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.


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.


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