What do we really ‘need’?

I had an interesting thought in the shower today, where all interesting thoughts for me are born.

I was enjoying the intermittent pressure and changing temperature of the water, accepting that if I didn’t want to be scolded, I would have to suffer through a cold shower instead. That’s fine, I thought to myself. I don’t really need a hot shower.

Huh, then why did I need one yesterday? I reflected. I’d been so grumpy when the slightest touch of the tap meant a thirty centigrade difference.

What do I really ‘need’? I wondered.

I’ve learned this lesson hiking the PCT and subsequent trails, but it’s so easy to forget when consumed by the lavishness of society. We need to eat, drink, shit and sleep. Plus we need shelter from the elements. Without these fundamentals we die.


On the trail I needed to eat, drink, shit, sleep, carry a tent and hike. Walking was fundamental to finishing the trail and my survival, but it wasn’t more complicated than that.

I started thinking about other things we need like money and a roof over our heads, and the things we think we need like coffee in the morning or the perfect pillow to sleep on.

‘Need’ has become a very convoluted word, especially when we create our own needs, often beyond sensibility. I need a vacation in Mexico, I need to finish this chapter before bed, I need to call so-and-so, or I need a haircut desperately.

We ‘need’ access to food and water, which for most people means spending money (and a means of making money), unless you cultivate a spectacular vegetable garden, live as a vegan, and have access to water via a fresh spring or a well. But does this equate to working twelve months a year? Could you survive by just working six?

We ‘need’ a roof over our head or a shelter. But does it need to be a permanent dwelling with three bedrooms? Do you need that forty-year mortgage?

Then there are the obligations like needing to drive the kids to school, fill the car with gas, or pay the electricity bill. When you don’t have a lot, you don’t need a lot. No kids = no rides to school. No car = no gas. No house = no electricity bills.

I’ve been travelling since June with the same carry-on suitcase, and I don’t need half of what’s in it. I wear the same clothes every day. I hand wash in the sink, and thankfully I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what I look like.

I’ve also been staying with a woman in Southern Spain for the past two weeks, who lives completely off the grid. She grows her own vegetables, raises chickens, bakes bread, makes jam, and is part of a collective that exchanges goods. Today she got fresh milk from a farmer in exchange for bread, tomorrow she’ll get meat in exchange for jam, and so on.

I don’t know the exact details because her English is about as good as my Spanish. But this woman doesn’t have a regular job. She rents out rooms for travellers like me, she has volunteers who she feeds in exchange for work around the property, and she uses a cryptocurrency called FairCoin, based on social justice and equality.

I think she buys products like toilet paper from the supermarket, but she makes her own soaps, mosquito repellent and clothing, and has opened my eyes to an alternative way of living, that quite frankly, I think is brilliant.

I’m about to head over to the Middle East for three months again to make money, which practically goes against everything I’m preaching here. But that’s because I needed to take a year off to discover lifestyles like this that inspire me! 🙂

So the next time you think you need that cold beer, those silk sheets or a new Land Rover, go back to the basic principles of eating, drinking, shitting, sleeping, and shelter, and you might realise you’ve already got everything you need!

21 thoughts on “What do we really ‘need’?”

  1. God I am so ready for a life like the Lady is Spain. I wish you the best and all my love Amiga. Stay safe and enjoy life. I want to be doing what you are doing! But I know I could if I made it a priority. I guess we all must find our own path, For now, I am OK with watching you walk yours.


  2. so true and such a helpful reminder! the more money and less time you have the easier it is to forget!
    sending love, can’t wait to see you again

    1. So much love in return! I’m pretty sure our futures will only continue to lead us in a similar direction. Can’t wait to see you again too!!! 💗

  3. Love this! I’ve so whites my nomadic lifestyle this year, living out of my car and backpack. Things changed a bit after my accident. Shelter became more important, as did comforts that I’ve been happy to forego. I’m sure there is balance in there somewhere.

    I really like the barter system you’re experiencing. It takes a lot of trust and equality to make it work.

    1. Great to hear from you Jan and I’m curious to know more about your year on the road. I’m sure it opened your eyes to so many things good and bad in the world. It’s a constant balance of both. Hope you’re well and to see you somewhere down the track! Muk 🙂

      1. Ha noticed the word error in my response. Should have said enjoyed vs whites. Hmmm

        Anyway I’m slowly catching up on my blog posts about my misc adventures and life on the road, When I had to hit the SOS on my InReach on 7/25, all fun adventure ceased. I’m now on recovery hiatus for a while. It’s testing my patience while reminding me of the power of family and friendships.

      2. Yikes! The reality of accidents on hiking/road trips can be a very scary thing. I’ll have to catch up on the blog, but am glad you’re alive to tell the tale. Wishing you a swift recovery my friend! Much love, Muk x

  4. Good post, we met on the Camino at Padre Ernesto 4 years ago, and i am now on via de la Plata near 350 km to Santiago. (Zamora). Left Sevilla on the 12th.
    Hope you learn spanish while you are there, it does not take à lot of room on your carry-on.LOL
    Have a great time in Asia.

  5. I’ve been fulltiming for 8 years and still have waaaay too many clothes. I love dressing sharply but I so seldom need or desire to do so. Even passed on a law firm gig because I just didn’t want the hassle of buying, storing, cleaning, caring for the attire. Have fun in the MidEast!

    1. Ah work attire is the bane of my existence! As a rule I don’t own clothes that require ironing though I will need to pick up a couple of shirts before the gig. Thanks for your note, and good job avoiding all those pressed suits! 🙂

  6. Somehow I missed this blog….hmmmm…was not watching or looking at my email much, I guess…I loved what you wrote her…life is better when stuff and junk is gone out of my life…I live in that small room where you and I had our lovely and incredible too short of time (which I treasure and remember for my span of living) Before I even moved here, I began to get rid of most of everyone think I owned…what a huge relief it was…now even better…so happy to have a shelter and a adored family to be with…my is scarce…and that’s all right…..smiling….missing you terribly…but I am so glad for your time of joy, family and fun and laughter, sweetie….know this, I will always love you, little one of my heart…Barbie

    1. Oh Barbie what a beautiful note!! Thank you for touching base. I must admit I did get a little worried that I hadn’t heard from you and was thinking it was about time to check in! I hope that you are doing well with your roof and family and your piano and magical paintings in your room full of creation! What a remarkable spirit you are! All my love and hugs to you! Muk xxx

      1. Hi to you, sweetie…looks like a made a few mistakes on my Sept. 11 note to you,,,,oops…some new event is going to be soon…first time I heard my daughter talk to me about this, it really was upsetting to me, but now I am settled down about it and looking for it…we are looking for a place for Senior Apts for me to go live where I can meet where other seniors…I prefer younger people…but “beggars can’t be choosers” so to speak…It will have to be low income housing…out of money except for Social Security which is only twelve hundred dollars and most rental are at that price or more…will be having to go on program by the state for help….family really can’t help much…and though I have been paying for insurance for medical care beyond what Medicare is given to seniors from the US, I have to stop that and get help with federal care for that too…kind of a new adventure which I never saw in the future, so it is hard to face…my independence is being cut down…I don’t like it…really makes me force to face that I am old…It comes whether or not we want it…facing that has been a shock…BUT, I am not growing old gracefully…a saying I can’t do…UGH…being alive is a blessing, even it is hard…I have abandenning C-ianity, but am convinced that the beautiful planet is a gift to us from someone, God is the usual name, too patriarchal…she, a spirit, something, that must surely care enough to give us what beauty we have, so all I feel is that all I can do is to trust that I am someone who is cared is by what she, he, or it, all three unfathomable, more than we as humans can understand.\, will do what I need now…but do good and love is the answer, so I will live my life that way…all will be well…and I am loved by you and so many others that that sustains me….I love you so much, my young and beautiful darling and that brings great joy…I hope you are doing wonderfully and full of joy….Barbie here, heading for the next adventure and challenge!

      2. Oh Barbie, so honest and so raw. All we can do is trust in the path life sets before us. Sometimes we make the decisions, sometimes life chooses for us. It’s all part of this crazy miracle as you say. Another chapter for you with it’s ups and downs. I pray that you can enjoy the highs and sustain the lows and keep faith that this is your path, and no matter where it leads, it’s the one you are meant to follow. Much love to you, remember you’re never truly alone, even when there’s no one in sight, you’re in the hearts of those who care for you! Muk 💗xx

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