Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. – The Bible
I never thought I would ever quote the bible. But that’s where my journey has taken me. I’m not the same person I was before I left. Left where? Left for the walk? Left for Asia? Left a codependent relationship? Go backwards. Backwards. Back. Back to basics.
When I made the decision to walk, I wanted to apply the lessons I learned from the monastery retreat into my journey. Things like impermanence. Mindfulness. Walking meditation. Karma. Letting go. This is what I called my Road to Zen.
Palawan – The Last Frontier
Walking Palawan is in and of itself one of the best places to go “back to basics”. With the slogan “the last frontier”, Palawan is known for being the most natural, well-preserved island of the Philippines. Locals live simple lives and are content without electricity. The island also has a low crime rate and is the only island in the Philippines that has not experienced major natural disasters. One of my local friends even believes that it will be the “last frontier” when 2012 comes and Palawan will be the spot for both locals and foreigners to gather and go “back to basics” while a spiritual shift in consciousness happens.
The Last Frontier is not immune to commercialism and colonialism, however. Miners in the south have disenfranchised local tribes, forcing them to lose their means of work and relocate to the mountains. Although the island does not have a McDonalds or Starbucks, that will soon change because they are currently building a McDonalds as well as their first major mall. Palawan’s capital city, Puerto Princesa, “the city in a forest”, is misleading because it’s surrounded by forest, but not really in a forest. Typical city life with more buildings than trees is what you’ll see and what the current trend looks like it is becoming. I walked the island of Palawan at the right time, before it’s growth in tourism has spoiled the local landscape.
A private beach in Palawan
Back to Basics
There are a lot of things I did along the walk that got me back to basics. Everything from showering in the nude in the great outdoors (fortunately, or unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that!), to wiping my ass with my own hand. Even the simple act of living out of my backpack, without even a tent and no certainty as to where to rest my head for the night was living back to basics. Using out houses with no flushing seats or toilet covers and only soap and water was back to basics.
Excerpt from 9/28/10 journal entry
Emotionally, it is difficult to take in the day-to-day challenges and the uncertainty of not knowing where we’ll have a place to stay. So far, we’ve been fortunate to meet nice families but you never know with the unpredictability. Each ditch or spot of grass looks like an appealing place to rest my head. If we could only stop to rest… Bust still we walk on.
You start to feel crazy. I mean mentally insane. You wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing. For “spiritual purposes”. Testing your faith on the road, which is so physically, emotionally, and yes, spiritually draining. The road tests your patience, your intentions, and your good (or bad) karma. But you start to wonder if there’s really a point to all this or you’re just a crazy nomad on a Jesus trip.
[...] Each day has a new lesson and each step makes me feel more connected to this Earth, and this place, than any metal vehicle entrapting my body could ever do… That’s why I walk.
The act of walking is back to basics. And I did 85% of it the local way, in flip-flops. No fancy shoes or hiking boots. Just slippers.
Pain is only weakness leaving the body.
In true minimalist fashion, I lived like the locals. Hand washing clothes and bathing in the river. Embracing simplicity and the hardships of the simple life.
The year is almost drawing to a close and it’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly one year since I flew to Asia. Exactly a year ago today I got fired from a mind numbing desk job that left me feeling meaningless, uninspired and full of a good dose of Existential Angst. When they told me I got the boot I smiled and started laughing, resisting the urge to give them the middle finger. I was planning to quit in December anyway, to have just one or two more paychecks before I left for my booked flights. I guess they got to me first, but I packed my dwindling empty room where I sold all my furniture and took the 6 hour road trip through the mountains and back to my parents house. Back to my childhood room still in tact.
Weeks later, my car broke down and I was grateful that it had enough juice to bring me back home without any trouble. It’s almost serendipitous that way. As if I have my own spirit guides watching over me. Or maybe I’m just romantic and like to think with my head in the clouds. That there could be such a thing as invisible benevolent forces making sure I’m safe. Who knows. I don’t know what I believe but it sure seems nice.
This year, thus far, has been no short of amazing. I’ve cuddled with gay boys, taught Indian slum kids English, joined a four month Buddhist monastery retreat for free, temple hopped in Taiwan for free, connected with amazing people, and walked 400+ miles of Palawan island in the Philippines.
I didn’t win the Your Big Year fundraising contest which means I didn’t get to go to UK for Global Entrepreneurship Week and compete for a round the world trip, but who needs it? Something better came my way in the form of community and I now find myself staying at a raw foods vegan retreat center in Palawan with interests in holistic health and wellness, meditation, yoga and eco-consciousness. I’m staying here for free and working on various freelance projects in the hopes to start my burgeoning freelance graphic/web design career anew. I’m loving the niche I’m in and am involved in a transition town movement, which aims to transition towns into going green in response to peak oil and global warming. I’m learning all about intentional community, ecovillages, cod “mud-sculpting” houses, and permaculture.
I’ve always had a heart for Mother Nature and eco-consciousness but this is the first time I’ve actually lived in the heart of a green lifestyle. I’m living with likeminded people. People much more “into it” than me, and for much longer. I’m taking baths with buckets and pumping water out of wells. I’m handwashing clothes with green soap and bathing with green products. I’m even wiping my ass with my hands since toilet paper isn’t allowed for “environmental reasons”. And the weird thing is, I don’t mind. I’ve toughened up. I’m not just a sissy foreigner anymore. I get “local price” on the tricycles because I speak the language enough to communicate on a basic level. I’m a part of this country, and this culture. And this country and culture are a part of me.
I may not have won Your Big Year, but I have my own big year right here. Right now. And as much as I’ve enjoyed traveling through my country and slowly experiencing what it has to offer, I feel like it’s time to settle down. Even for just a bit. And start focusing on work again. Building my career. Networking in this beautiful, green city, and starting to draw some money in again. Replenish my funds, then travel some more.
For 27 days, with some days of rest throughout the journey, I walked and walked a total of 400+ miles from the southernmost tip of Palawan island, Philippines to El Nido, a popular tourist destination. I did this with my local native friend whom I thought of as my spiritual guide. Many insights captured me along the way, and I am left feeling overwhelmed and unable to write the true essence of the journey on blog form. I have enough thoughts and materials to write a book… Maybe I will someday. For now, I will attempt to assimilate all of my near-daily journal entries and share what I feel is best. But what this is are journal entries. They’re raw. They’re ugly. They’re beautiful. Simple. After over a month hiatus from the internet, I have forgotten how to blog. I’m sure I’ll get back into it sooner or later but please bear with me.
September 25, 2010
Walked 30 minutes to get to a beach. Southern most tip of Palawan. The ride down was bumpy as hell. Half paved roads poorly built and under construction. Lots of gravel. Lots of roads with so many pot holes I couldn’t even tell it wasn’t gravel. The driver drove through it in such a fashion that he would surely fail a driver safety test. Speeding through gravel. We hit a flat tire which wasn’t surprising. It only set as back 10 minutes at the most.
September 26, 2010
First day of walk. Up at 4am and walking by 5am. I thought I would get to watch the sunrise over the beach and then take a nice leisurely bath in the ocean as I awkwardly attempt to switch on my bikini and then change my clothes. I am wearing my clothes from yesterday and my pants are soiled and have a slight smell of urine. Being a hygienic hobo is hard… Especially without toilet paper. I try to “rough it” with my hands and then use sanitizer but it still soils my panties which in turn soil my pants.
Next time, I should wear a napkin to act as my toilet paper.. or at least a shield from my underwear and pants. Need to get this more together. I now have a new respect for the homeless which society so looks down upon like mere scum. It’s not that they’re dirty, even though they probably are. But you try living without your basic needs and see how long you can keep clean. There is this sort of breaking point where it gets harder and harder to keep up and ultimately you let go. You cease to care that you stink or you’re dirty and let society think of you like scum. These people typically don’t have a choice. But they do the best they can. They are the true minimalists of the modern world, even though minimalism has become a sort of yuppie trend.
It’s hard not to feel like a hobo huppie (hippie/yuppie) on my walk. I’m lugging my Adidas backpack (borrowed), Nike running shoes, Nikon D40 SLR camera around my neck, Ray Ban sunglasses on my face, and a ukay-ukay (thriftstore) sweater tied around my neck like those stereotypical, white yuppies wear, particularly the ones playing golf. Every scratch upon my skin brings dirt and grime under my fingernails and the heat of the sun is turning my skin a darker brown. I can’t tell if it’s dirt or a tan or both.