Just one day with the film star-turned-farmer at his home 45 minutes outside of Austin will not only persuade anyone why leaving Hollywood behind was a great decision for him, but why we all could benefit from enjoying nature and slowing our pace if we want to be happier and healthier. Nestled into the soothing flow of the Colorado River and a living painting of wildflower fields, Adrian explains – as an orchestra of birds play their finest tunes and he sips coffee from a mason jar - why his new home is the place he’s been moving towards for years, not just physically but mentally.
When did you first fall in love with Texas?
I bought a place in Austin five years ago and a year ago I decided to move here permanently. I had friends here, I ran a business here, and liked the pace. Austin is cosmopolitan without being snooty; it’s earthy. People are smart and successful but they don’t flaunt it. There is nothing to prove, people accept you and it felt good right away. Plus, the great food, like Nixta Taqueria and ATX FOOD CO. Tacos three times a day.. And the weather – I’d had enough of brutal winters.
December you moved from Austin to a farm in Bastrop. Do you wake up every morning, see where you live and feel happy and relaxed?
Yeah! Living in the moment, living mindfully, this is meditation served up in every direction I look in every moment. My land says “you’re welcome” – I don’t have to fight for it anymore. I do feel totally at peace. My work on the farm is present, immediate, apparent. The work I used to do got created over time; you make something but you don’t ever know if it will be good. Acting is a dissociative experience where you don’t even know if you’re doing it right - you need a director to tell you! It’s a mask-wearing process - you’re not even you, you’re just playing! So just to be here, to be me, to be rooted, to feel the earth, to dig in the dirt… it’s so grounding. I’d been stepping on concrete my whole life, separated from the earth. Here and now, I feel so much more centered and balanced.
What made you decide to leave the glamour of Hollywood behind?
I have been doing environmental work for the last 20 years, I’ve started organizations and run non-profits, all designed to tell people to live more in line with nature – and yet, I wasn’t living that way. In my mind it was an ideal, but it wasn’t in my daily experience. I was still living everywhere, in the process of accumulating, getting things and stuff, fancying myself a mini mogul of anything and everything. In many ways, I reached the apex of that promise – if you work hard, you become famous, then you make a lot of money… but it was lackluster at the top.
Was that a shock? A disappointment?
Ha, no - it was a f*ck load of fun, and amazing while it lasted. I’m not disparaging that stage of my development when I could go deep into my total abject debauchery. But look at nature! Nature will tell you things eventually have to come down to earth, and I found myself in a stage of my life where I had to change. I had to deal with the personal things I’d been avoiding. I started to shed some of the things I’d accumulated, I Marie Kondo’d my life and embraced letting go.
And you’ve found someone wonderful to share this new direction and lifestyle with…
When I decided I wanted to settle in Texas I knew I wanted a partner to live that experience with me, that’s where Jordan comes in. We have a long history, and I said, “I’m in love, and if you are too, I want to build something together.” Thankfully, she was interested. We negotiated terms of the heart, and decided we were going to get some land. She’s going to school for acupuncture, so trying to build a house while we lived in a camper indefinitely was not going to work for her, so we ended up looking for a home – and fell in love with this place which is just far enough out of Austin for us to have the nature we were looking for, but still close enough for her to have access to school. It had great infrastructure but it wasn’t so nice and neat that we couldn’t put our imprint on it and make it our own. We’re bringing it back to life.
What do you call yourself now if not an actor? A farmer?
I’m an apprentice. This land has so much potential in time. We’re taking things slowly and we have a healthy dose of humble. I’m a city kid so I’m learning how to do all the things without rushing to impose my half-baked ideas on to the land. I’m letting the land speak to me. I just got my permaculture certification – and rule one is first observe and see what is. I’m learning to live in harmony with what exists rather than go against the flow. We all have opportunities to rebuild our society, our relationships, and focus on what really matters, like family, community and nature.
What are your plans for this land?
Our intention is to create a wildlife sanctuary, with elements to give wild animals respite – food for bees and butterflies, birdboxes for migratory birds. We’ll have llamas or alpacas, maybe some goats - not for a livestock operation but to keep the grass down, our living mowers, and to create manure for nutrients for the farm, compost. We’d love to create food to eat, to give to our neighbors and to sell. Native Americans have a philosophy – produce a third for consumption, a third for profit, a third for giving away, and that sounds like a good balance. We've planted a fruit forest - peaches, apples, loquats, figs, avocados, grapes, blueberries, and tangerines and we are working on getting the ecosystem of our pond back into balance so we can fish from it. We’ve stocked it with some fathead minnow and feeder fish, eventually we’ll add tilapia to pare down the algae. We’re treating it with probiotics not chemicals, which is a longer process but better for the environment.
And you hope to build a community here for like-minded people?
We do. In New York, where I grew up, there are about 8 million people living on top of each other. There are one hundred people in a building, but you don’t know your neighbors, you’re not connected, you don’t share joy. There are a lot of interactions with humans but they’re often tense. Full of conflict. But now I can see what’s possible, I want to share sugar with four or five families on these 45 acres. This is not a development, we’re not looking to make money from the sale of the lots, we are looking to find people with shared values to build their home here, in a lifelong effort to live better.
What does your mom think about her Hollywood star son moving to Texas to work the land?
My mother lives in Long Island, but she raised me like this, she was just waiting for me to finally comes to terms with it. She raised me on her own in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and she is a survivor, brilliant and powerful - she grew up sweeping floors in an adobe hut. There was scarcity when I was a child, and it was hard for her to give me the opportunities I’ve had, but she worked really hard – and then I took the ball and ran with it. I was able to climb the ladder and do some great things in my day too, but my mom, in her heart, was always connected to the land, to nature. My mom had to get out of it to be aspirational for herself, and for me, but it was always part of our story, and now I’ve returned to the earth.
When you’re not driving your Gator, digging the dirt, watching hummingbirds, what are you up to?
I am the co-founder of DuContra Ventures, an impact investing company that works to create positive change. DuContra comes from the Portuguese meaning to rebel, to oppose… we push against the established rules of business to achieve healthy returns and ensure the communities around it flourishes. If people would like to know more about investing, they can go to www.ducontra.ventures on contact me through LinkedIn.
Do you miss anything from the old days? Do you still act?
No. And I don’t miss anything about that world. Listen, if you go on Instagram long enough, you’re going to find some FOMO somewhere, but everyone is just pretending they’re living their best life. Ultimately, I know that I am, so I don’t even tell anybody about it. Certainly, there’s lots of shiny memories that I crave, but I’ve done too much work not to recognize that I’m here for something bigger than going to nightclubs. I want more now. I want different now. I’ll leave those experiences for the youngsters.
Have you finally found your happy place, your soul’s home, here in Texas?
Yes. My hometown, New York, is a city flanked by two great rivers and the Atlantic but I didn’t feel like I was living on the ocean, I felt I was in concrete. There was a part of my soul, my being, that was craving something I wasn’t able to identify. After going through some personal changes, I went inward and asked myself how do I want to live? This, here and now, being in Texas, this is how I want to live. I’m relearning, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. At least the locals can’t say “If you don’t like it here, go back to where you came from” because I just say, “Oh, I like it here!”
DuContra Ventures: Co-founder of an impact investing fund that backs founders who understand their responsibility as leaders. Those who are building systems that improve the human condition while also benefiting our planet. If interested in getting involved. Learn more at https://www.ducontra.ventures/
Lonely Whale: Inspired by the story of the loneliest whale, “52 Blue,” Adrian’s non-profit promotes lasting individual behavior change to effect permanent changes to a system that continues to promote more single-use plastics.