Why you don’t need to be afraid

As for you
do not seek what you are to eat
and what you are to drink.

Do not worry anymore.
Luke 12: 29

It’s not unheard-of to walk away from normal life, sell your stuff, and travel. People do it. More people do it than you may think.

But only two people whom I know of have traveled “successfully” with nothing–no money, no insurance, no food or shelter, no Plan B.  I say “successfully” because I’ve read of people who’ve tried it and been miserable.

One such successful traveler is Peace Pilgrim. The other is a guy named Jeffrey Sawyer. I ran across the bits of his story in the Sun magazine. That’s all there is of it. Bits.

Not long ago (maybe the late 1990s), Jeffrey sold his few possessions and went on a walking tour as an experiment in living consciously, deliberately, and in the moment. He carried a small backpack with some clothes and a few creature comforts like a mosquito net and some flour and salt. No money. No plastic. No nothing.

Unlike Peace Pilgrim, he accepted what people freely gave him, mostly because it felt rude to refuse, and also unlike Peace, he had no mission or message. He just wanted to walk and see what happened.

This seems crazy, I know, maybe irresponsible, maybe downright unAmerican, what with our work-ethic-on-steroids. Just to wander around like a homeless bum seems unproductive. But that’s another discussion.

The value (to me) of what these people did is what they learned. How do you survive without money or food or shelter? Or more to the point, how do you live trusting deeply that your most basic needs will be taken care of?

First, fear is unnecessary and distracting.

Peace Pilgrim was quite clear about this. “I’m not afraid of anything,” she said, and that was simply the truth, not braggadocio

Sawyer was more nuanced: “An outlook of pure curiosity and receptivity is also a defense against danger,” he wrote. “When I am not afraid and don’t desire anything, I perceive, not imagined dangers, but facts.”

Makes sense. When you’re relaxed and alert, you’re in control. You see things as they are, and you don’t get spooked by shadows.

When bad, scary things happened, when the real boogeyman arrived, both of these wanderers could assess the situation and deal with it. When a mentally ill teenager began beating Peace Pilgrim, she somehow connected with the part of him that was still responsive to goodness, and he stopped.

When Sawyer was being given a ride by a large, aggressive man who wanted to pay him for sex, “I looked at him directly, and I suddenly felt for the man. He occupies his days with this? I thought. …He seemed to need to know that he had power. Without words, I conveyed to him that he did….At the same time, I silently asked him to let me slide on this one.”

The man let him out of the car.

Second, trust that you will be given what you need. This is the Abundance Principle.

Sometimes they foraged in the woods; other times they ate homemade meals. Sometimes they slept on leaves; at other times they were given a bed to sleep in. They were content with either. They learned to eat well or do without, and it didn’t much matter which.

Sawyer writes: While I was walking through Rhode Island, hunger left me. For four days, no thought of eating emerged. Though four days is, for many, not a long time to go without, it was enough to show me that lack of food is nothing to fear. As fear and want diminish, the drive to eat dissipates, and one is filled with spirit alone.

And: It became clear that the amount of food I could gather or buy by my own doing was negligible in comparison to the abundance that arrived when I ceased making any effort at all.

Just for the record, to me four days is a LONG time to go without food. In the beginning, Sawyer tried to save extra food when he found it, but he noticed that it weighed him down and increased his anxiety. He worried about not having enough. Then he ate too much.

Peace Pilgrim wouldn’t accept money; Sawyer, on the other hand, didn’t ask for it, but accepted what people offered him, and then he had the opportunity to observe its effect on him. Eventually, he developed a rule that if he couldn’t spend the money he was given in a day, he’d give it away.

Some days I’d give away all the money I had to see if the absence of it made me miserable. It didn’t. Rather, the giving opened up my mind and heart to an abundance that exists regardless of whether one has money or not.

The Abundance Principle. This is the wild extravagance of the natural world. The pressed-down and running-over. The not-needing to spin and weave and yet being clothed like the lilies of the field.

Cape Breton Highlands

I’ve experienced this in spite of all my anxieties about not having enough–of whatever. In spite of having a lot of kids and being widowed young and earning a “living” as a freelance writer. My kids and I have always had enough. And that, to me, is a miracle. I just wish I hadn’t worried so much.

The Abundance Principle operates in a way I don’t understand because clearly people starve and things run out in this world. But the witness of these two wanderers is that if you live fearlessly, attentively, and in spiritual harmony, you will also live deeply, joyfully, and with everything you need.

On an Internet forum I read a comment from a person who had spent months trekking in the wilderness: “So much of [Sawyer’s writing] resonated with some of the thoughts/experiences I had while hiking the Pacific Crest. Out on the trail it becomes clear that something in the universe takes care of you. There is a power, a flow… and it gives you what you need when you need it.”

And THAT, my friends, is why you don’t need to be afraid.


Have you heard of anyone who traveled without food, money, or shelter? Please share.


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6 Responses to Why you don’t need to be afraid

  1. Debra 12 August, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Letting go of the fear. Why should that be so difficult when what is on the other side of that letting go is so much gain?

    • Kate Convissor 12 August, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      I don’t know, but it seems incredibly difficult. Maybe because there is the perception of losing control of your own life? Maybe because it involves trusting in that flow, that power, that…God?

      Does fear fall under an instinctual urge to survive. If we let go, do we leave ourselves open to bad stuff?

      Good question.

  2. Maria 11 August, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    “live fearlessly, attentively, and in spiritual harmony, you will also live deeply, joyfully, and with everything you need.” – wonderful sentiment

    • Kate Convissor 12 August, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      I hope it’s more than a sentiment. But it’s so hard to live that only a few discover whether or not it’s true.

      I’m working on it. I’ll let you know…

  3. richard 11 August, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    now is there a difference in being led by the Spirit as oppose to one going in the flesh. Was one person called to go and the Spirit led and guided, and was one just going in the flesh for the experience. it seems one person actually chose that as way of life no matter what as the other it seems he learned some valuable spiritual lessons along the way. but either way both ways seemed to be towards and inner self awareness.

    • Kate Convissor 12 August, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

      Is there a difference between going out with a spirit-led message and going out with a receptive, attentive desire to learn?

      Maybe. The purpose is different. But there were a lot of similarities in attitude and experience. Those similarities were what interested and inspired me.

      And, yeah, some valuable spiritual lessons and inner self-awareness.

      I think you’ve had some experience along those lines, no?