenters, musicians, artists, apiarists, Yogis, helicopter pilots and builders, people with the most interesting hobbies like heat forging knives at home or applying mad science to create bespoke jewellery. We even have a friend who adapts his little daily-use car to perform amazingly well using the most bizarre types of fuel-enhancing inventions and whizz-bang flux capacitors! From serious business people to small business owners – each of them has the most fascinating and inspiring story! Each of these people has helped us or inspired us along our journey. Some have offered us advice, one created a free wooden display stand, some connected us with a telephone number and others have offered their venues, their expertise, or just their pure friendship. Even though we have met with a few hardships on this journey, the light that these people brought and the friendship they offered, have by far outweighed the bad bits. There are some very special humans down here that is for sure.
We are only one year into our African Odyssey and so far are enjoying every minute of it.
‘We have adopted three of the most beautiful doggies from the local SPCA and spend much of our free time on the beach with them. We also like hiking to waterfalls and discovering the natural beauty of this paradise they call the South Coast. We feel that the uniqueness of this place is defined by the proximity and flow of the ocean – it feels as though life here flows very differently from anywhere else. And it is this that we have fallen in love with. This is why we have become involved with the community, helping out on beach clean-up days, helping to patrol neighbourhoods when there is a threat of violence and becoming part of local ‘less waste’ initiatives. We also organise vegan meet-ups, which help people connect to others with similar convictions, as does our Facebook group, where people can share ideas and details of local vegan initiatives.
Wherever we go and whoever we meet, we feel that the winds of change are blowing on the South Coast and we are very excited to be a part of it. We are very grateful that people have welcomed us here. Consciously yours, Marta and Lawrie
Marta is a nutritional therapist and event planner. Lawrie considers himself as a human-doing with a psychology degree and teaching certificate, who loves to grow plants.
They are avid travellers that love new adventures. They live by the rule: ”In the world where you can be anything – be kind.”
They are entrepreneurs and owners of Kindness Khaya – a company with many faces. They manufacture tofu, vegan food, they organise events and give speeches on veganism and health. www.kindness-khaya.co.za