June 20, 2012
“What are we able to leave behind without losing ourselves completely?”
I just came across this profound question in this article about backpacking and long-term travel on Twitter, shared by Travel Guru Rolf Potts. Potts has made a life of traveling and wrote of the fantastic book Vagabonding. I discovered Vagabonding when standing in a Barnes’n’Noble, trying to choose a travel guide for a friend who was about to leave the United States for the first time and begin an adventure in Europe. Instead of giving him a guide to Spain or France, I decided to give him Vagabonding as it covered a general philosophy of travel. Four years later, my friend’s just purchased a house in France.
This Saturday I fly to Italy, and until I go to WWOOF on a farm in Ireland in the end of September, I will be traveling around Europe.
I’ve never backpacked. I’ve never even stayed in a hostel, surprisingly. Whenever and wherever I’ve traveled abroad, I’ve gone to see a person, and I’ve gone for an extended period. I generally put down roots rather than living as a rolling stone.
This is changing. Flying to Italy is the first time I have gone somewhere just for me – yes, I made the decision partially because the Goddesses told me to, but still, it was the first life decision I’ve made without taking anyone else into account.
Unfortunately, my penchant for collecting books, journals and rocks makes me a pretty ponderous nomad. I know that packing lighter has to do with trust and faith; trust that I’ll have or find what I need, faith that I can let go of my things without become less of who I am.
A blogger who’s had an influence on me in the past year or two is Ev Bogue, a minimalist who practices untethering (read this for the gist). In the process of untethering he becomes freed from the material world and from the past.
As I’ve been learning this year, true freedom is frightening. Few of us have experienced true freedom, and the unknown is a place of discomfort. Most of us spend our lives avoiding discomfort.
The interesting thing is that the paradoxical response to the question “What are we able to leave behind without losing ourselves completely?” is actually that the more we are able to leave behind, the more of ourselves we find.
Some of the things I have – a harmonica how-to book, my jewelry supplies – hold the promise of a future me that plays the harmonica and makes jewelry. They give me security. It’s also as if these things assuage my guilt and regret at not having gotten up the courage and discipline to get started on the things I’ve been putting off for years and years. It’s like as long as I have them, there’s the possibility that at some future point, I will make good on my desires and ‘potential,’ – a word I’ve come to hate in my life, as I feel it’s been used against me to indicate my inability/lack of desire to fulfill it. I’ve recently come to realize that my ‘not fulfilling my potential’ is actually a form of passive agressive rebellion, which has turned on me as an adult. Part of my work during this part of my journey has been to reframe the fight against anyone and everyone that wants or expects something from me that goes on silently in my head whenever I have an obligation or commitment to fulfill. Hence the procrastination, quitting, leaving, etc.
I want follow through on taking action toward my goals, but first I have to shift this internal conflict I have towards things that require me to practice, to create, which are very risky things for someone who’s used to consuming rather than creating.
Part of me doesn’t even want to post this right now – I want to do more editing and reworking – but I know that if I don’t just post it it will languish in my ‘drafts’ like about 130 other blog posts. 🙂 So here you have it. Leaving behind a few fears and perfectionist tendencies, sharing my thoughts rather than losing myself…