“What are you running from?” A question I was asked often when I stated that I intended to travel for a period of time. “Nothing, I’m running to. Not from.” Would be my retort but it would fall on deaf ears. Dismissed as an excuse. I would be labelled as immature for refusing to accept responsibility. I would then be given a list of things I “should” be doing. There are no shoulds there are options. A mortgage, kids, marriage, career, are AN option. Not THE option.
To call travelling escapism is to generalise a lifestyle embraced for many reasons.
I hear the same stories from people of varying ages. That they are not bold adventurers throwing down the shackles of expectation but children. Peter Pan syndrome; refusing to grow up. Just a phase that will pass. Once it has blown out like a storm, they/we/I will return to the fold. Happy in a career and comforted by the memories of a juvenile jaunt.
So far, it appears that it is a generalisation to say that everyone is running from problems. I would dare say that it is nothing but a slur used by some people who believe a huge house, a car on credit and an expensive phone is the purpose of life. Maybe it is a slur used by some who are too weak to pursue their own dreams that they use it to diminish the achievements of those that do. I meet people of varying ages and most understand what they are leaving behind. Many have tried the “Normal” way of life and were left wanting or realised that it was an endless cycle that was ultimately unfulfilling. Some felt like a hamster running on a wheel in the belief that it would free them from the cage. They stopped lying to themselves and started to pursue something that aligned more with their innate desires.
There are some clichés of course “I want to find myself,” is the most popular. An interesting proposition as you are yourself and always have yourself with you. It is more likely that people who question the suitability of the “normal” lifestyle that is bestowed upon them are often marginalised. It is not themselves that they seek but people like them. People who make them feel accepted and less isolated. Confirmation that their belief that there is more to life is correct.
Personally, I commend the young people who have the courage to try and pursue their dreams. The young entrepreneurs who aren’t interested in millions but are interested in experiences. They seek a passive income to ensure their survival. It’s almost as if there are two worlds running concurrently; one that is filled with stress and busyness. The other of liberation and freedom. Maybe the hippie movement never died it just went underground after big business turned it into tied dyed T-shirts and beads. The ethos still exists in the transient nature of the hostels that I frequent. People brought together for a temporary time. United by their freedom and connected by their passion for adventure. Unlikely friends sharing a common goal and sharing tales. Like cowboys around the campfire sharing tales and horror stories. It is a culture. A culture that reflects a truer image of the human experience. One of compassion and collectivism. The marginalised become the group. The strong become united. Maybe with more organisation, Herbert Marcuse’s theory could come to fruition.
Many of the people I meet are intelligent. They understand what they are sacrificing and where they heading. They are not the people portrayed by the media. They are varied, yet the wanderlust connects them.
“The real home of man is not his house but the road. Life itself is a travel that has to be done by foot.”Bruce Chatwin, What am I doing here?
Who we are and where we are heading is a question that scares many. It could be argued that a large part of our life is either trying to escape this thought or make sense of this thought. The expectations that many believe to be normal, house, car, family, job, is not normal for all. In fact, it is detrimental to many. The inner light slowly dims as conformity consumes the individuality. Who we are and where we are heading is a decision we make when we have the courage to make it.
My life was on a road I did not like. I drank because I wanted to escape it and also because I hated the fact I didn’t have the courage to change it. I was waiting for the change to happen. Praying for a miracle that would come and save me but it never came. I realised eventually that I had to step up to the plate and become the change. Force the change. It was scary. That’s why anyone who attempts to pursue a goal, change their life for the better or makes positive steps in that direction is impossible to be a failure. Because to try and fail is not to fail. To try and fail is to learn that you have to try again. Not to try is to fail. To spend your days escaping life through overconsumption whilst dreaming of a brighter future is to fail. To never realise that the cyclic lifestyle that we adhere to is not progression but stagnation. Many people know what they want. Many people know who they want to be. Yet they are fearful of doing it, being it or living it.
The question is that where does that courage come from? Is it innate? Or can it be learned? Well in my experience it can be learned. It can be learned by setting goals and either failing or succeeding. Both are equally important. I started out by setting small goals and either failing at completing them or completing them. When I completed one I would be inquisitive to know what I could do next so I would set more. This method enabled me to progress.
Many people I meet in my normal life would love to do new adventurous things but do not want to lose the security of their current situation. Yet they are unhappy. This unhappiness causes them to pursue methods to escape the unhappiness; shopping, food, drink, drugs, sex, gambling. This then creates guilt which only worsens the situation. It is a vicious cycle. I know not everyone can walk out on their lives and pursue a dream but there are many that do and are chastised for it. Courage should be promoted not criticized. The easiest way to stop someone doing something is to discredit them and criticize their desires to devalue them.
So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.John Krakauer, Into the Wild
To the people who identify as being a resident of earth, a member of the human race, a person whose purpose it is to evolve grow and make humanity a better place. I salute you. The world needs difference. The world needs individuals. Yes, it needs stuff. Yes, it needs production. Yes, it needs food and services. But humanity needs art, music and alternative opinions. The people who are happy in offices are not to be slurred. Nor are the people pursuing goals that don’t align with that vision.
Life is fleeting. Pursue your dreams.