As is my habit, I allowed several episodes of the Zero to Travel podcast to stack up in my queue before I departed on my road trip. There were a lot of interesting points raised, which triggered a lot of ancillary thoughts. Since these ideas come from multiple episodes, there’s not enough of an over-arching theme to tie them into one topic, but no individual point is sufficient to carry its own blog post. So I decided they would make for great podcast potpourri.
Is it a cliché for people to say that they want to travel in order to “find themselves”?
Sure it is. But what’s wrong with that? The thing about clichés and stereotypes is that – while not universally true – they originate in reality.
Travel offers opportunities for introspection. You’re away from your home life and responsibilities. If you’ve allowed yourself to cut the cord, then you’re also separated from your occupational life and responsibilities. Long hours spent in a plane or a train or driving on the road allows you time to clear your head and think about things that you’ve been too busy to think about before.
There’s a quote: “Being busy is the ultimate form of laziness.” It’s a great quote on substance, but a lousy quote on style, because it really does need to be explained before it makes sense. Basically, the quote means that when we fill our heads with the trivial banalities of our ordinary lives, we allow ourselves to ignore the bigger (and more difficult) questions in life. Essentially, we put our brains on autopilot and avoid tackling questions that get to the core of who we are and instead occupy ourselves with things that may seem important in the moment, but – in the grand scheme of things – are thoroughly unimportant.
So the next time someone mocks you for the cliché of wanting to “find yourself” in travel, challenge that person to identify the last time they did any real soul searching.
Is it worthwhile to be nervous about the risks associated with travel?
It is completely understandable to be nervous about embarking on travel. But, as you will discover through experience, your doubts and fears will – for the most part – be completely unfounded and unnecessary.
Travel represents fear of the unknown. We often travel to places we are unfamiliar with. You may encounter people and cultures that are foreign to you. You may decide to engage in activities you’ve never tried before. Exploration of new things involves a slight assumption of risk. Moreover, you’re removed from your home and the creature comforts found within it.
And if you’re quitting your job or selling your home to embark on a long-term travel lifestyle, then things seem even scarier. Your safety nets are gone. There’s nothing to come back home to. And you’ve got to fend for yourself out there in the cruel, cold, and unforgiving world.
And yet, 99% of the time, you’ll find that your fears were unfounded, the risks were overblown, and that life on the road really isn’t that much different from life in a cozy home.
This isn’t to say that there are no risks or hardships associated with a life of travel. There are. But we, as living creatures, are survivors. We find ways to do what is necessary to survive. The typical home life and the typical job offer us ONE WAY to survive. Because it’s common and an ingrained part of our culture, it is the way that is most familiar to us. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t survive on the road. You most certainly can. You’re just not that familiar with it. You’ll have to learn new skill sets. You’re going to have to adjust your expectations of what a typical day will involve. It is different. That doesn’t make it inherently more dangerous.
You’re probably not going to get mauled by a bear, molested by a hitchhiker, or infected by some exotic tropical disease. Resist the urge to get yourself worked up over these fantastical, sensational, and highly improbable threats. Travel is nowhere near as scary as some people would like you to believe. In fact, you might even be disappointed by how ordinary travel can be at times.
And while the traditional home and work life we are all familiar with is one way to survive, you may even discover in your travels that the traditional life isn’t the best way to survive. Once you get used to life on the road, you may discover that the lifestyle is superior to the life you left behind.
So don’t waste too much time being nervous, and don’t let fear stop you from trying new things. It’s natural to feel trepidation of the unknown. But you’re made of tougher stuff than you realize.
And not for nothing, but the hardships you do endure – crummy as they may be in the moment – will be your greatest stories in the future.
It’s okay to make mistakes!
The problem with capitalism is that millions of people are competing for the same finite supply of pie. Despite what our teachers and parents might occasionally say to us out loud, we are subconsciously trained to avoid mistakes. Mistakes are expensive. Mistakes can haunt us for the rest of our lives. Don’t fuck up, or else you’ll never achieve your dreams.
But guess what? You’re human. You’re going to make mistakes. Lots of them. That’s okay!
Of course, it is natural to try to avoid mistakes. After all, mistakes usually do come with some sort of cost or setback. Nobody sets out to make mistakes intentionally. But recognize that you’re going to make mistakes from time to time, and try not to beat yourself up too hard for making them.
The important thing in life is how we respond to mistakes. Do we learn from them, or do we repeat the same mistakes? When we make a mistake, do we look for unexpected opportunities – silver linings? Do we declare defeat, or do we get up, dust ourselves off, and move forward?
You are not a special snowflake. You are not irreplaceable. Nor are you indispensable.
Does that sound harsh? That’s because you’re not listening with the right perspective. These statements are meant to be liberating.
Most people read those sentences and think that means they have to work extra hard at their jobs in order to keep them. They have to work longer hours. They’ll be willing to work for less money. They have to be on call 24/7. They have to work faster and harder than everyone else. Because somewhere there’s a young kid willing to work longer, harder, and for less money ready to take over their job.
This is insanity. This is fear-induced slavery.
Yes, you are replaceable. Should you drop dead tomorrow, your employer would replace you in an instant. If you’re a really good employee or coworker, you might be grieved over for a couple of days. But ultimately, you will be replaced. Your death will not stand in the way of profit.
So why are you grinding yourself into the grave for a corporation that will go on happily without you? Fuck them. You may need a source of income to live, but if you don’t take the time to live life, then what was the point? Do you really want your tombstone to read “HERE LIES SAM. HE COMPILED QUARTERLY FISCAL REPORTS REALLY GOOD”?
You could die tomorrow.
Again, if you’re reading this and having negative thoughts, you’re reading it wrong. This is a liberating statement.
I don’t care how much kale you eat or how much gluten you don’t. You can do yoga until you’re blue in the face and pop multivitamins like methamphetamines. It doesn’t mean you can’t get hit by a bus. Or shot in a school. Or wiped out with the rest of us by a giant meteor.
Why are you putting off your dreams to “some day”? What are you waiting for? Things aren’t just so at home or at work? So fucking what? I’ve got news for you, my friend. There will NEVER be a perfect time to travel. There will always be something – family, friends, something at home, or something at your job – that will make your planned departure less-than-ideal. Maybe you’ve saved up enough money, but… you’d really like a little extra cushion. You’ll leave after you’ve saved just a little more. Then a little more. And a little more.
Then you’re dead with a fat bank account.
Take my Forgotten States Road Trip. I could have postponed it a few months until the weather was warmer so I could have enjoyed Canada more. But then New Orleans would have been that much hotter and insufferable. I would also have been encroaching on tornado season in Kansas and Nebraska, and hurricane season down south. I could have postponed it until after I got a job. But then maybe I would not have been able to take the necessary time off of work to go on this trip. The ideal circumstances will never come. So just gotta decide to do.
So let me say these things again. There will never be a “perfect” time to travel, and you could be dead tomorrow.
Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Even if you don’t depart on your adventure today, take actionable steps today. And tomorrow. And the day after. Don’t put things off.
Minimalism is a tool, not a goal.
If you’re counting the number of things you own, and if you’re trying to get that count below a certain arbitrary number, then you’re doing minimalism wrong. Minimalism is not a goal. Minimalism is a tool.
Believe you me, if I could have figured out how to live a nomadic life without giving up my prized Mattel Ghostbusters props, I would have done that. If I could have figured out how to live a nomadic life and keep a bed and a couch and some decent chairs, I would have done that.
But those things were big and bulky and heavy. They did not provide enough utility to justify dragging those things along with me. They were impediments to nomadic life. Minimalism – specifically the philosophies that allow me to evaluate the value of my possessions and the techniques used to sever my attachments to my possessions – is a tool I used to lighten the load, so to speak.
Don’t be a minimalist unless you can identify some greater purpose you’re hoping to achieve through minimalism.
Is minimalism necessary to being a nomad?
I don’t have an answer for this. I’m just putting this out there as food for thought. I’d love to hear your opinions.
A lot of nomads have opted to also be minimalists simply because possessions weigh us down and make it more difficult to travel. Minimalism is a great tool to lessen that burden and liberate us to be more mobile.
I suppose it’s possible to be so independently wealthy or to have someone at home willing to store all of your stuff that you can be both a pack rat and a nomad. But are there less extreme examples? Are you a nomad of modest means, but not a minimalist? How do you make it work? Tell me your story.
Are we spoiled and delusional?
We don’t want to work 60 or 80 hours a week for some corporation. Nor do we want to be burdened with unnecessary responsibilities. We want to enjoy life, explore, see the world, and have fun.
Are nomads and anti-capitalists just lazy, spoiled brats? Immature and delusional? Are we plagued by a sense of entitlement?
A lot of “normies” would say so. Are they just jealous? Or do they have a point? Are they salivating from behind the prison bars of the old American Dream? Or do they know something we’re too young and stupid to understand?
Or are we the enlightened ones? Are we the ones to figure out that there’s more to life than making money and buying stuff?
Obviously, I am of the belief that we nomads and anti-capitalists are on to something. I think it’s obvious to any rational being that there is more to life than profit and material possessions. I don’t think the older generations are as jealous as they are dumbfounded. We’re upsetting the status quo. They’ve gone through their entire lives without having these basic assumptions questioned. They believe that American life means working hard and a comfortable retirement. Then we come along and say that there’s a better way, and that’s going to ruffle some feathers.
I believe it’s on my generation and the younger generations to continue to push us in a better direction. The older generations need to decide if they’re going to dig their heels in on outdated traditions, or work with us to ensure better and more meaningful lives for us and future generations.
Experiences are better than things and stuff.
A self-evident truth that too few of us embrace in our day-to-day lives.
Life is a highway, not an all-inclusive resort.
It’s good to have goals. Goals provide us with drive and motivation. But if we achieve our goals and don’t have new ones to replace them with, then we tend to stagnate. This is the trap of consumerism. We are led to believe that if we obtain a particular item, we will have achieved happiness and success. Then, when we obtain the thing, and discover that we are not happy, we look for the next thing to fill that void in our life.
What makes life fun and worth living is not the destination. It is the journey.
This is why I prefer to avoid “destination trips”. For me, travel is about being out on the open road. The destination(s) are a secondary concern.
Is it wise to want to move to a beautiful place you encounter in your travels?
We’ve all done it. Be honest.
How many of us haven’t traveled to a tropical island and then dreamed of living there for the rest of our lives? Or in some beautiful log cabin in the mountains?
Truth is, most idyllic vacation destinations make crappy residences. Now, everyone’s idea of a perfect home and everyone’s idea of an idyllic vacation destination is going to be different, so it’s going to be hard to illustrate this with any universally-recognized examples. But I’ll use my experiences as an example…
I like solitude and privacy. The idea of living on a tropical island or in a cabin in the mountains appeals to me. But such isolation would really start to grind on me as days turn into weeks and months turn into years. Things I take for granted, like getting groceries or refueling my vehicle, would suddenly become a lot more tedious out in such remote locations.
And for as different as places can be, there are a lot of ways in which all places are the same. Every place is going to have its quirks and annoyances. There is no escaping the mendacities of everyday life, even in paradise. And if the mendacities sour you on paradise, the inconveniences might suddenly become unbearable.
If you don’t like where you live and you want to get out and start life anew somewhere else – that’s fine. Just try to be a little more objective in your reasons for wanting to leave and what locations might better fit the bill.
For me, Green Bay is too damn cold and is a dead-end for my haunt ambitions. I’m not going to find what I’m looking for in Nassau or in Jasper – gorgeous as those places may be. Jasper’s climate is no warmer than where I live now, and both Nassau and Jasper are too isolated for me to have a promising haunt career.
Should we treat finding careers like discovering passions?
I’ve discussed at length previously what a passion is, the difference between an interest and a passion, and how to go about discovering passions. I won’t repeat that here. You can click this link to review that article.
Why do we expect little kids to declare what they want to be when they grow up at such an early age? Why do we expect them to declare a major to prepare themselves for a career? Can we really expect them to have the foresight to perform a certain way in high school to prepare for a certain college? Why do we impose crippling student loan debt on students to get an education for a career they might ultimately discover they don’t want?
What happens when you ask a twelve year old what they want to be when they grow up? Either (a) you get some fantastical or improbable answer like baseball star, astronaut, or Ghostbuster, or (b) you get the standard lucrative answer like doctor or lawyer, because mom and dad want you to prosper financially. Nevermind the fact that most people are not cut out to be doctors or lawyers, and have no business going into those fields.
I’m sorry, but there is no book, no speech on career day, or any other thing short of experience that can really prepare you for the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Never in my life did I imagine I would want to be a haunter… until I tried it. How can we expect kids to know what they want to be before they’ve had a chance to live and gain experience?!
I realize that our economy and education system are set up a certain way. But they need to change. Kids should have opportunities to gain experiences and live life before they commit to a career, and especially before they commit to crushing student loan debt. Most of them wouldn’t want to be a baseball player if they realized the perils of fame and the toll lobbing a 90mph fastball takes on the body. Most wouldn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer if they understood the ethical conundrums and conflicts and confidences, or appreciated putting up with difficult clients and patients, or the burden of the cost of their education, the grossness of lancing a cyst or the numbness of reading case law.
Kids don’t have a fucking clue. Why do we demand that they prepare for a life they may not want before they have a chance to learn about that life?
What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?
I’ve talked about values in the past. I won’t repeat that here, either. Again, click on this link for more.
But can you boil your essence down from a few values to a single word? Is there a grand unifying theory that belies your every move? Is there a fundamental core value that has spawned all other values?
Prompted by this question, I’ve given this some thought. I would call myself an “explorer”. Not only does it motivate my travels to see new places, meet new people, see new cultures, and learn new skills. But explorer also explains my fondness for learning about quantum physics and astrophysics. It explains my fondness for philosophy. Even my haunt craft is a form of exploration – exploring my skills, exploring the depths of my own depravity, exploring the meaning of fear, and exploring how other people will react to my art.