Where have all the hippies gone?

Sedgefield, and the Garden Route, has been a hippie haven for decades. Flower painted vans, tie-dyed T-shirts and the smell of patchouli were as common as fishing rods and fynbos.

Any counter culture refugee could move down here, rent a cottage for a pittance, smoke good dope and sell boxes beaded with shells or dream catchers to tourists. It wasn’t limited to hippies, anyone who wanted a simple coastal life could make ends meet without too much trouble.

Then, about eight years ago, property boomed. Slowly, and then not so slowly, the run-down cottages sold for millions and were replaced with Hampton’s style beach houses. These owners didn’t need to rent out their houses for a few thousand bucks a month; they were so rich they didn’t need to rent them out at all.

The hippies moved out of town into the surrounding forested hills and in the short term, things got better for the simple lifers. Wealthy property owners provided work for artisans, garden services and restaurants. People in property made a killing, everyone was flush for a while and life was good.

Just as we all got used to the easy life, the recession pulled the rug. The money dried up as quickly as it had come but things didn’t go back to how they were before. Property prices stayed high and rents never came down.

Since I wrote my small town suicide post a few weeks ago, another financially pressured young father has killed himself. High school kids walking home spotted him hanging from the rafters of his house and called the police. Thankfully his wife and two young children weren’t the ones to find him.

We were having a few drinks at the Beach Bar last night and got chatting to a friend we haven’t seen in a while. He’s deep in hock.  He’s in the building trade and work has just dried up for him. Banks and lawyers hound him and his life has become about dodging creditors.

He told us how debt collectors showed up at his house with a court order to attach his furniture and other possessions. His wife, who was home at the time, objected. After a vigorous argument, the debt collectors left, and returned with the police. She was chucked into the back of a cop van and taken to Knysna police holding cells on a charge of obstructing the cause of justice. He had to bail her out.

We’re okay for now, thanks to a bit of luck and a lot of hard work on Gavin’s part, but a pile of money dwindles very quickly here. We can’t relax, we have to endlessly think of ways and schemes to make money. Living here, with our beautiful garden, our sea views, and our ‘simple’ life costs money. A lot of it.

9 Responses to “Where have all the hippies gone?”

  1. 1 altonwoods March 14, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    The “simple life” can be anything but at times…Bless your empathy and compassion to write this,I think we’ve all got to understand and accept that it could be us next…(if it’s not already!) Beautiful place,thank you for sharing with us!

  2. 2 Jeannine March 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I like the line on your blog where you say you are 49 but have only been alive for four years.

    It’s something, for whatever the reason, that applies to a lot of people. Well said!

  3. 3 BDO March 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Great example of personal debt not being a sustainable measure for economic growth. The housing crisis was fueled by personal debt called mortgages. The debt finally dried up and it all came crashing down worse than if it was built on cash.

    The Great Depression was built on personal debt called margins. Funny how we keep thinking that personal debt consumption will somehow bring us economic prosperity.

    The “simple life” is using cash, living humbly, and giving to those less fortunate when we are able.

    Keep up the good work,

    • 4 Jeannine March 15, 2010 at 6:27 pm

      Great advice Eric. It’s funny how we have all forgotten to live within our means, to use the cash we have or do without – as you say, that is the truly “simple life”.

  4. 5 shoreacres March 17, 2010 at 2:28 am


    One of the tremendous ironies of this whole situation is that I’m less worried than many of my customers and friends, precisely because I rent and don’t own, am driving a perfectly serviceable 20 year old car with no payment and have minimal consumer debt – that is, a bit on a credit card that always builds up over the winter when the weather is bad and the working hours are limited.

    Now, I’ll use the window between winter and hurricane season to knock down the debt and build up the hurricane emergency fund, and begin the cycle again. I buy for need, not for fashion or want, and besides – how much can a girl need who stays tethered to her computer for hours at a time? As long as I can pay the cable bill, I’m good to go!

    • 6 Jeannine March 17, 2010 at 11:29 am

      You’re a smart cookie, Linda! And, lets face it, there’s a lot that’s very appealing in living like you do. Your life is simple, satisfying and you are totally in touch with your environment. You earn when the weather is good, you hunker down when it’s bad.

      You’re kind of a pioneer woman!

  5. 7 Mike March 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I loved the comment about a serviceable 20 year old car – it has to be about the most environment-friendly option, if you take into account all the greenhouse gases that go into making and delivering a new car. My recently nicked Tazz (which was recovered very quickly – thank you SAPS!) is 11 years old and has 252000 km on the clock. It goes well. What more can I want?

    Like all the other commentators, I have a personal horror of debt. If I can’t afford to pay cash for it, I don’t buy it.

    • 8 Jeannine March 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      Yip, cheap and good for the planet – can’t beat that! I was glad to see in The Edge that you got it back so quickly after it was stolen. Maybe the thieves were Green too 😉

      The only debt I have is the mortgage on my house – sadly, that’s so large that it gives me those 3am cold sweats!

  6. 9 shoreacres March 17, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    psssst… have you checked your email? Someone might be caught in your spam filters 😉

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