When we become travellers, I think we become something else. Perhaps we are more liberated beings, suddenly aware of the great world beyond our doorsteps and more curious about all the things that we now know we’re clueless about. Maybe something within us changed on that first excursion to a foreign land and we want to become better acquainted with that self we met while we were away. We might have unfinished business with the world, whether that’s a destination list we want to get through or a culture we’re determined to learn more about. Some of us just know that there are other possibilities for our lives now, and that the ways we thought we had to live were out of date, not guaranteed or limited in some way.
When we set off on our around the world (RTW) trip in 2011, we knew it wouldn’t be forever. We had no illusions that we would become permanent backpackers, trotting from city to city endlessly and living as perpetual nomads. That’s a fabulous lifestyle if it’s for you and you can happily sustain it. But by the end of the year we were exhausted. We still wanted to see the world but thought we’d try the expat life again for a while. We’d get to absorb a new culture and would still be able to travel quite a bit. And we did see a lot of places in 2012 and 2013: Finland, Estonia, France, London and the United States. Norway might be frighteningly expensive as a place to live, but at least the vacation days are numerous.
Then we moved back to the United States. Despite all its problems, I love my country. But I don’t love working 50-80+ hour weeks and having very little time off to travel. We also live in a city that’s pretty isolated from the rest of the country. Long weekends are great, but when you have to fly there’s not a lot of time to relax. We’ve been taking driving trips and checking out the local attractions, but if you’ve been a traveller you know the feeling of itchy feet. We have dreams of taking a few weeks to road trip out west this summer but right now with everything that’s going on with work, we’re not sure when or even if that’s going to happen. So we feel disillusioned and perhaps a little sad. Sure, we could take off again if we really wanted to, but that would be short-sighted.
Because what we’ve realized is that we need to get our freedom back. And the only way to do it is to put in the time and hours now and set ourselves up so our lives can go in the direction we want them to later. We miss travel. Our first RTW was a test – one that seems it was so long ago now – to see what we like and what we don’t. We’ll never travel that quickly again. In fact, all we want is the ability to pick up and go whenever we feel like it. To not have to turn down invitations to foreign countries because we have jobs that require our presence in the office every day (yes, we’ve had to say no to a few of those in the past six months – heartbreaking!) The term “location independent” living may be a little trite, but isn’t it still an exciting concept?
I believe that the old/current work and lifestyle model is dead. Every day people are getting laid off from their jobs, burdened with enough work for two or three employees or finding their performance goalposts moved back further and further. Human beings get stuck in old modalities, thinking that what worked for their parents will work for them. Right now somewhere, someone is plotting a way for a computer or a robot to do your job. Technology is wonderful and amazing, but it is also altering everything about the way we live and work. According to the linked Economist article, “no country is ready for it.” Think about that for a moment. Widespread changes in the way we create our incomes. Social upheaval on every level. A truly globalized workforce. If you haven’t been thinking about this it’s time to wake up and do so. Nothing has been more empowering for me to shun a corporate job and create my own ways of employing myself. Yes, it’s been a struggle, but most people have to struggle a little and make mistakes before they hit upon their golden idea.
I did not mean for this post to drift into ideas about how to change your job to change your life but I’m happy about where the stream of consciousness went. I miss travel. But most of all I miss not being tied to one place and being independent of things I can’t control. We want back in. Some have chosen to do this through their blogging or travel writing. I do enjoy that but I also don’t want to be working 75+ hours a week while I’m travelling. I do that now and as much as I love all the projects I’m involved in at the moment, I don’t want to be a slave to my boss-self either. Early retirement is more of what I had in mind. Which, of course, means that one has to either become rich or develop a form of residual income.
None of these are new ideas. I just want to put it out there that I’m reaching. Travel has made me discontented with the “standard American lifestyle.” Perhaps once you break out you can never return. How many of you are in the same spot? Let’s talk about what you’re doing today to make those dreams a reality…