By Lentus Ambulandus.
For the last several weeks, my wife and I have been staying in a small town in the Chilean district of Los Rios, a ten-hour drive south of Santiago. We chose this place because we found cheap accommodations, there’s a lake to swim in, and the area is ideal for cycling.
Coming here has been a sort of homecoming for me. I spent the first seventeen years of my life in a village of about 200 people in western Canada, and while our current location is a little more populous, not to mention a lot more Chilean, it shares many of the same inconveniences associated with small-town isolation. Need new clothes? Sorry. Want to buy a book? Not here. A pub? Ha! Our landlady complains that she has to travel nearly two hours to Valdivia to deal with anything official in nature. Should we have a major problem with one of our bicycles, we would have to do the same. When the power was out last week, we had to wait a day for the utility company to respond.
That being said, there are clear Escapological advantages to small towns. This environment seems a better, more tolerant fit for “getters-by” who are content to do what’s required and not a lot more. Housing is certainly not fancy (the Chilean building code is openly mocked here). Nobody seems particularly concerned with appearances, so there’s no need to dress stylishly…doing so would make a person look out of place. Given the near-complete lack of things to spend money on, you simply don’t spend your money. And for those who love nature (which is usually free of charge), it is always closer at hand in a small town.
Our days here are basic, consisting of sports, lounging around in the shade reading, and eating. This may seem a little too basic for some, and to be fair, I wouldn’t want to live like this forever. But just like camping and small dwelling spaces, small towns provide another way to recalibrate your stuff-o-meter, by showing you just how little you need to live well.
As 2015 draws to a close and you once again consider your resolutions for the upcoming year, perhaps give some thought to a period of self-imposed exile, to an environment that forces you to strip away the excess and rediscover how much is enough. As someone once said:
Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.
From a small town in southern Chile, I wish you safe passage through the remainder of the holidays, and a new year bursting with leisure.