Wednesday, October 22, 2014

stuff

So I decided to go on this crazy year long bicycle journey to Brazil with Mestre Acordeon 2 weeks before the thing started. Yes, I know it may have been better to plan this a little longer. Or not. If you are new to this blog you can check the ridicolous chain of events here and here. The first inkling of what I was getting myself into was an excel sheet that I received from Bebum - "why do today if you can do it tomorrow". It was a monster of an equipment list that the B2B crew had put together to ride to Brazil. I also needed to get a bike.

Clearly a bike that only a guy standing on his head would think is fit to ride to Brasil.

It was, in one word, intimidating. I stopped counting at 200, and started thinking of what I could do tomorrow. But it had to be done so I'd go to four different shops and buy… exactly none of the items. Insect repellent, biodegradable soap, water purification methods. Stove, pot, which fuel to use? 500 and one things for a medical emergency (!) kit, clothes, sleeping bag, tools, patch kit, replacement parts. Bear spray, dog whistles, bike bell, reflectors, pepto bismol. It had no end. Though at least it did not recommend diapers for Montezuma's revenge.

I don’t know how (thank you, helpful friends), but two weeks later as I lined up on the first day of my new lives with all the other crazy riders I managed to have everything packed in my panniers and strapped to my ridicolous Recumbent Bike. I was prepared! Nothing could harm me or my trusted steelhorse from here on out.

Sorry, not authorized to go to Brasil!

Of course on that same first day Bebum and I camp out on the beach in San Francisco and the rest, especially Bebum’s bike, and gear and half of my stuff were, as they say, history. I still wonder what the bum did with my greencard. I mean, if he is one thing, he is legal to be a bum in the USA.

So after being robbed of all our stuff Bebum had nothing but his tent, sleeping bag, Chapul's Cricket Bars and some cash left while I had been liberated of my wallet including some cash and all my cards, my clothes, sleeping bag and bike stuff. Fate is an ironic bitch. On the day we left Bebum probably had as much stuff as fellow B2B rider Tora. A day later, not so much. You can read how we stayed positive throughout that crazy second day here. We did not have access to any real resources until my replacement cards came, which was four weeks later in Los Angeles. We could not buy clothes, gear, or tons of food. The little money that Bebum had was spent on a bike for him and fixing it. So we made do. And making do we learned that we didn’t need most of the stuff that was on that monster list. For a month a used Trader Joe's re-usable plastic shopping bag was my second panier. It was a pain in the ass. It worked. I also went shopping with my big ol' five Dollars at Goodwill.

Didn't buy this ridicolous hat.

This one seemed much more stylish at the time.
M. Mago clearly approves.

Before I left my swankily located yet sparsely inventoried apartment to sit my butt on a bike for a year I did not own a lot of stuff either. I had been moving around the world since high school, twenty years by now. Naturally, if you are moving from Austria to Australia as I did, you don’t bring more than what Quantas allows. When I moved to LA a six years later I had two medium sized bags to my name. Another twelve years, five cities, endless road and world trips later I packed up all the belongings that I wanted to keep after the year I was planning to be riding bike. Everything else I gave away.

I remained with two bags of clothes, a bunch of books and a blender. I seem to have an essentially functional relationship with stuff. I need to wear stuff, I like to read stuff and I blend stuff since I recently found out that I can’t eat most things normal in a western diet.

How much stuff someone needs to be happy varies widely from person to person. Some of us need more stuff to be comfortable, some of us need less stuff. Since it was me, not a horse, not a dog, not a woman or a slave carrying my stuff, I was rather sensitive about how much stuff I had. And yet, over the course of a year of riding bike stuff accumulated, again. It's as if stuff, like mana, magically appeares out of thin air. Periodically, I would have to go through my stuff and, you guess right, give stuff away. If you are tired of reading the word "stuff" a lot, you can stuff it.

That fourth t-shirt that a really nice capoeirista gave you in San Salvador? Sorry, donate it, you only end up wearing one to three shirts. Remember him in your heart instead. The biodegradable soap? Donate it, its lighter to use normal soap. Stop washing your hair. The third pair of sports undies? Donate them to Sonderm├╝ll. The headlamp? Donate it, you have a bike lamp that miraculously gives light too. Toss the cutting board, are you kidding me? Toss the tent, get a hammock. Keep the knife, stove, pot and your girlfriend’s spices. Keep the sleeping bag. Keep two of every clothing item. Keep your bike tools, a sowing kit and electric device chargers/adapters. Go ride. Still getting to many flats because your bike is too heavy? Throw some stuff out.

The lighter I got the easier I felt.  Bike riding is not only a gloriously meditative and healthy see and smell the world activity. It’s also a direct feedback loop on why possessions are bullshit. Because, like you, I ask myself: Other than clothes, food and a place to sleep what do I really need on a bike? And to take this to a logical conclusion, is my normal life any different?

So, get rid of stuff. Move into a smaller house. Be Dutch. Channel your inner Japanese. Live small. Do what you love, instead of wasting time on work so that you can buy stuff you think will make you happy but that you never use because you have to work so much to pay for it. Work 30 hours instead of 50 and hang out with your kids more.

For those of you who already do this >> great stuff. For those of you, who want to tell me fuck it, I like stuff, that's cool too. Everyone is different. Tora had every item under they sun, just in case. He spent two hours every day organizing his stuff - and it made him happy. I on the other hand did not have so much, went for many swims, did unnecessary bouldering, played flute, wrote some crap that nobody wants to read and watched that grass grow or that small mexican city plaza flow - and it made me happy. Bebum had a didge. And two bikes more than all of us.

I am not the keeper of your spare time and Tora is not the judge of your effectiveness. I can not tell if that 20th pair of jeans really made you happy and Tora doesn't know if that snake venom remover kit should have been in my bags after all. We all are the makers of our own happiness.

That being said. Get rid of some stuff. One day you might have to carry it.

5 comments:

  1. this is a great read...thanks letscho

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  2. Love it Pirata!!! Agree with you wholly on this post. Simplicity is beauty.

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  3. So I go to your blog and the first thing I read is Karl Marx! That, I love!

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  4. Great stuff!! well, not the stuff...you can donate that ;-)
    will keep reading

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