She doesn’t have much planned for today, she’ll have something to eat, listen to some music; maybe she’ll just spend her time drawing mandalas. At dusk she’ll go to sleep because in the cave in which she lives there’s no electricity, so when the sun sets there’s really nothing left to do.
Yet just recently she lived completely differently. She spent her days in London where she pursued a career and rented a house in an expensive area and drove her own car. So what happened that made this career woman suddenly become a recluse? Why does she choose to spend her nights under the open sky and in such solitude where it’s all that dances is her shadow?
A telephone and a radio
When Agnė wants to wake up early she sleeps under the open sky and meets the sunrise and if she sleeps in the cave she doesn’t wake up early because it’s always dark in there. When she sleeps outside she’s sometimes visited by animals but she’s quickly to assure you that she’s not scared of them.
Although there’s no electricity in the cave, Agnė has a solar battery that she charges her cellphone with and she has a small radio; music eases the loneliness in this place far from the city. And so she passes her days alone without saying a word to anyone. Yet in the silence and around the howling winds, Agnė says that she’s is used to being in this cave where she’s been living already for nearly a year. And she’s managed to live like a human being albeit frugally.
Fire is not just for fun
“At that time I had no income and neighbour said that there’s a cave around here; one where nobody’s ever been or lived in. Before that I took a look at another one but it had an old rotten floor. And then I came here, I took a look and brought my things. I had a few bags” says Agnė.
She asked that no one tell exactly where her cave is – she didn’t want any surprise visitors, not knowing that finding this place here is almost impossible. And it’s difficult to get to because Tenerife is an island where for practically several hundred kilometers there are towns full of bars, hotels and restaurants – and so this is how anybody can disregard civilisation.
Today the weather on this one of the Canary Islands is always good – the summers are hot and the winters mild; the temperature during the day is always over twenty. It’s just the nights that are cooler.
“I light a fire – something I used to do for fun. Now, I light a fire for warmth because it’s already winter” says Agnė. Now at night she sleeps inside the cave snuggled up in a sleeping bag and blanket. She has made much effort to make the cave as comfortable to live in as possible. She has almost everything that we’d have in our houses and apartments.
“I have three spoons, one glass, a mug, a few small glasses two pots, a pan without the lid…plates, blankets, mattresses tables. – everything from the neighbours” she says openly about where she got it all from.
Sharing food with the mice
Although people rarely just come by the cave, there are other guests here who are not all that welcome in her home.
“Little mice come. I think they live in the field, I really don’t know. I used to give them water. …. They’re used to me giving them food. If I eat something the mice eat it also, I toss them a few pieces because there must be a lot of them” says Agnė.
Agnė is no longer surprised when at night she feels little creatures running all over her body.
“Sometimes they climb onto me but I rather like it. The little legs are very warm. And so they clamber up and take a look – they’re very sweet. When I was a child my sister had a mouse. We had rats – nothing unusual about that. It’s just that they gnaw at everything but that’s a another story” states Agnė, the Lithuanian cave dweller.
In her kitchen Agnė her groceries and a small stove are beautifully laid out. There’s no fridge however so all perishable food must be eaten as soon as possible.
“I drink a lot of coffee which I know isn’t a good thing. I don’t have bread every day and if I could have some good old Lithuanian bread I’d eat it every day. Every day. I eat potatoes, macaroni, couscous, I buy buckwheat, barley, oats… I also eat a lot of fruit and vegetables” says the Lithuanian émigré.
Agnė must walk about two kilometers to the closest tarred road. The woman who lives in another cave has and sometimes gives her a lift. She calls the people who live in the surrounding caves her neighbours. It would seem that a long time ago the caves were accepted places for people of the Canary Islands to live in – there’s therefore no shortage of abandoned spaces in the mountainous area.
Agnė goes to the neighbour to shower because she doesn’t have one and she has a toilet not too far away from the cave. We’ve never seen a toilet like that before – in the open with a view of the sea.
This lady of the cave begins her morning by charging her telephone and radio using a solar battery. She then puts on some music and makes coffee. In the evening when for example it gets dark around 18:30, Agnė likes to hope that her equipment will charge well. First thing at twilight she’ll have something to eat and then she goes off into the cave where she reads or watches movies on her telephone.
Agnė admits that since people come by rarely she’s not too concerned about how she looks. She does wash. And she does like pleasant smells and so there’s often incense burning in the cave.
I had money in London but I wanted more of it
Just recently Agnė’s life was completely different. She arrived in London in 2005. Her aim was to find a good job, earn money and live very well. Everything went according to plan. She soon found work in a well-known electronics shop where she sold computers, dictaphones and other devices. The shop was located right in the centre of the city.
When work in the shop started to get boring, she asked for her work load to be reduced and she found additional work in a restaurant. But she didn’t like it there. She then got a job at a concert venue selling accessories like shirts and caps.
“I lived in the famous Forest Hill in London I think for about five years maybe more. We lived in a three-storey house” she says adding that one part of the house would be let cheaply to acquaintances and the other at a high rental to strangers.
“I worked hard but, granted there were parties because I had a lot of friends. There was drinking and barbeques and music, movies”, she remembers.
She says that at that time she denied herself nothing; she had a car, spent money on fuel, I bought whatever she wanted. Nevertheless our heroine is convinced that in the city where it’s all very hectic to the end she did not feel happy.
There were times I was when I was happy but then there were times I wasn’t. Granted, I wanted more and more money. The more money you have the more you want and how can you be happy if you don’t have what you want right now?” asks Agnė.
She realised what nature means to her
After some time Agnė changed jobs. She speaks English fluently and so it was not difficult to become a bank consultant. She’ll never forget the day when she came back to work after a short hike in the English forests. It was as if something had shifted in her head.
“My 30th birthday was coming up and I was thinking of giving myself a present of a holiday in the forest near the sea. I’d be alone in the forest on my birthday. After that I invited my sister for a visit but from the start I was alone. I felt so good and comfortable” she says smiling.
And so after a short birthday holiday she went back to work and realised that could no longer continue to live the way she was. Too much bother and uncertainty. She dreamed of being closer to nature.
“On the first day back at work I couldn’t stop crying. I was just so out of it because of all that I had done and so what was missing was that calm, nature” Agnė remembers. After that she didn’t work for two weeks and debated the way forward.
She decided to flee the city. “At first I didn’t go far. We moved out of that famous and cosy house and I went and lived with a good friend. We rented a small house near a small English village.
In the new house Agnė started reading up a lot on different religions. She got interested in Buddhism and decided to discover anew her happiness. She meditated with monks in England and travelled a lot in Europe. She even tried to go back to Lithuania but unfortunately didn’t make because she couldn’t find any suitable work. She went back to London simply to earn money.
Benefits of over 200 euro
After working in London she went to Tenerife and found work there for three months. From the start she lived in a small town. She rented a small room. She reckoned she’d live for a while off her savings. At that time she had about 3000 pounds.
Later she worked as a cleaner but decided to give that up because she didn’t’ like it. She stopped renting and moved into the cave. At first she lived in a cave in which there was not only water but also electricity but after eight months the owner of the cave came back and so Agnė had to find another place to live.
“If I could choose I’d like there to be water here; I’d like to have electricity, I’d be happy to pay for it” she says although she later found out it’s more worthwhile to have a solar battery. Agnė lives on unemployment benefits and although this cave’s not too bad she has dreamed for some time of moving out. She’s not thinking of looking for a job any time soon. If she finds a useful prospect she’ll go and work. If no then she doesn’t.
She doesn’t want to say just how much her benefit is but she receives more than 200 euro a month
Drawing mandalas a break from routine
Agnė calls drawing mandalas work. From the moment she wakes up she’s drawing. She sells most of her drawings. She doesn’t earn much but admits that daily work helps maintain a rhythm – indeed she needs to try everything. A copy of one mandala costs ten and the big ones 15 euro.
“All expenses are covered for making the copies and the pencils, maybe I’ll earn something but not much. I do give away a lot actually…In this way I sell enough at a low price and people sometimes give me more saying that they’re worth more” says Agnė.
The biggest plus about living in a cave is that she doesn’t have to pay rent but she does pay for water and electricity. She gets her food from the social workers and then after enough time she was registered in this district as living in the cave and stated getting benefits.
In order to get food she needs to travel 4,5 km and so asks her neighbours for a lift. “Granted, I could go myself but I can’t carry 18 litres of milk and all of those cans”.
Milk, tinned and fresh fruit, different tinned foods, rice and macaroni all of that Agnė gets for free. True, when that food isn’t enough for the cave dweller she gets in addition bananas, oranges, vegetables and other fruit.
Staying in touch with friends on Facebook
Agnė admits that while she was working in London and used to driving her own car, she would never have thought that she one day be living in a cave. Where she often sleeps out in the open and the mice become friends and enemies.
Agnė’s relatives in Lithuania know where she’s living although she interacts rarely with them. She keeps in touch with her friends via Facebook. She does however acknowledge that she hasn’t uploaded pictures of the cave because it is somewhat more modest than the one she lived in previously.
There were times when Agnė ate just once a day. There were times that she never ate at all. But in actual fact she doesn’t lack anything. After most of her years of searching she says that she is happy. Even though her way of life may seem add to many she says that she las learned to live with herself so she’s not worried about any bad things said or about the mice that run over her at night.
“Less fear means more happiness. I once read somewhere that fear is the opposite of happiness – you can’t be happy if you’re scared. And you want less because when you want more you won’t be happy” says Agnė the cave dwelling Lithuanian sharing her collected thoughts.