People ask me why I don’t go to a hospital when I am sick, when I get bitten by a bear/anaconda/piranha, when I have strange viruses, when I am bleeding from all orifices or when I have kidney stones (OK, that one time I actually did go to a hospital because the pain was unbearable). The reasons are that
- I am scared of doctors,
- I don’t want to take up scarce medical resources and the doctor’s time for my minor complaints, and
- I am too poor to afford health insurance.
“But what do you do when X/Y/Z happens?” people respond in shock. My answer, as with so many other things in life, is “I will cross that bridge when I get there”. The worst-case scenario is that I will die, but it seems to me that a lot of people with health insurance are dying too, so I am not sure there is a connection. Recently, another European traveler whom I bumped into in South America seriously wondered: “But then who will pay for your body to be flown home?”
A strange concept, not only because I personally don’t have a home, but because dead people in general don’t have homes. Dead people have nothing. It is already 2018, but let me explain it once again: dead means dead. There really isn’t anything beyond it. And even most people who subscribe to the erroneous opposing belief don’t believe that their idea of “something” depends on the state or location of their body, otherwise they wouldn’t ask for cremation in a last act of pyromania.
Apparently, there is a funny thing: an insurance policy that will pay for your body to be repatriated in case of death. Selling insurance policies which you promise to honor for the time after the death of your contracting partner generally sounds like a profitable business model. Those of you who enter into such policies may please get in contact with me in order to grant me a long-term loan.
The tree-hugger in me cannot embrace the idea either. If this deplorable custom will gain popularity, the sky will soon be filled with planes ferrying corpses, body parts, coffins, urns and souls from one continent to the other. Some of these planes will collide and their passengers collapse, and yet more planes and courageous pilots will be necessary to fly around yet more corpses. And so on. German au-pair girls will be flown back from Australia, Indian guest workers from South Africa, the ambassador of an obscure small country will be returned to the Caribbean. A global carousel of corpses.
It really shouldn’t matter where on this wide world you go to seed and compost. I am going one step further: I hereby expressly prohibit that my body will be flown anywhere after my death! The idea of the last resting place being determined by nothing but the coincidence of a train accident in Bangladesh, freezing to death while mountaineering in Bolivia or falling from a bicycle in the Kyrgyz steppe strikes me as a rather romantic idea.
Even more romantic would be to simply get lost and never be heard of again, but my home country of Germany of course has a law on getting lost (seriously). Reading that makes you lose any kind of Livingstone/Mallory/Earhart romanticism.
I am not even thinking of myself when setting up these instructions, after all I don’t believe in my continued existence after the heart will stop pumping blood. My motivation lies rather in the hope that relatives, friends and readers of this blog, if they ever want to lay down a flower or a stone, will have to travel to a country that they otherwise would never have visited. Those who never leave their small town will suddenly turn into explorers and adventurers. Pilgrims from all directions will flock to a quiet mountain village in Bhutan, to a farm in Zambia or to the marker stone for kilometer 2,300 on Ruta Nacional 40 in Argentina.
On the long journey to there, they will read my books, and when they get to know the friendly locals they will realize how they have been wasting their lives by going to the office day in, day out, instead of exploring the world. They will wire home the termination notice for their employment contract, for their apartment lease, maybe for their marriage and will embark on a new life, at exactly the same spot where mine ended.
Realistically though, nobody will come by. Because people only visit cemeteries when these are on the way to the shopping mall, when there is free parking and when the rare visit doesn’t upset one’s self-selected memory of the deceased. When the latter would make the visitors reflect, and possibly make them notice that the dead never was the person the survivors wanted him to be, then it’s really too much of a hassle.
- More photos of cemeteries.
- FAQ about my life as a world traveler.
- Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.
- This story was also published on Medium.