On Mobility

HoboPosted by Lentus Ambulandus

I have two favourite travel quotes. The first is by Paul Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar):

…leaving was a cure: “Have you tried aspirin?” “No, I think I’ll go to India.”

The other is by Bruce Chatwin (Anatomy of Restlessness):

“I’ve always wanted to go there,” I said. “So have I,” she added. “Go there for me.” I went. I cabled the Sunday Times: “Have gone to Patagonia.”

When I was younger, I was always thrilled at the prospect of setting off for parts unknown. The melancholy associated with leaving — if it existed at all — was superseded by the excitement of what lay ahead. Change was a virtue. The more different and challenging the new place promised to be, the better.

But as time passed, the lustre of travel seemed to fade. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe I thought I’d seen enough…or perhaps we decided so much change had become costly. I wrote about the merits of staying in place, and told myself that it was time to focus locally. My wife and I made a concerted effort to settle down, in what might be described as an ideal location. It felt unnatural.

And then…

About a week ago, my wife (an accountant, of sorts) phoned me as she was boarding a flight home from a work trip.

“I just got offered a six-month contract in Colombia.”

“When do they want you to start?”

“In two weeks. They need to know tomorrow.”

“Do it.”

We’re going to Colombia. On Saturday.

The most striking part of this was the complete lack of debate. When the opportunity to hit the road presented itself, it was like we breathed a huge sigh of relief: we aren’t settling down, after all! It’s almost as though the Colombia offer was a test, designed to reveal a great truth about how we really ought to live.

It’s also testament to the freedom of manoeuvre one gains by living an untethered, unencumbered lifestyle. Translation: we rent, we hardly own anything, and we have no commitments. The ass-pain associated with moving on short notice is fairly low.

Escapological lessons abound. I’ll write about freedom of manoeuvre, as well as the economics of our decision (hint: South America is a lot cheaper than Canada), in the next print edition of New Escapologist.

We’re taking two suitcases, two backpacks, and two bikes. After we’re finished in Colombia, we’ll put a moratorium on work and head further south — Peru, Chile, Argentina — where we’ll hike, cycle, and live simply. We’ll be gone for at least a year.

Leaving is a cure.

Have gone to Patagonia.

★ Buy the latest issue of New Escapologist at the shop or pre-order the book.


Lentus Ambulandus is New Escapologist's Chief Leisure Officer. He advocates doing the things worth doing (hiking, cycling, sipping coffee, reading books), and proudly accomplishes less in a month than most people do in a week. His creed is simple: Death Before Employment.

8 Responses to “On Mobility”

  1. Zainab Usman says:

    Enjoy! It is really nice to be able to take off at short notice.

  2. Spoonman says:

    This post really speaks to me because my wife and I are on the lam right now. We just started our international journey, but unlike you guys, we headed north…Montreal, as a matter of fact. Funny how we’re going to the country you guys are leaving =). But Montreal is a great town in the summer.

    We sold everything and only brought two suitcases, two carry-on bags, and two backpacks. We learned the hard way that the airline will stick you hard for checking in bags over the weight limit, which happens to be 50 pounds. They charged us $100 for each of the two overweight suitcases. Don’t go over the weight limit! If you absolutely must bring extra stuff, just pay the fee for an extra checked-in bag.

    In six months we’ll be going to Europe somewhere, but next time we’ll only bring two suitcases and two backpacks and we’ll make sure the suitcases are not over the weight limit.

    I look forward to reading your article in the next issue of NE!

  3. Zainab: thanks for the best wishes and the comment. Apologies for taking so long to respond.

    Spoonman: solid! Montreal in the summer is hard to beat. Regarding Europe, what are your plans? Some walking, perhaps? Food? Wine? All of the above?

  4. Spoonman says:

    Well, our plans aren’t yet concrete, but it’ll involve lots of walking, riding trains, festivals, art galleries, museums, and of course, food and beer. But what we’re really looking to do is to immerse ourselves into different cultures by living like locals.

    I’m going back to some articles from NE7: On the Lam. Robert’s article “An On the Lam Escape Kit” will be very useful in future trips.

    Do you guys know in which issue Samara’s article on galleries (tips/etiquette) appeared? I need to read it again before I hit some of the local places. Thanks!

  5. The same thing happened to me, when I originally moved to Canada! I paid £80 at Glasgow airport for an overweight bag. What made my bag so heavy was my famous DJ case full of DVD discs. Bloody thing! It was not money well spent either, as I ended up giving them away. Sorry you also had to learn the hard way. I’d have warned you, but of course the airlines already did: you and I both made the mistake of glossing over the luggage requirements. Sorry Spoonman. A harsh lesson about the cost of stuff and the liberty that comes with minimalism.

  6. Montreal’s a good place to live like locals, Spoonman. It’s different enough from the rest of North America to be interesting but it’s not Timbuktu: perfect really. It also helps that it’s quirky and idler-friendly and pretty cheap: good traits for Escapologists. I sing its praises in a chapter of the new book.

    Samara’s piece (I just checked) is on p62 of Issue 8. It’s called “How to Art,” which gave me a chuckle. When you’re in Montreal you could even drop into her old gallery for a look. I’ll drop you an email of the details.

  7. Re: baggage fees. You have to do the math. Cost of taking vs cost of replacing. Maybe the baggage fee is just the cost of doing business. But of course, you have to ask yourself: do you REALLY need the items in question? Do you really need 6 pairs of shoes? Are you actually going to read those books? Can you buy moisturizer in Spain?

  8. Spoonman says:

    Thanks for digging up Samara’s article!

    You know, the interesting thing about the way airlines list their fees is, well, they don’t list them. Most of the airlines disclose the fee during the check-in process at the airport, at wihch point it’s too late.

    Lentus: I wholeheartedly agree. We’ll just have to ditch a bunch of clothes we don’t really need, it won’t be a big sacrifice at all.

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