“Seventeen acres in Kelowna, with a lake view, just sold for two million dollars,” Ryan said while we hiked up a dirt path near the top of Mt. Doug last evening.
A view of the Pacific Ocean and distant snow-capped Olympic Mountains opened up through a gnarly-branched Gary Oak forest scattered with bright yellow broom bushes. Colourful neighbourhoods spread out below us and cars slowly navigated along the maze of streets.
“I’d prefer more land for less without the view,” he continued. “That way I could have a view of the world.”
His words struck me with sudden realization, like the apple that hit Newton on the head when he discovered gravity. At that moment, I became more aware of what I began creating in my own life two and a half years ago.
“I have a view of the world,” I said, “and I’m not rich, at least by North American standards.”
“I know you do! You’re the one who got me thinking this way,” he said.
Ryan has a business mindset and thinks more about long-term benefits than short term rewards. He wants to own an apple orchard. A view isn’t as important to him as the fertility of the land and how much of it he can get for a good price, just like owning a fancy car isn’t as important to him as getting from point A to point B. While some of his friends drive sporty 70K cars, he is content with a minivan. It still runs, he says. He values practicality more than luxury and it will get him far, I am certain.
I have never heard anyone say that before, “a view of the world,” which really translates to the freedom to see and experience the world because you are not tied down by debt or responsibility.
Earlier in my life I was bound to both. Like many of us, I had a mortgage, nice furniture and quality things. My desire for more increased as new home décor styles emerged and my favourite store, Pier 1, stocked up with beautiful new pieces. My mental list of ‘things that I wanted’ grew. For others the list may include different things like the latest and greatest TV, sound system or fancy new car or possibly a newer and bigger home to fit all of the accumulated stuff into.
My point is that in today’s ever-changing world there is always something newer and better to want, or more that we think we need.
Why do we do this? Often because we think that by having it we will become happier. What I have discovered, though, is it is a façade. The feeling is always only temporary. There will always be something more to want and, if we aren’t careful, we will dig ourselves into a financial pit that we can’t climb out of.
The stuff ends up owning us. It imprisons us and sets boundaries for us, limiting where we can go and what we can do.
Our view becomes local.
What if one was to free themselves from those shackles and let go of the stuff? What kind of view would they have then?
I know quite a few people with a view of the world who don’t have a lot of money. I also know people who have a lot of money tied up in assets or business who don’t have a view of the world. It’s a lot about choice and what’s important to each person.
In my old life, I was tied to a career field that I wanted to move away from because it paid my mortgage. It was where my experience was. Even though I was educated in something entirely different, when I graduated I couldn’t afford to start over at a low wage because I had so much to pay for.
Eventually, I learned that my happiness was not dependent on how much I had or what I owned.
The Camino de Santiago made that clear. It simplified my life down to what was really most important, the non-tangible things like relationships (family and friends), camaraderie, togetherness, sharing of wisdom, support during tough moments, celebration of small and big successes, spirituality, synchronicity and also, the discovery of my own strength and courage.
The material things weren’t as important to me. My 15 kilo backpack became 12 kilos before I set foot on the trail and then 8 kilos seven days later as I let go of things that weren’t necessary. The entire journey became a metaphor for life. It became an example of how I wanted to live.
After I returned home I let go of a whole lot more including my mortgage, most of my furniture and anything I could replace later. Without the mortgage, I didn’t need to rely on the type of work I was doing, so I quit.
I realized how free I was to create a whole new life.
First, I flew to South America where I backpacked for four months. Then, I returned to Victoria where I based myself in a small furnished bedroom and joined the UVic temporary staffing pool.
In three weeks, I will fly off again, this time to Europe for three months where I will see Paris, walk another pilgrimage in Spain and volunteer in an albergue as a hospitalera. Then I hope to visit a special Camino friend in Germany. Following that, I’m not sure where the wind will take me before I fly home in August.
In so many ways I am free and as I sat on a rock enjoying the view of one of my favourite places with a good friend last evening, I smiled to myself and realized the expansiveness of what I have created in my life.
A view of the world.