The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it. -Thoreau
For the first time since I started this blog I have a serious question about our enterprise, a question most difficult to answer. A dear friend wrote to me
” So – I read the blog. Exciting stuff! Wish you best of luck in your undertaking. I am extremely curious where this adventure will take you. Counterculture has been dwindling since the 1970 because of stagflation and other reasons plaguing many hippies with economic issues and throttling their opportunity to live outside mainstream society. Maybe you’ll reverse the trend. I am not saying this jokingly, but for after the money runs out, have you honed your survivalist skills, i.e. fishing, hunting, fire-making, farming and so on? Docking a boat in Australia and finding odd jobs in this economic climate, seems of low probability, but surely is exciting. On the other hand, if indeed what you are doing can be done without resorting to survival skills, it would be great to know. Your journey can turn into an interesting book – that could be one source of income for you – royalties! Good luck to you Buddy.” – Ivan Mitev
I answer him this in our correspondence:
Thank you so much for this comment! Having a discussion on issues that are truly affecting our reality; sharing different perspectives and opinions, as well as personal experiences, is what I expected from the blog. And most of all, I appreciate any helpful advice or information, and even doubtful questions that could make us rethink and re-evaluate a situation.
You are questioning the probability to find a job when the money runs out considering the global economical climate, suggesting using survivalist skills as the only alternative for, well…surviving.
We have some basic survivalist knowledge, but by living on a boat and exploring natural wilderness in many different places on the planet, we are hoping to acquire and develop survival skills such as fishing, hunting, shelter and fire-making, and even farming, although farming is an attribute to sedentary life (depends how long we stay in one place). I think such skills are absolutely necessary for anyone who is undertaking extended off grid travels.
That being said, I still do believe that it is possible to have some income from odd jobs in foreign places, depending not only on the economical climate, but also on individual skills. It could be really hard to find such an opportunity, I agree, but my greatest confidence comes from the fact that Ivo and I both have many diverse skills and knowledge that have been serving us so far in finding a job whenever we need one. Especially Ivo. He is a handy guy who can repair anything in a house or even build one; he is a professional mechanic, truck driver, and cabinet maker; can repair car and marine engines; can weld, work with wood and metal, has some basic electrician skills, and he is also good with computers and software. He is extremely resourceful and applies his lateral thinking to problematic situations in his work. He has extensive trucking experience, furniture making, construction, as well as some farming knowledge and experience. He is extremely efficient and fast worker and all his employers loved him for that.
Me, I speak five languages and graduated in Fine Arts, minor Spanish, major photography. As part of my Spanish language studies, I also took a course on teaching a second language. I could do “odd art-jobs” in fields such as sculpture, painting, drawing, installation, textile, visual arts and off course photography. And for any photographer, going out in the world is like for a cook going grocery shopping. I also love film and literature; I like to write, although my English and my creative writing skills still need improvement. My hope is that maybe thanks to our unconventional travels, I will be able to produce photographic work, commissioned work, freelance, a book, yes, why not!, who knows, that will lead to some income. And, last but not least, I am also a professional truck driver and together with Ivo we are an experienced team, a profession in high demand and extremely well paid in North America and Australia. Also, we could always come back to Canada if we have to and start trucking the next day. This would be the worst case scenario.
Finally, what we are doing is not such a big deal; lots of people are doing the exactly same thing or even crazier things than this. We have met some of them and they have encouraged us a lot saying, It is not as hard as it looks.
For me these travels are a unique opportunity to make art, to spend time with my whole family and be in charge of my children’s intellectual and physical development; to see the world, and to satisfy my hunger for adventure and freedom. It is our dream, and even if there are many hardships on the way, I am willing to take the risk, as I have always done, hoping for the best. But what will actually happen, will we be able to pull it off, who knows?
A day after I write this answer, I go to a small laundry room at a marina in Virginia to wash a bag of dirty clothes. There, sitting on a shelf, are some old books left for the traveller to read while the machine is busy washing clothes, or to take away if he so wishes. Among them, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Thoreau:Walden and Other Writings. Now this is a find! I’m taking those two. My book collection is growing, soon we won’t be able to move from the weight of the books and I will have to start leaving them on shelves at marinas. (By the way, the wet books I found in New Jersey are now dry but all curly except the thick one Hitler’s Scientists. This one will never dry and will have to go in the garbage. The others will undergo straitening procedures.)
Back in the motor home, after the laundry is done, I start reading Thoreau and I am delighted… He turns out to be an eccentric, the kind of harmless anarchist I have always considered myself to be. Preaching individualism, simplicity and non-conformity, Thoreau’s writings influenced many, among them Tolstoy and Gandhi. He is my new-found hero.
First I devour A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a contemplative account of a one-week journey by boat with his brother composed mainly of lengthy descriptions of natural scenes and occurrences as well as personal reflections written so delicately, so beautifully, my mind is glowing with joy; I can’t get enough of it. Suddenly he writes:
“Sadi tells who may travel; among others, “A common mechanic, who can earn a subsistence by the industry of his hand, and shall not have to stake his reputation for every morsel of bread, as philosophers have said.” He may travel who can subsist on the wild fruits and game of the most cultivated country. A man may travel fast enough and earn his living on the road. I have at times been applied to to do work when on a journey; to do tinkering and repair clocks, when I had a knapsack on my back. A man once applied to me to go into a factory, stating conditions and wages, observing that I succeeded in shutting the window of a railroad car in which we were travelling, when the other passengers had failed. “Hast thou not heard of a Sufi, who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal; an officer of cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, Come along and shoe my horse.” Farmers have asked me to assist them in haying, when I was passing their fields. A man once applied to me to mend his umbrella, taking me for an umbrella-mender, because, being on a journey, I carried an umbrella in my hand while the sun shone. Another wished to buy a tin cup of me, observing that I had one strapped to my belt, and a sauce-pan on my back.” -Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849
I discover with amusement that these words confirm what I was trying to explain, only he wrote them in the 184o-s and the economical climate was surely different back then, so one may argue they are not valid today. Still, I think most of what Thoreau wrote so many years ago can be applied and interpreted within the same lines even in today’s social context, and that makes his teachings universal.
Next I read Civil Disobedience, an essay he wrote after a night in jail for refusing to pay government taxes, and Walden, his absolute best and my young love for Thoreau grows ever stronger. But the fact that so much of what he wrote almost two hundred years ago is still valid today; the fact that nothing in the essence of today’s society has truly changed; not for the better at least, is sad and disappointing. Looks like people did not learn from their mistakes; did not even realise them. The result: today still ” The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Thoreau’s greatest wisdom is Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity. It is not so much a question of how one will earn a living, but how he will manage his earnings. If one is content with little, one doesn’t need to earn much. In Walden, I find passages so inspiring I feel almost enlightened. Still, I don’t think I learned anything radically new, I only get reassured that we are on the right path, the right path for us that is.
“The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?”