When the Communists entered my grandparent’s Austrian homestead, they were forced to pack up and leave. They were only allowed one truck amongst the family and were required to pack within the hour and head out onto the road.
Often I try to imagine the feeling of being forced to pack within one hour everything that matters to me into a trunk and carry it away. The remainder of my belongings never to be seen again.
What would I deem important? Are some of my worldly possessions not going to fit, easily replaceable or nonessential? For the most part yes.
With the false sense of security feeling, this will never happen to me I can simply disregard the notion and not worry. But history has a tendency to repeat itself, and even if it will never happen, what do I really possess that could fill that trunk?
In war-torn 1940’s Europe, I’d say clothing, food, blankets and some photographs. Not much more would really matter. Discarded and left behind as I’m certain many felt lucky they were escaping with their lives.
Stuffing Your Life in a Backpack
So my experiment is what items are of essential importance to my daily needs? The backpack concept comes from a desire to travel to more remote destinations where I would need to minimize my packs.
My passion to travel has never been stronger and my quest to document these experiences is the single most important objective.
My pack will include a camera to capture the scenery and experience as I attempt to seize the moment and freeze it in time.
The sound of environments has become my latest experiment and therefore I must bring along my audio recording gear.
Recently I’ve come to the realization that I’m also a writer. Pen to paper not so much as I write on an iPad or laptop. Seems that also needs to go into the pack.
I’m looking into a lightweight Buddhist prayer rug so I can sit close to the earth and become connected to my environment.
Clothing, some snacks, and water I’m thinking the pack is full and going to be heavy.
Lightening the Load
My iPhone can actually handle most of the tasks mentioned above, photography and video, sound recording, writing, and even a few ebooks I would feel relatively complete.
Any of the other equipment would need to improve the capabilities of my cellphone or else their value begins to fade after hours of humping the heavy pack through the paths of travel.
What about all we left behind
So now I begin to question everything I’ve left behind. Is anything essential? As a collective of physical content much of the things I own I’d say yes. However if I was forced to pack them into a trunk, never to see the items left behind could I survive? Am I willing to walk away from the clutter of life and feel complete and whole?
One day I’m certain to find out. Be it my quest for enlightened travel or my placement into my eternal place of rest.
Every morning I awaken with energy to make a change. I’ll try to make a difference in the world by questioning the status quo and attempting to make minor adjustments to my lifestyle to help save our planet.
My short drive to work I pass through small suburban developments of semi-manicured lawns and sidewalks. Some people will walk their dogs or go for a jog however just like me most everyone jumps into their cars and drives to work.
Very few homes including mine are even close to being carbon neutral. Our lawns and home designs don’t benefit our environment nor our needs beyond basic shelter. Gone are the agrarian days where our homes were also small farms where we would grow some fruits, vegetables and raise animals for food.
Prior to agrarian times, we lived a nomadic life. Traveling and foraging for foods to survive. For centuries various cultures survived living off the fruits of the land and their diets were based on the proximity to the foods available.
My favorite foods seem to come from warmer climates closer to the equator. Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Peruvian foods and most importantly being a vegan all of those cultures have options.
My quest is to experience and witness how other cultures live and prosper. Can I witness and learn from the ambassadors of our land? Can I learn how the foods I love and enjoy are grown? Will I understand the supply chain of how those foods are transported to me in New Jersey?
I’m hoping that my travels will bring me to obscure places, guided by opportunities and happenstance. I’m hoping to learn new traditions and break bread with others after a day of wholesome hard work.
Would my soul become cleansed as I purify my mind? Will religious differences make more sense as I experience them in the environment? Can I expand my mindful meditation and enrich my existence?
As a nomad, you’d need to limit the number of personal possessions you travel with. What would my priorities actually be? Clothing, ways to document my travels, and ways to make a living.
How long would it take to obtain enlightenment is hard to guess however I visualize the process will begin the moment I leave to get on the plane. My nomadic travels are my goal and the narrative of my future.
A few years ago good friends of my wife and I invited us to accompany them on a trip to Costa Rica. Having never been there before, we certainly were up for the trip and quickly agreed, excited to explore the known to be lovely Central American country. La Costa Rica means “rich coast” with a long and skinny landmass flanked on either side by the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. With over 800 miles of coastline and a northern border with Nicaragua and Panama to the south Costa Rica is Tropical paradise known for its biodiversity.
According to the Happy Planet Index Costa Rica is the happiest and most sustainable country on the planet. With the coastal plains separated by rugged mountainous regions the country is home to over half a million species of which 70% are insects. According to INBio Costa Rica consists of 4.5% of the worlds biodiversity with 12,119 species of plants of which 950 are endemic.
Landing in San Jose we headed to the rental car agent and procured our necessary 4 wheel drive SUV to climb the dirt road to our villa in the mountains above the Southern Pacific coast.
With our GPS plugged in and programmed we started our 2 hour trek down to Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast. With surprisingly well build and smooth roads we headed through the lush mountains to to the Pacific coast and headed south towards Quepos and followed the Pacific coast. We passed through the town of Dominical a surfers hamlet known for year round waves.
We eventually arrived into the Village of Uvita known for the Envision Festival as well as wildlife and nature. Our friends received the keys for our villa named Casa Aracari located 400 feet above the stunning whales tail in the Marino Bellana National Park.
The mountainous dirt road was heavily rutted from the recent rainy season. In four wheel low we slowly climbed the rugged terrain passing the poshKura Resort and for one week our next door neighbor. Opening our private gates we pulled up to the breathtaking property.
With a mixture of tropical plants and hardscaping we followed the gravel driveway to the charming yellow masonry home. Accented with thick beams and slabs of local teak, Saltillo tiles floors lead out to the patio and private infinity pool overlooking the Pacific coastline below.
Ceiling fans cooled the space while the topmost wall areas had screened in pillars to exhaust the days heat. Sounds of birds, insects and monkeys could be heard during the warm quiet evenings.
After unpacking we decided to head back down the arduous mountain into the quaint village below. On a local corner we met Emmanuel a produce merchant that loaded the entire rear of our SUV with fresh watermelon, mangoes, papaya, oranges, pineapples and bananas.
The local grocery provided the essential coconut water, rice, coffee, eggs and bread. Surprisingly the markets fish and meats were less than desirable.
Over the next few days we traveled the beautiful countries jungles, oceans and villages. Examining much of Costa Rica’s lovely flora and animal life we never knew what to expect.
As always I researched before we had left for the trip understanding the Tico way of life, Pura Vida. We made fresh mango salsas with yellow rice and lime soaked plantains from our properties trees and fresh tropical drinks from coconuts that had fallen by the pool and papaya cocktails…we were in heaven.
We ventured into Dominical the surfers enclave for local art pieces, food and bath products in Mama Toucan’s organic health food store. We also were in search of fresh fish which we ultimately purchased from a local fish monger I ordered in my broken Spanish “se vende pescado?” Which he replied “si” with a large cleaver in hand. We purchased two large fresh red snappers that created the evenings rice, beans and fish dish.
Traveling the lovely coastal country we came upon large palm oil farmsalong with black smokey palm oil polluting the air from the palm oil extraction process. The palm trees planted near Quepos and Jaco were know to have been responsible for ruining the areas biodiversity by killimg off what once was the once jungles lower canopy. Small shanty homes cropped up around the plantations roads provided housing for the local farm hands.
In our adventures we saw the countries native born Tico way of life. Pleasant and respectful people that cherished the land and the maintenance of the large abundance of plant and animal life.
My friend a bit more of a meat lover than I was hoping we could find him some decent steaks. In our ventures we would see the Brahman cows known to survive well in arid terrain but looks less than desirable than the New York strip steaks we were accustomed to, we passed living almost entirely on fruits, vegetables and some fish.
One afternoon we headed to a local artists home/ studio. Mel and Misha living in a cute home less than a quarter mile from the Marino Bellena beach. We talked art, Costa Rica’s culture, local living, and Misha’s computer business. They offered some homemade ice creams they made from coconut they collected on the beaches and laughed how we’d paid for fruits we could’ve collected freely in the nearby jungles.
We talked about Costa Rica’s beef which Misha informed us wasn’t like our Jersey cows however some Tico farmers were now raising them. He mentioned a meat market in town that imported the ever coveted NY strip steaks where we headed off and purchased.
To be honest the meat wasn’t the same and seemed almost unnecessary after the bulk of the weeks delicious plant and fish based offerings. We loved our travels to Costa Rica certain we would certainly return.
Heading back to the States my wife and I made a conscious decision to attempt to maintain our Costa Rican diet once home. Upon entering the local New Jersey markets we laughed at the inadequate offerings of tropical fruits and vegetables in November compared to the quality. And quantity eaten on our recent journey.
We continued on a with a Pescatarian lifestyle for the next few years and very infrequently eating meats. Since that time we’ve become Vegan, examined biodiverse farming and Costa Rican life. Once again to return as Vegans living on the fruits of paradise.