We’ve found the place where our daily to-do list is only a few lines long—exactly how we like it. It only took us 6,771 miles to find it. On my list today is: laundry, meditation and biking around aimlessly.
Laundry is time consuming, though, also meditative. We only have a few pieces of clothing, so washing occurs somewhat regularly and it requires a basin of some sort, soap, ringing out of each piece and hanging it on the line. There is a laundromat here but the soap they use is potent and makes us itch.
We’ve only been traveling this recent stretch (since visiting the US in March) for a little over two months and most of our clothes are already wearing out. We did some trading out of clothing when we were in the U.S. after four months of travel and getting a clear sense of what worked and what we were merely lugging around for no reason. I had four new pairs of paints two and a half months ago. Two pairs from Columbia and two pairs of leggings. The Columbia pants are now, mostly PJs as they have formed little beaded balls all over them and unless they are under a dress or something, they’re pretty embarrassing to wear outside of the house. One of my two (expensive) pairs of leggings somehow split nowhere near a seem about a month into our trip. As such, I really have only one pair of leggings to wear out of the house, every day. At some point soon I will attempt to sew the split leggings but I have little hope the repair will hold for very long. [Update: I successfully sewed my leggings so I can wear them. Of course, I now have a 4-inch blue and orange crozzstitch across my bum, but at least I can use them again!]
Uruguay has a lot to offer, certainly plenty of tranquility, great olive oil, delicious wine and apparently some of the best beef* in the world, but not much else. They don’t manufacture anything else so most items needed for living are imported from China and are cheaply made even though, very expensive to buy.
We hand wash what we have with mild soap and hope to make the clothes last as long as possible while reminiscing of our time in Colombia where they manufacture all of their own stuff and everything (clothes) is reasonably priced. If we look like we are wearing the same clothes in every photo—it is because we are wearing the same clothes, every single day. :)
Six months ago, hand-washing our clothes was a Pinterst-like novelty, now, it is plain ol’ work. It requires a lot of bending, squatting, pushing and squeezing. It is a kind of daily work I feel good about with near-immediate rewards. It requires presence, attention and mindfulness about the weather, timing of the day and some planning ahead—since sunshine is not a guarantee.
We’ve had some interesting options over the last seven months for places to wash our clothes. Mostly sinks, once we had a washer (such luxury!), sometimes we have access to plastic tubs and on occasion, we have a washing sink and stone in the yard. Oh how the locals laugh watching us try to figure washing stones out. They eventually jump in and show us the way. We’ve used clear water and silt-filled river water. And very likely, our clothes are never actually clean. But they feel clean and that is all that matters.
Next on my list, meditation. Anytime and anywhere, really. I suppose that is true any place on the planet. But here, there are few distractions before dusk, when the mosquitos come out. One of my goals for these three months in Uruguay is to instill a number of practices that I can carry forward into the rest of my life, a daily mediation practice is one of the top items on my new habits list.
I’ve been pro-meditation for years. And, I’ve even have stints with it being an actual practice, but more often than not, I’d let distraction or antsy-ness override my mind and time. I know from firsthand experience how profound meditation has been in my life and yet, making a practice out of it seems elusive. This is the time in my life when I cannot make any reasonable excuses for avoiding meditation.
One might think a journey like this and a measly to-do list would mean a clear and peaceful mind. It might for some people, but not me. My mind goes at the same rate here, where there is no noise, as it did when I was working full-time, fixing up our house to sell and tending to our dying dog. The epiphany for me is to understand that environment isn’t what creates peace-of-mind, persistence in a daily stillness practice is what creates peace-of-mind.
The main difference in my thinking now verses a year ago is that I don’t have to feel like I am not being productive enough as I sift through thoughts and daydreams. I feel lucky not to have that weight of productivity on my shoulders. But I still have a monkey mind. So, every day I sit still with myself to untangle whatever mental noise I’ve wound up from surfing social media, the news or pulling up unresolved stuff from yesteryear, and I make time to let it unwind, on its own, through intentional stillness. I feel grateful for the time, space and lacking worldly expectations to dive fully into my philosopher mind and write down what unfolds.
3. Biking around aimlessly
My third to-do today: biking around aimlessly. My absolute favorite thing to do here. We’re rebellious in not wearing helmets but, since there are probably only about five moving cars in the entire town, the only issue is getting stuck in sand and tipping over, not getting hit. Of course, in cities, like Buenos Aires and Portland, we’re staunch helmet wearers, but not here. It isn’t necessary.
Another thing that is not necessary here, locking up our bikes. Holy freakin’ cow! I can’t describe how amazing it is to be in a place where bikes are everywhere and when they are not in use, they lean against any number of things: a tree, a step, a building—with NO lock!
We get around mostly by bike. Of course we can walk, but biking is way more fun and takes less time. John impresses me daily as he bikes from surf break to surf break with his board under his arm. Surfing is the primary item on John’s daily to-do list.
When I was in Portland, biking felt like necessity but rarely did it feel fun for me. I wasn’t in as good a shape as I am now, so that played a role, but tangling with cars, pedestrians and buses required a good deal of seriousness. At least for me. I still preferred it over driving, but not because it felt fun, rather, because it was the best way to travel. I think city life wound me up. Actually, I know it did. As a result, my relationship with biking in Portland was tight and rigid, mirroring how I felt moving through an ever-increasingly busy city. La Paloma (our current home) is the place I get to reconnect to my inner kid who loved biking around my sleepy childhood countryside town with no goal other than joy and, without a helmet—it was the 80s after all.
Here, I get to meander, which is always my preference. I can stop to pet cats, dogs or marvel at the commonplace parrots that blanket the trees. I feel downright joyful when I bike. I have nowhere to be and I feel truly free. Somedays, I travel from one side of town to the other, trying to find where John is surfing. Other days, I just get on and go—without a plan.
I hope to bring this sense of joy with me when I ride in cities and bigger towns. Less rigid and serious—even though I have to contend with traffic and a schedule—I hope to remain curious and wonder-filled.
After seven months traveling, eight away from Portland and almost 11 without a job, (13 months since John closed his business), I’m finally getting it. Why we took this trip and the variety of gifts and purposes it offers, how it is reshaping us for the better and the myriad of ways it will continue to serve us long after we’ve replanted ourselves in Oregon with a mortgage, pets, jobs and a longer list of daily to-dos.
We don’t want this experience to be something we point to as having happened in the past. We’re fiercely serious about bringing the simplicity and freedom we’re uncovering home with us—to enjoy ourselves and to share our simplicity with others. The lessons about human connection; a beautiful, misrepresented world and life measured by joys, relationships and meaning rather than productivity, approval and status.
*Beef: We've tried it and it is fine. We're not big beef people. It tends to land like a thud in the belly so we stick with poultry and fish.