' (un)certainties: The Uncertain Way Home

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Uncertain Way Home

Cold, wet, tired, hungry, happy.
Everywhere now I feel it. I hear it. Constantly. Everything has changed now. Of course it hasn’t, but my view has shifted and just like that things have begun to align, to fall from nowhere and softly into place.

I’ve been trying to write more pieces about our travels, but it is becoming forced, especially when internet access is so scarce and actual typing time so limited. More than that, as I look back it feels too close and I find myself dazzled by the brightness of it all. I wonder if perhaps I will be able to see it all more clearly from a distance. Which would be fitting as there is a great deal of that to come.

"Death to Money"
I write to you from a small community in the Fifth Region of Chile. I am swinging in my hammock under some pine trees planted here for lumber long before now. I am looking down into a small gulch watched over by towering, eucalyptus trees that show the wind up high. Amongst both of these invasive species there are dotted smaller native trees and bushes. Look closely enough through it all and you can see houses built by hand from wood and earth. Someone is playing some west African drums. They echo around the woodland.

Our days here are spent building. We are literally crafting things into and from this piece of land with our hands, and with materials sourced locally, be they wood from the trees or tires from rubbish piles. Nothing goes to waste. We have even made a grey water system to filter and repurpose the water we pollute.

Despite the distance it feels strangely close to home. And yet I feel that distance keenly in my heart. And this is because everywhere I feel it, I hear it, calling, constantly: Home.

Home. The word has taken on new meaning now, illuminated by the vast distances and varying panes across and through which it exists.

Epic hammock spot.
In our work here, in Latin America, it has gently revealed itself to us in the structures we have built and shaped with our hands; in the variety of gardens and plant nurseries we have nurtured and helped to grow. I have literally seen it in fractal patters in a sky at sunset, my vision augmented by plants eaten. As we have tended to these places, contributed to these projects we have received many-fold in return. I have learned to listen hear and what I have heard is a calling Home.

Soon Emma and I will leave this community and begin our hitchhike home. What this means in practice is as uncertain as ever, and perhaps more so. Firstly we will head north, two thousand or so kilometers through the desert- again- before, with luck, crossing over the border and into Bolivia. This is a dream we have long held and which we have put off, abandoned and rekindled over and again.

Some of the finer details of long distance moneyless travel.
A number of factors have informed our caution. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Because of this, and perhaps understandably, there is a higher rate of crime against travellers. Thankfully we tend to look so ragged and poor that we have yet to be seen as targets. The bigger worry for us in this respect is that because people are so poor they tend not to own cars, and those that do run the as collectivos, which are basically taxis. This is a worrying prospect for two moneyless hitchhikers. That said, we cannot help but continue to believe in the general kindness of people. Recently too, as we have begun to discuss the logistics with fellow travellers, we’ve heard that the border wed likely need to cross is particularly popular with drug smugglers. This we take seriously, of course, but before pretty much every border we’ve been warned of this, and of other perils. And here we are.

Despite these reasons we are still keen to try it. Bolivia appeals to us on many levels. We are poor too (in financial terms), and we learn a great deal fro those who have little, be it survival tips, dental woes (useful when you possibly just had scurvy and lost a tooth) or lessons in true kindness and what things are really of value. Bolivia is also considered to be one of the more “indigenous” countries in Latin America (president and all). We would love to experience this, and often have, yet the Western ways and the power of the might tourist apparatus to absorb and appropriate cultures is powerful even as distant as some places in the high Andes. And, of course, there is Lago Titicaca.

After Bolivia, we would head west and back into Peru, taking in Cusco (a city that we have wanted to visit a great deal for some time), despite generally not feeling attracted to cities (they are dangerous for us). After Cusco we will head west again to rejoin the PanAmericana once again, hitching all the way north to Colombia. A quick stop to visit family will refresh us before we head back up to where this all began- the Caribbean coast of Colombia- where will try to figure out how to catch a boat back to Europe. Once we reach land again we will walk and hitch Home, following the calling.

And further still we will begin our search for a place to call Home. Our dream of becoming stewards to a piece of land is beginning to take shape in exciting ways to be discussed soon. For the first time in my life I have a clear vision and set of goals for the future all to be discussed soon too.

We have met plenty of travellers who were anxious about impending returns to the “real world”. Worries of money and jobs and people not understanding, of returning home having found too little or too much. I can empathize with the concerns, but find myself luckily in a place of certainty. Or should I say (un)certainties? Nothing is clear, nor certain. Yet we are focused and have direction, and conviction. We are going to return to the UK and become stewards to a pice of land that is calling to us even now. And so much more.

We do not fear money any more. Travelling without it has given us the necessary space (temporal and abstract) to think about, talk about, read about and see money for what it really is. And, importantly, for what it might become. To know that it is possible to travel so far without money has been a revelation and a truly liberating experience. Never have I felt more free and empowered than I do now, nor more keen and able to live what I believe and begin to do even more so. It has raised many questions too, ot only about the way we travel but also about how we live with and how we might live with money in the future.

Please excuse me for being so abstract and evasive, but these are ideas that we have thought and written a lot about recently, but aren’t quite ready to publish yet. We are, though, brimming with excitement to do so.

In the meantime we are preparing ourselves for the journey Home: slow, long and difficult. As it should be.

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I wrote to you from here.


  1. Beautiful writing, beautiful pictures! Im happy to learn that all is well. Much love from Madison, Wisconsin.

  2. Amazing! Living life with a vision...lets make it happen! Much love - Paul

  3. love you guys, stay happy and thank you x

  4. Respect. safe travels... ps. Rather large carrot!