Khader Syed

Less is more than enough

Thu Jun 26 2014


Almost 2 years ago, in the summer of 2012, I was on my way to a music festival. It was perhaps the most satisfying time ever, including trying to get to the festival and back. In the process, I ended up hitchhiking with a stranger I had met just a week ago. We ended up going from Germany to Portugal within 4 days, not having spent a single penny for any ride. That was pretty fast, by hitchhiking standards. I had to ask random strangers if they would give me a ride, strangers who spoke a language I didn’t speak or understand. I had to learn enough German/French/Spanish/Portuguese to ask people if they would give me a ride and to say thank you in those languages. We had a 1% or lower success rate trying to get strangers to give us rides.

It worked. We eventually reached the music festival in Portugal.

I didn’t have my laptop then, and I had just recently lost my phone in Tokyo, after an unfortunate incident. Less said the better. So, I bought a cheap talk and text phone in Germany. I could use that anywhere in Europe, so long as I spent lots of Euros. I didn’t actually end up using the phone, except when I needed someone to call me, instead of me calling them. A friend of mine in Berlin lent me his tent and sleeping bag, which I ended up using at the music festival and on my way back to Berlin, via Scandinavia.

The music festival itself was a different kind of crazy, in the best way possible. There were no advertisements and it was unlike any music festival I had been to. To be fair, I hadn’t been to any others before this. The composting toilets were the cleanest I had ever used. I could either take communal showers or take a shower in a private area. There was dust all around and it was 35C (95F) or more during the day. It used to get quite chilly at night. I barely ate very much while I was at the music festival, either because I wanted to save the little money I had brought or I didn’t have the appetite or the energy. There were all kinds of people and yet, I never once felt scared, except for that one time when I woke up from sleep, hot, sweaty and scared that I would end up dying alone. Perhaps the scariest moment of my life. I chalked it down to the heat. I went to listen to music at the dance temple, maybe twice or thrice. I thought it was the same kind of music. You’ve listened to one, you’ve listened to all, is what I thought.

All things considered, I loved that festival. Everyone was respectful of one another, friendly, and beautiful. It was like heaven on earth.

I had nothing then. Well, almost nothing. Barely ate and yet, it felt so very satisfying and comforting. After the festival, my friend and I hitchhiked back to Hamburg, and from there up north to Stockholm, where I stayed with my cousin’s family for a couple of weeks and eventually returned to Berlin.

All in all, a very eventful and eye-opening journey. While on the journey, I learnt a lot about myself, my own prejudices and biases. I realised I couldn’t learn unless I gave up what I already knew. And giving up, letting go is not easy. You have so much invested and you think, I can never give this up. I may not be able to live without this knowledge or this phone or maybe this jacket.

I was wrong. Everytime, I left something, let go off an idea, I ended up learning something new or finding something else. I stepped out of a pattern or a way of thinking that was not helping.

And so, the time has come, like many things before this. I thought I couldn’t quit Quora, until I did. I’ve never gone back. I thought I wouldn’t use Facebook. I’ve used it, a bit too much now. And so, it’s time for me to delete my facebook.

I got in touch with people I had forgotten long ago. I made new friends. I added a lot of snark. Over time, it’s usefulness has shrunk. And like Dad sometimes says, it has provided diminishing returns. And so, I have to ensure I focus on things that create positive value.

So, it’s a goodbye to all my facebook friends. I will still be here, living and breathing, in flesh, blood, and bones. If you ever need to get in touch with me, you know where to email me.

Adios! Auf Wiedersehen!