Travel and the Art of Running Away from Yourself
As promised, once again I return to answer comments left on the blog. This week’s article deals with a deep exploration of choosing long term travel, and a nomadic lifestyle. Can it be the answer that we’ve been looking for, to make everything right with life? Can you actually run away from yourself? Or maybe it’s not even our decision to make. Maybe it’s something ingrained in your genes? These are my thoughts on the matter. Remember to keep commenting, and maybe I’ll answer your question at the next episode.
Can Long-Term Travel Cure Depression?
Dan: I’m 18 and graduated from high school six months ago. I’ve made a lot of bad choices, and have been mentally hurt by it, a lot. For some time now my thoughts have been really mixed and negative. I have this inner thought like I don’t even know who I am. I believe I suffer from low self-esteem, depression and all that garbage.
Anyhow, more to the point – I believed for a VERY long time that I just needed to get away and wander aimlessly, almost in search for myself. I’ve heard that a nomadic lifestyle will almost bring you at peace with yourself. Do you think it would help me? And if I did pursue this path, how do I tell family? And also I was curious as to if you had any direct links to people who have lived 100% nomadically? For example – no electronics, just the cloths on their back.
Let me start with answering the last question. As I’m a digital nomad, most of my links are to people who lead a similar lifestyle. In addition, people who have no connections to electronics will definitely not blog about their experiences, so it’ll be more difficult to run into them. I do know of a phenomenon of that type of lifestyle, which existed in that past in India. It was called Śramaṇa and was based of wandering people, who changed locations every single day. They had no material possessions, and relied on the generosity of the locals. There was another movement in Japan of Zen monks, who were going from one place to another in the search of answers. Society structured as it is today, does not allow this kind of nomadic lifestyle. It has laws, order and nations, which makes life more organized, but a lot more restricted.
As for the question of should you choose a nomadic lifestyle, my immediate response is absolutely not. If you’re not doing well in your day to day, normal life (whether you suffer from low self-esteem, depression or something similar), nomadic is not for you. If you feel unstable, embarking on a journey of total uncertainty may break you. The challenges of a nomadic lifestyle are enormous. The instability, lack of home, health challenges, loneliness, constant decision making – all of this requires you to be stable when you embark on this journey. No to mention that you also need to be make money as you move along. So better start from a position of strength, and use the nomadic lifestyle as a means of improving your experience.
Don’t Burn Your Bridges
I don’t believe in big declarations, when it comes to announcing your choice to become a nomad. Nobody knows if they can do this in the long run, so there’s no need to make a big deal out if the situation. A simple “mom, dad, I’m going travel for an extended period of time”, should be enough. When you make big declarations, you have to follow through. This means that if you encounter a crisis, it’ll take you longer to realize that it’s time to cut your losses. You want to be able to go on as much as you want, and quit whenever you feel that you’ve had enough, without any commitments.
18 may be too young to start a nomadic lifestyle. I started my journey at the age of 31. When you’re 18, you’re still growing and getting to know yourself. Being on the road puts you in an extreme situation, which will make you grow so much faster than you should. Go for the normal way of living first, and see how you feel about it. How can you rebel and prefer an alternative if you didn’t even try the norm yet?
It doesn’t have to be all of nothing. The middle-ground is called long term travel. You can take off for just a year or six months with a backpack, and see how that feels. This doesn’t come with the social pressure of choosing something a lot of people don’t understand. You also don’t have the financial pressure, as you can save up before the trip, and not worry about making money on the road.
You mentioned in your comment that you wish to wander aimlessly. This type of travel is probably okay when you are young. As you get older, this is no longer enough. You need some kind of a meaning even as a nomad. Having a goal is important to help you keep going. The road changes, it has no stability or meaning – you have to create the meaning yourself. I must say that struggle with it as well. Maybe everyone who isn’t a part of the rat race of career and family does. That’s the price you pay for trying to be cool. To conclude my answer, you can’t run from yourself – the lunatic inside of you, always seems to follow.
The Influence of a Nomadic Ancestry
Richard: I’ve been a nomad my entire life. The majority of the time it was because my parents were nomads, and so when I went on my own into the adult world I was molded already to be the same way. It’s interesting to see a website describe my life. I just want to say that there are always going to be some people who just don’t know any other way of living. I enjoy my life, being exposed to different cultures all the time is the greatest gift of life to me.
My parent are not nomads, we never even traveled. For me it was a great surprise that I enjoy this lifestyle. I think it’s great to know in advance that this is the life you want to lead. For some people, this takes so long to discover – like older couples in the US, who take their RV, go nomadic, get blown away and wish they’d known that beforehand. It’s also possible that after living nomadically with your parents, you’ll be happy to settle down, who knows. We can always run away from our mold and reinvent ourselves.
For me it was surprising to see how much I enjoy travels and switching between locations. The first time was in Paris when I was 16. I was a spoiled child, who played computers games all day long. But at night in Paris, I just decided to wander between one metro station to the other. When I was 21, I was walking around Cyprus at night, to save to accommodation, and was stopped by the police. I think I completely understood that I wanted this lifestyle when I was backpacking across South America, which was the best period in my life.
Vovk: My ancestors lived a nomadic lifestyle for most of their history. It’s been well over a thousand years, but I’ve always wanted to renew their legacy. Thanks for the tips.
This connects well to what Richard said. Maybe even if your parents didn’t travel, you can still have the nomadic desire in your blood, from your ancestors. Most of our ancestors did this, by the way. A nomadic life may be a good way to connect with your origins, so you own it a try.