A common misconception is that to have a great adventure, you have to give up everything from your stable life, chop it to bits, and leap headfirst into an abyss from which there may be no return. Myself (and others) are, at times, guilty of perpetuating this myth. It is not because we want everyone to be eternally homeless, unemployable drifters – it is because we are excited. We are excited because we have found a way of life that is better for ourselves and we want to share that way of life with others so that if it pleases them, they too may pursue a similar life path. And in the rush of excitement, it seems that we are proposing that you follow our same exact path.
An important thing to remember is that our path is not the only path. One does not have to give everything up in order to have a great adventure in life, simply because someone else did. We must only do what is right for each of us because we are all individuals and we all have different needs.
A few years ago, someone kindly sent me this video:
After watching it, I was blown away. I saw a new way of life that I wanted to pursue. I wasn’t going to cycle around the world like Alastair, but I was going to take his ideas and apply them to my own life. At that time, my life had involved being an English teacher in South Korea for the past year. I did give it all up because despite having an awful lot of fun, I didn’t want to continue living in South Korea or being an English teacher. That was when I started hitchhiking and eventually led to me writing The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World. I didn’t write it to gloat or to persuade others to do the same, I wrote it because it was a life changing experience for me and I wanted to share what had happened. How was I able to afford six months of hitchhiking? I had a regular job, saved a little bit of money, then learnt to travel on very little. Having a ‘real’ job does give you great possibilities.
Many religions preach. They tell you that you must think X and believe Y or Z will happen to you, taking away our freedom and causing many people to shy away from them. In a similar way, when I (and others) talk about our way of life, it sometimes comes across that we are saying ‘you must live your life like this or you are destined to be unhappy.’ This is not what we mean. What we mean is ‘here is how we live our life, we like it, and if you like it, you can do it too.’ Take or leave as little or much as you please.
Let’s think about adventure. Presumably you live somewhere and you have a job. Most people do. And I’m going to assume that you get regular days off, probably weekends (although this is dependent upon which industry you work in). What if for your next two day break, instead of watching the football, cleaning the house, going shopping, and drinking beer, you headed outside and found yourself a great adventure? I persuaded my dad and brother to join me for a three night hike in Wales which they scheduled around work. Unlike the majority of weekends that pass us by, we will all remember those days clearly.
What about annual vacation? In less than two weeks, my brother and I left the UK, arrived in Iceland, and walked from the south to the north, then got back again. That could be done by someone with a regular job if they didn’t want to sit by a pool in the sunshine – however, if sitting by a pool in sunshine is your idea of heaven, go do that and for heaven’s sake, stay away from Iceland, it’s bloody cold and even bloody windier!
For more adventure in your life, do only what is comfortable for you. I gave up everything because I felt that I had nothing important to lose. Give up only what you are comfortable giving up, and find adventure in the time that you have free. Then you will always have that safety net to come back to if you want it. I have chosen to live without a personal safety net because I am lucky that my family always welcome me back when I want a break. But even for me, times are changing and after several years on the road, I am thinking of making a more stable life, full of intermittent adventures. I can only live from a backpack for so long.
And please, when I’m excited and talk of a journey as if it was the best thing in the world and that everybody should do it, remember this: I am a little kid with a lollipop, overwhelmed with so much joy that I want to show it to the world. Now go find your own flavoured lollipop – it’s out there, whether ‘there’ is at the south Pole or tucked away snugly in your bed at home.