In a book I was reading recently, the protagonist is asked what her word is. Continue reading
Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.
I’m living in what you might call voluntary poverty. Perhaps since I am never worried about losing the roof over my head a more appropriate term would be voluntarily low income. During my time in Wilmington I held two jobs back to back that entailed such high levels of stress that my health was suffering and my soul withering. I contemplated the platitude that I was working all day to afford the house and car that I could barely enjoy because I was constantly working; my soul was utterly exhausted by the daily struggle to spend the bulk of each week in a situation I hated. I eventually walked away from every bit: the job titles and the house in Wilmington and the Lexus that they afforded. Now I reside in a small apartment on the “wrong” side of town, drive a pretty darn old 4Runner and cherish the hours I am now in control of. It is certainly not a choice without consequences nor always happy and easy…but I can never go back after tasting this new, simpler, more profound way of living.
Travel is not impossible on a slender budget, just a bit difficult to orchestrate, at least for me. There are many sites about budget travel and I am no guru on the subject. I am, however, an advocate of deciding to prioritize what has meaning in my life and committing to making it happen one way or another, come hell or high water. I am still amazed and impressed that I forced through to Málaga, it was not easy at all and Cam and I ate a bit of ramen following my return until I could get another paycheck in. I came very close to calling it off a month or two before I left, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I caved. It did end up being a life-altering trip whose memories will forever enrich me. The ramen memories will fade.
I am currently in the planning stages for a trip to Mexico City in June and the path is no easier this time around. Refraining from eating out, buying cost effective groceries, planning my driving to avoid unnecessary gas usage…all factoring in to force this trip to happen. If I can view it as simple living, as a form of mindfulness, as working towards a goal, it makes the sacrifices along the way easier to bear. Life is to be lived as fully as we can manage, and for me, that is always travel.
I’ve attended two silent retreats in Durham. It is not hyperbole to report that the experience has been life changing; my self-awareness and faith deepened immeasurably during those reflective periods of quiet introspection and silent worship. One of the activities we joined in as participants were periods of quiet companionship. The leader of the retreat charmingly likened it to a family gathered in front of the hearth, each busy with their own activity and yet in peaceful fellowship with the others sitting nearby. One evening during this period, the leader stood and smiled and said, “Come with me.” We all exchanged perplexed and curious glances as we set down our writing pens, books and knitting needles to file outside into the grassy courtyard of the former convent where we were staying. It was late into dusk, that dim, sublime moment before nightfall with velvet blackness save for a tiny glow along the horizon. The leader pointed up without explanation. The sky teamed and swirled with a mass of activity. I thought they were bats…but they were birds: chimney swifts. Our eyes grew wide with wonder and then each person took up their place to observe the spectacle. I laid back into the grass, the fragrance and the slight itch a kiss from my childhood of summer nights playing outside with my brother. As I began to stare into the sky I became mesmerized by the undulations of the swifts. As I sank out into the balmy night air I felt immersed into a microscopic soup of plankton in a bead of ocean water. Around they swirled. Occasionally I could hear the slap and flap of a wing as they dipped and plunged through their mosquito feast. Organized…chaotic…reorganized. I sank deep into the universe as I watched. Then over the course of some minutes they tucked, one by one, into their chimney and we remained behind, awestruck with the empty sky.