Vagabonding

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I tapped on her shoulder. She turned around, smiled, and I pulled her in for a hug. Then I shook her hand. A proper introduction was necessary, she said. The night that followed on that gulf beach led into an odyssey of adventure. I had never known the charm and comfort of sleeping in a car in a dead parking lot. Nor had I known the sting of sand fleas so intimately.

It was shortly after this fling that I said goodbye. I traveled to California, to see my family, then to Maryland, my semi-permanent home. Arriving in Maryland, I took time to adapt myself. I learned the ins and outs of my work, of military life. At some point in that process, everything changed. I decided that I no longer wanted to search for happiness.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but it really is the key to happiness. Don’t look for it. I realized that nothing external could give me rich, lasting happiness. Nothing could give me satisfaction, other than allowing myself to have it for free.

This can, naturally, be a difficult thing to do. Many of us are caught up in the external world; we are so intimately attached to material things. To extricate ourselves would seem impossible. I am not asking that we separate ourselves completely. I am not recommending to go off the grid, or live the rest of your days as some mountain man übermensch. I only ask that you try to be happy.

Take all of the worries in your mind. Acknowledge them, and give them care. But after that, tuck them away for now. Focus on your immediate environment. Focus on your body. Ask yourself what small things you can do, right now, to push yourself forward.

Once you have done this, you should feel a sort of calm. This is the calm of being present. And this calm, this content happiness, is constantly achievable.

I allowed myself to be happy. And over time, this happiness compounded itself. I pushed my circle of influence forward and out. I made new friends everywhere, it seemed to happen naturally. My relationships with old friends grew stronger, richer. Over time, I felt myself become no longer stifled. I could express myself freely, with no narrow filter of anxiety.

Around the same time this happened, I took a trip to a bookstore. In the back of the building–with books on economics and Eastern spirituality piled around me–I found a copy of The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. The title intrigued me. Over the course of a week, I spent my late nights reading it. I have a great deal of admiration for Mr. Ferris. He and his book, as I’m sure they have done to others, changed my paradigm completely. In the span of a week, my dreams changed: I no longer wanted to work for a fortune. I no longer wanted to work until I died.

Instead, I decided, I would become a vagabond. And I will become a vagabond. And I have a plan to do so.

The world stands ready, as always, to host the eager traveler. There are so many who see travel as a high dream, an end goal. As something forever out of reach. But it is not. All that stands to hold one back is the motivation to create change in one’s life. To throw away the old rules, and create new ones.

With this new resolution, added to my list of personal promises, I make one more: I will be completely mobile by age 25. I look forward to sharing it with you.

 

Spontaneity

I think that spontaneity is one of the most desirable traits.

I look for it in myself, and I look for it in other people. But I seldom find it. It seems to me that many (perhaps most) people are satisfied with living a simpler sort of life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. But why is that?

Is the draw of a simpler life the result of the intense, human feeling of comfort? We gain comfort through stability. It makes sense, then, that to avoid discomfort we would avoid instability.

However, comfort and stagnation are two sides of the same coin. Without experiencing discomfort we may not grow. It is the process of being thrust out of our comfort zone–either through events in our lives or by our own accord–that we become matured. Through the willful collection of reference experiences, we gain more to fall back on; we build our foundations.

When I think back on the things I have done, it is clear which memories are the most vivid. It is the uncomfortable ones. But in memory, the negative emotions I may have felt in the presence have faded away. I am able to look back fondly upon most of my memories. I try to hold this knowledge in my mind: whatever negative emotions I may experience in the moment, they will fade. Insults, rejections, physical discomforts–their sting disappears. Some of my happiest memories are those made in uncomfortable situations.

We can apply this. On one level, an individual is a collection of his or her memories. If one can hold a hugely varied collection of memories, won’t one be also hugely varied? Wouldn’t that make one more sophisticated, more compelling? And–if uncomfortable memories become happy in the end–wouldn’t that make one happier? We should not be afraid to make uncomfortable memories. In the end, they will cease to be so.

I often do things just for the sake of doing them. If there’s no compelling reason not to, why not? Why not do it anyway, even if it’s late, or it’s far, or I’m already exhausted? It doesn’t matter.  There doesn’t have to be a reason. Experiencing things in those ways broadens my life. It is living a full story, not a brochure. I think one of the most despicable things is to follow a preset track when one has independent dreams.

Spontaneity, when not tempered by responsibility, can lead to negative outcomes. Things don’t always go the way you plan. People can end up disappointed; important projects can remain unfinished. But I’ve found that simply the effort of pushing yourself out into the world is enough. It seems as if your mind, or the world, recognizes your efforts. It rewards you with new confidence, a result of any new experience. It doesn’t matter if you fail. Once you try, you win.