Thursday, September 24, 2009

GUEST POST: My Date with Jack

[image: api.ning.m]

Today Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity is inaugurating a series of guest posts from fellow bloggers, friends and assorted “simple living” cronies. The intent is to encourage ongoing dialogue regarding all aspects of the voluntary simplicity/simple living movement. Each approved guest post will be published as written without any editorial oversight so long as the following guidelines are observed:

*Posts must be at least tangentially related to the voluntary simplicity/simple living movement or must focus on a topic previously covered on the blog.

*Draft posts that are critical of me, the blog, and/or the voluntary simplicity/simple living movement are ABSOLUTELY ENCOURAGED. However, please note that posts that contain unnecessay venom and vitrolic insults will not be published.

If you would like to submit a guest post feel free to email me directly with a brief description of the topic you would like to tackle. Note that certain suggested guest posts may be declined for editorial reasons (topic may have already been covered by a previous poster; draft post is poorly written, etc...).

The following guest post was written by Nancy Vogel, author of the Family on Bikes blog:

My Date with Jack
“What if he really is a pompous ass?” I thought to myself as I sat on the bus for the 4-hour journey into Medellin to meet Jack in person. “What if – for all his talking about making these fundamental changes in this thinking - he’s still that pretentious, arrogant, puffed-up son of a bitch he talks about?”

The internet is a strange place – you meet people and forge friendships without ever knowing what they look like. Jack and I had read each other’s blogs for well over a year, emailed many times, and even talked on the phone. I had told many people about my lawyer friend who was making the transition to a life more simple, yet I didn’t even know his real name. What if, after all that, he really was an asshole I wouldn’t want to be found within shouting distance of?

But then I walked up to the door of the museum we had agreed to meet at and he walked out with his boyish grin, and all that was forgotten. Here was Jack – in his old brown t-shirt, jeans, and three-day-old beard. The Jack I had pictured after all.

Gracious, kind, gentle, giving, and warm as the summer sunshine, Jack was the kind of person I could sit and talk with for hours – which is exactly what we did. We chatted in a cafĂ© while drinking fresh lulo juice, we chatted as we walked the busy streets of Medellin towards the bike store, and we chatted while in the taxi to the mall.

In so many ways, Jack and I are on the same journey. I suppose I started a couple years ahead of him, but we’re on the same path. I remember those days all too well – those days when I struggled with the idea of giving up all I had worked so hard for, of giving up the American Dream I was supposed to want, of walking away from society’s expectations to make my own way on this planet… It was fun to listen to Jack voice the exact same thoughts I went through a couple years earlier.

But there were still a few strings attached – strings pulling him back. Or maybe they are ropes. Or cables. That uppity lawyer mindset doesn’t relinquish its hold easily.

“I’ve got to go buy a pair of shoes,” Jack said. “Want to come to the mall and help me pick them out?”

Shoes? New shoes?

“I’ve been invited to a law conference tomorrow,” he explained. “And I need to be dressed for it. I’ve borrowed a suit and tie, but don’t have any shoes.”

I admit it – if it had been me I would have borrowed the suit and then worn my Birkenstocks rather than go buy new shoes. But I digress…

And so we found ourselves at a posh, swanky mall filled with generic high-priced shops looking at stylish Colombian leather shoes. Is this really the Jack I thought I knew?

“I love my 3-day-old beard!” Jack told me, “but I think I’ll have to shave it off for tomorrow. I don’t want to, but…” Those old law-firm expectations obviously still have their grip on him in some ways – those bony fingers still have the ability to reach in and wrap themselves around his new-fangled way of thinking…

But what I love about Jack is his utter honesty – with himself and others. He’s grappled with the fundamental ideas of what’s important – what’s really important. He’s one of those rare individuals who has the courage to thrust aside all those expectations placed upon him – from his colleagues, his mother, his friends, and yes – from himself. He’s looked at the demands of society and come to the difficult conclusion that the American Dream may not be all it’s cracked up to be after all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

State of the Blog: Taking Stock

[photo: media.guelphmercury]

Someone asked me the other day why I haven't been blogging much this month. I told them that I just didn't feel like it. Besides, I've been rather busy traveling up a storm and I just haven't been able to catch my breath long enough to think about blogging.

But things are different tonight. Tonight I am feeling rather introspective. Introspective in a pensive, let's-take-stock-of-where-life-is-taking-me sort of way. To say that stuff is starting to crystalize and solidify in new and unexpected ways would be an understatement. There is much to talk about:

*There is definitely some movement on the career front. I think some of you will love where things are heading.

*I definitely want to tell you about what I learned on my recent trip to South America to scout out potential bike routes and get some one-on-one tips from other long-distance bike tourists.

*I've also come to the realization that I am absolutely starved for spiritual nourishment. In some ways, everything I have been doing up till now has been just been a precursor to a much more essential internal journey that I am only now prioritizing.

And this is just the tip of the iceburg.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reflections (5): I Don't Want Children


I don't want children. Period.

I've moved away from some ealier ambivalence on this issue. I think there is still a part of me that questions whether I could have the patience and commitment necessary to be a good parent. There is also a measure of selfishness in not wanting to place an irrevocable limitation on my finances and my personal life.

But what has completely transformed my thinking on this issue is a new-found understanding of what, specifically, I want out of life. There was a time when essential life decisions (education, career, love...) were clouded by social, cultural, and class expectations, by other people's opinions, and by perceived familial obligations. No longer.

Jack's new life paradigm is rather simple: (1) figure out what I need to secure long-term “happiness,” and (2) go out and find it. Anything that I don't consider an essential componet of this theoretical “happiness” is just not prioritized. And guess what? I just don't find child-rearing to be essential to my long-term happiness. After some soul searching I have come to the conclusion that I just don't have an overwhelming need to pass on my genes. I also don't believe that children are required to sustain meaningful love between two people. And, more importantly, I strongly suspect that the valuable lessons a person learns as a parent can be learned thorugh other endeavors.

This is not to say that I will NEVER have kids. It just means that having them is not a personal priority. I could see a situation in which I meet a person that becomes very important to me and who does prioritize child-rearing. At that point, a decision will have to be made that might very well change my life forever.

[Reflections introductory post]

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Update on Nutrition

nutr [image:]

I thought it was a good time to check in regarding the nutrition plan I brought up last month.

The truth is that I've been too busy and too nomadic to really sit down and put together a more oranized long-term nutrition plan. On the other hand, I have spent more than just a few hours perusing some of the titles referenced in the comments section of my previous post. In fact, during my visit to NYC a couple of weeks ago, I spent an entire day perusing several copies of Pollan and Weil texts (recommended by Marissa, LAS, Meg, and others) at the Barnes & Noble right on Union Square. This is in addition to the many hours spent surfing the web doing independent research.

I still want to sit down and come up with a more concrete plan. If you've read this blog you know that I have a penchant for list-making and goal-setting that is, for better or worse, all-encompassing. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that I am swayed by the views of people like Amy, Debbi and others who advocate a much more body-centric view of nutrition. Maybe the focus should be on how my body feels after eating certain types of foods and gradually recalibrating how I eat going forward.

Regardless of how this plays out, I'm already taking baby steps in what I think is the right direction. I have already started to limit the amount of red meat I eat (right up to July, I ate red meat with almost every meal, save for breakfast) and have greatly increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. And though I haven't completely moved to organic stuff I have a feeling I will be a convert before long.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Follow the Road


There is no denying it any longer. I’m getting the bicycle tour bug again. In a BIG way. It’s hard to describe. It’s almost as if I’ve left a part of myself out on the road…and I’m not going to feel completely whole until I get back on that bike and start pedaling again. Walking around town, hanging out with friends, balancing my portfolio, grappling with career next steps, and every other mundane and not-so mundane thing I’ve been doing these past couple of months has all felt like a prelude to something much more pertinent and essential. Suddenly, life, in its most pure, simplest form, only exists (lives?) out on the open road.

That is not to say that I have not enjoyed my time off the bike. There is something to be said for resting your mind and body and reconnecting with those most important to you. But I definitely think a shift has taken place. Whereas traveling was always a welcome, (albeit short) respite from the comfortable and predictable routine of work/bar hopping/work/family stuff/work/bar hopping/work…traveling has now taken over my imagination in ways that I am still trying to come to terms with. The old routine is now a necessary respite in between moments of pure joy and adventure.

So, what’s the next adventure you ask? Well, here it goes:

I’m aiming to travel the length of South America. From the coast of Colombia to the tip of Patagonia in Argentina. By bicycle.

I’m still in the planning stages so I can’t really share any details other than to say that this trip is probably several months away. But I’m already having dreams of setting up camp on the highest peaks of the Andes, hiking up to Machu Pichu, and sleeping under Southern stars. The road beckons. I have no choice but to heed it’s call.