A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop

Smangus June 2015 (13 of 46)-2Taiwan: a mystical land of cloud seas, green mountain forests, misty mountains, hobbits wizards and dragons. Well, dragon boats, anyway. You will be unsurprised to learn that I have gleaned yet more insight from my wanderings among the leafy peaks of this island. Along with an intrepid band of adventurers, I bravely took a minibus to Smangus, known as ‘the most remote village in Taiwan’. And remote it was! Only a stone’s throw from the coffee shop, we found ourselves in a magical bamboo forest where the souls of the mountain seemed to whisper. What did they whisper? I strained my ears couldn’t quite catch it . Something about Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons. Sounded like a spoiler to me, so I ignored it.

Bamboo is an inspiring plant. It grows really fast. It’s a lovely shade of green. It is flexible, yet strong. It looks great with Zhang Ziyi flying around it. All things to emulate if you can.Smangus June 2015 (27 of 46)

Not just bamboo featured on this walk. There were some huge cypress trees too. Marvellous. There really is nothing better for the soul than looking at impressive vegetation in mountain air. On the way to our accommodation I felt purified. So much so that I only felt the need to purchase two bottles of Taiwan Beer to go with dinner, so that my sense of purity would not be disturbed.

In the evening, we stayed in an indigenous Taiwanese village and were treated to a slap-up meal followed by a sing-song and a dance around a large bonfire. Our hosts proudly sang us the song of their people. Then our party and a load of people circled the fire and sang something in Chinese. Like a good foreign tourist I mouthed syllables that sounded vaguely like what the locals were singing. Having finished my two bottles of beer I mouthed them quite loudly. Everyone thought I was brilliant and exhorted me to sing some more. I did. They cheered my brilliance. Then they brought out some sort of massive pestle and mortar and some people sang while pounding what appeared to be a kind of grainy custard. With perfect timing, a tourist from Hsinchu handed me more beer and talked at length in Chinese. ‘對,’ I said (a lot), ‘是阿,’ because my Mandarin is so awesome.

IMG_20150606_211209220After a while, I claimed the custard stick like the boss that I am and had a go myself. ‘Sing!’ they all shouted. I couldn’t remember what I had been singing earlier but somehow Britney Spears’ classic hit Baby One More Time seemed even more appropriate to the task at hand.

Then we barbecued some very delicious salt-encrusted boar meat on sticks on the bonfire. Roast boar goes really well with beer. This is the greatest insight from my pilgrimage to the mountains around Smangus.

If you want to go there too, I highly recommend Taiwan Adventures. (Thanks to Stu for two of these photographs.)

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!  IMG_20150606_211707950

Epistle from the Hermit’s New Cave

I have returned! Yes, I know, you’d given up. You thought I’d given up. You’d gone through all the seventeen stages of grief – denial, bargaining, Jack Daniels, toenail chewing, et cetera. Your world was impoverished, you were lost, wandering in the darkness like a lamb separated from its hive mind, wondering how you would ever fill the gaping soul-void left by my departed wisdom. But now, I have returned, and – whisper it – I am wiser than ever. I know, it seems unlikely, but would I, the original Existential Vacationer, make such claims lightly? That’s right: no. I make them heavily. Very heavily. With utmost heaviosity. Read on.

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I was on the train from Yilan to somewhere near Taroko Gorge last Friday evening when I saw this sign. Somehow, subconsciously, it spoke to me. The message took a few days to percolate through all the wisdom already in my brain, but I have now realised that, in a very real sense, this sign was telling me what I have done. After another year of living… oh, here and there, traveling hither and thither in a reprise of the original Great Doss, I have, suddenly and randomly, applied pressure to the Great Handbrake of my Soul and, with a squeal of rusty brakes, of spiritual metal meeting wanderer’s wheel of transience, I have come to a halt.

Where have I arrived? In all my wanderings, to mountains, jungles, seas and cities, one country has come closest to being a spiritual home. It is a beautiful mess of contradictions. It seems like everything is all mixed up together in one great big overwhelmingly confusing yet ultimately endearing pile: cities, beaches, rainforests, great towering mountains topped with pine trees, chickens, ducks, bars, beef noodle stalls, Buddhist temples, Hello Kitty airport gates, scooters, musical garbage trucks and lots and lots of Seven-Eleven stores.

The chaos called to me. So here I am. I have moved to Taiwan.

As Ecclesiastes so aptly states, there is a time for everything: a time to reap, a time to sow; a time to live and a time to die; a time to attend a djembe workshop against a backdrop of stunning limestone karst scenery and a time to go for a 120 minute oil massage. There is also a time to travel, and a time to stay put in one place.

All spiritual voyagers need to take root sometimes. Every wandering hermit needs to find his cave now and then. But most seem to require their caves to be far away from civilisation. Perhaps half way up a mountain, or in a desert devoid even of Seven-Elevens, their homes are simple affairs with no electricity, proper sanitation or concierges.

I have decided to make my sojourn even more difficult than that. Instead of fleeing the temptations of civilisation, I have placed myself among them. Like Odysseus chaining himself to the mast of his ship, I see the sirens of the city but still remain pure. Any fool can meditate if that’s the only thing around to do. It takes a truly enlightened soul to live in moderate luxury and still thread his camel through that needle’s eye. IMG_20150528_175916423

With these principles in mind, I have chosen my cave. It is in an apartment building in the Zhongshan district of Taipei.

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I have gone for simplicity. I have a place to work. I have a place to rest and watch reality television (thus making my quest for inner peace even more of a test). There is a modest gym in the basement so I may maintain my sleek exterior. There is a night market outside so I can ruin it. Further afield… we’ll see. Stay tuned to the all new Existential Vacation at its new dedicated web address. Great adventures await.

 

Ping Pong! Ding Dong!

 I’ve had an Epingphany. It’s a bit like an epiphany, but it involves the use of Ping Pong as a metaphor. As I was experiencing the terror or trying to fit all my worldly possessions into a Hong Kong-size apartment, it occurred to me that I am in fact a cosmic ping pong ball, being batted back and forth between East and West. From London to Singapore then via various places (see previous posts) to Manchester and now to the romantically-named Special Administrative Region. Who are the players in this giant game? Are they gods, or merely blind forces which, when not given to anthropomorphisation (if indeed that is a word – if not, consider it coined), we call Fate, or Physics, or Karma, or… er…. Mojo. I stroked my chin for a while to contemplate then had a San Miguel.
 The standard answer to this kind of blossoming self-awareness is to slow down. Take things easier. Look inward and meditate. Inhale deeply the aroma of coffee, flowers, yak dung or whatever it is greets you as you tread upwards on your spiritual path. But if that’s all I had to offer, then why would you be reading this? A thousand other gurus would tell you the same. And they’d all be right.
 No, Existential Vacation has another answer for you,one which it has taken literally minutes for me to think up as I sit at the Peak Bar with my Saturday afternoon coffee, watching the people on the escalator glide up the hill to the evocatively-monikered ‘Mid Levels’. If you feel that the world has made you into a ball in a giant game of ping pong (or pinball, or rugby, or whatever your favoured ball-oriented metaphor may be*), the answer is this: speed up.
 Being the adventurous sort that I am, the first stage in my quest for speed was to flag a taxi. The door swung open mysteriously on its own, as if some ghostly force wanted me to enter it. “Go, lah!” I instructed the driver. “Go fast!” He tried, but sadly the roads of Hong Kong conspired to obstruct us in our journey. Twenty minutes later we had covered a total of three hundred metres and were being overtaken by an old lady collecting cardboard boxes. I paid my fare and alighted, determined to find some other way to achieve velocity.
  I decided that I would need to be in shape for the speediness of my new life, so I joined the Pure Fitness Gym and paid a frankly stupid amount of money for personal training sessions. Gratifyingly, my trainer is called Gun, an excellent name for someone who inflicts pain for a living. Three mornings a week he tortures me in various ways. I ache. All it seems to do so far is slow me down.
 I therefore decided I needed to be more creative in my interpretation of speed. Perhaps, as a musician, what I need to do was play music fast. So off I went to my local bar, the Peel Fresco Music Lounge, which is great because it has music, a wide selection if drinks, a jam night on Tuesdays where anyone can get in stage and play, and paintings on the wall, some of which feature naked breasts. What more could you want? I borrowed a guitar, plugged in and moved my fingers as fast as I could. Widdly widdly widdly widdle,  I went. Diddly diddly wee!  I turned the volume on the amplifier up to eleven and repeated. Sadly the rest of the band were playing smooth bossa nova jazz, and the customers were pressing their palms to their ears in pain. I was asked to leave. Some people have no appreciation of good music.
 Not to be discouraged, I headed for Happy Valley, named sarcastically by the first British settlers there because they all got malaria. These days, Happy Valley is famous for horse racing. I approached the officials at the race track and demanded they let me ride the favourite in the first race of the night. Inexplicably, they declined. Despondent, I watched the race. The horses whizzed past in a thunder of drumming hooves and flying sweat, a thousand people shouting their lungs out to in encouragement and waving  bits of paper. It was then that I was struck with an idea: perhaps if I put bets on the horses, I could get rich, and then none of that enlightenment or meaning stuff would matter! I pulled out a wodge of cash and hot-footed it down to the betting hall. After some thirty seconds of examining the form and latest odds, I confidently staked a portion of my hard-earned savings on a horse with a funny name. I must in fact be a genius, because the horse won the race… I collected my winnings, a total of thirty three Hong Kong Dollars. This, I could sense, was the beginning of something great.
 However, despite my obvious talent in horse-picking, it just wasn’t quite fast enough for me. Thus it was that I flew down to Singapore, my old haunt, for the Singapore Grand Prix. Ear plugs duly inserted, off I went with a bunch of friends to watch the ‘fast broom brooms’ (Oli’s name for them) go round and round. It was there that I realised that you can find the Tao as much in the scream of a Formula One engine as in the petals of a lotus. (Well I am pretty sure it was the Tao. Actually I don’t really know what that is, but it sounds deep.) I had come close to the ultimate in speed. After the race, we went onto the track and walked around it, soaking up the petrol fumes. I came home to Hong Kong happy, confident that my life would pick up ever greater velocity and I hurtle towards Nirvana.

 *Behave.

The Strange Latest Voyage…

“Here I go again on my own…”

The words of David Coverdale ring prophetically in my ears.

It is a year (and a bit) since my last post. Probably nobody is listening any more. Or reading. But what is time? Merely a concept, like infinity. A year, a second, it’s all the same to the rugged voyager on his journey to Epiphany.
Last year I was at Land’s End. Much has changed since then. My bicycle was stolen by hoodies. The pain in my rear has disappeared. I am now forty years old, and therefore ripe for even more hilarious mid-life antics. Decisions were made.
I decided to move on again, back to the East. But before I got onto the plane, I decided to have a good look at my own country – to journey its length and breadth and peer under some of its stones. It was a good journey. From Manchester, I went north, to Inverness, then to Ullapool and on, via sea, to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. The Hebridean Celtic Music Festival was in full swing, and I duly grooved and/or jigged merrily to the pipes.
I then travelled almost the while length of the country back through Manchester, bidding it a fond farewell, to Cleeve Prior (where the ducks are still half-tame) to Exeter, just in time for the arrival of my second niece, Natalie (or ‘Potato’ as her sister calls her). Thence to Heathrow, and here, to Hong Kong, where I have determined to make my fortune, by betting on horse races.
Stay tuned. More adventures and revelations await…

Chris T on a bike!

Sometimes you feel the need to go to the ends of the Earth. This month I settled for the end of England. Struggling with a feeling of constriction, harried by the demands of life in the city, I felt like getting on a plane and going… somewhere… anywhere. I thought about just turning up at an airport and buying a ticket to wherever took my fancy on the day – but apparently this is quite expensive. So I took the money I would have spent and went to the bike shop.

They must have seen me coming. The shop owner, spotting a walking mid-life-crisis coming through the door, rubbed his hands in glee. Glossy brochures were produced. Accessories were demonstrated. A phone call was made. A couple of days later, my bank account significantly lighter, I was the proud owner of a shiny new touring bicycle. I had a steed. All I needed now was a mission.
I shall call my bike Roz. After a mere three hours of negotiation at Piccadilly station, a testament to the modern efficiency of the UK’s privatised rail system, I managed to book a place for Roz and myself on a train to Exeter the following day. I determined that my mission would be in three parts:

1) Play with Alice, my niece;
2) Watch England play Germany at football;
3) Cycle from Exeter to Land’s End.

Alice provided cute and diverting antics; my brother provided the Weissbier, barbecued bratwurst and sauerkraut for the match. I provided the ludicrous optimism about the next stage of my plan. The sports commentators proved even more optimistic about our team’s prospects.
Leaving behind the sports result, I hopped on top of Roz the next morning and headed west, sure that on this persistently pedalling pilgrimage, I would achieve new plateaus of epiphany.
I discovered that the ups and downs of life’s journey are quite literally mirrored, in geologic form, in the hills of Devon and Cornwall. I knew, of course, that the West Country is hilly, but

the theoretical knowledge of that fact is academic – like Plato watching by firelight the shadows that Socrates made with his fingers on the walls of their cave in ancient Greece. Socrates might have done a convincing bunny, but the true essence of bunnyness can only be experienced directly. By waiting silently outside a warren, for example, until a twitching nose ventures tentatively into the evening air. Or perhaps from a trip to a Paris brasserie. But I digress.

As with Socratic bunnyness, so it was with the Platonic essence of hilliness, which I encountered on my bicycle mission. Plato, of course taught that the true nature of things can only be apprehended by using the intellect. Try as I might, for the true appreciation of going up and down hills on a bicycle, I couldn’t get my head around it. Quite the reverse, in fact. The lesson I have learned is that some things can only truly be understood by using your buttocks.
Yes, I know, you are shocked. But nobody said enlightenment would always be genteel. And the pain came with its reward. I reached the end of England. I drank an overpriced coffee. I chatted with the coachload of Pinoy tourists. And I gazed out into the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed endless: full of promise, full of mystery, full of beauty, full of…. water.
The water held my gaze for a few brief hours, and for those hours I forgot the pain in my butt.

Always believe in your…. soul!

“You’ve got the power to know, you’re indestructible! Always believe in…”

Twenty-seven years ago, a fresh-faced twelve-year boy old was put on a bus one morning at the gates of Fellside Middle School and was taken with his classmates to a television studio in Newcastle, unaware that the events which would happen that day would change his life forever.
We’re going back to where it all began – delving into the genesis of my spiritual quest. Yes, this week on your favourite transcendental blog, you are getting some history.
The year was 1983. The TV programme was Tyne Tees Television’s Razzmatazz. Every week, three popular groups of the day would mime to their latest release while schoolchildren in the audience clapped along. And one of those schoolchildren was me.
Was it Kim Wilde who had such a profound effect on my state of consciousness? Perhaps – she almost fell out of her loose-strapped leather dress – but that is another story. Was it the new single ‘Who’s that girl?’ from the Eurythmics that started me on a quest for true wisdom? Well, it was a good song, but there was something better. As Tony Hadley, the Kemps and that cheery bloke on the bongos took to the stage, we could feel something special was in the air.

“It’s a slow start, so don’t start clapping along until the drums start,” the floor manager said. “Thank you for coming home,” Tony’s voice crooned over the sound system while the man himself moved his lips in time to the recording. We were transported into another world.
Perhaps it would be overstating the case to say that my entire life philosophy was sparked by a chance childhood encounter with Spandau Ballet. But I’m going to say it anyway. And last weekend, at the 2010 Isle of Wight Festival, I came full circle. There they were again. The magic was still alive.

Festivals are an essential part of any Existential Vacationer’s life experience. Paying hundreds of pounds to pitch your tent between the pile of beer cans and the chemical toilets, be hit by flying receptacles of suspiciously warm liquid and stand in the mud while your favourite recording artists try to remember the words of a song they ceased to care about two decades ago is a privilege, and truly develops the soul.

Fortunately, the weather at the Isle of Wight this year was warm and sunny, and a state of bliss was achieved during the saturday afternoon set of Crowded House, who played to a chilled out, sun-drenched crowd. “You’ve got a long night ahead,” Neil Finn called out to the fans, “Pace yourselves!” Rock and roll.
It was a weekend of wit and wisdom between the songs, as well as epiphanic moments during them. Neil Finn spent about twenty minutes trying to guess which county one of the stewards was from. “Dorset? Lancashire? Essex?” The audience was transfixed by his bold attempt to bond with them.
Sadly, it failed.

I have forgotten the name of the Strokes’ lead singer – but this seems appropriate, as I believe he would have been hard pressed to remember his own name during the gig, such was the level of enlightenment he had achieved. “Wow… man… Isle of Wighty!” he slurred, making it clear that he had left his sense of identity far, far behind, before trying to pimp the bass player to women in the audience. Truly an inspiration.

And Paul McCartney demonstrated his sound grasp of Rastafarian patois after what must have been a new song, backed by a strange blue projection of Barack Obama’s face. Yes We Can still perform for two hours at the age of 68. Fortunately he stuck mostly to the old stuff – after the huge pyrotechnics during Live and Let Die, he rested on his piano. “Too loud,” he groaned theatrically, before launching into another story about how he knew Jimi Hendrix and was part of The Beatles. “In the sixties…,” he began, before being interrupted by a cheer. “Don’t give me that, you don’t remember them,” he retorted. A classic put-down.
But if Neil Finn was your embarrassing dad and Macca your slightly confused grandad, Tony Hadley was the slick, suave uncle, returned from making a lot of money on the stock exchange, sharp-suited, tanned and full-voiced, looking prosperous and with a knowing wink to the ladies in the audience. “For some couples out there, this might be your song,” he said before True. And after the pre-encore bow, he said, “We could do the egotistical thing and go off and come on again – but let’s just get it over with. After three, shout ‘Hurrah!’ One, two three…”
“Hurrah!” we shouted.
“You know which song it is,” he said. We sang all the words. It was indestructible.

I owe it to the world

Stirrings deep in the, er, depths of my conscience prompt me to take keyboard in hand again and type. No, I am not backpacking again. Yes, I have a job. Yes, I live in an apartment in Manchester, a city with only one place that sells good Laksa. But life is journey, is it not? Every day is an odyssey, from the brave hoisting of the morning sails as you venture from your duvet-covered womb out into the harsh grey mist of another day, to the weary voyager’s return to the simple comforts of a 42″ flat-screen television and a large gin and tonic. Oh yes. And I couldn’t leave you all alone without the benefit of my guidance, could I? After all, what would be the point of all that travelling if I didn’t continue to share the fruits of my spiritual journey with the world? Could I really live with myself knowing all the little people out there who were relying on my sage advice, hanging on my every word for the merest dewdrop of wisdom to fall from the morning grass-blade of my mind onto the receptive fertile earth of their hearts? No, I couldn’t. I owe it to those people to blog again – and blog again I will!

All great rock bands disband and then, twenty years or so later, as their cash flow wanes, stage a come-back tour, gritting their teeth as they put up with hated former friends on stage and chug out tunes they no longer care about while mindless fans scream with uncritical appreciation. This will not be like that at all. It will be even better than the original Existential Vacation! So be prepared to have your collective minds blown by the sheer depth and mature odour of my wise words. EV has returned. Tell your friends.

Last Prata Supper

Ephemeral; impermanent; temporary; over all too soon…

No, I am not talking about my bedroom exploits. The time has come, my friends, to lay down the mantle of existential vacation-dom. The Big Doss is over. Yes, it had to happen sooner or later. Ultimately the search for enlightenment must end, and end it has.

I am back where I began. I have taken my belongings out of the storage facility and put them on a boat bound for England. I am revisiting the places here that I love, and the people, and bidding farewell to Asia, at least for now. I’m cancelling the roaming cellphone account and getting on a plane with a one-way ticket to Manchester. I have taken a job. I will find an apartment. I will rejoin reality.

So, the question: was it all just a big waste of time? Who knows? Instead of trying to answer this futile question, I will take this last opportunity to write about one of my favourite subjects: food.
And what better location for it? October has been spent in the makan-tastic locations of Singapore and Taiwan. To augment this final blog experience, I have recruited the help of the Thought-provoking Chicken from Taiwan’s Rueihong Night Market in Kaohsiung.

The Thought-provoking Chicken is a kind of gastronomic guru, an ovulating oracle, a squawking shaman, a feathered philosopher … the alliterative monikers could go on forever. But as our subject is the ephemerality of life, they won’t.

As many deeply spiritual beings know, most problems of the soul can be fixed by eating stuff, whether it’s chicken soup, dover sole or ice kachang to counter the heatiness of a surfeit of durian. So in this last ever Existential Vacation, I and the TPC offer you a comprehensive guide to Eating Your Way to Nirvana. In this first and final installment, we list the philosophical properties of various excellent foods.

1) Snails
If you were born in the year of the dog, and mars is ascendent in uranus, try these Taiwanese snails in chilli sauce. If you suck hard enough, or winkle them out of their shells with a toothpick, you will be rewarded with a blend of gastronomic yin and yang.
TPC says: “Snails are much tastier than chicken!”

2) Korean Tinned Meat
I am always on the lookout for authentic ethnic cuisine in the countries I travel to. Sometimes I find a genuinely new, delicious and exotic taste experience. While in Korea earlier this year I came across this delicious potted meat – a genuinely novel culinary encounter for me. Some travellers might stick with what they know, but I bravely tucked in! It made me feel… somehow filled with energy and light. I still wonder what it was.
TPC says: “A delicious alternative to poultry!”

3) Stinky Tofu
If your feet measure more than a six on the Stinchter Scale, try eating this amazing Taiwanese delicacy! It might taste like drains, but at least you won’t be able to smell your feet any more.
TPC says: “Mmmm… tofu…”

4) Beermats
We all know beer is the best medicine. But if you’re too young to drink (like Oli), simply suck on a beermat! Nutritious and delicious.
Oli says: “Gurgle pthththt barp!”

I trust this last, final, ultimate and terminal installment of Existential Vacation has provided the food for thought that you have become accustomed to.

Thank you and goodnight.

Follow that camel!

These are not the camels you are looking for… move along…

I have travelled to mountains, beaches, jungles and plush cocktail bars in search of enlightenment. I have searched high and low and in places of medium elevation for meaning and truth. I have attempted to spread my message of Inner Interiority through the medium of electrons whizzing through the cybersphere. However, there comes a time when one moves on from being the lone pilgrim, when one heeds ones calling to spread the word more directly…

Merlin had his Knights of the Round Table; Yoda had his Jedi; Merve had the Magic Tones. As I wandered through the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco among the juniper trees, I wondered: was I, the Existential Vacationer, missing out something? A following, perhaps? Could I be more effective as the facilitator of a spritually-enabled, task-focused existential enterprise, boldly moving forward in an integrated manner?
The answer, clearly, was yes.
In a flash of insight, I knew I had fulfilled my destiny as a solitary ambassador of fluff, trudging the world with only the humble accessories of backpack, Nikon and iPod. In order to fully realise my potentiality, I decided, I needed to gain followers.
I would become a Cult.
Of course, this being Existential Vacation, a normal cult wouldn’t do. I hunted for inspiration, for transferable concepts which would leverage my brand into a truly apocaplyptic force. Finally I hit on something. Inspired by the Engand Rubgy Team’s performance in last year’s world cup, and their concept of ‘total rugby,’ I have launched a brand new paradigm in cult formation. I have decided to become a Total Cult.

All the best science fiction movies, and many of the best spiritual movements, start in deserts. Think of Sting riding Sandworms, or Obi Wan Kenobi chopping off the hands of Tattoo artists while muppets play jazz. Fortunately – and surely this can be no coincidence – the Sahara Desert was close at hand. Using my previously demonstrated powers of blending in with locals, I disguised myself as a Tuareg and (quite literally) hot-footed it to the sandy wastes, where I was sure my plan would come to fruition.

Once there, acting with lightning speed, I jotted down a list of stuff that a total cult needs. First of all, any cult needs followers. In another of those strange ‘coincidences’ that fill our lives, whose ultimate mysterious significance we must tune ourselves into, a follower duly appeared. I was joined by an existential acolyte, hoping to learn from the master of finding ones inner self through backpacking. She will henceforth be referred to by her Existential Vacation Cult name: ‘Oh Teeny Miracle’. I have encouraged her to start up her own blog as a path to enlightenment. Look for the link soon. Here we see the Teeny Miracle learning one of the early lessons of Existential Vacationism: if in doubt, have a cup of tea. Note the wide staring eyes and manic grin of the Cult Follower. She is learning her lessons well.

Of course, the desert demands respect. And any credible spiritual movement needs a stylish outfit. As The Way of the Purist (desert edition) clearly states in its ‘sartorial desert rules’ section:
1) socks should not be washed – ever;
2) turbans should be worn loosely wrapped and used periodically for the cleaning out of earwax

Sporting our turbans, we marched for days through the arid wastes, gazing at the stars, meditating, avoiding camel dung and picking sand out of odd places. It was a time of exile, forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. (More or less. Actually less.) Along the way, I accumulated other followers, both human and the dromedary variety. The loneliness of the desert took its toll on some, leading me to formulate the third rule: free love optional.

If you would like to join the Existential Vacation Cult, and learn the remaining rules, please send a cheque for your entire net worth plus government certified bailout bonds for any stocks or shares you may own, to the usual address.