It is rare to have a day pass that someone does not say “oh, you’re so lucky” or “livin’ the dream” to us. Typically, we nod and acknowledge their compliment with a mock toast or a knowing grin. It is only when we get the ‘Oh I wish I could do that, but…” that I generally answer with one short, somewhat terse response, “Then do”. What follows is a litany of reasons that justify why they are trapped in their world. In the past, I have tried to give a few words of wisdom to help those few who actually entertain the thought. Over time, those words have gotten fewer and less thoughtful as I realized that no one I had ever given them to had listened in the least.
They enjoy their captivity. They truly believe that to venture out from the fortress they have constructed will keep them ‘safe’ – whatever that means. From the outside, we adventurous types see the truth. It is not a fortress, it is a prison. The only danger they are avoiding is the knowledge that there are other means of living that don’t fit the American mold. The structure of beliefs that get them through the day may not be real after all.
We are not lucky. We have followed a somewhat deliberate path that opens up opportunities for a life outside the ‘normal’ American middle-class framework. It is all about choices, not luck.
When we met, Diane and I talked through our love of the open road. Interestingly, our love of travel came out of the same place: neither of our parents would ever take us to the ‘tourist’ spots. For my family, our limited budget always meant staying ‘locally’ and camping our way across America. I always begged my parents to take us somewhere ‘normal’, like Disneyworld. Instead, my brother and I were treated to the real ‘fantasy’ world of Zion National Park. We never went to the beach like my friend’s families did, my father wanted to see the underwater world of the Florida Keys. If it was real and natural, we went. If it was fake and touristy, we missed it.
Choice 1: Choose, but choose wisely
With my wife and sharing a similar outlook on life, we found Choice Number 1: choose a partner wisely. Girlfriends from my past did not understand my wanderlust. They wanted the ‘American dream’ of the 2.5 kids, the house with the picket fence and matching BMWs in the driveway. I must admit, it took years for me to be honest with myself that I was not sharing their vision of the perfect life.
It did not mean that I was not ever going to find my ‘one true love’, only that I was going to have to search harder for her!
Many people will say, “Oh, but you don’t have children. The choices are not so easy when you do.” True, to a point. There are more variables to contend with, but the choice of a partner will make those answers easy or impossible to find.
[su_pullquote align=”left” class=”archive-title”]This is a lifestyle, not a vacation.[/su_pullquote]
I have a friend who has a 10 year old daughter. She would love to live a nomadic life, but cannot imagine the legal battle it would take to allow her to take her daughter away from the other parent. While I sympathize with her, I still encourage her to build further relationships that allow her to detach when the time comes. This is a lifestyle, not a vacation. It may not happen overnight, but you have to ensure that the pieces are ready to fall in place when they do.
Even those who are more able to be mobile find that traveling with children is an amazing experience for all – see also: my childhood.
Choice 2: You can’t always get what you want
The old joke about death is ‘you can’t take it with you’. We just back that up a bit and live that life. Rather than “can’t”, we find it is more “don’t want to” take it with us. We don’t have new cars (In fact, until last week we did not have a car!), or the latest huge-screen TV. What we do have is what we need. Only that, little more.
[su_pullquote class=”archive-title”]What we do purchase, we purchase with intent…[/su_pullquote]
The interesting thing about so-called ‘minimalist living’ is that people concentrate more on the “don’t have” rather than the “do have”. Without diluting our budget across many purchases, we are able to spend a little more (when needed) to get an item that will last a little longer, perform a little better or even sometimes because it is just a little more ‘shiny’. I am not immune to being a consumer. What we do purchase, we purchase with intent, not just to have a bigger better widget than the neighbors do.
All that being said, we have reduced our lives to their materialistic essence. It feels amazingly good.
Choice 3: You gotta eat
One of the most frequently asked – or at least commented on – topics is how we survive financially. It’s fairly amusing to think that people would ask you this, considering that I rarely troll the suburban neighborhoods of the United States wondering how the typical dweller maintains that standard of living. Having lived that life, I truly don’t understand how people make it.
For me (David), I work like I would if I were sitting in some nameless cubicle in some identical office space, somewhere in Corporate America. I just do it from some place else. Truly, I could make more money, and be more ‘corporately connected’ if I were in a physical office, but I make the conscious choice to experience life on my terms, rather than work to live.
Not every job allows this kind of latitude, but many do. Increasingly, employers are looking to staff ‘location independent’ folks, rather than paying an office expense. There are some legal and taxation issues, which will most likely be the subject of another post, but all-in-all there are few restrictions.
Of course, this choice does limit other options available to us…. I need consistent internet access, and access to a fairly good airport for my job. This does not allow us to totally disconnect….but again, that is the choice we make.
Not ‘lucky’, purposeful living. It is a choice. It is our choice.