On a sunny Thursday afternoon K and me set off on our bike to meet Barbara. She runs a local cheese business Swiss Happy Cow Cheese out of an old Portuguese villa in Siolim, Goa.
Ever since I had moved here I wanted to meet people from the community who had kick started exciting sustainable projects. . Once I found out about her, I rang up Barbara and asked if I could meet her and she was kind enough to oblige, despite it being her busy season. So off we went with our notebooks and a camera for a tēte a tëte.
In a quaint Portuguese villa lies a cheese cave that is home to Swiss Happy Cow cheese. Amidst trees and bikes you will be welcomed in an outside sitting area where there are chaise chairs laid out. That’s where conversations happen, and the accounts and payments. Its all very simple here.
Read about Slow Travel during my time in Begur , Spain
While I chronicled her body of work and her journey from Bavaria to Siolim, here are a few lessons that I learnt and some that got re affirmed along the way. Here are a few that I would like to share with you:
There is no substitute for passion
Barbara started her shop 15 years back with just a 20 Litre casserole to make her cheese with. She had no cooling chambers, no preservation units. She started with cheese that she wanted to mostly make for her personal consumption.
When she moved to Goa 20 years back, she stayed here every “season time” and while she loved her life in Goa, she terribly missed her cheese. There was no cheese in Goa 20 years back and thus the lady took matters in her own hands, quite literally.
From there began her cheese unit from where she would give gifts to her friends and community . Now Happy Cow delivers to the best restaurants of North Goa and the supermarkets are stocked with her products. You have to see her eyes light up when she talks about cheese even now. So the success of the Happy Cow Cheese movement is largely owed to her passion (and a great product)
Community is a big part of your wellbeing
When you start something new, whether move to a new place or start a new business the first supporters/ clients come from your community. It is great to be part of one, especially to learn the ways of the land. When Barbara started off she got all her support from the local community. They helped with everything, right from helping in finding her home to her factory to helping in distribution.
Also read about my move to Goa , the why and the how
Gratitude is beautiful
Being grateful is a beautiful thing. It fills your cup with positivity and it also helps you to stop and look back at how far you have come. It’s the little milestones that matter in anything we do, no? I saw that while speaking to Barbara, that she was mindful that she has come from that 20L casserole to a 600L one today and she attributes it to her team and the goodness of her product she serves her clients.
Good things take time
Even cheese takes time. Parmesan needs 12 months of maturing, blue cheese take 3 months, Brie takes a minimum of a month. While we need to wait for our favourite cheese to mature, even passion projects take their time to fly. When I see Happy Cow cheese lined up at my local supermarket, see my favorite café advertise their Kombucha and once I got to meet with her , I realized all this didn’t happen overnight. She toiled at it for 15 years to be where it is right now. So you get it! Good things take time.
Take each day as it comes
I asked her so how long do you plan on staying in Goa. She laughed (cue video) and said till its good for her. There were no million euro plan, there was no big elaborate plan to conquer the world of cheese. She loves her work, and she plans to do this till its good for her, till its fulfilling and till its sustainable. She doesn’t know what the next year beholds and that’s just the best wait to be. To know and assimilate the impermanence of everything and revel in the joy of it as it is today.
Also read about Top destinations for digital nomads
It had been a good wholesome afternoon for us in a cheese cave with Barbara surrounded by the likes of Brie, Camembert, Parmigan, Feta and their brothers. It was a fun expedition which gave us lessons to take home and that we could share with you.
If you are looking to make such discoveries in your own neighborhood, whether you are slow traveling or you have been living there for years, here is how you can do it too?
-Look our for local artists/ creators online or on boards around your neighbourhood
-Look them up, get in touch with them and ask them if they want to meet you for a chat
-Trust me the episode will leave you inspired and refreshed, just a conversation with one new person who is doing inspirational work in your vicinity. It will definitely make you want to do more with life, as it did to me.