A friend of a friend on the TEDx selection committee in Tahoe suggested the we apply to give a talk early next year. That sounds like crazy talk to me, but it is making me think. Do we have an “idea worth spreading?” If so, what the heck is it? Many people think that our full-time travel lifestyle is crazy. It’s so far outside the MO of American Dream seekers that if often gets labeled as unattainable, unrealistic, basically impossible for a “normal” person. On the flip side of that coin, people tell us we’re living the dream, but they could never do it. I’m not so naive to think that the idea of travel is new or novel, nor that everyone can do what we do. But, maybe we’re on to something else.
Our lifestyle is a result of long suppressed wanderlust, extenuating health circumstances, and perhaps most importantly, a stop in our tracks moment where we said, hold the phone, what the heck are we doing here? Why did we spend our 20s working like crazy people, buying and remodeling and landscaping a house, getting a dog, buying expensive cars? It came down to this: because that’s what everybody else is doing or trying to do. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? We have an innate desire to achieve, acquire, nest, be successful in the eyes of our peers and be successful in our own eyes because that’s so often where we inappropriately derive and score our self worth. We took a step back and looked at our house debt, the many tens of thousands of dollars of cars in our driveway, the dollars represented in our extensive house remodel, and the loads and loads of clothing and stuff in our house, and truthfully, we got a little sick. Maybe a lot sick.
Fast forward a little over a year: the cars are gone, the house is gone, and the vast majority of our stuff is gone. Along with that, our debt is gone, the weight of constantly managing, protecting, and repairing all of those things is gone, too. Don’t stop reading this at this point thinking that I’m going to try to convince you to sell all of your possessions and live in a van down by the river. I’m not. I do, however, want you to stop, really stop, and ask yourself, what the heck am I doing and why am I doing it? What are my true motivations for the lifestyle i’m living, the job that I have (or am trying to get), the education I’m pursuing, the house I want to buy? Where do I find security and hope – my job, my stuff, my friends, what others think of me, my car, my clothes? Are you living an intentional life, or are you doing what everyone else is doing because you are doing the American thing: go to school, attend University, get in debt going to University, get a job to pay the debt and “pay your dues” so you can move up the corporate ladder and work for 40+ years, buy a house, get married, have kids, hopefully spend a few weeks on the beach a year, and cross your fingers that you’re healthy enough to retire and really do what you want to do?
*It’s worth noting that we know, love, respect, and appreciate many people who are living the American Dream, and who are doing so in a very intentional way. If you’re doing that intentionally, and that’s working for you, fantastic! Just don’t shy away from periodically reassessing your underlying motives, just as we’re doing with our unconventional lifestyle.
In college, Travis and I dreamed of moving to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and immerse ourselves in a different culture first thing after graduation. Instead we immersed ourselves in the aforementioned “stuff” for which we have absolutely nothing to show. All because we ultimately didn’t feel like we had permission to go to Costa Rica. &%#@%& permission. Permission! Are you kidding me?!? Oh but of course we felt like we needed permission. We’d needed permission to do everything up to that point. Everything from going to the bathroom at school, being excused from the table, who we could and couldn’t hang out with, what we could read, watch, say, play, do, where we could go, on and on and on and on and on. Taking a gap year in America is not permissible, haven’t you heard? If you take a year off, your opportunity cost is far too great: your peers will surpass you at work, you won’t start contributing to your retirement account early enough, you won’t be able to make a down payment on a house, and everyone will think you’re crazy – and you need people to think you are amazing, successful, and have yourself together, organized and moving in the “right” direction, right?!? And we bought that load of bullshit hook, line, and sinker.
So here’s what i’ve decided to do. I hereby deem myself the permission granter. You, yes you, for real, have permission to:
Do big, drastic crazy things
Show radical kindness to others without worrying about what other people will think
Leave a toxic relationship
Advocate for marginalized people
Leave the rat race
Take a gap year
Learn another language
Do less, or do more
Clear your schedule
Give more grace to yourself and others
I don’t have a grand idea for a TEDx talk, but I’m thankful for the nudge to, again, evaluate our life and what we might have to offer others. I hope you do the same.