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.
I write a lot about how people need to make decisions for themselves, work extremely hard, and get off the beaten path. Inevitably, people ask about normal people or people who don't have all the advantages that I have. Let me address that.
Any struggle I've had in my life is a joke. I was born into a great family who never had to worry about putting a roof over my head or food on my plate. I felt (and feel) loved by every member of my family, from my great grandparents down to my siblings. Any danger I've ever been in in my entire life was danger that I willingly put myself into. I was in good schools, had great friends, and was supported by everyone I knew. I've taken medicine once in my life, and it was 15 years ago for strep throat. I have had it incredibly easy.
The challenges in my life have been created by me. I have the incredible privilege to pick goals, set my own timetable, and then try to reach them. I don't have to worry about food or shelter or... really anything. So although I do try to challenge myself and work extremely hard, I am always completely aware that the level of challenge and effort I put out will never reach what some people deal with on a daily basis.
I watched a documentary called Inocente last week, and it made me cry. It's about a homeless teenage girl named Inocente. She was born into a destitute illegally immigrated family with an abusive alcoholic father. Her father beat both her and her mother. They left and became homeless. Her mother was so desperate that she tried to convince Inocente to jump off a bridge and commit suicide with her. Inocente lives by herself, in the park or in shelters, and spends every last free minute she has painting. Her biggest dream in life is to get married and have a house.
Last semester, one of the parts of my Literature class's curriculum was to do an in-depth analysis of multiple Seamus Heaney poems. For a little background, Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet famous of poems such as "Death of a Naturalist." He passed away last year.
A majority of his poems that we studied centered around one theme: childhood. He talked about his experiences as a kid, and he used a tone of nostalgia, implying that he wanted to go back. It frustrated me that he mainly talked about this topic.
In my eyes, his life was divided into two parts. The first, his childhood, was spent having all these amazing experiences that shaped his life. The second, his adulthood, was spent writing about his childhood.
To me, all he wanted to do was to go back. I felt as if he didn't enjoy his current life (adulthood) and reminiscing about his past was his way of coping. Now yes this is most likely an overgeneralization, but it made me think of this question: