“Very many people spend money in ways quite different from those that their natural tastes would enjoin, merely because the respect of their neighbors depend upon their possession of a good car and their ability to give good dinners. As a matter of fact, any man who can obviously afford a car but genuinely prefers travel or a good library will be in the end much more respected than if he behaved exactly like everyone else.” Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness
I began this blog as an experiment and have unveiled some truths I was after. I didn’t know how my travel stories and photographs would be received but I needed a forum to express the happiness I have discovered through travel and lack of direction. I experimented with different forms of travel writing – imagery, interviews, non-fiction and imaginative fiction. Although different groups of people have preferred one style to another, responses have consistently held a common thread.
The most common questions I am asked are always “How can you afford to travel so much?” “How do you get so much time off?” “Was it difficult to transition from being a well paid corporate lawyer to a full-time traveler on a budget?” The most common comment I have received is “I am so jealous of your life.”
Instead of screaming at the top of lungs “I am not lucky, I am dedicated to the way I choose to live my life – and YOU CAN TOO,” I decided to respond head on.
Here is the answer. I adjusted my priorities. I was a well-paid lawyer, rich in money but poor in time. I had the money and no time to enjoy it.
Rolf Potts described it best when he eloquently explained that the freedom to travel has never been determined by income level; it’s found through simplicity – the conscious decision of how to use what income you have. Contrary to popular stereotypes, seeking simplicity doesn’t require that you become a monk, a hippie, or a wild-eyed revolutionary. Nor does it mean that you must unconditionally avoid the role of consumer. Rather, simplicity merely requires a bit of personal sacrifice: an adjustment of your habits and routines within consumer society itself. At times, the biggest challenge in embracing simplicity will be the vague feeling of isolation that comes with it, since private sacrifice doesn’t garner much attention in the frenetic world of mass culture.
The notion that “riches” don’t necessarily make you wealthy is as old as society itself. Ancient Hebrew scripture declares “whoever loves money never has money enough.” The Buddha whimsically pointed out that seeking happiness in one’s material desires is as absurd as “suffering because a banana tree will not bear mangoes.”
Despite several millennia of such warnings, however, there is still an overwhelming compulsion to get rich from life rather than to live richly, to “do well” in the world instead of living well. And, in spite of the fact that America is famous for its unhappy rich people, most of us remain convinced that just a little more money will set life right. In this way, the messianic metaphor of modern life becomes the lottery – the outside chance that the right odds will come together to liberate us from financial worries, once and for all.
Fortunately, we are all born with winning tickets – and cashing them in is a simple matter of altering our cadence as we walk through the world. Traveling sage Ed Buryn knew as much: “By switching to a new game, which in this case involves traveling, time becomes the only possession and everyone is equally rich in it by biological inheritance. Money, of course, is necessary for survival, but time is what you need to live. So, save what money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle.”