At 29 years old, I still keep my mother awake at night. No, I am not a live-at-home bed wetter. I am something far worse and a great deal more stressful–I am a traveler.
I traverse the globe moving from one job to the next, few of which I studied to do. Just when I feel I am starting to ‘settle’ in a place (i.e. just when my mother’s blood pressure starts returning to normal), I uproot my entire life–selling all my possessions except for what can fit into one bag, and moving to the next town/city/job/adventure.
To understand my choice of lifestyle, I suppose you need to know a bit about me. I am happiest when moving – I grew up practicing dance, riding horses, and travelling a lot with my family. It is within motion that I find my bliss. These days that translates into a daily yoga practice, fast-driving (catch me if you can!), walking faster than my friends can keep up with and continent-hopping. I find sitting too long in one spot to be agonizing – I long for the wind in my hair and the blur of life shifting around me to resemble something I have not encountered before. My insatiable appetite for travelling–be that for other lands or certain industries–means that I have not stuck with one job for more than 12 months. Ever. I attempted tertiary education–twice–and dropped out–twice. I have worked in more industries than I can count and have about 10 different CV’s reflecting 10 different versions of myself to suit these varying (and ever expanding) skill sets. I talk to strangers. A lot. And contrary to what my lifestyle might tell you about me, I am a smart girl.
One of the degrees I dropped out of was in Architecture. I terminated my studies because they didn’t make me happy. I place THAT MUCH emphasis on being happy that I refused to sink 5 years of my life into something that didn’t ignite a fire within me. I spent more than the first 3/4 of my life clinically depressed. For more than a decade depression was all I knew. That is why I have placed this monumental emphasis on living a HAPPY life. On doing things that lead to a VIVID and INSPIRED existence. For me, that means moving. That means new faces, new lands, new ideas, new cultures and most importantly–new challenges. It means no safety net, because no safety net brings me right into the present moment, the only moment worth living in.
My lifestyle prompts great public and private concern for my “lack of commitment,” my so-called inability to further myself in a specific career and most especially my lack of a 9-5 job with a fixed monthly income. But that’s all codswallop, and let me tell you why.
Moving and travelling are expensive. Very expensive. So I work. HARD. Sometimes my job will keep me in one place for 12 months or more, other times it may be a fortnight. Regardless of these time limits and contrary to popular belief, I am an incredibly valued member of every team I join. Because my work ethic is BANGING–it has to be! When you opt out of the safety of a steady monthly income, you damn better make sure people will meet you and/or read your CV and immediately want you on their team. So just because I haven’t dedicated a decade of my life to one specific job doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard, or that I am not VERY good at what I do. This nomadic way of making money means that I have to bend and shape myself to a myriad of roles, stretching myself to the very limits of what I thought I was physically, emotionally and intellectually capable of doing. When your life is on the road, work opportunities rise and fall at random so often you can’t afford to say no to an opportunity, no matter how out of your range you think it may be.
Yeah, some of it is shit work that scars you (Reading Festival, I hate you forever) and some of it pays a fortune while expanding on your strengths and earning you references you couldn’t buy for love or money. Take my managerial role at the Info Tent at Wilderness Festival this year – I was put in charge of 10 staff members, responsible for knowing every tiny detail of over 250 events that were happening within the festival. I was given this promotion just one day before the festival opened and so had mere 24 hours to familiarize myself with the intricate details of all these elite events that had been pre-booked (and cost a fortune) at a festival so fancy it saw the likes of Prince Harry in attendance. No small task, but you’d be amazed what the brain can cram in when it needs to. I was completely in over my head but I rocked it – all thanks to a superb team, excellent 3G reception (internet, will you marry me?), impeccable communication skills, and more than a little bit of charm to bedazzle the customers while we frantically searched for the information they were after.
This molding of yourself to opportunities as they arise forces you to stretch beyond what you could ever have planned or imagined for yourself. You have to be creative, spontaneous, resourceful, optimistic, willing and gregarious. You have to ask questions, look things up, upskill overnight (internet, mon amour) and find a way to get it done at all costs.
I have had to learn how to use Photoshop in a fortnight, memorize over 150 wines in a week and master the art of erecting Bell Tents in an hour to name a few, because when a potential employer asks if you can do something the answer is always YES. As our friend, the billionaire Sir Richard Branson says,
“Say yes, then learn how to do it later!”
It therefore confounds me that a lot of people think that all perm-travelers are just too thick to get a decent job so they hop around the globe instead. No. We are not dumb. That opinion is dumb. That opinion is inexperienced and small-minded. I have met some of the most vast and inquiring minds I have ever known while exploring the world and the various industries within it. Here’s the truth: the job does not make the man, but the mind and soul make the man. So if someone is living in such a way that he is expanding his knowledge of the world, growing his character and exploring his abilities while also finding a way to feed and clothe himself in the process, then in my opinion he is richest and smartest of all.
A lifestyle that is so different from the norm (i.e. doesn’t fit into the “9-5” box) does not mean that it’s lax, lazy, or unproductive. A perma-traveller’s life is challenging beyond belief–finanacially, physically, and emotionally. And what are challenges but opportunities for growth? Hell, on the road sometimes you don’t even have a choice–it’s FORCED growth! Grow-or-perish! Adapt-or-die! And so you do, because when you are tested to your physical/financial/emotional limits, the only important thing is to survive. Sometimes, you even thrive (#winning). And after it all you look around, and you’re five years older than you were last year.
It can be hard on relationships–the real cost of travelling is that you will always be away from loved ones no matter where in the world you are. As the stamps in your passport increase, so do the number of people scattered around the world that you care deeply for, even love. This is not the right lifestyle for everyone: some people thrive on support, routine and stability, and how grateful I am to them for holding systems together that I rely so heavily on. The world is vast and filled with such a brilliantly varied group of homo sapiens that in the bigger scheme of things make this game of putting people in boxes rather futile.
This shape-shifting existence makes me feel alive. It brings out of me parts of myself I never dreamed were part of my genetic makeup. It is a life worth getting out of bed for. Since the first time I listened to that little voice that asked, “What’s over there?”, I’ve been hooked on finding out more about the world at large. Wanderlust is not something you ask for, it’s something you’re born with. It might lay dormant for many years, but once the sleeping beast is awakened there’s no going back to sleep. You can no more deny yourself of your great love than you could deny yourself of oxygen and survive. Osho puts it best I think when he says,
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
So mum, no more sleepless nights. Your daughter is a brave soldier, and a clever little dropout. Am I crazy? Possibly. Am I risky? Absolutely! Am I happy? More than I’ve ever been. There is such bravery in choosing to live your version of a happy life. It will almost certainly break all the rules, and I guarantee it will challenge you beyond all reason, but it’s a great life.
Also by Morgan: Adventure Time – A Story Off the Beaten Path
Also see: 5 Ways to Live Your Best Life
Photo: Morgan Jeanne