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Meet Dan Kruger Of The Merkaba Community


What bought you to Portugal in the first place?

Too much work in the UK really, I had jobs coming in from all areas, and lots of customers, I always want to take on so much as I am really passionate about what I do but, it wore me down to the point of feeling like I was having a breakdown. I had already been sick for a while before this with Crohn’s disease and had to have 6 months off work because of it, during this time I met someone who told me how I could change my lifestyle and diet to help heal myself, which I did, but still through this I got to the point where I was always too busy and trapped in a cycle. I happened to speak to the man who had initially offered this advice to me and he mentioned that he was going to Portugal to look for land, and asked me if I fancied a holiday with him, totally unlike me I decided I had to make a break for it so I jumped at the chance! I turned off my phone, met loads of inspiring people growing food and making a community and had an amazing time, and for a week I found I was living the good life! While there I noticed how many properties there were which in the UK are not only hugely expensive but almost impossible to find now, and as a builder I felt really drawn to the idea of being able to buy and make a dream home while getting a more relaxed lifestyle, so on total impulse I bought a farm with the guy I was holidaying with there and then. It felt like my chance to live life rather than living to work!

What was the process between heading back to England after buying the farm to leaving for Portugal finally?

I headed home back to my girlfriend who I lived with at the time, I had to break the news that I had bought a farm in Portugal! She didn’t share my enthusiasm, but I just had to pursue this new life I had experienced, I needed to make myself happy again, we ended up breaking up and going separate ways, I tied up all the loose ends with jobs I had on the go, and 3 months later I was back on the ferry to Portugal!
It wasn’t an easy start! The roof on the building on the farm had collapsed, so we set up tents inside the building to camp in, there was no water or power and just as we moved over Portugal faced the worst rain since records began. Our camp was washed out and we couldn’t even get our cars up the road on the mountain tracks, so we had to carry all materials and supplies up by hand. Luckily we had a few friends who came and helped, though many had to leave as it was all too much for them. It was hard, but I loved it I felt really fulfilled! I knew I had to stop the rat race and make this change, I started to remember what made me tick and how I was able to fulfil myself. The farm and ruin is now known as the Merkaba Community!

Tell us more about the Merkaba Community.

Merkaba is a retreat and community space where people can come together and experience living in Portugal, growing vegetables and generally be with a nice group of people, while switching off from the daily grind of life. We have been running this now for nearly 5 years, and we have met and helped a lot of great people! It has had up’s and downs and there have been tests along the way but the people we have helped has made it all worthwhile. When they leave, they really feel they have had a great holiday, some people have come for a week and stayed for two weeks, some have never left! One person has even since bought the farm next door!

Have there been different feelings to each year as things have changed?

The first year was the toughest, it was a learning curve, we were finding our feet and physically it was tough, but it was the most fulfilling! The second year the person I bought the land with and I went separate ways, the community was changing, and we ended up feeling we were pulling different directions. It was a big time of change, living as a community is hard, it is a balancing act to ensure we have the right people as our tribe surrounding us, a few years on where we are now we definitely have that balance.

What are the key things you have you learned from this adventure?

I have found many people need their own space, we originally were all thrown in together in one building and this put a lot of pressure on everyone to get along, having our own space is really a big help. I have also found it helps for us all to have similar values, our values are the glue that holds us together as a community.

What would you describe the Merkaba Community as now?

We started off as vegan, in a more militant way, I suppose you could say, we wanted to change the world! Then we stopped and looked and wondered if this was really the best way of doing things, I was bringing in food for our vegan diet from all over the world, which wasn’t very eco-friendly, instead I felt that eating seasonally and locally was a better, more eco-friendly fit. We accept we aren’t all the same, but we have a common ground, we are more tolerant to each other, despite our differences we are good people!

How has your connection with nature changed since you’ve been in Portugal?

I lived in Africa until I was 17, so I was very much outdoors. Then I moved to the UK and the bright lights were attractive, I went to university and fell for the more materialistic life. I lost touch with nature and I think this was ultimately why I lost my health. Moving to Portugal has given me this connection back again, I am no farmer, but I have gained a lot of knowledge over the last few years. I’ve made mistakes and just tried again, but I love seeing new ideas and trying them and out, so yes definitely my connection with the land around me is realty growing strong.

What about people who like culture, music, dance, theatre, can your community help with this offering?

We are actually close to a community who started not long ago who plan to offer just this. It originally came about because of a lady who came to live with us at Merkaba as she was terminally ill and wanted to get away from the grind of life after six months of living with us she was feeling much better, she bought her own land not too far from us, but sadly 3 years later she passed away, she left her land to her son who has since opened up a community space and plans to hold cultural events, music events etc there, so these things are growing locally for sure!

What are your thoughts on the amount of attention that Portugal is getting right now from people wanting to move over?

I see more European people moving to the area, not just people from the UK, but from all over the world to Portugal now. They all want to change their life. I would love it if more people moved over as an extended community around the Merkaba community bringing new skills with them, I hate cooking but love building for example, so lots of people all moving with their own individual skills can only be good, whether that’s as a financial exchange or an energetic exchange, sharing information and expanding the social circles around us would be a great thing to continue to see here.

Give us a view of how the next five years look to you for Merkaba?

I would love to see Merkaba form into a bigger community, a few people have the land around us and the more who can do this the better! It would be great to have Merkaba mountain! Maybe even as an alternative tourist destination, where people from many different backgrounds can all integrate with each other both foreigners and Portuguese…something similar to Tamera down in the south of Portugal would be amazing! I would also love to offer rentals to people who are moving over so they can try before they buy!

How can people get involved and connect with you?

Merkaba is offering volunteer schemes with various jobs that need doing so people can come and get involved in the community at various times of year when jobs need doing. And soon the rentals will be available too, so people can come over and experience the community life while keeping their own space, I see this being especially handy for families or people who don’t want to come and volunteer skills but just want a holiday…then if people find they love it here there is loads of land nearby where they can buy and move too.

You can find out more about the Merkaba Community here

If you are interested in using the building and renovation services offered by Dan and is team you can find out more here 

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