"My friends you are the happiest people in the world. You don't have any cows to lose. If you have too many cows to take care of, you will be very busy." (The Buddha)
I've recently come to the wise decision that the fewer things I have the fewer things I am likely to lose.
Ever since a child, I've been hopeless at keeping track of my belongings. I was the one doing Games in my knickers and vest because I'd lost my kit, I was the one asking the neighbour if I could borrow the ladders to climb in through the bedroom window because I'd lost my key for the second time that week!
When I started backpacking two years ago, my ability to lose things didn't improve. In fact with the unplanned nature of travel, it got worse. A pair of flip-flops a week, summer dresses, bikinis – luckily it was usually unimportant items that were mislaid.
However… this climaxed with the ultimate – a LOST PASSPORT! Months later, 7,000 baht down and I vow to myself that I will be more careful. Make a mental checklist of all things before leaving a place… hypnotherapy, psychoanalysis, total abstinence from alcohol – I don’t know what the answer is.
Going back to the UK recently was an incredible awakening. In Thailand, I have one rucksack of clothes, toiletries, my laptop, a few books and my passport (most of the time.) That’s all I need.
With no permanent abode, I pay rent month-by-month, leave when it rains, when I fancy a change of scenery or when the magazine requires I check out a new backpacker scene.
Having lots of belongings doesn’t suit the nomadic lifestyle. Items become a hassle – when you have to carry a bag load of luggage on overnight trains, pay for excess baggage and most of all worry about leaving something behind! The less you have the better.
Going back home I was confronted with suitcases and suitcases of “stuff” that I’d completely forgotten I had. Boxes of old school books, clothes, DVD’s, ornaments, paintings, belts, shoes, coats, diaries, photo albums... I’d packed them up in an excited rush to leave the UK for my travels - not wanting to throw anything away.
I obviously didn’t hold much attachment to these possessions - I didn’t even remember that I had them. I’d been pretty happy without them for 2 years, yet I knew if I spent time going through them, I’d wind up getting all nostalgic as old and happy memories were invoked.
Buddha tells us that a life of material things clutters the mind and attachment causes unhappiness.
Maybe when I lose something it is Buddha trying to tell me something – least that’s the excuse I shall tell my increasingly frantic parents!
And although many backpackers would not call themselves Buddhists, I’m sure many would agree that travelling is a refreshing escape from a world of materialism and of a world where it is the norm to increasingly accumulate item after item to fill your homes.
Living a life of minimalism can lead to a life of increased adventure. Those tied down with credit card bills, car loans and mortgages while harbouring a desire to escape can relate to this. Sometimes it can seem that your possessions possess you!
For a brief period of time, as you live out of your backpack, you witness a life where you are detached from your things, location independent and free to go wherever the adventure beckons. Spontaneity reigns –suddenly everything is a possibility.
My mum has always told me that everything is replaceable – apart from YOU! And although it may be in an effort to comfort me, she is right. However expensive or inconvenient, you can sort out the loss of a passport or get over the loss of a mobile phone, but the most important thing to look after on your travels is you.