What do you value most? Things or experience? Money or the freedom to do as you please?
It would be easy for me to sit here and tell you that I’m an experience junkie. Money and material things mean nothing to me. That’s why I started this blog (Yawn).
That’s not true of course.
Every day I have to fight the urge to buy pointless stuff.
I would certainly describe myself as a materialistic person. Having nice shiny things means a huge amount to me.
Why? (Big breath).
Because deep down in my soul I think I’m unfulfilled. Sure, from the outside my world looks OK, but what am I really doing? How am I making the most of this amazing gift of life? The answer is, I’m not. Not really.
I’m simply going to work each day to pay for material things I already have, hoping to get credit to buy bigger shinier things in a vain hope to impress the people around me.
When I read those words they sting a little. I feel like I’m betraying a secret. A little secret that everyone’s in on but nobody is supposed to mention.
I know some people won’t see it that way. That’s OK, we’re all different. To me however over time, it’s boiled down to a simple choice.
Do I want to exchange the active part of my life for material goods?
Money vs Freedom
I don’t think I’ll ever be completely free of the materialistic world. I’ve been brainwashed for far too long. But once I realised that consumer goods weren’t making me happy, I knew what I had to do.
I had to turn my back on the pursuit of money and embrace something else.
A Vagabonding Spirit
In times past calling someone a vagabond was an insult. Nowadays, vagabonding has become a by-word for long term budget travel. Modern day vagabonding isn’t about wandering the earth barefoot and penniless.
Its about traveling smart, spending smart, embracing new experiences and figuring out a way to repeat the process for as long as you desire.
Vagabonding doesn’t have to start with travel. It can begin right now at home with careful planning and subtle lifestyle alterations to ease you gently into a different frame of mind.
If you’re disenchanted by consumerist culture and you yearn for something different, be prepared for a fight. The modern world will not make it easy for you to change.
You’ll probably be facing many months or perhaps years of hard saving and budgeting. Realistically, it could be a very long road ahead. But even if the practical realities of vagabonding are far away, there are still plenty of things you can do to get into the vagabonding spirit.
It’s never too late (or too early) ….to change.
Fight the Urge to Buy
Slowly, all over the world people are waking up to the idea that consumerism and western style capitalist values may not be the route to true happiness. After all, who’s ever sat back and thought “Wow, I really have enough things now. What’s next on my bucket list? “
There are never enough things in the modern world to satisfy a consumer. There’s always going to be a newer version of that pointless gadget, a slicker car or a bigger TV.
All the while you’re being distracted by material goods, the real world is passing you by.
If you want to opt out – why not stop buying stuff?
This will be hard at first. You’ll miss that little narcotic rush of holding something new, plus everyone else will be buying new stuff and parading it in front of you. Remember though, just like a drug it only feels good for a little while. Once you kick the habit you’ll be way better off.
Downsize Your Stuff
So you’ve stopped buying stuff, but what about all the other stuff you already have. That stuff is still piling up. Some of that stuff needs smaller stuff too, to clean it with. Then there’s the really tiny stuff that holds that stuff together and the stuff to fix it all when it goes wrong.
Your life is just a huge mountain of crap, almost none of which is actually necessary. Most of it isn’t even your stuff. It’s your stuff’s stuff!
Get rid of as much of it as you can. It’s holding you back from better things and re-enforcing a greedy, unfulfilling, consumerist mind-set.
If I had too, I could fit everything I really care about in one backpack. That thought makes me deliriously happy because it means I’m free. Free of the power of stuff.
Conquer Your Fear
Western media has taught us to fear everything when in fact, often the opposite is true. There are an absolute ton of crappy things that can happen to a person anytime, anyplace. What you decide to do with your life and where you decide to do it are just tiny variables.
Don’t be afraid to try something radical.
I’m not advocating a blue skies anything’s possible approach. Be realistic. You’re not going to be a movie star, you’re not going to win the lottery and you’re not going to see the world with £100 in your pocket. But might moving to Thailand be possible? Sure. Just plan it as well as you realistically can, save some money to buy you a little time and then go. You won’t starve on the streets. Thailand has jobs. It has people. You’ll make it work if you have to. There is nothing to fear.
It’s a lot harder to fail in real life than it is to fail from your office cubicle.
Get Real, Then Get Busy
The internet is replete with cheer-leading content that will tell you everything is easy. Baking a cake is easy. Wiring a plug socket is easy. Changing your life is not easy. Neither is saving enough money to travel long term. These things take huge amounts of effort, commitment and self-control.
Plant your feet on planet earth. Stop dreaming about quick ways to get what you want. There aren’t any. There never were. The internet lied.
Want a different life?
Can you save £100 per week? Yeah? Great! Start today and in 2 years you’ll have £10,000 to change your life with. Guaranteed.
Can you pay your mortgage off in 5 years?
No? Your house is too big. You won’t be able to make meaningful progress towards your goals. Sell it now or start looking for a better job.
Want to be a famous travel blogger overnight?
Me too! But that’s a fantasy. It takes years of hard work and dedication. There are almost as many travel blogs as there are travel blog readers. Why not dedicate your time to a second job and see some instant results?
If you want your freedom, you’re gonna have to work for it.
Find a Way Out
There’s no doubt about it, life is tough. Sometimes it can seem like there isn’t a way out and initially, perhaps there won’t be. At least not a practical one anyhow. But life is also long.
Put your time to good use and be patient. You will get what you want in the end.
Navi and I are practical people. We are not particularly smart. We are just average folks with an unusual goal. If we can figure out what makes us happy and strive for it, almost anyone in the developed world can.
Don’t procrastinate any longer. Start doing something today. Make the tough decisions and take action. You can do it.
If you fully commit to an idea, you’re already home free, you just don’t realise it yet!
Not sure why but this has been a tough article to write. To help finish it I borrowed some inspiration from a couple of old timers (sorry Greg).
Firstly the downsize section’s stuff references were inspired by the late George Carlin. If you’ve never watched any of George’s stand-up comedy I’d thoroughly recommend it. He’s a master at pointing out human idiosyncrasies and encouraging us to see the funny side.
Secondly to Greg Rodgers. His tales about changing his own destiny and his notion of the cubicle helped fire my passion to write. Greg’s website Vagabondinglife is one of my personal favorites. Perhaps Greg wasn’t the first to take on these concepts but he was the first that I read, so to me, that’s the same thing.