Jasper swaps Sydney for The Way of St James

Jasper Clifford-Smith is packing up his Sydney life and heading to Spain:

Three months ago my housemates and I received a letter from our real estate telling us we had to leave as the owners were moving back in. At the time this really sucked, as this house is actually rather nice and located on a quiet, leafy street two minutes walk from King St, Newtown. Not long after, I decided that I had grown tired of Sydney and I had to do some travelling. I have not left the country since 2006 and have not left Sydney since then for reasons other than music/work. In short, I need a fucking holiday.

So yeah, I decided I am going to go to Spain for a while. I’m going to do the Camino de Santiago de Compostela from Seville and spend some time in Madrid before that and Barcelona after the walk is done. Good plan I think.

I figured if I leave in March then I can’t really get on another lease in Sydney just now so I will just sell all my stuff and live out of a backpack at my parents house, hotels or maybe a short term sublet until then. I set up a facebook event called ‘BUY MY SHIT’ where I put up all my furniture, a laptop, a bike and some other stuff I really didn’t want to have to move into storage. This Facebook ad was quite successful. I sold a Macbook pro (which I replaced an hour later with a Dell), an armchair, some bookshelves and a few other bits and bobs. I also sold my bed. What I didn’t consider and perhaps I should have is that we don’t have to move out for another three weeks so now I am sleeping on the floor.

As I look around my bedroom all I can see is stuff which used to be on shelves (books, dvds etc) stacked up on the floor. There is still a dressing table which I am trying to get rid of, but even that has so many fucking books on it I can only partially see my reflection in the mirror. Nothing has a home anymore. The shoes live with the books and the ashtray lives with the aromatherapy candle. The desktop computer is a total misnomer and the laptop doesn’t have a lap as I don’t have a chair in which to position myself to form such a thing. From ground level I notice a whole bunch of stuff I forgot I even owned. My fake gold, diamond and sapphire ring I purchased from an Arab in Parramatta for $15 reminded me of its existence the other day. That was cool. I started wearing my Mizuno shellsuit which was under my bed and combined it with the ring. I figure if I’m going to live like a bum, I should at least look the part too.

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St James) is an ancient catholic pilgimage where pious christians travelled from their homes to a traditional starting point (the South of France being the most common starting place) then all the way to the cathederal at Santiago de Compostela, where it is said the remains of Jesus’ homeboy St James are buried. Since the 1980s the camino has attracted not just God-bothering churchies but tourists who are seeking a mental and physical test with a backdrop of some beautiful scenery. According to my uncle who did the walk a decade ago, most nights you will stay in hostels which cater to pilgrims and are dirt cheap but in some towns along the way the hostels are full and you have to sleep outside on the ground. I’m kind of doing that now so I suppose my pilgrimage starts here.

I have amassed so much crap over the years it freaks me out. I have a whole shelf downstairs that has nothing but power cables, knives and tape recorders on it. This is stuff I can’t even give away. I feel like I won’t be doing this life-changing walk properly if I have any material possessions holding me back. I don’t want to check my email 600km into the walk to be reminded that I owe Kennards Waterloo $90. For me that would deem the whole experience pointless.

Another thing which I have found to be beneficial about shedding myself of all my stuff is I don’t spend anywhere near as much time in my room as I used to. If you are a lazy sack of shit like I am, then the best thing you can do is sell your bed. I used to work from bed, eat in bed, smoke in bed and do all my thinking from my bed. Now I go for walks, I eat outside in the sun and I don’t ever really want to go to bed (because I don’t have one). I just do things until I’m too tired to do anything else and I go upstairs and fall asleep on my makeshift, homeless man bed. Sleeping on the floor is also great for your back and I have noticed a difference.

The comfort of living in a relatively easy city and collecting random stuff only lasts so long. Devout muslims the world over often sell their businesses and belongings in order to complete the pilgrimage to Mecca. I’m not a Christian but I am kind of doing the same thing. In order to be free of debt and buy my ticket, these possessions (which can all be replaced quite easily) had to go. A new chapter beckons. Now somebody please buy this fucking dressing table!


Words by Jasper Clifford-Smith