Every now and again, you stumble upon someone that truly makes your mouth drop. I’m sure you recognise the people I’m talking about. The ones where you look at their lives in awe of their adventure and lifestyle. Nowadays, with the growth of social media, particularly Instagram, it’s easier than ever to fall in love with the adventures other people are having. Sometimes I feel like a slave to scrolling through my favourite accounts and watching strangers’ stories, gazing in at their lives on the road, living out of the back of vans, or photographing the most beautiful places that the world has to offer. Of course, I know our world’s aren’t necessarily how we portray them to other people, and with big lifestyle companies using Instagram to promote their gear, it’s difficult to tell how much of other people is staged for the sake of selling a product and a way of life and how much is a choice of the individual. But to an extent what’s the harm in me looking at a person and thinking, yes, that’s exactly what I want to do with my life, that’s going to be me in a couple of years, with my van and my dogs and a good camera. If nothing else, social media is doing a brilliant job of inspiring adventure.
In the absence of social media, I wonder how any of these people might share their stories with the world, or if they would even have stories to share. This weekend, I stumbled upon a man who did make my mouth drop. There had been little to no attention from the outside world, at least not that he has asked for himself, there had been no need to tell the world about his life, it was simply a man who had chosen to live in a different manner to everybody else.
朱伯伯, is now 92 years old. He built his house fifty years ago with his own two hands and it took ten years to finish. The house is built almost entirely from wood he had carried up the mountain from the villages below. He grows all his own produce, cooks all his own food and welcomes the hikers at the entrance to the mountain behind, 李崠山. Once upon a time, his house used to offer a place to sleep for up to 60 passing hikers at a time. Sadly, nowadays much of his accomplishments have been destroyed in typhoons and Taiwan’s often tumultuous weather and he is too old to fix them. His days are spent wandering around his wooden shack, saying hello to passers by and taking in the mountain scenery, which admittedly, is draw-droppingly beautiful – not shocking at all considering Taiwan is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever had the pleasure of wandering.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to live alone in the mountains and to wander around an old crumbling house. I can’t imagine that my only contact with the world would be relying on other people to decide to hike that mountain. And yet, for a 92 year old man, who is growing deaf and growing weak, he seems at peace. He seems happy. And so there’s something to be said for leaving the world as we know it and returning to nature and to your own company.
There are many ways to build a home. Some get an apartment in the city and grind until they can’t grind no more. They build a bank account and get a mortgage and then they have kids and they have to grind double time. Some get a van and a camera and opt for an ever-changing horizon. And some take their own two hands and they build a simple house for themselves in the mountains, away from it all.