The sage wanders about as he pleases
and lives on whatever may come.
Contentment ever dwells in his heart.
And when the sun sets,
he rests where he is.
In November 2012 I had to move out of a loft at the Brewery artist colony in Los Angeles (here a recent article about it). I had loved living there. I had a wall of windows, a wall of art, a wall of whiteboard and wall of books, high ceilings and a loft to sleep upstairs. In many ways, it was my dream home (following a vision, I had indeed manifested it by means of a magick ritual in the Swiss alps conducted about nine months prior to finding the place and moving in, but that’s a different story).
I loved living in the midst of artists, and the bustle of creativity. I loved the community at the Brewery, and to this day consider several of the people there my chosen family. It was a wonderful home for six years and I had many deep and lasting experiences while living there.
But I had to leave…
As a result I have been on the move for the last 800 days. After having to move out of the loft in the Brewery, I was perplexed as to where I wanted to move next. I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted to stay in Los Angeles, or in the US for that matter.
Having been a monk for nearly half my life at that point, I had been following the calling, had gone where invited. But there was no voice to be heard, no vision to be seen as to where I would live next.
Yet, there was movement.
Using LA as a base, I decided to put it out to my community to see where I might get invited — and hence began my travels.
Here where I laid my head so far on this journey (thank you to spooky Google location history to refresh my memory): LA → Stuttgart, Germany (really Balingen, a small town south of there) → Duesseldorf, Germany → LA → Chicago → LA → Tuscon, Arizona → LA → San Francisco → LA → London → Stuttgart → New Delhi, India → LA → San Francisco → LA → New Delhi, India → Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, India → New Delhi → LA → Stuttgart → LA → Tokyo, Japan (Airport only) → New Delhi → Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India → New Delhi → Bangalore → New Delhi → Bangalore → New Delhi → LA → Ojai → LA → Duesseldorf → Berlin → Duesseldorf → Cologne → Duesseldorf → Bangalore → Delhi → Bangalore → Guwahati, Assam, India → Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh, India → Bangalore → LA → Oakland → LA.
In the process I have gone half around the world and back a couple of times, and even all the way around at some point and back — to get my day back that I lost in the first circumvention. While I have not been in twenty different countries (as this guy has), I have played sufficiently with the archetypal structures of these very different continents to see patterns emerge. Having grown up and seen most of Europe, having lived in the US for close to twenty years, and having lived in India off and on for over a year, I had strong emotional human connections in all these places, which added to the depth of the experience.
I have traveled to the past where men walked barefoot, only equipped with wicker baskets and machetes, living off the land and in harmony with nature, and I have traveled to the future, seeing people fly drones, or immersed in digital worlds while wearing virtual reality headsets.
I met with artists and filmmakers, entrepreneurs, corporate employees, activists and educators in all these different places. I did strategy work for global Fortune 500 businesses and advised individual entrepreneurs, had deep exchanges about being an artist and a catalyst (even helped record 40 musicians from around the world in the foothills of the Himalayas), spoke to multi-cultural audiences about art and business, studied perennial wisdom traditions and religions like Jainism, and — adopting to my various hosts — lived very different lifestyles wherever I laid my head.
So what did I learn?
First of all, travel is easy. This trip has been nothing compared to the 80 days around the world Jules Verne described and which I alluded to in the title of this blog.
If you have patience, you can go anywhere.
I love watching people at airports. Most people seem stressed. The discomfort of leaving home, the anticipation of making it to wherever they need to go. Once you let go of all that, travel is simple. Take your time, make sure you have buffers and know that you will get there when you get there.
Of course, technology has played a big role in making things easier. Having a GPS and the internet in your pocket is a drastic change to olden times. One of my favorite technology moments was fixing a US client’s website issue on my phone with a spotty 3G connection in the middle of tribal lands in North-Eastern India.
The availability of technology has paved the way for glomads — global nomads. There is a whole movement of people using geo-arbitrage to travel the globe while working for clients around the world. Some even say, they are already living in the future.
This, of course, is not sustainable.
Apart from the horrid carbon footprint, which we are causing by traveling around in airplanes (and I am happy to say that there is at least a grove of trees I have planted to make up for some of mine), eventually the world will see each other and wage arbitrage will go away.
The reason our current system works is because of the legacy of the great pirates who realized that they could use the different levels of information around the world to create systems that abuse everyone in the process. Globalization started a long time ago.
Eventually, the workers around the world who make cheap products and have their environments polluted will no longer be willing to make shiny sneakers and electronics for the small amount of people who will be able to afford them. We are entering the eye of the needle.
We now need to use the technology we have to transcend it.
There are simply not enough precious metals on this earth for everyone to have a new cell phone every couple of years. It does not make sense, even if there are already efforts to think about mining asteroids for the resources we are running out of here.
The times of unchecked growth for monetary profit are already past their peak. It is now time to begin to create different solutions. Solutions that honor our fragile blue planet and our even more fragile existence as humans. The planet will be fine, but it might not be with us on it.
Unless we realize that we are all part of an interconnected, interdependent system, and begin to act that way, we will not be able to survive.
It is time to move from globalization to a planetary consciousness.
For my father’s generation China was still “back there” in horizontal flatland. We don’t have the luxury of that ignorance any longer. My generation and the ones after were born with pictures of earth from space. We know that what goes around comes around. This is a massive shift in consciousness. Part of my continued journey has been to pollinate these ideas around the globe.
“Home” is this planet.
The meaning of “home” has shifted quite dramatically for me over these last years. Apart from my own travels, my parents also sold their house of thirty years in the South of Germany and moved to Berlin last year. A welcome change in that Berlin is a great place to visit, but also a drastic cut from my childhood home and the friends I have there. A last bit of stability I had held on to now gone.
When people welcomed me in LA with “welcome back home” I felt odd. Los Angeles, while having been a home for fourteen years, did not feel like home anymore. No place really has. I have been feeling equally comfortable and equally anxious any place I have been to.
One experience in particular drove home that point for me: my brother asked me to mail a letter for him while I was visiting him in Duesseldorf. I grew up in Germany, and my natural assumption was that I should know how to do such a mundane task (and I was). But I still had to ask Google to find a post office and didn’t quite know what “registered” mail meant in German anymore. Germany was no longer my home. Nor was America. Nor India.
As a result of all this, the planet as a whole has become home. It felt like having new shoes I needed to grow into. Everyone is invited to be a human prototype. This was my calling.
I had to become a planetary citizen.
One thing that has helped me in finding a level of stability in this lifestyle has been the shift from routine to ritual. Most people get confidence and stability from knowing where they lay their head, do their morning things, go to work, come home to in the evening. Not having any of these for large periods of time forced me to shift to rituals to find that same anchor. For me it’s the ability to meditate wherever I am, or small rituals like drinking a glass of water in the morning, plugging in devices, getting connected to the web that have given me that same stability.
Traveling is like a death experience.
It’s a constant hero’s journey. You leave the place of comfort behind, go to this weird non-space, called airport, get into a metal coffin and fly through the air, only to then get dropped off in a new environment, a new culture, a place where you might not know how to act, how to be, who to be — apart from being yourself — and evermore so. It helps to remember that the only thing to fear is fear itself.
Today, you can live anywhere. There might be some bureaucracy to deal with, but there is always a way. In the end, even ideas like “nation” will one day be notions from the past. For now, it serves to administer the tax farms of the world. Eventually, people will take their power back and create local sustainability while connecting to the planetary whole of humanity.
The future will be hyper-global and hyper-local.
We will continue to see each other more, learn from each other, learn together. Much of that will be facilitated with technology. But being in the presence of someone is not the same as telepresence — not just because hugging releases hormones that get you high.
We will have to leave the local isolation that our current systems have created and meet our neighbors. Grow food together, find ways of sustaining ourselves together — while connecting to the rest of humanity through the virtual world.
We will be able to do “work” together no matter where we are, but we will need to separate that from creating the basics in our local communities.
It will no longer make sense to ship food around the world (and it really doesn’t today). We will have to grow food locally. We will also need to figure out how to build essential products locally (3D printers are just the beginning — replicators here we come). New systems that allow us to have planet-wide communication and sharing of knowledge, but local resilience.
I for one look forward to finding a new place to lay my head for an extended period of time again and get my hands in the soil — as Satish Kumar talks about, three keys to happiness are soul, soil and society. I am grateful to all the people who have been my hosts in the last 800 days. Thank you. You have been indispensable bricks on the road to maybe one day having contentment dwell in my heart.
For now, I know I need to continue to pollinate the planet, but I will do my best to do so virtually. This blog, I guess, is part of that. Thank you for reading it.