As I write this, I am sitting in my parents house in Wales, at the age of 30. Currently I’m unemployed, although as I’m not looking for work nor claiming any form of benefit, I prefer to think of myself as retired, or between careers, awaiting the right opportunity. I have recently returned from a year-long trip around Australia, and am shortly to embark upon another trip, this time a year to New Zealand. I have been incredibly privileged in my travels in my life thus far, having covered significant portions of Europe and Africa, as well as dipping my toe into the Americas and the Far East.
So, as I sit here, watching the grey clouds filter carefully over the Welsh hills, pondering another year of adventure ahead, it strikes me to wonder what drives me, and, well, us — those folk who seem to wander, gypsy-like, through the world, to keep on going, to eschew the material world and the security of a permanent job, to throw large parts of civilization aside in the quest for… for… well. Something, I assume.
For me, traveling is almost first and foremost about new experiences. New places, new people, new challenges. The journey into the unknown. The fear of becoming static driving me to keep pushing the boundaries and consistently seeking change. As humans, change is something we naturally resist, and, oddly, something we are actually incredibly good at coping with. It’s quite amazing how quickly we can adapt to new situations. For example, I lived in a central London flat with all of life’s little amenities, and changed to living like a vagabond — spending a year under canvas, with seriously limited comforts. This could be seen as a fairly drastic change, and yet it became “the norm” so quickly.
So, the quest for new experiences is certainly a reason. Also, I am driven, if that is the correct term, by a fear that if I don’t get on with doing things now, then the opportunity may pass me by. So often I meet people on the road who have retired and are traveling, who remark that they wish they had done it when they were “your age.” This sort of reassurance that I am not totally insane, that a lifetime’s worth of experience has not indicated that the societal norm of working until you retire and then getting round to having a bit of fun is not necessarily right for everyone, is certainly nice.
Clearly, this kind of lifestyle isn’t going to be for everyone, nor do I suggest that it is the right thing to do. Certain sacrifices have to be made, and it may be that for many, giving up the potential security of a future and deciding to live, fairly selfishly, for the present is a leap too far. On the other hand, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and that carefully managed future security I’d have put together wouldn’t end up doing me much good. When I’m living on the streets with no pension in 30 years time, I’ll let you know how this theory has panned out for me.
Having said these things, I’ve not set off without some form of financial security. I saved fairly well for a few years when I was working, on the basis that it could come in handy some day. I am lucky enough to own a house, and even luckier that some folks pay me to live in it, giving me at least some sort of fallback plan. Certainly, these two factors give me a sort of safety blanket, a warm cosy feeling if you will, that I can keep going for some time to come.
But these comforts are largely just in the background. Life, some say, is an adventure. We only get one go at it. For me, the key thing was to find out what made me happy, and strive for it. I have currently concluded that the thrill of the new, the excitement of the unknown and the challenge of pushing myself through barriers I may once have thought insurmountable is what makes life fun, so that is what I am doing. I am delighted that, in some way, you are joining me on my journey. Enjoy yours, wherever it happens to take you.
Originally published on Finding the Universe.