I was lucky enough to spend three months of my life knowing Curley whilst living and working in the tropics of Australia.
One day, when taking an evening stroll along one of my favourite beaches I saw a strange structure with a rugged looking man pottering around it. I approached the man and he introduced himself as Curley. He was quite short, bearded and had scruffy grey hair. I put him at around sixty years old, but his leathery brown skin had seen too much Australian sun, making it difficult to guess his age. He had the strong and callous handshake of a labourer and his right hand was missing its index finger.
I had a good feeling about Curley, he projected such a positive and happy vibe. He invited me for a beer and showed me around his newly built camp. Sitting around a campfire he told me about the boat he was building to sail up to Papua New Guinea in – so that was what the strange structure was all about…
I spent the next three months visiting Curley after work – sharing food and beers, swapping stories and helping him build his boat. He was a fascinating man with a wealth of nomadic life experience. Curley had spent his entire adult life living off the land, either by himself, in small communities or with his best friend Paul, who I would later meet. On the rare occasions he needed money, Curley would pick fruit on farms or work on logging mills – which is where the missing index finger story comes from!
Curley and Paul would ride their push-bikes up and down the East coast and all around the tropics, chasing good weather and searching for the perfect spot to set up camp. They’d see a river, ride upstream and scale a waterfall till they reached the top. There, they would settle down for a few months to hunt, forage and simply live in nature. For most of us, this seems like such an extreme way of life – to be so isolated, living without any possessions and no obvious ‘purpose’. But as the weeks went by, and I got to know Curley better, it was evident that through his experiences he had developed a wealth of wisdom and a level of pure and content happiness.
Curley was an incredibly inspiring man to be around and he really did make a lasting impression on me. As such, I want to share with you a few lessons that I learnt from him…
Live in the Moment and Enjoy Nature
“Run down to the beach when it next rains, Harry, and you’ll see why it’s called rainbow beach.”
Curley would revel in every moment, gleaming such joy from the little things. He had developed an intuitive connection with the land – remaining still and quiet, listening to nature talk.
Living in the present and being in tune with nature is something that we have lost in the West. Australian Aboriginals, Native Americans and many other societies have always lived in harmony with the earth and have gained great wisdom from doing so. It was refreshing to see Curley doing the same.
Curely was an extremely happy man, who lived with only the shorts on his body, a toothbrush in his pocket and a push bike by his side.
He placed huge importance on people and relationships, and strived to share with everyone and act kindly to every being. He believed that generosity is the glue that kept the world together – not money or objects.
I loved how Curley was always amazed when I talked about the UK:
“So you’re saying that you can put your head down on SOFT grass and fall asleep without worrying about snakes, spiders or scorpions!?!”
It goes to show how little we need in life. We can’t derive our happiness from ‘stuff’.
Curley’s sense of adventure was clearly evident in his mission to build a boat (might I add that his boat was entirely ‘upcycled’ – a 9ft x 6ft catamaran crafted from things he scavenged, such as stuffed polystyrene boxes and a tiny solar powered motor).
We can all benefit from his ethos – wake up, follow your feet and see where life takes you!
I’d be lying if I said that Curley’s life was all rainbows and happiness. He’s had his ups and downs, trials and tribulations but I admire the way that he would pick himself up and work through his emotional and physical pain, not dwelling on the negative but focusing on the positive.
What I want to spread with this article is not just the tale of one incredible man. I want to spread the principles and ethos that Curley embodied and lived by every day. Every one of us can develop a lasting and compassionate wisdom when we go back to our roots and step out of the fast-paced consumerist society that we have become so immersed in. I don’t necessarily think that we all need to live a nomadic life like Curley, but I do feel passionately and believe that we can learn something from slowing down, living in the moment and not placing so much attachment on objects and ‘stuff’.
People and relationships are where life happens. So try saying yes to life, go on an adventure and follow your feet.
I’ll leave you with a little cliché that I’m sure Curley would approve of: don’t stress about where you’re going or what you’re doing… Just enjoy the journey.