Hi there, traveller

Welcome to the Hermit Crab. Sit back, kick off your shoes! I know you're a traveller because life is a journey. A sort of pilgrimage. The purpose of this website to help connect similarly minded people - people in search of a simple lifestyle that respects the earth, respects the individual, and respects the freedom we are all entitled to. It will document simple building techniques and ideas allowing us to live a free life.

This first page is a blog through which I can share with you my global pilgrimage, the encounters that marked me and the life lessons I gained from them. The map below shows my experiences since the beginning of my spiritual search at the age of 18, when I left for China.

Please don't hesitate to comment on any of the posts below or contact me to share your ideas and questions, you would be more than welcome.

Keep it up, follow your road.

- Ben Viatte

The Fellowship

Nantes, North-Western France. September 2014 - July 2015

They call themselves Companions. Some call them Journeymen, Wandergeseller, or Apprentice Craftsmen. Many countries have seen such a community, and no matter what we choose to call them, the underlying principle remains the same: learn the art of creating with your hands in the midst of a family always willing to teach you, to learn from you, and to learn with you. In today's world manual jobs are often considered lowly, and what these guys do is push their skill and teamwork until it becomes an art, a master's craft. The photo above, the House of Companions in which we all live, gives an idea of what they build.

The first Companion Craftsman (or rather craftswoman in this case) I met was Kurela, a German stonemason who happened to be living in the l'Ane Vert Community, Morocco, to help us make stone paths and stairs. She convinced me straight away. I realized I had to learn from more experienced people in order to help build a better world with my hands. One significant way to help the world and its people is to build shelter for those in need, and know-how is a jewel. So I left my hippy life in l'Ane Vert, not without a touch of sadness, and joined the school and community of the Companion Craftsmen. They sent me to Nantes, a city in Brittany, North-Western France, with the mission of becoming a roofer.

I finally spent one year following the schedule offered by the School of Companions. It was rich in learning, but especially rich in relations. I lived with so many people with whom flowered beautiful friendships - deeper than anything I had imagined before signing in to this cold-looking city life. We would spend all day learning and goofing around at work, and all night tripping out. What a life!

Nantes just before dawn, when I was heading off to work. The companion house and its spire can be seen on the left just behind that boat.

Building roofs is heaps of fun. Running up and sliding down, grabbing some fresh air and an amazing view along the way

And yet, my path goes on. As much as I appreciate the time spent here and the community, I can't be honest with myself in this western lifestyle - producing more, spending more, using more, abusing more, raping Mother Earth. This was the perfect experience for me to know what it means to live as the working class in the west.

My lesson is learnt, and India is calling me.

The Beginning is the End

On the Road from l'Ane Vert, Morocco. April 2014
Leaving l'Ane Vert
...and the end is the beginning. Being complete means being at the beginning, yet knowing that the end is not elsewhere, in space or in time.

I migrated there and I migrated back. I made my little loop, I completed a cycle. More specifically, I donated The Hermit Crab to the l'Ane Vert community in Morocco and made my way back to Switzerland pulling a little cart behind me that I built by African standards: rusty iron rods and junk wheels hammered together with scrap wood and nails. I then walked, hitchhiked, took local buses, trains, and a boat to cross morocco, Spain, and France.

By some miracle, my rusty cart held together until 10 minutes before getting to my house, where my tires were so worn that I was rolling on the inner tube, and it punctured. Pretty nice timing.

So here I am, at the starting point, without bike or crab, the same as before it even started. Exactly the same, as far as the material world is concerned. And yet, I have something more, a little more understanding. Understanding of the cyclical nature of life, and the world. Birth and death is the same process. Materially, you end up just where you started, no difference. You may find that despairing, and you would be right. The material world, stripped from it's spiritual essence, is pointless and despairing. That's why we are scared of death, that's why we wear seatbelts. But if we understand that the end is the beginning, yet with the acquired wisdom that the world is cyclical, not linear, we start to touch this underlying spiritual side.
It is not pointless at all, or despairing - it is in fact rich, and beautiful, and deep beyond anything you can imagine. And we must remind ourselves that this world isn't far away and unattainable, it's right here and right now for all of us. Like all of us, I am more than just my body. I am a cycle, and nothing will stop that cycle.

Thank you for listening folks, and may whatever come!

Heidi is in the Kitchen!

L'Ane Vert, Morocco. March 2014

Oh Heidi, what are you doing again in the kitchen?
Spot is a cake
as for Spot, he thinks he's a cake

The one with the stoned bus driver

Chefchaouen, Morocco. February 2014.

I get to the ticket office of a bus station near Chefchaouen. The man behind the desk pays no more attention to me than to the big joint he was rolling right there.

"Come, friend, smoke with us! Then I'll bring you to your bus"
So a little while later, he brings me to a big luxurious coach and sits at the wheel. "By the way, I'm the one driving!"

As if it wasn't hilarious enough already, 5 minutes after departing, he asks me: "Wanna drive?"

L’Ane Vert

Tafna Beach, Morocco. December 2013.

Paradise kidnapped me! I'm living a life-changing story at the green donkey a.k.a. l'Ane Vert. It's one of these rare places where love reigns instead of money. We chill out, we chill in, we build a house, we sleep ontop of eachother, we go surfing, we get high, we fight with Walter the Donkey, we repare shit, we run naked at the beach early in the morning, we even throw eggs sometimes.

In other words, life's good and we're living it!

If only all deserts were sand…

Mid-South Morocco. December 2013

By the way, my vehicle is in the center of the photo

Funny French Guy with his Moroccan Shaman

Essaouira, Morocco. December 2013

This post is about a funny french guy named Damien (left). He happened to notice me on my bike in some god-lost village near Essaouira. He was walking with his shaman, an old moroccan man full of wisdomness and depthity, and said, “nice bike dude!”. On the right, here I am with Ashak, the old shaman, in his home. This is a photo of his whole home, which wasn’t hard to take considering it measures 4 square meters.

Another picture of where Ashak lives, this time from the outside. This the Mellah, the jewish neighborhood of Essaouira. Their ceilings are literally falling on their heads, and none of these buildings are abandoned. Bottom line is, I spent one week in Damien’s house in Essaouira, amazing place of material poverty, inner wealth, and above all compassion.

An Interesting Conversation

Morocco. December 2013.

-Good evening, this is the police
-Shit (very softly). Good evening.
-Are you intending to spend the night here?
-Uh, well… you see, the night came and uh…
-We can't let you spend the night on this land, there's dangerous people (always the same excuse but it's a lie). Take your bike and move further on.
(I start packing my stuff to leave)
-Are you alone? No friend?
-My friends are everywhere. They include you as well as the dangerous people you talked about. That's why nothing can happen to me.
(The cops think for a moment)
-Goodbye, we wish you a good night and welcome you to Morocco.

Love always prevails!

What’s That?!

The Sahara, Morocco. December 2013

Don’t worry, it’s a dinosaur!

And that’s the Windows Vista wallpaper.

Would you like some tea with your sugar?

Marrakesh, Morocco. December 2013

That’ll be… half of your teeth, please. Have a nice day, habdulilla!


Morocco. December 2013.

Crossing villages is loads of fun, especially when they're full of kids goofing around!

Kitty Business

Morocco. November 2013

I’ll do my best to make this long story look short:
Basically, I found three kittens starving on a random beach. I fed them, and because they weren’t going to survive very long, took them with me in my chuckwagon. They seemed to be enjoying the ride, but in less than one hour they had peed a whole masterpiece onto my rug and left the half digested remainder of their last meal all over my home. Lesson learnt, I gave them to a family of cats on the road who I trust will take better care of them than me.

Melon Farmers

Northern Morocco. November 2013.

These guys have so little they sleep under a tarp. And yet they filled my crab with fresh melons without accepting anything in return! Inner wealth and material poverty seem to go hand in hand.


Northern Morocco. November 2013

How strange, I got an instant of Switzerland’s scenery before going back to deserty Morocco