For Koelnam Wim, a 68-year-old Dutchman, nothing compares with an idyllic life in his village in eastern China's Anhui Province.
In a small cottage, Koelnam Wim and his Chinese wife Gu Yan switch off the Internet and live in tune with seasons.
Spring, a time for growth, is when they get up early to pick tea-leaves and sow seeds. The arrival of the hot summer marks a slower-pace of life for the couple. Autumn's cool weather brings with it the harvest season, and chilly winter days are a time to rest and read by the fireplace.
Such a peaceful pastoral life for the couple began eight years ago when Wim retired after working in Nanjing, capital of eastern China's Jiangsu Province for 12 years.
"The city is so noisy that we wanted to find a quiet house near a hillside. A big yard was also a must so we could grow vegetables and be self-sufficient," said Wim.
On a friend's recommendation, they came to Zhaji Ancient Village which has a history of over 1,000 years in Anhui Province.
Encircled by mountains, the quaint yet lively village and the enthusiastic and simple villagers here impressed them. Exploring the village for about three months, they finally decided to settle down in a secluded old cottage on a hill.
They began to renovate the house, build up the yard and reclaim a garden. With the help of locals, the once run-down house became clean and bright, and the garden gradually took shape over the course of a year.
For the couple who had lived in the city for many years, farming, growing vegetables and raising chickens were all new experiences that required a long learning process and dedication.
Wim recalled that in the beginning, tulips was the only plant that he knew, and he would accidentally mix up grass and vegetables when hoeing.
Continuously learning from books, neighbors and constant practice have turned Wim into a qualified farmer. Instead of spraying pesticide, they insist on planting green organic vegetables and sometimes catch insects by hand.
After years of effort, their field has increased from one plot to more than 10, where they grow over 20 kinds of vegetables and flowers thrive. They also have dozens of chickens and ducks.
Long-term labor and farming have left their hands callused, but it has also brought them great pleasure.
"I love living in nature. In cities, people keep burying themselves in work whether it's rainy or hailing outside. But here, you can feel the slightest changes in nature and enjoy the pleasure of labor," said Wim.
"It seems we have returned to the original state of humans to create things with our hands," said Gu.
Villagers here have also gradually accepted the outsiders as part of their own. Zha Qianjin, 49, has already grown accustomed to the foreign neighbors. "He speaks Chinese very well and is very friendly," said Zha.
Wim loves to ride around the village in his leisure time. "People greet me with smiles along the way, and I will stop to chat with them. Everyone is so passionate, which makes me feel warm," said Wim, adding that this is what adds to the charm of this small village.
The couple always sends flowers, vegetables and seeds to other villagers, who also give small gifts in return.
Today, the galsang flowers introduced by Wim and his wife are blooming in Zhaji Village, and Wim always tells others that this is just the life that he has always longed for.