I have changed my plans again, this time to stay in Greece for a few more months because i have a sense of home here, now. Something shifted when i decided to stay, which wasn’t as much a decision as it was a relinquishment, a letting go of some idea i had about the future.
I was going to Thailand and India via Australia, China, Laos and a few other places in between: back to Australia to get Mulga Bill Massive, my poor neglected touring bike, so i could cycle around in search of another community.
But around the thought of leaving Greece there was a feeling of an anxiety, which fell away when i knew i wouldn’t yet have to go back through Istanbul, Dubai, Adelaide, just to get my bike and ride to Byron or somewhere. I need community, communion, and here i have it, now, so why leave? Leaving a community in Greece to go in search of a community elsewhere is like going into a shop with a dollar and asking to buy a dollar.
When i realised this, the anxiety fell away and relief emerged, bright and luminous as the stars appear to be when you get out of the city for the first time.
I have been experimenting with frugal longterm travel here in Turkey, to explore simplicity and austerity while travelling abroad. I’ve been hitch-hiking and long-distance trekking and free-camping as a sort of pilgrimage, to experience the sort of interdependence we get separated from when we travel in boxes, only ever paying for things with money.
I have received a bewildering amount of charity, goodwill and hospitality over the last six months and it has caused me to think feel deeply about gratitude. Something i have learnt is that when you can’t (or are not allowed to) pay for some hospitable gesture or such a general act of kindness as someone going a little out of their way to show you around their town or get you closer to where you’re going, the gratitude feels greater because you carry it with you and feel compelled to pay it forward in other acts of kindness instead of just handing over some cash and feeling done with it.
When we pay for service with money it somehow squanders the energy of our gratitude, as a hole in the side of a hose reduces the pressure of the final output.
If we want to increase our appreciation of gratitude, it can be useful to put ourselves in the way of opportunities for others to express their natural desire to commit general acts of kindness in our direction, under conditions where we can’t just buy our way out of feeling what is really valueable about gratitude: that compulsion it creates, to respond to kindness with thanks and a resolve to pay it forward elsewhere.
If we all do this, kindness and gratitude will spread like wildfire. Hitching, volunteering, asking a local if you can camp in their beer garden … all good ways to enter a new way of living that is both unbelievably cheap in financial terms and immeasurably rich in cultural terms. Get outside it.