Reflections on My First Year of Being Untethered

A 60 year old cancer survivor gives up his way of life and most of his belongings to experience minimalist travel and rediscover his heart. This article reflects on just a few moments from one year ago when I was preparing to leave my home and life in the United States behind for South America, and then to ramble to places yet unknown.

I let most of my physical possessions go because I found that the things that were the most important to me in life, we’re not things at all.  

– exploringwithbruce.com

It Was One Year Ago, Almost to the Day…….

I was standing in front of a makeshift desk, surveying a variety of items, papers and keepsakes.  

I was in a race against time of sorts, and I was making decision after decision.  I had given notice on my apartment, and had only one day left before I needed to vacate. With each passing hour I was giving away more and more of my personal belongings.  My dispensing of these objects was not an attempt to cleanse myself of the past, as I believed my experiences of the few previous years had already done much of that for me.  This was more of my way of lightning my load for the future.    

And of that future, I knew little.  I had a plane ticket out of the country, that was a fact.   But where I would head after that, and where my life was truly going …. I did not know.   After trying to live a reality where I wanted, … no, needed to have a specific destination established before ever walking out of a door, something had changed.  That new reality, of my moving towards an undiscovered future, would be revealed in time.  

But at that moment there was one thing I did clearly know – Wherever I was going, I could not take these things with me.  What surrounded me was stuff I had spent a lifetime accumulating and energy and resources trying to retain and protect, and today I was finding new places for them in the world.  I let them go because I found that the things that were the most important to me in life, we’re not things at all.

Surviving cancer, struggling relationships, career transitions and the deaths of loved ones have a way of jump starting our personal revelations, the rediscovery of who we really are and reigniting our once forgotten dreams.

So there I sat on the old wooden floor of my simple 1940-ish apartment in the middle of West Hollywood, California. A beautiful area that I had wound up in by happenstance.  Moving minute-by-minute, I touch many items for the last time. I discarded the useless, or sorted them into piles for friends, family or to give away to charities supporting those in need.  

Small Moments of Remembrance

My pressing deadline didn’t stop my occasional moments of turning to stare out the window.  If you have ever prepared to leave your home and your old life behind, you know the feeling.   For me, this typical 80-degree Fahrenheit beautiful Southern California Autumn day without a cloud in the sky invoked some deep feelings from long ago.  The slow breeze carried the sounds of singing birds through the open apartment door.  The simple wash of wistful feelings was both pleasant and a bit melancholy. They were anonymous spare parts from childhood Los Angeles memories, like something you find in a drawer that you thought years ago you needed to keep, but today you cannot possibly identify its origin.    

My Old Home Town

I stood up and walked to the door to smell the Fall California air one more time.  I wanted to remember it.  But I soon turned back to my task as I could hear the sirens calling me. I was leaving this town, I was leaving this state. Hell, I was leaving this country and this continent.  And even more than that, I was leaving my home and a life that in many ways I’d already left behind.

One year later, I am still on the road.  Those that have followed my occasional blogging about my journeys know that I traveled thousands of miles through Western South America last year and have spent all of this current year driving throughout parts of North America.  I have stayed in a variety of places, and occasionally with family and dear friends when I am passing through their towns.  I have thoroughly enjoyed each moment.  And I have been writing, recording and photographing much of my trip with the intent to publish the material.  

A Hesitant Writer

Initially I was encouraged by several friends and other folks in the cancer community to write a blog about the experiences that would surely come my way.

But the truth is I was resistant at first because this journey was somewhat of a private affair.  I also was hesitant to commit to reporting my whereabouts and my adventures in real-time because I honestly had no clue of what was coming and what should be shared.  How was I supposed to write about what I did not know?  And, how could I articulate my vision for this “personal quest” when the entire purpose of my voyage was to find that very thing. 

My story was simple. I was a guy looking at a Tabula Rasa, charting a path into a sea with nothing but a fog bank on the horizon. 

Sure, I was excited, but I was also scared. I wasn’t completely 100% either because I was still physically recovering from the cancer surgeries and radiation aftermath.  That process I was told would take up to 2 years. I was skipping town just after 12 months. I am brilliant at planning!

The only thing I did know for certain was that something was coming, and somehow I didn’t have to worry or think about it much anymore. And over time, I would learn that I didn’t have to have it all figured out. Real journeys don’t have to be perfectly scripted, or crescendo exactly on queue. 

I once wrote that after holding back for many years, I was now “throwing myself at life.” But in hindsight, I believe I was actually stumbling forward along the stanchions of a lane that had been set out before me. Over time, I just started to let go and life started to draw me in. 

Where in the world did we ever come up with the illusion that we are the only one’s influencing and guiding our own personal way along this path of life? 

I was hearing music, but there wasn’t any sound.” 

I have learned much since that fateful day one year ago when I dawned my camera gear backpack, picked up my duffel bag with just a few clothes and started to leave.  Before walking out of the apartment for the last time, I turned to look inside the now empty space where I survived cancer and “a life that quite nearly killed me” before closing and locking the door.   I was smiling.  I can only explain what I felt by saying that I was hearing music, but there wasn’t any sound.   

What I learned was that half of everything I thought when I was not being true to myself was completely wrong.  But the other half, the part that opened my heart to hearing the siren’s song and that gave me the vulnerability and courage to leave my old life behind, that was a different story. It encouraged me to reconnect with my true friends, my loved ones, my dreams and many new people in the world. That part, where-ever it springs from, has never been more correct.  

Click Here to read more about the adventures, places and the amazing people I have experienced

….. One Year Later

Today, One Year Later. Almost to the Day …….

It is the middle of the afternoon, but it is growing dark outside.  The rain is pelting the roof of the shelter where I am staying with the impatience of an upset child.  The concentration of the drop strikes driven by the swelling winds have grown to a howling roar.  In a few minutes the rumbling starts to quiet down, but only slightly before it starts revving back up again.  Its a typical Autumn day in the Mid-West where I happen to be today, and the changing seasons of the Earth are putting on a show.  

Yesterday, I was sitting in a town just outside of Los Angeles, California.  The late October afternoon was hot in my former homeland.  I chuckled when I heard some people visiting So Cal (and a few of the local “perpetual complainers” that seem to be growing amongst the West Coast population) called it “Sweltering.”   My friends and I that were born and raised in Los Angeles many decades ago, ….. we call it “Normal.”

So Cal Scanning Visit

I had flown back to the West Coast to have one of my regularly-scheduled Cancer Scans.  For those of us that are blessed to be called “Cancer Survivors”, these required periodic follow-ups are the ‘gifts-that-keep-on-giving”.  At best these check-ups provide an incredible moment of relief.  At worst they deliver the most difficult news imaginable.  Either way, they are reminders of an ordeal many would like to put behind them and, of the fragility of existing as an organic living entity in the physical world.   

WEHO California Autumn Sunrise

This time of year in So Cal was always interesting.  The Original Peoples of the West had long noted that, despite September bringing a few blessed days of brisk coolness and a hint of the approaching Southwest Autumn, the spirits had another surprise in store.  Just as the chilly air would signal L.A.’s few deciduous trees to drop a leave here are there, the Sun would return with a vengeance and provide one last blast of raging heat. 

When I was young, people would call this October heatwave an “Indian Summer” as an homage to the native peoples’ wisdom.  Today some people would say this phrase is insensitive and should be avoided.  While their sentiments have value, at the same time I find it unfortunate because I hear and see far less acknowledgements of our native people’s brilliance and teachings today than I did years ago.  

From So Cal to the Mid-West

So following a recent So Cal sandal and shorts kind-of-day, where I was strolling in the sun and enjoying an outdoor breakfast with one of my sons and then lunches and dinners with some of my dear Left Coast friends, I am now in the upper Mid-West.  The temperature here is 40 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it was in L.A. when I left just a few hours ago. I sit watching the rain lash the Fall’s multi-colored leaves off of thousands of trees covering the ridge-line that I can see from my window. 

The power has just gone out, an occasional casualty of the local storms here. In other places, TV and radio stations would be highlighting “Breaking News” of a terrible power crisis.   But I am now sitting here in the rolling foothills of rural farms and forests, miles from the nearest major town. A fresh fire is calmly being stoked in the fireplace.  I have turned down the laptop screen’s brightness to conserve power as I finish typing these words.  And once I am done, I will move closer to the window for light so I can read the book of poetry that has been inspiring some powerful self reflection these last few weeks.   

A Mid-West Fall Day

In an hour or so, I will head over to my friend’s place close by.  After illuminating the home with candles, one of us will make our way to the freezer and open it briefly to pull out some provisions to thaw for the evening meal.  The other will ensure the more important provisions, the bourbon options, are being readied.   With a sleet-filled 20 degree night expected ahead, dinner may never thaw, but the Kentucky Hug of the quality whisky will surely provide some warmth.  

It is the gift of having both of these rich experiences and meeting the wonderful people I’ve met along the way that powers the motivation for my travels, and to continue exploring the experiences that life puts before me.   Each place, where ever that might be, is beautiful and full of lessons for the soul.

I Wish a Peaceful Fall to One and All!  


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Author Request:

The Author used the reference material available when writing this post.  If you have some additional maps or reference material available and would like to share them, please emails us at: social@exploringwithbruce.com

Copyright and usage info:

All Rights Reserved: © Exploring With Bruce and exploringwithbruce.com 2018-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Quote excerpts and links to this may be used provided 1) that appropriate and specific direction to the original content in included in the media or presentation reproducing the excerpts or links, and 2) that written notification is forwarded to Exploring with Bruce or exploringwithbruce.com that demonstrates full and clear credit is being given to Exploring With Bruce and/or exploringwithbruce.com in such reproduction or presentation in advance of the date of its distribution.