“You really don’t need very much to be happy”

May 26, 2016

I was born and raised in the USA but moved to Korea right after college to teach English. I spent about five years doing that before I hit the road. I first came to India in 2009 to spend some time volunteering at Sadhana Forest, a reforestation and low-impact living project in Auroville, Tamil Nadu. I came back again in 2014 as part of a long cycle-touring adventure. The Indian leg of the trip started in Manipur in the far northeast in June 2014 and finished back at Sadhana the following April.

Moving to Korea was one of the turning point for me since it was the first time I was ever really independent, both in terms of finances and also in terms of doing exactly what I wanted with my own time. Visiting and living at Sadhana was also a pretty major turning point. It was my first taste of living a life really compatible with my ideals. The experience and the relationships from those couple months have stuck with me and given me lots of strength ever since.

Figuring out how to live compassionately and fairly in such a complicated and quickly-changing world is the challenge that’s been occupying me for the last six or seven years. I expect that I’ll be dealing with it for the rest of my life. I’m not sure I have one single philosophy, but there are a couple ideas that have kind of shaped my current lifestyle. One is that you really don’t need very much to be happy. I’ve spent the last three years living off my bike with about 40 pounds of possessions and have enjoyed almost every moment of it. Likewise, living in a bamboo hut at Sadhana spending the days planting trees with new friends was also one of the happiest periods of my life.

Another idea that’s important to me is that everyone else’s happiness is just as important as mine — I’m talking about animals as well as people. I want to find a way to live my life while respecting and even supporting the needs of other humans and sentient beings.

To me this means eating a vegetarian diet, avoiding products and activities that pollute the environment, and doing good wherever and whenever I get a chance.

I’m not sure when I’ll be leaving India! I plan to spend at least a year volunteering at Sadhana and other projects around the country. When I’m through with that, I might join one of the other Sadhana projects in Haiti or Kenya, or I might continue cycling, or I might return to the US to get a Master’s in organic farming. Or I might do something else entirely. I’ve been cycle touring in Asia since August 2012–33,000 kilometers and fourteen countries so far. That’s kind of on hold now while I take some time to volunteer and reflect.

Mike