[Note: this is a long post. Way longer than usual. Do not attempt to read if you’re not in the mood.]
Sometimes I wonder why there are not a lot more of us out here. Although I know many prefer life elsewhere, I’ve also come to learn that lots of people who are unhappy do not leave because they are afraid, mostly of having less money or not having money coming in regularly. As if money was more important than life itself.
It’s ok apparently to not see your spouse and kids all day. And it’s ok to eat fast food that kills you slowly and to lay awake in bed at night worrying about loans and bills. Or to live so far away from nature that kids cannot tell a potato from an eggplant, or to meet a 25 year old who has never eaten a fish with bones or an orange with seeds in it. That’s ok. But God forbid you might live on a sailboat in the Caribbean, watching dolphins from your deck and reading books under a tarp with the breeze on your face, no bills ever, and live on a budget, doing odd jobs now and then. Oh, I couldn’t do that! Not knowing when I’ll make money again? That’s crazy!
If you’re not happy where you are right now you gotta let go of the consumerism you’ve been taught. It’s so much better to go fishing than to support factory farming. So much better for everyone and everything! You stay fit, balanced, happy, tanned you don’t need money, you take the weakest fish, clean the gene pool, everybody wins. If you fish more than you need you save it for tomorrow or you can exchange it for fruit, flour or rice at the local store. No money being exchanged. There’s always something you can pick around here too: coconuts, almonds, bananas, plantains, limes, plenty of edible seaweeds. Even if you buy from the veggie truck. You know how much you gotta pay for 10 bananas or 10 oranges? One dollar.
Am I a hippie? Maybe. But I have to say that I feel that my simple pleasures and disgust for organized religion, mass media, traffic, shopping malls, fast food or cosmetics make total sense. I want to spend time with my family, I want to go to bed with a smile and wake up when my body is ready, excited about all the things I’m going to do that day. I like not knowing what day of the week it is. I want to cook my own meals, with love for the ingredients nature so generously provides (note I said “nature” not Wholefoods or Walmart. The more you move away from big urban centers the easier it gets to buy from the local farmers).
I want to be inspired by the nature all around me. I don’t want to have to have to cover my ears because of loud noises, sirens or alarms, I don’t want to breathe in car fumes. I want to hear the wind in the trees. Again, am I a hippie? I don’t know, I feel everyone should want these things.
Peace? No hunger? No child mortality? No violence? No alienation? Basic rights, right? But a slow life full of family time, nature and home-made meals should also be a basic human right. Nothing wrong with culture of course, I love visual arts, cinema, dance, live music, all the things cities provide. And I make sure I enjoy some with the help of the Internet and I also travel to enjoy those things once a year or when we go to the city to get boat supplies. But I remember the moment I decided to leave the big city forever. I would look at the pictures from my holidays at the beach or in Patagonia the whole year and count the days till I could go there on holidays again. One day I realized what was going on and said: “Screw this! I’ll move there and come here on holidays!”
Moving to Patagonia was the best decision I’d ever made. The first day I went to work (I taugh English to children) I walked to the bus stop slowly on a breathtaking cool summer afternoon, picking and eating wild raspberries on the way, feeling the cleanest breeze from the mountains on my face. I had a book in my hand as always but I couldn’t read: I could see the deep blue lake and the snow covered mountain tops from the bus stop. There were yellow and red flowers on the bushes on both sides of the street. After a few minutes the bus came. There was no queue, the elderly got on the bus first, the families with children second, then the rest of us moved slowly toward the door and got on without saying a word, it was all so nice and civilized! And everyone greeted the bus driver and he said hi to every one of us and also exchanged some jokes with the regulars. I was surprised to see a few people standing even though there were empty seats. People just didn’t fancy sitting. Soon after that one day I realized that I was doing the same thing. You just don’t get as tired when life is slower. It seems more work to sit down and stand up again after 15 or 20 minutes than to just stand and watch the view out of the window. Also, some other person might want that seat soon so you leave it available.
You know what else I found there that I’d been looking for for a long time? People were like me. They liked to meet without having to pay for it. It drove me crazy in the city that I always had to see friends in a restaurant, a bar or a coffee shop, pay for taxis, meals, drinks, etc. I wanted to see them, to share an experience, to do something with them, without the distraction of “service” or “products”. I wanted to get together in a park or in someone’s terrace. Make some tea or cook together and just have fun, talk about life and look at a sunset. But that was never a popular option. It was “easier” if someone else set the table, chose the ingredients at the market, cooked for us, opened and poured our drinks, brought the check, cleared the table, and did the dishes.
I like choosing veggies at the market, I look for the ones that look *happier* and not GMO. I also like to pour wine for a friend and toast to life. It’s lovely to be at a friend’s kitchen, take our shoes off, put a jazz record on and chop the veggies together while the water boils. Choose the spices together, try the sauce and come up with what’s missing. Set the table and put a flower or a candle just to make it cute. Eat and then sit on the floor of the balcony and watch the stars laughing at silly stories. When we went to a restaurant all that intimacy was gone. People would be checking their phones constantly, looking at people on other tables, waiting for the waiter to see us so that we could order another drink or some pepper and, on top of that, all that costs money, we all had to work extra at our jobs to pay for those people to do all those things for us.
In Patagonia things were so different. People only went to a micro brewery or a restaurant maybe once a week, at the weekend usually. Most times we would meet at someone’s garden or go for a hike, a picnic at the lake, cycling, rowing, it was beautiful! Yet I still had to go to work, pay for bills, wait for the holidays to be able to travel. So I went to bed unsatisfied. Not unhappy but not fulfilled either. Then I traveled to Panama with my huge surfboard, met Alex and life became what I always knew it a should be like. I found the freedom I had always been looking for in the sailing community and lifestyle.
Nowadays living off the grid is the only way I feel part of nature and everything then feels natural: I work when my body feels the energy to work, at whatever time the energy comes, and you’d be surprised how often that is, we are not lazy by nature. During those days of the month my cycle makes me feel sensitive and irritable, I stay in bed all day and eat yummy things, watch movies or read cool stories. Also, every day I can tell when my body needs fruit, nuts or protein and then I eat, that. I dive into the ocean whenever I’m too hot or when I miss it. We meet with friends on each other’s boat or at the reef. I swim, paddle or row to visit them. All of this is free but also so beautiful and so healthy!
So what is money good for or necessary nowadays? Groceries other than fish and the fruit we can collect, some propane, visiting family and friends who live far, buying phone cards. How much do we have to work for cash in a year to cover that? 30 days? With chartering not even that! With labor (sewing, painting, fixing stuff) perhaps that, a full month. So you see, it’s the opposite of city life! You work one month and you live another eleven minimally but with total freedom. Of course you spend time working to maintain the systems on your boat or fixing them when they fail. But that keeps you active, clever and fit. And it’s your home, your magic carpet, of course it deserves your love. Even when it’s bad, you know it beats the office or being stuck in traffic and that’s exactly what we say to each other when we’re fed up with a project.
Do you go to bed with a smile or do you worry and make long lists in your mind of the things you have to do and don’t want to?
If you’re tired or unhappy know that when you stop consuming unnecessary things life becomes healthier, better and easier. You don’t really miss the things you can’t afford.
What’s the big fear? As long as your boat floats the worst that can happen during a period when you have no money is you might have to change your diet to fish and rice for a while. And start eating all those cans you had forgotten about. It’s not that bad at all when you live in paradise.
What’s the big deal with having money all the time? Alex and I have some money in little plastic cases. But they live in a drawer most of the year. We only need money when we run out of groceries or supplies and go to the city (every six weeks or so) or when the veggie truck/boat comes and then we need to pull out one or two $10 bills. The rest of the year we forget money exists. It’s a beautiful thing. And most countries have socialized healthcare or very affordable medical insurance plans and free or affordable higher education if that’s your excuse (not to mention our body’s incredible capacity for self healing and our mind’s capacity for learning by doing or just reading)
Here’s the most important thing I’ve ever learned: you are not your mind, your mind is a part of you. It is your mind’s job to warn you and tell you about everything that can go wrong. Mine does it too, all the time. It also has the most horrible thoughts and ideas sometimes. And it has beautiful dreams and ideas as well. But nobody’s mind is a total optimist. It is a radio that never stops transmitting intense good and bad things.
The mind is just a tool for you to use wisely. Your heart also has a voice that tells you to be free, to do good, to trust and love everyone even though sometimes you shouldn’t. You are not your heart. And you’re most definitely not your mind. You can choose to ignore what it says when it’s being a coward or when it’s being mean. When you hear your mind complaining just switch it off, consciously think about something positive. Bad thoughts return? Do it again: think about someone you love. Very soon you’ll see how easy it is to take control over it. Your mind is a tool and it belongs to you, not the other way around!!
Become whole. Trust your spirit way more than your mind or your heart and you’ll set yourself free. It is a conscious decision. A gift you’ll give yourself. Be more balanced, not so passionate, work towards being more centered and true joy will flood your mind and your heart like warm, yellow sunshine.
Learn to listen to the universe. It is a voice inside of you, the one that feels like an ancient whisper, full of wisdom. It is impossible to confuse it with your passionate heart, your stupid ego or your crazy mind. A life of love and freedom is possible and available to anyone who’s willing to embrace simplicity. Money sucks if you ask me, I wish I could trade even more and use money even less, or never.
Nature is beautiful. Having time to live with the people you love and doing the things you love is beautiful. Free yourself! Am I a hippie? Most probably. But what’s wrong with that?Published in