In the post, Sebastian is sitting by a train station, watching normal people go by, happily executing their normal lives. "I don't get to have this," he says. That's how I've always felt, too.
There are a great many benefits associated with living an unusual life. Those are fun to talk about because they can be inspiring, amusing, and provide readers with a sort of voyeuristic pleasure. Talking about the hidden downsides isn't much fun, but probably warrants some discussion, at least for the sake of being comprehensive.
One of those downsides is the isolation.
It's not loneliness. I have tons of great friends and never feel like I'm alone, even when I'm traveling around the world by myself. And it's not, to me, at least, being misunderstood. I feel like people understand what I'm trying to do. It's isolation-- that feeling of having your entire life on your own shoulders at all times. It's a lack of common ground with pretty much everyone.
Sound dramatic? Here's an incomplete list of things normal people care about that have no bearing on my life whatsoever: careers, school, marriage, mortgages, tv, video games, movies, vacation, bills, alcohol, concerts, clubs, bars, bosses, furniture, weekends, shopping, sports. I'd guess that most people, at most points in their lives, are either thinking about, talking about, or acting on one of these topics.
Meanwhile, all the things streaming through my head have almost no bearing on normal people's lives, either. It's a two way street.
None of this is a jab at normal people, by the way. I learned the hard way that it's much better to judge people by their own standards rather than by mine. Just as I would be miserable with a "good job", a suburban house, and weekends drinking with the boys, someone who enjoys that kind of stuff would be miserable with my life. If someone succeeds by his own standards, that's all that matters.
People sometimes tell me that they wish they could travel like me. They don't actually wish that, though, or they would do it. It's not that difficult. There's just a certain allure to the highlights of a life that's foreign to you. I feel that allure, too.
I'll see a father and son riding their bikes on a sunny day. They have helmets on, and he's dressed in a way that just screams "good office job". It's the weekend, of course. He's not crushing life, but he's not trying to, either. He's just enjoying his weekend off from work, and putting in time with his family. Sometimes when I see this, I get flooded with emotion. I realize that this is a good life, and that I won't ever have it.
Though I obviously think the benefits of my lifestyle outweigh what I'm giving up, I'm still aware that I'm giving up something. And that's the commonality that most people share. It provides a framework for understanding each other, builds rapport, and acts as a catalyst for empathy. Instead of all that, I have freedom, full responsibility for my life, and a bit of isolation.
I thought I mentioned this before, but I've gotten a lot of email in the past week where people assume I'm in San Francisco. I just came through Shanghai to Tokyo, where I'll be for a month. After that I'm off to Thailand, Berlin, Panama, and a handful of other places. That reminds me. I should put some Shanghai photos up on flickr (like the goose photo at the top)
Absolutey beautiful...I've been thinking for YEARS, how to get my nomadic lifestyle across to my family. Thank you!
I'm currently living my dogs journey...
Nice post. I'm surprised, in a way, that your perspective is flexible enough to see a common suburb father and son vignette and react this way. It's interesting to me, particularly because when I see these scenes, I feel mostly grateful that is not me! And I'm a woman (albeit an odd one). I'm yet to really see the suburb life and have a pang of yearning for it. A rural life, though, I understand the beauty of...
I think it shows great depth of character and emotion that you wrote this post. Thanks.
It's crowded at the bottom - it's lonely at the top.
Not many can match your desire, will, and courage at pushing the envelope of what's possible. The isolation doesn't seem much of a surprise to me - the rest of us just haven't caught up with you yet. In time here's hoping that all of us get to where we truly want to be.
I'm really looking forward to your post on becoming happy that you said you plan to write. I tried to search online but most stuff is pretty woo-woo.
Nice post, as usual ;). Thank you! When you say the things that go through "normal people's heads", you then mentioned that your thoughts are different. Maybe an "inside Tynan's mind" blogpost would be interesting. I know that each of your posts slowly answers this more global question, but: What are the things you think about the most?
I think it's less loneliness of lifestyle, i.e. what you do with your everyday life, but rather loneliness of mindset. I've met plenty of nomads and wanderers who bore me, who have more in common with the reviled "9-5ers" than they think.
The way I (and I suppose, you) see other people and my placement among them is different from most anyone I know. The older I get though, the less lonely it feels. Thanks for this post.
Thanks so much for introducing me to Sebastian's blog today.
My choices don't make me lonely, but they have taken away a lot of sense of 'solidarity' that I used to have with friends and family when I was doing what they do - going to work, paying a mortgage, etc.
So many conversations come with remarks aimed at me like 'I know you can't understand this but -'
They're wrong. I can understand it. I remember what it was like to work a job. I remember what it was like to be a home owner. I remember following another person's required schedule. I just don't do it anymore.
Last night I was in the Las Vegas airport, waiting for boarding to start on my flight. I went there an hour early because I didn't have time to play poker, so I figured I could get on wifi and get some work done. I knocked out a couple small SETT bugs, and then remembered about getgoing.com, the YC-backed discount flight site. The way it works is you pick two deeply discounted flights that you'd be willing to take, put in your credit card, and getgoing picks one for you. You don't know where you're going until after you've paid. When I first got invited to the site I mucked around with it and found some really great fares to both Beijing and Shanghai.
Maybe I should go to China, I thought. Twenty minutes later my flight to Shanghai was booked.
I like making impulsive decisions like this. My past is filled with them, and none that I can think of have ended in regret. Actually, if I were asked what I thought my biggest strength is, I would probably say that it is making good decisions very quickly.
I wasn't always good at making quick decisions. Twelve years ago I had the opportunity to fly on the Concorde for $1000. It was usually over $10,000 round trip. I really wanted to do it, so I called a few friends to see if anyone else was interested. There was some hemming and hawing, but no one was ready to commit. Well, I thought, I'll wait until tomorrow and buy a ticket then if I still want to go. The next day came and the deal was gone. Now the Concorde is decommissioned and I'll never have the chance to ride it. Strange is it sounds, this is probably one of the bigger regrets in my life. I really wish I got to ride the Concorde before it folded.
What's cyclothymia? It's a mild form of the docs used to call "manic-depression," but which they re-name periodically. Cyclothymics can actually function decently well, and as such often don't know they've got it. If you cycle through highs and lows, are particularly artistic, or that describes someone you love, then read this post in full and please comment with your own experience. I'm still learning, myself.
AN INTRODUCTION TO CYCLOTHYMIA
Knowing the term "Cyclothymia" would have been very helpful to me a few years ago. This essay is plain English and, if I've done a good job, might help people who associate with a cyclothymic relate better to them, and might help a cyclothymic manage themselves better and produce better.
I'm against the "medical-ization" of life. We need medical terms, but we need to be able to explain things in plain English without labeling. Labeling, by definition, drastically simplifies.
Cyclothymia is simple at its roots, simple enough for a plain discussion without medicalization. Here's how it works for me -