Hello all! It’s been almost a week since Danielle and I donned our backpacks and hit the road (well sort of). We’ve spent the past 6 days bouncing back and forth between a couple of my friends’ apartments in Champaign-Urbana. Since I lived in this town 4 years for school and have known these friends for a long time, this past week has been a far-cry from the unknown freedom that we set out to pursue. That being said, even this past week has taught me much about gratitude, community, and kindness. Although, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. As much as I would love to share the experiences of the past week, I realize that I never gave a proper prologue to this journey- even for myself. So I think it prudent to reflect briefly on what this journey means to me, what motivated it, what I hope to discover, and what challenges I may face. Let’s dive in together!
First of all, I notice myself reaching for the words “journey” and “adventure” a lot to denote the current chapter of my life. While a rather unconscious urge, there is a reason I’m attracted to these words. You see, the reason for my choice to vagabond and explore the west coast wasn’t as much about the west coast in particular as it was about the journey itself. I’ve lived my life following the beaten path. As far as I can recall, my life as been laid out for me from the time I was very young: preschool>elementary school>middle school>high school>college>career>marriage>children>retirement. That is the “American Dream” if you will. Even when I was a young child I knew that it was this life I was destined to live. That predictability and certainty gave me a sense of comfort. It gave me a solid narrative with which to organize my life. It not only gave me goals and measures of success, but offered me a means of getting there: “If you get good grades and work hard, you can achieve success.” This is all well and good and I’m very grateful to have been offered a workable narrative up until now. However, all stories get old if retold over and over. And this story of the American Dream has largely run its course. This is not to say that it ought to be shunned and denied by all people, but that it no longer holds the power it once did- certainly not for me. The vision of success offered by this story, is not the type of success I crave. If we were to equate success with a nice car, comfortable house in the suburbs, wife (or husband), three kids, and a stable career; I could confidently tell you that I never want to be successful.
Fortunately, that isn’t the only type of success there is. When I began to realize that success doesn’t necessarily come from adequately filling a role in a predetermined narrative and could come from the creation and fulfillment of one’s own created narrative, my perspective begain to shift. I began to ask questions I had never asked myself before. What does success mean to me? What do I want out of life? Where can I find a place in this world? How do I live a life in line with my own ideas and values? What do I value? Who even am I? As it turns out, the answers to these questions aren’t always simple. They often involve the dissolution and reformulation of one’s beliefs and worldview. This is… uncomfortable to say the least. I was forced to admit that the things I had spent most of my life doing were not really getting my closer to living the life of my dreams. In fact, before this period of soul-searching “dreams” seemed to be of little consequence. Now, though, I have change my mind completely. I now consider dreams to be the most important guiding light. They are the compass that keeps me oriented in this wild and chaotic world. No matter how lost in the dark I get, my dreams never change. I understand now how important it is to chase one’s dreams. Dreams are a source of guidance, of inspiration, of power, of courage. In many ways, I consider them to be the source of all that is. However, I’m now flirting quite intimately with philosophy which is not what I had intended.
Regardless, I have found dreams to be extremely important for me, personally. I have been listening to them with a much keener ear over the past several years. If you’d like to hear more about what they’ve told me, perhaps you would enjoy reading earlier posts of mine where dreams, philosophy, and story were the core of my focus. Now, though, it will suffice to say that right now I dream of freedom, adventure, community, and love.
The life I have been living after graduation has not consisted of these things to the degree with which I would like. Constant crushing fears regarding money and financial security have bared down on me with such force that I felt compelled to do anything and everything in my power to earn as much money as possible. Rather that being free, I felt more like a slave to socio-economic systems.
In my home town I found my social circle to be lacking. I had relatively few friends to spend time with and I saw my family infrequently. Beyond that, I didn’t feel to all inclusive sense of community that I crave. I am eternally grateful for my friends and family, but that in itself doesn’t spell out community for me. Community implies (to me) camaraderie, a sense of shared purpose, interdependence, and-of course- love. I felt many of these things to varying degrees with varying people back in Naperville, but it wasn’t a consistent, clear feeling of connection to a community or purpose greater than myself.
Adventure is closely related to freedom, but all-in-all the same. It’s difficult to have adventure without freedom, but freedom doesn’t necessarily entail adventure. In addition to freedom, I want adventure. I live on a planet of 7 billion people with hundred’s of different countries, countless different cultures, a diverse array of different ecosystems, and infinite ways to live. The amount of diversity to explore and experience on this planet is truly staggering. In fact, I can’t imagine living on this planet and all its wonders without a craving to experience all there is. I’ve lived in Illinois for most of my life. For all the great things to be found here, I could not possibly be content here any longer knowing that I have an entire world to explore. This craving I doubt will ever go away and it’s why I suspect that the vagabond lifestyle of constant travel may be the one for me.
As for love, that is everywhere. It is omnipresent. One need not go anywhere or do anything special to find and experience love- it is the bedrock of human existence. That being said, I have found a wonderful partner who I love with all my heart. She’s sitting next to me at this very moment. While it’s not necessary to have a romantic partner to experience the full gambit of emotion that love brings with it, it certainly is helpful to me. While this journey really isn’t about searching for love, it helps to know that my love is coming along with me.
So I did all that soul-searching of discovering my dream. It was one of the most difficult challenges of my life. I had to rediscover parts of myself that I had hidden long ago. However, the challenges have truly just begun. Now that I have discovered my dream, the real work of turning my dream into a reality is just beginning. I don’t really know how to go about it and waiting until I have it all figured out has simply not worked. I won’t have it all figured out by sitting around and thinking. That may have helped me find my dream, but only action can help me create it.
So that brings me to where I am now. In two days I will board a flight and fly out into San Diego- a city I’ve never been too and know relatively little about. It’s an experiment. Does vagabonding help me realize my dream? Can I find my tribe out west? Can I live in a way that I don’t feel that money is controlling my every move? I can’t say for sure but I feel as though I’m on the right track. I feel more freedom, more community, more adventure, and more love than I have in a long time. I have no idea what tomorrow brings, but I have a heartfelt certainty that it will be exactly what I’m looking for- even if I have a hard time defining exactly what that is.