Most of us live a life of comfort, not to say we live free of care or sadness, as such things are unavoidable and transcendent in human nature. It is necessary, in order to fully understand the world in which we live, to experience it for the good and the bad. More often than not, the bad stuff comes along without any encouragement whatsoever, in fact, most of us spend the good majority of our lives try to avoid it! But as for me...
I will say I am a content man who has, thus far, lived a life full of blessings. So, while I live a wonderful life, it is not yet a full life. Some things will come in time such as graduation, starting a family, and mid-life crisis.... other things can be done now. Our hesitation comes in when we realize that to live a full life we must experience all sides of it, good and bad, happy and sad.
With this thought I set out on a walk on Saturday night at a few past midnight. Dressed in old, secondhand clothing and armed with a lighter, a Swiss army knife, bandanna, and a water bottle I walked the cold country roads, north, alone with my thoughts. I had eaten earlier that day at six, but had eaten nothing since then and already felt the pangs of hunger when I stepped out the door. If I may quore one Bilbo Baggins:
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
While it's true, I was not questing with the One Ring to save Middle Earth, I felt my own small sense of purpose. After a few miles I turned into the driveway of a landscaping supply business and looked for a place to sleep, hoping that in sleep my hunger would be forgotten. It worked for only half an hour before I was awoken and scared off by a loud pack of coyotes who thought it would be fun to bark and yip at the moon, only about 50 yards away from where I reclined in the cold, damp mulch. Seeing light on the horizon, I thought I had slept longer then I really had and simply began to walk back. Not much later it hit me that the light was that of the town, some three miles distance from me. So with no where to go I headed towards the light, hoping I could find somewhere hidden amongst the old buildings in town to sleep without bother.
Not much can be said of walking on little sleep and little food, only that you wish you could stop and sit for a while, wish that you could stand still and still be warm. These simple thoughts filled my head as I tried so very hard to ignore the questions and thoughts that normally plague my mind. The further I went, the more I wanted to just find the fastest route back to my warm bed, back to a hot shower and a late night meal. Even with that pull back to comfort I walked past all the roads that might lead home and went further away from security, that was, after all, the point of my walking.
As "bad" as it sounds, the point of my adventure into the discomforts of a lonely dark night was to experience suffering in some degree. One cannot truly know ones self until they have pushed themselves. By no means was this most the tiring thing I have done, it was not the most painful, not the coldest, and I have certainly been hungrier. So was it a waist of my time? Hardly. As partial as my trek was, as short lived and uneventful as it out to be, it created a feeling in me that is a rush no matter how it occurs. I felt free, not from my body in some deep spiritual way, not from the laws of man, but from the image that others and I have made for myself. In a place where I feel comfortable, in my hometown I felt the eyes of suspicion, I felt feared, I felt like a nobody; I felt alone out there walking the night. While generally not a good feeling, it was a humbling one, and one I would not change or take back.
By no means am I suggesting to up and leave what you have and choose a life of hardship, of suffering like Siddhartha just for that new feeling, just for experience. I love the life I lead, but every now and then you need to step outside of your comfort zone and try a bite of life's more bitter fruits. As terrible as that sounds, once you know your threshold, your breaking point, what you can accomplish with nothing more than will power, once you know that, the little things in life seem even smaller. You will find you really don't need to spend that $5 on a caramel mocha latte because you can be just as happy without it. Uncertainty and fears lessen, confidence and courage rise and the constricting bonds of consumerism melt off a little bit.
I plan on making more adventures of a similar nature in the near future to gain more new experience and insight. I recommend anyone try this, just break out of your own mold for a while. Be homeless for a night and see the world with a new set of eyes, let yourself release your preconceived expectations and foolish notions of life. Go out and have a fresh start, see what life is like when all you have is worn down soles, tattered jackets, and a brick walkway to sleep on.