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!