At 8:35am on August 27, 2018, I boarded a plane bound for Lima in Peru, with stops in Prague, Barcelona and Madrid. The 30 hour journey is being as tiring as expected, especially its 12 hours long last leg.
The departure marked the end of my 4 months long stay in Slovakia, the country smack in the middle of Europe. The arguably short, but rich in experiences stay changed me forever.
Slovakia, in many ways, changed how I view and understand life, the universe, relationships and many aspects of life. It was profoundly deep, and introduced me to the spiritual part of myself I never knew existed. The people I met in Slovakia were some of the most aware of all the world, nevermind the fact that the girls are some of the most beautiful too.
Perhaps the highlight of my experience was the visit to a pyramid in Eastern Slovakia, with a mining shaft within which there is the highest density of healing negative ions per cubic centimeter in the world.
But it was indeed my second time in the pyramid, when I met one of its original discoverers, that opened up my eyes to the deeper meanings of life, and set me off on the journey to self discovery that was to trample everything I’ve known before.
And now I find myself counting miles on my way toward Peru, fully aware that this time it’s different. I’m still the same round the world traveler. Still a permanent nomad. But this time the journey is far less about discovering new places and far more about discovering myself. The priority will be my physical and mental growth and wellbeing, with destinations as well as lengths of stay chosen according to how well they can assist in the goals.
Thank you for everything, Slovakia. Peru, here I come!
I went to live in a recluse because my heart could not take any more falsehood, duplicity, hypocrisy, corruption, malice, cruelty, egotism, narcissism, greed, hostility, delinquency and dishonesty. I desired purity, righteousness, compassion, kindness, hospitality, integrity, uprightness and respect. Because I could not find any of the latter without prevalence of the former among humans, I left to live where the latter reigns.
So one day, without much planning or preparing, without consulting with anyone or seeking permission, I left and stayed gone, unaccounted for to everyone but God. I lived face to face with myself, depriving all living men from a chance to disturb me. I gave and was given, for in a company of Mother Nature, sharing is unconditional.
This extraordinary undertaking has taught me many things. Things about myself, about my soul, about self-reliance, about poverty, about silence, about my back country and about the downsides of living in a non hunter/gatherer society. Let me reflect on my experiences and share some of the knowledge acquired with you. I will explain in a little more detail what life as a recluse has taught me in next several posts. Click on the NEXT button at the top to browse through it.
I started playing with an idea of living like a hermit shortly after I’ve reached an advanced stage of spiritual freedom. I longed for a full on hermit experience – to withdraw entirely from the society and move into the wilderness where I would live completely alone, in complete solitude with nothing but my two bare hands. Surrounded by silence and undisturbed by the messiness of the outside world, I looked to the hermit experience as a means into a deeper sense of my own self.
In my case, there were a few additional reasons that drew me towards the hermit experience. For one I wanted to see what I’m really capable of and whether I’m really as tough as I’d like to think I am, but I also wanted to get a taste of what it’s like surviving with absolutely nothing. And when I say “absolutely nothing”, I very much mean “absolutely nothing”.
You can’t truly understand poverty, unless you have absolutely nothing. You can’t truly understand loneliness unless you are completely alone. But most of all – you can’t truly understand what you’re really capable of, unless you have to do it all on your own, with no chance of anyone offering a helping hand or advice.
There was also this fact that many great spiritual leaders went through the hermit experience before reaching their apex as spiritual leaders. Buddha did it, Jesus Christ did it, Moses did it, Prophet Muhammad did it… you can go quite a ways back to understand what profound impact withdrawal from society and return to the simple life had on some of the greatest names from the past.
If these great spiritual leaders did it and considered it one of the most important stepping stones on their path to greatness, it was only a question of time before a desire to enhance my personal growth by seeking simple life and withdrawal from society popped into my mind. It was a natural progression of the things to come.
We all search for the unknowable – whether knowingly or unknowingly – we all pace the same universal path to the bottom of our hearts, where we hope to find the answers. But as the demands of our daily lives increase, the touch with our otherwise abundant inner nature gets lost and the quest for the answers returns zero results.
My first run at living in solitude exposed me to a different, much truer and more satisfying me. Perhaps it was the silence so deafening I could hear my every heartbeat echo through the woods, perhaps it was the closeness with nature and all of her creatures who embraced me as one of their own, perhaps it was the stars I could see so brightly and distinctly I felt like I’m flying through space, or perhaps it was all of it together that returned me to my original, unadulterated state in which I reconnected with the vital forces of life and creation and experienced feeling of time that expanded to its relaxed abundance, affording me the most gratifyingly ample feeling that there was nothing more I needed to do than just sit and appreciate the beauty of nature and life within it as it was presenting itself to me at that very moment.
The Hermit Experience
I don’t have talent for writing so I’ll just quote Henry David Thoreau because it simply cannot be said any better (you may have heard this quote if you saw the movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams):
I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I went into the wilderness for 3 months without telling anyone. I carefully picked a very remote lake in Northern Alberta and completely disappeared without a trace. I packed my netbook and camera along but didn’t have a solar charger so their power only lasted for initial few days. Learning to slow down was single most difficult part which I’m gonna have to continue working on as I still haven’t mastered it. I returned back solely to clear the path for my next, longer stay away from the consumer society.
I didn’t ask for permission, I didn’t waste time trying to explain to anyone why I needed to do it – I simply did it. To my surprise, after I came clean with my parents, they weren’t mad. Not even after I told them that this was just a warm up and that I will go back after I’ve taken care of a few legal and moral obligations my citizenship requires of me. My dad’s response was that I involved myself in more than too many crazy adventures in the past and many worked out for me, so there was little to raise concern that I’d have any difficulty pulling this one through just as successfully.
There was simply no argument my parents could make to counter my intention to leave behind this insane money-chasing, going-nowhere life in a pretentious and superficial world where I was along with other zombies naught more than a living dead in a scheme laid up by power-tripping war lords.
My mom’s illogically baseless statement that life in the wilderness could be dangerous was the easiest to counter. I mean, how could life away from drug dealers, rapists, murderers, drunk drivers and other human filth be dangerous? Potential dangers lurk around anywhere you go, but in general terms, it doesn’t get any safer than when you are away from people.
My parents are deeply religious so their main disappointment with me is that I don’t go to church like they had taught me to, but if I were to acknowledge the existence of God, I wouldn’t expect to find him in the filth of the greed-fuelled war machine. I’d look for him in rivers that flow through land, in animals that tread its soil, in rocks that crown proud mountain tops. I’d look for him in flowers that add fragrance to the meadows, in pine needles that soften up the mountain floors, in drops of mist that glide lazily through the shades of endless forests. God is Earth and whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of Earth. We are all Sons of Earth.
My philosophy is kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water. I want to embrace a slow living lifestyle which would allow me to serve the Earth and appreciate her beauty. I want to live in rhythm with nature and her seasons for they each are beautiful in their own individualistic way. I want to take time out to watch clouds glade over the moon, sunrise outline the shape of the mountains and thunderstorm light up the northern sky.
At my first run at living alone in the wilderness, I lived like a hermit. Because I don’t live in a hunter/gatherer society and my country has enforceable laws I as its citizen am subjected to, I’m presently taking care of my obligations so I can return to the wilderness and stay there for a long time. But this time around I won’t live like a hermit, I will live as one.
I consider my trip to Cuba in December 2008 to be the beginning of my transformation as an individual. Since then, I have seen myself grow to heights not seen by many yet what I’m proud of the most is how much I have grown on a spiritual level. There are many people who like me, escaped the rat race and tore themselves away from the shackles of corporate slavery but that’s where their personal growth stopped. Don’t get me wrong – escaping a cage is an important first step as cage keeps physical body so preoccupied, it’s hard to put enough focus on spiritual growth. But what good is walking a free man going to do to you if your mind is still enslaved?
There are hardly any people alive today who would understand how much real power and enlightenment one collects on the way to real spiritual growth. On my travels, the type of people I seek the most are elders of native tribes for there is a great deal of wisdom behind every day of their lives and that type of knowledge cannot be gotten from books. Sadly, people of real wisdom are exceedingly difficult to find these days as money crept into their lives and with it came corruption of minds.
On my travels, I’m the only one who seeks out wisdom. I see so many people around, who like me escaped the rat race, but they travel to be able to make their Facebook friends jealous. That’s all they care about, that’s all they ever have on their minds. One day, when they’re of age and a new generation of rat race escapists takes their turn traveling around the world, none will seek them out to share their wisdom for there is no wisdom to be found in minds that are enslaved and don’t even know it.
It goes without saying that I was just as excited as the next guy when I quit work to travel. I honestly thought this was it, I thought achieving this was my ultimate success in life. And in all fairness, a huge success it had been. Luckily, though, all it took were a few months of my brand new life before I realized that my new found freedom was just the beginning.
Real freedom is not partial. Being free from rat race, but enslaved to gadgets, the internet and money is like pulling one’s head up from underground and thinking the grass you are seeing for the first time in your life is whole world at your feet. It sure is exciting being able to see all this grass and touch it with your bare hands, but if you let pride of making it to the surface blind you, you’ll fail to see all that lays further afield. For you to see that, you’d have to keep sticking your head further and further up.
Compared to the multitude of difficult and challenging steps one needs to take in order to free their mind, an escape from corporate slavery which frees one’s body is as easy as farting in water. Yet albeit hard core, overcoming these challenges is very enlightening and empowering. It is a long and windy road with many roadblocks along the way, but you’ll experience spiritual growth with each single step forward. And what does experiencing spiritual growth feels like, you ask? Well, it feels like having a super orgasm you’re not faking.
Throughout my life so far it’s always seemed as though I’ve never had enough time to do the things I am supposed to do, let alone things I want to do? The dreaded “wasting my life away” quote was at the back of my head as I was sitting in my cubicle browsing through pictures of people photographing themselves having the time of their lives at places I’ve never been to. All I could do at the time was say “maybe one of these days” to myself. After all, I have to go to work every day which leaves me with little time for traveling and money is tight so I’ll just have to bite the bullet and hope something comes my way. It didn’t.
Actually, it did but in a whole different form than I would have imagined. As part of my spiritual awakening I started to see things differently and realized how precious a commodity time is. It was already clear to me that spending the best years of my life working so one day when I retire I can enjoy myself made no sense, but when I realized the value of time, things took whole new turn. “Maybe” must be replaced with “May Be”.
I had tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff sitting in my livingroom and I’ve dumped it all in the bin. I have primarily done it to liberate myself from chains these possessions kept me in, but as I was done, a realization of one far more important aspect of this act came to me. By dumping all these in the bin, I have also saved myself a lot of time. The other option was to list all these items for sale on classified ads sites. Had I followed this option, I may have added few nice bucks in my pocket but at what cost?
I’d have to take each item, take picture of it, get pictures ready for use on the net, write up a reasonable description of the item otherwise it may not attract attention of potential buyers and go through steps of publishing it on the websites. Subsequently, I’d have to deal with potential buyers who would be hitting me up with supplemental questions about each item and requests to drop the price (aka negotiations). I’d be spending my evenings responding to emails, bouncing them back and forth in hopes that someone will bite.
If I got lucky and found a buyer willing to shell out for these second hand things with expired warranty previously owned by a person they don’t know, I’d have to let it go for a price that’s way below reasonable value, because that’s how it goes with classified ad sales. So yes, in theory, I’d eventually make some money on it, but amount of time I’d have to invest into it could grow exponentially. Postings and repostings of ads that didn’t attract any bites, continuous questions from enquiring minds who’ll be trying to lowball me ad nauseum… would time invested really be worth it?
Bingo – that was the million dollar question. If it’s money you want, perhaps one would be better off spending this time focusing on something that could bring more in. As I was digging deeper into it, I came to realize the real value of time. Yes, time is your most precious commodity, because there is no money in the world that could buy it. Those things I had dumped – if such need arises, I can buy any of those back. But time – that’s one thing you can never buy back. Nothing in this world is more precious than time.
Time is so precious, everything revolves around it. Every regret you have is directly or indirectly affiliated with time. If you lose someone you love, you will be devastated. It’s after they are gone that you realize that so many things were left unsaid, so many undone. And now they will remain unsaid and undone forever. And it’s all because you have not spent as much time as you should have with that person. Perhaps it’s because you spent your days going to work and after work you were too tired. Perhaps it’s because you spent last two weeks re-visiting that car dealership and spent every evening there trying to get that new SUV for $10,000 less than advertised. To make or save money, you spent your time – the most precious commodity you have – by doing everything, except from what truly matters to you.
You are not the only one who makes this very mistake. I spent near a decade of my life – the best years of my life – going to work every day, working for money so I can exchange it for things that I then had to store in boxes and haul them around each time I moved. I did not do things I wanted to do and it went on for near 10 years. I will never be able to get those 10 years back. I can get back any of the items I threw in garbage as described above, but my years I spent going to work are irrevocably gone. During those years I haven’t done anything I really want to do. I simply went to work every day with a vision, that one day, sometime in the future I will retire and then I will be able to do what I want to do. As this premise became clearly ridiculous, I realized the value of time and started acting accordingly.
Keep this in mind – time is your most precious commodity. This day, this particular day on which you are reading this post will be there only once in your lifetime. Seize it. Seize the day! Wise people have been telling us that for millennia and I can’t believe it took me this long to realize it. There is a world of infinite possibilities out there. Live your dreams now, not in 20 or 30 years. Time does not discriminate. There are 1,440 minutes in a week and every single person out there gets this exact amount. It’s how you choose to use those minutes that makes the difference between those who live life to the fullest and those who don’t.
The path to my early retirement and the spiritual awakening were waiting to happen. It started with my trip to Cuba in December of 2008. Visiting Cuba was my dream for as long as I can remember. Most of all, I really wanted to visit Cuba before it changes. I knew that US presidential elections that were about to conclude in fall of 2008 would bring the imminent change way too close. For many years I have suppressed my deep desire to travel but when US elections were around the corner, I realized it was a now or never situation. Time was against me, Cuba could change any day and if I were to experience it before big change, I had to act. The goal was to go before elections take place, which I never accomplished, however I still had at least a few extra months as even after winning elections in November, new US president would not be taking over the Oval Office until 2009. And even then, there were way too many seriously pressing issues which needed attention of new president so likelihood of a ban lift on travel to Cuba taking place this early was small. I still didn’t want to put the trip off any more than necessary and flew to Cuba at the beginning of December. It was amazing.
I only spent one week in Cuba, but it was my first trip after 7 years. I felt happy and uplifted like I haven’t in years upon years. I have forgotten how it feels to have an exciting day, to make whole day an adventure, to explore, to experience, to live. This had such powerful impact on me that come mid January 2009, I left for a weeklong trip to the Dominican Republic. This was even more extraordinary as I was in the traveling mood already so I made each day of my stay there richer with adventure.
These two trips within less than 2 months got me hooked on travel again. I still lived my corporate lifestyle, but took every opportunity I had to go to new places. Living in Alberta, Canada, I went for a brief two day trip to Jasper in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and started making arrangements for a big trip to a country I wished to visit my whole life – Iceland.
I left for Iceland at the beginning of June of 2009 and combined my trip with a one day stay in Toronto, Ontario where I have never been before. It was an amazing day as Kensington Market opened for the season that day so the area lived with many people, street performers, dancers, musicians, free hugs and everything else that makes you feel… awesome.
I spent amazing 10 days in Iceland and was blown away by sheer beauty of that country. It was 10 days of nonstop adventure and major spiritual uplift. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the things I’ve done – these were the best days of my life since… university. That’s right. It started coming to me that within last year I have done a lot of traveling and I haven’t felt that great for years. While I was traveling, I felt alive and happy.
I traveled to the Rocky Mountains two more times, this time making each trip last at least 3 days. I drove down the scenic highways across the mountains from Jasper to Banff the first time, making stops along the way and doing a lot of hiking to spend two awesome days in Banff afterwards. On my last trip to the Rockies I went all the way to Roger’s Pass in Canadian British Columbia where scenery is so eye popping I had my breath taken away nonstop. Again – I’ve done a lot of hiking and enjoyed every minute of it.
While trips to the Rocky Mountains were not trips abroad for me – being a Canadian – those were still trips during which I explored and had an adventure and it made me feel alive. So within less than a year – from December 2008 till July 2009 I have traveled to three foreign countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic and Iceland) and took three more local trips within my own country of Canada (Jasper National Park, Banff National Park and Roger’s Pass in Canadian Rocky Mountains). On top of that I have also visited Toronto which I truly loved and met some amazing people even though my stay was only brief. This travel reignited my dying Spark of Happiness which was nearly out due to corporate lifestyle I have succumbed to, but not entirely. Complete spiritual awakening after so much travel that re-ignited the spark was just a question of time and come July 2009, I was all there.
I was so entrapped within the corporate lifestyle, I started to believe in it myself. Deep inside I knew I was missing something, but I did not allow this feeling to come through and spoil my pursuit of money. My life was all about work, all natural desires suppressed, all corporate desires nourished. All I wanted was to accumulate possessions – to get financing for a fancy car, to get mortgage for a nice house, to get the finest plasma TV with high end surround sound speakers, et cetera, et cetera. There was no excitement in my life, I did not even see the purpose in it, but I believed in the lifestyle that brainwashed me to be that way.
The change of thinking came out of the blue. I have heard of Early Retirement but it was something distant to me. Perhaps I didn’t think I was the chosen one or lucky enough to retire early hence even though I was aware of early retirement, I never looked deeper into it. And even though early retirement had precious little to do with my change of attitude and outlook on life, it was closely related. I needed a definition to all the questions that arose in my mind and early retirement was a suitable answer.
I guess even though my attitude had changed so much all of the good fairies abandoned me cause they couldn’t stand that miserable person I have become, there was still one guardian angel left who believed in me. It was a day of no significance. Just a random day in the middle of the week, I came home from work, got on the internet to take care of my online affairs and spent more time than usual browsing through pictures of places and people from different parts of the world. The spark of independence and enjoyment that nearly got suffocated from the fumes of the corporate lifestyle I have submerged myself into caught second breath and I started to question the purpose of living for work. I started to question the purpose of working during the best days of my life and waiting to enjoy life until I have retired. I started to question the possessions that were surrounding me and their role in my life, I looked at past decade of my life and evaluated everything that’s changed – how my health deteriorated, how my acting deteriorated, how my spirit deteriorated, how my personal goals and contributions to the global society dwindled. It both shocked me and brought new hope.
This was a day of my personal spiritual awakening. It had nothing to do with religion. It was an eye opener that turned the zombie I have become back into a living thing who once again saw his place on Earth, his purpose in life, but most of all – a chance to do what I was meant to do… enjoy every minute of my life instead of hating every minute of it. For the first time after almost 10 years I have felt the touch of light. I was lost both mentally and physically and all of a sudden I found both the path to walk on and the river to drink from. I was out of the jungle of sharp bushes that were tearing me apart, I was out of the bog that was sucking me in, I was out of the pests that were feeding on my flash, I was liberated.