Someone said to me once, “When you’re as lazy as I am, you have to be very organized”. This came from a man who lived moment to moment, without a thought for tomorrow. In fact, as my life progressed along the same track, I realized that the actions taken to achieve simplicity were in fact quite complicated and multifaceted by nature and circumstance.

I have taken great care and attention in building a  superstructure which stands against the weather without walls so that the storms and tempests of life blow through without leaving behind any permanent damage and myself the  better person for the observation. My colloquial term for what I have done is to call what I have designed as a life plan a ‘fuck you resume’. It is the ability to walk away from any bother no matter what the origin.

This is the way I live. I make  no apologies. ‘Lose a job….no problem…go somewhere nice instead’……’market down……screw it…go somewhere nice until it picks up’……’life getting altogether too boring……take off and get some new perspective’. This is what I call the ‘fuck you resume’…I never let things get me down and always have a plan for the times when ‘shit happens’….it always does…..best deal with it in advance.

I’m reminded of a fellow traveler that I met at a desolate crossroads in high rural Peru , a place called the Alta Plano. I’d got off a ‘chicken bus’ after already having my bones shaken for 22 hours and decided to deplane while I could still walk. The man I met was already there, where he’d come from I had no idea, he was sitting on a crude bench outside the rough stone shack  serving as a way station and bus stop, sitting literally, in the middle of nowhere.

I got off the bus in this no mans land without a second thought because in my own estimation I was ready for anything. In my backpack I carried extra clothing for three climates, waterproof and otherwise, including footwear. I also carried cooking gear and a small gas stove, two sleeping bags, one sub zero rated and another tropical. In those days I never went anywhere without my US Army jungle surplus hammock with double bottom , mosquito netting and fourty feet of extra rope. BTW, it takes 45 minutes to boil water at 13,000 feet.

Leather jackets and boots would mildew at sea level and the arctic sleeping bags and cooking equipment were useless in the city, but I was ready…organized. The fact that I was weighed down by eighty pounds of gear and  a walking nightmare on the urban sidewalks,were not the things I  considered at the time.

So, as I stood there  considering the open landscape and getting my land legs back. I couldn’t help noticing that my fellow traveler was my antipodal opposite. He had on only a light cotton shirt and pants, sandals with socks and a single toothbrush jutting out of his breast pocket. I was impressed, I had planned for months to be where I was, he looked as if he had dropped out of the sky. The air was thin and the vagrant wind blew incessantly.

We spent the coming twilight talking about nothing in particular and sharing cigarettes to stay warm as the night shadows rose around us and the temperature fell like a stone. Inside the stone cottage our Andean hosts had built a central fire and offered a bland potato soup but otherwise left us entirely alone. Thick blankets were laid atop bundles of produce waiting to be be stowed on the next bus to the coast , the warm smoke kept the frost from forming. The several visiting Inca’s broke out a bundle of cocoa leaves and lime paste to share, the act of chewing kept my face from going numb.

My new friend told me that he had shed his possessions and had set out to wander wherever the daylight took him. I respected his philosophy and explained that I was long  lost to the world I had known and was comfortable with the careless path I had lain out for myself. He and I became kindred spirits and spent the night talking about life on the road. I concluded that we had arrived in the same place via different paths, both seeking freedom and simplicity.

In the morning my friend boarded the first bus bound for the lowlands while I waited until afternoon for my ride further into the interior. Later in life I reflected back to that chance meeting and wondered if I could go through my life without any encumbrance or possessions to tie me down or hold me back. I began to emulate that lonely traveler, his one tooth brush and single set of clothes.  I never did get a name or an address nor did I offer my own,  I slowly rid myself my the travelers ‘conveniences’ I had once found so necessary.  I travel today with only a single carry on bag of disposables.

I have begun to wonder if perhaps my friend was a spirit, a brujo of the Alta-Plano who came to meet a kindred wanderer and acolyte of the aimless world. It wouldn’t be the first time I had been visited by one of the other side. My Thai friends have fashioned an amulet for me, blessed by the powerful monk Luang Poh Too At,  to guard against the entrance of spirits into my world, because they say I am like an open door to the next world and that this openness I allow is not entirely safe. I don’t agree. I travel light as I pass through this world,  my spirit weighs nothing, nor does my tooth brush. And now that I think of it, my traveler friend did look a bit like Jesus. I can only wonder.

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Comments
  1. marj says:

    J West, I just have to keep on coming back to this brilliant post. It’s so beautifully written. Your most recent pieces here have blown me away with awe and reverence, by the way. I love them all. Thank you for sharing them. I’m hooked with your writing these days.
    This entry is particularly special to me as I’ve always believed in traveling light. I’m also an advocate of simplicity and downsizing one’s possessions to be able to fully appreciate the most valuable things life can offer. I confess to still being a work in progress in this area because of my pack rat nature. 🙂

    Imagining you lugging along all those stuff is hilarious. How could you have carried them all?! 🙂

  2. Thx so much M…..you say the nicest things.

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