FREE ticket for the one who wrecked my car!

July 7, 2017

So here we are in Portugal. There is this Dutch proverb: an illusion poorer, but an experience richer – well that’s definitely what we are experiencing at the moment!
A few months ago we only knew one thing: we have to go to Portugal! There were many answers to ‘why’, but the sun was definitely the main reason. We were dreaming about buying a piece of land to build our home and to invite our families and friends over. Maybe even develop a meditation retreat centre…

Driving through the South of Portugal, you’ll see a lot of signs with ‘Vende-se’, ‘For Sale’. We found many rustic plots, visited many ruins, wandered around on these properties to feel and see its potency. And we were having our daily DuoLingo sessions to practice our Portuguese.. 🙂

We ended up at this lake, Barragem de Bravura. It was stunning! It’s a lake in the Algarve, in-between the surfers west-coast and the pensionado south coast. You’ll find tourists everywhere except at this location, which is an immense reservoir lake. Like we did before, we were wild camping in nature. The lake kept us cool and clean, and there was even a source of clear drinking water near the place where we parked our car. While staying at the lake we explored both coastal lines and we made little hikes around the lake to find something for sale. There was one house for sale right besides the lake, but out of our budget range.


After 2,5 weeks we suddenly saw a sign ‘Vende-se’ on a piece of land where we passed by almost every day! The sign was on the land up the road, but it said the land down the road (lake view!) was part of it. It had to be the land with the old Renault van we had been seeing all the time from our camping spot! How funny, so close, and we only found the overgrown sign after 2,5 weeks. Now THAT’s why you have to GO there and actually LIVE there to find out!

So we arranged a meeting with the British owner and we kinda agreed on the price. You can’t build on it, but you can put a mobile home on the land. That’s how it works here. No problem, we can live in a decent mobile home; there’s enough sun to feed the fridge and airconditioning via solar panels and there’s enough water to take a bath.

Our next move: camp on the property to find out what the neighbors are like. We had a very strange incident the day before, when we were looking at the property and wanted to meet the neighbors. A car drove up towards us while we were at the neighbours’ property, and stopped right beside us. The driver spoke to us firmly: ‘GO! They don’t like you here!’ My innocent response: ‘But we just like to ask a question about the land..’ ‘GO!’, was his short and only reply. It wasn’t the owner of the house, because I met the guy before at the drinking water source. What did he mean with ‘They don’t like us?’; they don’t like us to be on their property? or they don’t like us being in this area, camping at the lake? We thought he must have been referring to us being at the neighbors property… We consider ourselves likeable 🙂 and we made the land around the lake cleaner every day. We were doing no harm.

But of course we had a feeling that we did something that wasn’t allowed. We didn’t know for sure it was illegal to camp here at the lake. It was clear that many did camp there before and the rules in Portugal about wild camping vary per district. We thought this undefined feeling was just the result of our conditioning. We grew up with the concept of ownership of land; you have to own or rent a piece of land, you pay money for it and you can live on it. When you live with this concept for more then 30 years, you feel funny when you’re living on a top notch location in nature for FREE. The feeling must be some kind of imagination, a fear, a social illusion… We didn’t have one negative encounter untill we met this guy in his car. All the people we met at the drinking water source were friendly. But… still there was this feeling. Maybe it was the silence… Nobody even mentioned us camping there..

The evening before we wanted to leave our camping spot to go to our desired land, a guy came walking near to where we were staying, and was just standing there, making a phone call. We waved, he didn’t wave back. He finished his phone call, turned around and left. Veeeery strange. Next day we packed our car with all our stuff and we found out they wrecked our car. There was a big dent in the door and on the roof. Fuckers!


We knew the story about buying the land was over. You cannot feel free and happy in a place like this! But funny enough, it wasn’t hard to let go of this perfect land at the lake. We already realized and spoke about how it wouldn’t be the one solution towards everlasting happiness. I just felt really sad. I felt sad about humanity. What kind of karma is this?? We’re just natural and spontaneous, and they smash our car, just because of us being here??

I tried to understand. I tried to understand their reasons for scratching our car. But it turned out to be difficult to understand as I don’t know who did this. Let’s say, ‘they don’t have a face’. So the only thing I could do is look at myself. And that’s when I realized I can never understand by ‘knowing’ the other. I can only look inside myself. And this happening is the perfect example of how I cannot understand the other, because they don’t have a face. So even when your girlfriend or boyfriend does something that hurts you, you still can never fully understand why (s)he did what (s)he did. You simply cannot know, because you cannot comprehend the complexity of his or her being, the complexity of by what (s)he is driven. If you try to understand your girl- or boyfriend, you will only see the face that YOU see, based upon YOUR interpretation and memories of this person. Per definition, you cannot understand the other. Demented of autistic people are other perfect mirrors.

So what’s living inside me? Was their violence towards us the result of a sense of separation in me (‘we’ versus ‘them’), and is this the physical expression of it? Before our first negative encounter I didn’t think in ‘we’ and ’them’; we were just one with the lake, the surroundings and it’s few local people. But of course we talk about how ‘they’ respond to ‘us’. So of course it is also in me. I know the ‘us’ (locals) versus ‘them’ (foreigners) contradiction also from The Netherlands. It’s exactly the same everywhere. It’s not Portuguese, it’s just the way the human mind works.

Social experiments prove that you can put together two groups of random people, and the very separation will make the people of the one group feel better than the people of the other group. There’s no real differences (or similarities) of people but just giving the one group a blue tag and the other group a red tag already makes them feel different from the other. In sociology they call this in-group love and out-group hatred. On an individual, psychological level you can simply call it comparison. That’s what the mind does; it labels and compares based on it’s labels. That’s how the mind gets it’s capacity to distinguish this from that (and it’s illusion of being able to ‘understand’ or control life).

But this hatred towards us, this pointless violence, why?! We were relieved to leave this place and drive to another place. It was just a really sad happening, sad that it had to go this way. The owner told us to go to the police, but we were camping in the wild for 3,5 weeks and we didn’t want any more trouble. Next day I woke up and didn’t feel like getting out of my bed (=air mattress). I felt a rage coming up. I felt we have to DO something against these people, this is not right! I wanted to smash THEIR windows! Then I realized it’s the same pointless hatred. It’s inside me too. The hatred that’s based upon the belief of separation between me and them, the belief of me being different from them, me being good and they being bad. I’m happy and lucky to recognize this hatred as another feeling, futile and ever changing like all feelings. I recognize my selective and limited impression and understanding of these people (actually I don’t know ANYTHING about them!). I’m happy I don’t have to live this hatred, that I can let it go by recognizing it. Of course, the incident didn’t make me happy, but it doesn’t disturb my happiness. It just reminds me again to look INWARDS instead of OUTWARDS. For me this is the essence of what I call meditation.

I’m camping again with Merel somewhere in Portugal, this time next to a beautiful creek. We stayed here before; this place doesn’t have any direct neighbors, so we must be fine this time. 🙂  I’m amazed how easily we could leave the whole experience behind us. It’s past. I’m left with a sadness for this whole incident, how these grown up people ‘communicated’ with us. It’s not a feeling of despise, it feels more like compassion. I told Merel, and I would like to emphasise here, that this feeling of compassion is sincere and not just some spiritual wishy washy phrase, that I still would love to welcome these people that wrecked our car in our meditation retreat. If they only knew that everything you perceive as ‘disturbing’ is only based on YOUR perception, they wouldn’t felt the need to smash my car. Living a life of violence must be a drag, since your life energy is drained by something that happens in your surroundings, something from outside you need to control. But guess what? Tomorrow there’s gonna be some other people camping at the lake!

So dear person-who-wrecked-my-car, wherever you are, whoever you are, know you are welcome to enjoy the freedom of meditation!

Paul Verkuijlen