The last time I wrote for The Floatation Centre, I was shaping up to ship out on my cross-Canada backpacking adventure. Now I’ve returned, and would like to imagine that the trip has taught me a number of things about myself and about people in general. The trip lasted seven months. I left with $200.00 in my pocket to start me out, and a whole lot of hopes and prayers to keep me going after. I wound up working my way from town to town, picking up odd jobs here and there. I did lots of couch surfing and camping, hitchhiking and freight hopping. Basically, my only expense was food and drink, and at times I didn’t even have to worry about that.
Some people were so generous that I’d not only get miles further down the road, but a full belly and sometimes a place to crash. I often felt more abundance in my life when I had nothing but a bag than I did when I was settled and working full time. What struck me about the whole thing was just how many complete strangers would pick me up, invite me into their homes, feed me, give me things, and fearlessly engage in heartfelt and transformative conversations. Everyone from middle-age working mothers, fathers, ex-convicts, fellow hobos and hitch hikers to businessmen, chefs, musicians, Christians, Muslims, drug dealers, even lawyers. People of all kinds. There is no glass ceiling on how many different kinds of people you can run into, but all of them were just people. Trying to figure out life, trying to do what they think is best, seeking love, joy and fulfillment. There was always something we could relate on no matter how different we might have seemed.
There are too many stories to tell, but one that I am fond of was when I ran into three fellow wandering souls at the west edge of Winnipeg. Two guys from Montreal named Matt and Sly, and their beautiful pit bull named Bud. They were already posted at the edge of town with a sign reading, “WEST”. I just finished drawing up my own sign reading, “REGINA” after digging around for some cardboard in a Tim Hortons dumpster. I went up and introduced myself, and they welcomed me into their little travelling troop without hesitation. They started offering me beer and smokes, and we started swapping stories. What was about to unfold were two days of glorious hitchhiking to Regina. You don’t get as many rides when you’re three dirty dudes and a dog strong, but I couldn’t be bothered with such great company.
What I soon realized was that we weren’t just a little band of misfits with sunburns and tequila on our breath, we were a family from the moment we met. There was no room for egos when all we had were some bags and each other, trying to survive on the road. We were one. A unity I’ve had the blessing to feel in many contexts, but this was different. There were no personal belongings. Everything was for everyone. It didn’t matter who had what on their back. We traded and gave each other food, water, clothing. If it wasn’t offered, a gentle request was all that was necessary whether you were cold, hungry, or otherwise in need. We took care of each other more than I’ve seen blood relatives take care of each other. There was no paranoia, no suspicion, no hidden motives, just pure love and community. That night we camped out under infinity in a field in Manitoba where my eyes were overwhelmed by the billions of stars. There was no dark part of the night sky. Just billions of stars of varying brightness. We drank, told stories laughed merrily, and roughhoused with Bud. Matt had to translate for Sly and I to communicate because his English wasn’t so good and my French is even worse, but the instant bond we all had was there. Sly and I would still laugh and make eye contact and know we were brothers, regardless of the language barrier. Even though I only knew those guys for two days, I will never forget them. I have people I’ve known my whole life that I think about less. I was so moved by the free love and community they showed me. I thought to myself, “This is what I’m talkin’ about. This is what being human is all about.”
I had been waiting for something like that all my life. Even though we all had next to nothing, it was the most giving and communal situation I had seen. I hope to continue living from that example. Even now that I am working and living in one place again, it isn’t worth anything to me unless I can share experiences like that with other humans. We all pretend like we are so alone all the time, but we’re not! There are countless other humans around all the time with more than what we all need. Let’s help each other out more. Let’s stop pretending like we are individuals all alone. Let’s stop pretending like we actually own anything. What an idea: owning things. Everything, in reality, is borrowed. Am I wrong? Everything always eventually falls away and it’s all the more painful when we act like its ours forever. Even our own bodies must be given back to the Earth eventually. Our stranglehold on life is choking all of us. It chokes the life right out of life. So let’s share, because none of it is ours anyways.
Thanks so much for reading!