Man (=Human) has always yearned for freedom. In fact, I believe that is one the deepest drives behind so-called ‘development’ – technology & knowledge facilitate laziness, but also greater power.
They reduce necessary work to survive, and allow us more time and power to do whatever the hell it is that we might want to do.
With machines, we no longer needed slaves. With artificial intelligence, we might not even need to think about logistical issues as much. How easy is it to navigate nowadays, with your smartphone’s compass, google maps and a mobile data connection?
Compare that to finding yourself on a physical map, then compare that to trying to figure out where you are while looking at the sky.
Where am I going with this? Good question. I want to address today’s huge interest in alternative travel.
Are people sick of tourism? Let’s face it. Spending a ton of money to go see stuff you could just as well see on a computer screen.
Why travel if you already know what you will experience?
The interest in alternative travel, which I am no doubt a representative of, is surging. Especially among young people. Traveling without money, hitch-hiking… people want to leave their jobs and travel the world, but they still feel like they lack the money they need.
You see this huge contained rage of society, drive to ‘quit your job and travel the world’.
Look. Freedom isn’t about ditching your commitments and being free from all attachment. Freedom is about choosing your commitments.
Now, there is a process to all of this. In my observation (and experience), it generally goes like this.
1. Ditch your current ‘commitments’ (which you didn’t truly choose, they were imposed by other’s beliefs of how life is supposed to be, society/parents etc)
This may include school, work, relationship, whatever.
2. Explore the Emancipation
This may include travel (today’s huge fad), free love… Basically, establishing one’s freedom. Becoming sure of oneself, exploring what one is able to do. However, this phase is usually also characterized by a repulsion to commitment and desire to remain ‘free’ in the sense of ‘unattached’. Committed to not being committed? 😉
3. Then? Let’s not forget. Love and attachment are very close beasts. When you truly care for someone or something, it becomes hard to always be like water. This is human love, and unless you embrace Tibetan Buddhist ideals so fully as to exclude all attachment from your life, you are unlikely to be able to avoid this. Now here’s another perspective: Isn’t that the beauty of it all, as well? Including the potential suffering?
So here’s what I’m trying to get to.
Freedom isn’t about a lack of commitment. Freedom is about choosing your commitments.
Then, you are free, with your commitments. And that, dear friends, is responsibility. Is it not?
Let us not forget, also, that freedom is costly. Especially the attainment of freedom. Think about the civil rights movement, for example. Attaining freedom, true freedom, requires commitment. Of time, of energy, of attention, sometimes even of lives.
If your desire to quit your job and travel comes from irritation with commitment and boredom of routine, don’t believe that this stuff ever disappears. The traveler spends countless hours on boring bus-rides, waiting in line at visa queues, getting checked at airports, waiting by the side of the road for someone to pick him up… Work is part of life.
You might simply want to find the purpose which makes all this meaningful & worthwhile.
Today, people in the developed world have an UNPARALLELED level of power and potential. This is why, I believe, we are seeing such a surge in the idea of travel. Living in a van, traveling with little to no money, etc etc.
We can see through the keyhole to the future, where freedom of movement and time is acquired. But we have to earn it, and establish it in a sustainable way.
Let us not forget, that the penniless traveler is generally benefiting from other’s hospitality or waste to get by. Of course, when done properly, what is offered in return is priceless.
‘Attention is the purest and rarest form of generosity’ – Simone Weil.
However, this is a way for a minority. What truly matters is the balance, and the way general society is heading.
Let us also not forget the privilege we might have as citizens of the developed world.
Ever tried to travel without a passport? The true privilege (or lack thereof) is not only passport. It is upbringing, language and cultural background, education and color of skin.
So in this era of digital nomads, penniless ‘adventurers’ and whatnot, let us not forget, that what holds society together is the masses, in their everyday and lifelong commitments.
It’s not the traveler or the adventurer. He or she is simply a visitor of other’s fortunes and misfortunes, bringing some light into their lives. Not everyone can or wants to have a wild life.
Behind each adventurer, there is generally a family, an environment and society, transportation systems, bureaucracy and political systems, diplomacy and ‘world order’ which makes this possible.
Ever met a visa-free traveler? They are called migrants. They want to stop traveling.
Let us not forget our privilege. Let us not, also, forget the real work that there is to be done.
There is little left to discover on the surface of this good earth. Most of the nature has been decimated, few ‘original’ societies are left. We live in a massive globalized world. You can often learn more by watching documentaries than going on eco-tours. Traveling is often exploring different shades of the same system. True travel is change within, and witnessing the reflection of that without.
The society we are holding together nowadays, is entirely and completely unsustainable – just like the vagabond life.
Environmental gloom and doom. Potential crash of civilization & economic system. Overpopulation, decimation of forests and ocean life. Warfare, violence and control. It’s all connected.
The traveler has a part to play in all of this, but we all need commitment. We just need to shift them properly, understand that fear is behind imposed commitments, and that we are all (well mostly, in the developed world), in fact, already free. We’re simply choosing to stay in our cages which are truly and only mental.
Want freedom? Earn it.
(Earning does not only mean money. True work is not only employment. Of course, it can be.)
We just need to open our eyes, then keep them open. Understand our current commitments, shift them where and when necessary.
The traveler can offer insight. The real work is integrating insight into way of life. Insight can come anywhere. Truly, it simply comes from paying attention. Open and keep your eyes open.
Learning happens when you pay attention. Sustained attention results in deeper insight. Sustained effort results in integration & change, improvement.
In my opinion, in this society, we work too much. Why have we advanced to such a high technological level, yet we are still spending the vast majority of our waking hours stuck behind desk doing menial jobs, feeding a destructive consumer society? Spending time doing things we don’t want to do, to pay others to do things they don’t want to do?
What do we actually need? How much of this is ‘need’, and how much of this is uncontrolled addiction? Blindness?
I have found purposeful and involuntary lack to be the best teacher of need and appreciation. I’m a big supporter of universal basic income. I think we need to free ourselves from the ‘need’ to work.
We can all eat, sleep and be clothed well, if we accept necessity rather than extravagance.
Then, we can focus our exploration inside & outside, create and introspect. Share.
Happiness only real when shared.
Anyway, that’s about it for now. Keep it real. Don’t buy into the hype. Shit is going down all around us and we need to maintain commitments that matter, drop those that don’t make sense, face our fears and try new shit.
Let’s stay & get committed, to real values.
Also, let’s keep in mind that there is a process to all this. It isn’t yes or no (sorry for being extreme in my writing here). Things needed to go overboard before we find balance, that’s the process of discovery. Right now we are overboard with consumerism. Let’s chill with that and learn to make due with the strict minimum.
You don’t need 10’000 pairs of shoes, but perhaps one or two good e-books might do you good.
Life isn’t easy. But it’s damn worth living, once you stop fearing and sweating the small stuff.
Let’s leave this world with a world worth exploring for our children, and their children.
FACE YOUR FEARS.