On the Bayou with Diego…
After a recent trip to the swamps of New Orleans, one of our contributors, Nat, had some wise words to share from an afternoon with a swamp boat guide named Diego.
This account was taken from Nat’s journal:
My husband and I were pleasantly surprised to find out that we would be the only two going on the boat tour that afternoon. We had arrived later in the afternoon after most of the swamp tours concluded. I was a little suspect of even finding the swamp boat tour location because we had been driving for about an hour in the rural swamp areas outside of New Orleans. But finally, we drove down a back road and pulled up to what’s best described as a “well-aged swamp bungalow”.
I noticed a middle-aged man and woman in their rocking chairs on the front porch talking and having a good old time. After introducing myself and confirming that there was another boat tour going out in about 20 minutes, my husband and I took a walk around the property while we waited. The swamp tour bungalow sat right on a small waterway called Bayou L’Ours. In fact, the bungalow seemed to be sitting on top of the water as I watched the river creep up and over the sides of one of the bungalow’s decks. They had fencing around that deck’s railings, I assume to keep out alligators and snakes. It was October, and apparently it was the time of year that massive amounts of swamp lilies crowded the small river. The swamp lilies caused issues for river boats, but the event was such a beautiful sight to see: the combination of river, swamp lilies and moss covered trees. And it was so quiet out there, no traffic noise just the breeze, the water trickling down stream and the birds calling out to each other.
After 20 minutes I overheard the older woman I met on the porch calling up a tour guide and asking him to come in to do one last tour for the evening. It seemed that the tour guide was on-call yet to my surprise he showed up in under two minutes. His name was Diego and he must have lived right next door, a very friendly man with a thick-Louisiana accent. While Diego readied the small pontoon boat, another man on the bungalow’s deck tried to convince us to hold his 10 foot python.
Diego called my husband and I over because the boat was ready. First, he took us through their property. We walked past a carport where Diego had a junkyard full of old corvettes. They had a fenced area around back where chickens, hens, goat and snapping turtles roamed. Then Diego casually hopped a fence into a swamp area, and standing on the waters edge, he started smacking the water with a large stick as he explained to us that there was a 9 foot gator in the shallow muddy pond… I thought we were about to witness Diego’s death! The alligator finally lunged up and hissed scaring my husband and I as Diego remained cool and collected. I wish I would have filmed it, but above is a picture of Diego doing this exact thing.
After Diego scared us to death, we all went back over to the dock and began our swamp boat tour. Since it was just my husband and I, I feel like Diego was able to give us a more detailed account of the area and carry on with more small talk than usual, which I encouraged.
When Diego asked, “So where y’all from?” and I replied “the beach in Delaware”, I was surprised when he responded, “What’s there to do around there?!”, in a way that he was hinting at how unspectacular that must be. I chuckled and asked him why, and boy did Diego have a long winded answer to that question. He asked me, “Well what do y’all do all day?”. I explained that my husband and I have to work, albeit from a home office, from 9am – 5pm Mondays through Fridays and on the weekends we go paddleboarding, to the beach, or travel. Diego asked, “About how much a house cost you up there?”. I smirked and explained that it was funny that he asked because the beach town that we live in just so happens to have above-average priced real estate and it is one of the reasons my husband and I have to dedicate so many hours to work.
I started to see where Diego was going with this.
Diego had a good point to make. He said that if I moved to his area, I could sell my house in Delaware and purchase a comfortable house of moderate size on a picturesque piece of land… and I would never have to worry about an unreasonable mortgage again.
He went on to explain that in their rural Louisiana way of life, they don’t need an expensive car or house or other lavish, materialistic possessions. Their cost of living is very low and yet, they are still happy and fulfilled. They’re surrounded by family, whether it is their blood-relatives or neighbors, they all look out for each other. Diego’s day consists of swamp boat tours, hunting, tending to his farm animals, and spending time with family and friends. He explained each one of those activities with passion and excitement. He loves his work, he loves living among the raw beauty of the swamp and bayou.
Once we had been boating down the river for about an hour, Diego cut off the engine to the boat and we just floated down the river silently. He said he loves to come out there and just watch the sunset or sunrise. He doesn’t need to travel, this is his home and it is perfect to him because of its simplicity.
I’ve come to this realization so many times before, but for some reason Diego really hit home this time. Simple is always better. We gather up so many things: a home, a car, a closet full of shoes and clothes and accessories. All of these possessions begin to subconsciously pile up on our shoulders as responsibilities we have to tend to.
Have you got a massive mortgage? An expensive car payment? A large house that you have to maintain, and fix and clean on a daily basis? That stress of knowing you have all of these responsibilities keeps you from genuinely living your life. The risk of losing your job, your salary and then losing all of your “things”, that feeling is always there and it is weighing you down.
What kind of connection do you have with the world on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? Do you find yourself scrolling aimlessly though social media? Do you spend a lot of time sending out chats, messages and posts to people through email and online versus spending time in person with your friends and family? Diego was trying to make the point that it’s not about where you live, it’s about how you’re living.
It’s all for nothing because when you are on your final days here on earth you will not look back and feel fulfilled from all of the possessions that you gathered throughout your life, you will see that those possessions will die with you.
It’s not about where you live, it’s about how you’re living. All of your possessions are just superficial “things”, and they will keep you from experiencing all that the world has to offer. You will look back and see that what really mattered were the connections you made with people, the experiences you had with mother nature, and the positive impact you had on your loved ones, your friends, society or maybe even the entire world.-Diego
I hope to visit Diego again someday. Until then, I will be eliminating all of my superficial “things” one thing at-a-time.