Day 90 / Rooted


I’m writing this from a stucco-walled B&B in Nicaragua. I was in Houston only hours before. And a couple days before that, I was swimming in Austin’s sacred Barton Springs with a close friend. And negotiating a deal on a diesel truck, back in Houston, before that. And I was standing for this 90-day photo just a few days before that, one day before I left the jungle.

My new German friend, Orst, took that photo. That was the day he and his friend Stephan treated me to a giant pork steak, the sweetest pineapple on earth, and a few shots of rum. And then Stephan smoked and swayed gently to loud, scratchy punk music while discussing the finer points of the reptilian brain. And then we celebrated the coming of the rain and I gave standing ovations for the thunder.

If all of that seems a bit rambly, it is, because that’s how my last nine days have been…rambly. But in the moment of that photo, everything was solid. Sturdy. Standing there like I had felled that tree with my bare hands, I felt confident and wiry, flexible to take on the most rambly challenge life can toss. But I am rooted.

It makes me think of a conversation I had while surfing with a guy from South Carolina. We were talking about living differently, with particular regards to spending extended time outside the U.S. and out of the traditional 9-5 work system. He is married, with two children, and works part of the year and spends the other part of the year traveling or living abroad with his family. He is an independent engineer and his wife is a nurse. He previously worked a typical engineer’s company job and left that model.

I asked him about his response to what I thought to be a typical criticism of alternative living models: “Well, sure, it’s all okay if you’re single and young…but how do you expect to provide for your family and provide stability without working a regular job with insurance and retirement pay and all that? Besides that, think of your family’s social life, and you’ve got to settle down somewhere…you’ve got to be rooted down, son.”

He responded quickly, “We are rooted to the earth. The whole earth is ours.” My paraphrase of our ensuing discussion is: You can have a sense of being settled and rooted without having to always stay in the same geographical location and work in the same cubicle every day. Your social circle can thrive when you expand it to include people everywhere. We are privileged to live in this time when everything, including jobs and even close relationships, can be globalized.

Yes, details must be worked out and plans should be considered. My point, though, is that stability is not dependent on permanent location. (Although I must say I am not opposed to permanent locations!) While that can be a factor, stability, social or otherwise — like so many other things — is a state of mind. And for me, one major influence on my stability is my connection with nature and connection with others who are experimenting, as objectively as possible, in their own life.

These first 90 days have been just the kick-start for my experiment. I have left the jungle, for now, and I’m on to the next phase. I don’t how many phases there will be, or what they are exactly. But I am taking things as they develop, evaluating, and moving on based on the information gathered.

Upon conclusion of the first 90 days of my experiment, here are 10 basic data points for summary:

  1. After some initial (intense) anxiety from the transition into the jungle, my body, mind and soul settled easily into the rhythms of nature.
  2. It seemed as if it was a natural fit for me to have almost zero physical separation from the elements: heat, breeze, humidity, sounds of the environment and wildlife.
  3. Upon returning to the states, I’ve found myself wanting to stay outside.
  4. Air-conditioning is simultaneously overrated and divine.
  5. Man can live on rice and beans alone.
  6. I lost 30 pounds.
  7. I gained 3,000 insights. …And met a new-to-me bug species for each of those insights.
  8. I darkened 3 shades.
  9. I want to go back.
  10. I need more money. Unless I want to lose 30 more pounds, but not in a good way. There are no jobs in the jungle. On to Phase 2.

Stay tuned to hear more about Phase 2.

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