On a run-down camping in Bulgaria we met an older employee. He was lean and missed most of his teeth. We could hardly communicate with him because we did not share a common language. What struck us though were his distinctive wrinkles and facial features which often formed a happy smile or smirk. He did not seem to own much and seemed to live a simple life, at least as far as we could tell. What remains in our memory was his joy. Little things made him happy like a particular song in the radio that he liked or people passing by whom he knew as well as his attempts at speaking with us.
This encounter reminded us of another one which took place on our way to the European Taizé Meeting in Basel (Switzerland) last December. We had hitchhiked to Basel and got into a conversation with one of our drivers. What stayed with us from that encounter is the phrase: “all you need is less, we want to have more space for people rather than for objects”.
After that we have often contemplated how much we actually own. Even now that we are on the road and cycling and have thus naturally reduced our belongings many people who approach us are astonished at how much we are carrying. We have asked ourselves if we really need all this stuff we have loaded onto our bicycles? Why do we have it with us? Are they maybe even hindering our journey and encountering people? We’ve had problems answering this question…
If we look at our packing list we can see that we carry many things. After some reflection we became aware of the fact that they convey a certain feeling of security to us. The security of being able to manage different situations and if necessary creating solutions for problems. This also means independence, independence of other people. We need this security to go a step further in our lives, which in turn enables us to make new experiences and to have more encounters. Most of the time these new experiences help us to reduce our fears. To have certain (material) objects, a secure job or a secure environment don’t seem to be negative or hindering as a principle.
Still the question remains what it could have to do with other people. What if in our lives we only tried to cling to these objects and assumed securities? How open would we be for new encounters? How much time would we actually have for them? To own and maintain objects is often combined with a certain effort. And maybe we would be afraid to loose something like objects and securities. Possibly we had less opportunities for encounters.
Especially during our journey right now but as well already before it we realized that it is important to us to have these encounters and time with people. We don’t want to lie our focus on material objects but rather on having encounters and time spent together with other people.
Among other thing this short movie has been an inspiration to us. It is a beautiful example despite of it being a rather extreme one.