So often when I map out our decisions and plans and goals for this lifestyle, I am met with a lot of confusion and questions but mostly jealousy of the freedom to make those decisions, plans and goals. I understand that jealousy probably the most of the three responses. You see, I too spent a lot of time being jealous but also miserable about where I was in life and I would reflect on my personal lack of freedom.
When I was six years old I began riding horses as a hobby. Over the course of a couple of years, my hobby became a serious passion that consumed my time, my focus and my priorities. As I grew, I grew with horses. They were fundamentally intertwined into every aspect of my childhood and teenage years. I grew up gladly accepting that cleaning barn stalls, bathing muddy coats, conditioning squeaky saddles and early weekend mornings at horseshow's was my inevitable reality. When I began college, I anticipated distancing myself from my sport and defining my life in different ways, but as I came up against new and unknown hurdles, I found it easier to just resort back to the one thing I understood so well. So naturally when it came to making future career plans and goals, I was able to slip into a professional horseback riding role pretty easily. Over the span of twenty plus years, I had taken a passion I was so immersed in and morphed that into an unconventional job that suited my needs while still quenching my insatiable thirst for this extreme and beautiful sport.
There I was, twenty-six and living my dream. I was working full time making a salary, doing something I love, surrounded by people and animals I truly enjoyed. Yet, as time passed things began to change. Not in a way that I could understand or explain, but in a way that felt slightly uncertain. For years I was boldly sure, and now all of a sudden I was doubtful. The first and easiest way for me to tell things were different was the feeling of numbness. I no longer knew the feeling of thrill or excitement from horses, instead they were an exhausting responsibility I was in some sort of one-sided marriage to. I would explain my life to others and watch their faces react to my job description with shock and awe, and instead feel my response was lackluster at best. I knew something was wrong and I knew I had to do something about it. But how?
Before making any big changes in your own life, you naturally take an inventory of what you have versus what you want. For me, I had a lot but I didn't seem to want it. The things I wanted were present but distant. We had friends living their own vanlife and there was something so mysteriously capturing about the lifestyle. I was enraptured by this idea that I would be captain of my own destiny, sailing the high seas of the asphalt stretching from coast to coast, a student of mother nature in places so desolate, no picture would do the view justice. It was obviously romantic but unfortunately unreal, or so I thought.
I wish I could say there is some equation to input aspects of your life into in order to formulate how exactly a lifestyle like this is possible. I wish I could promise that it's as simple as moving a few pieces around in order to 'make it work'. I wish there was a way to promise that a free and nomadic life is possible for everyone. The bad news is that it isn't. The good news is that it's not the logistics keeping you from those goals.
As I sat on a couch in a sun-filled family room in New York, I allowed questions I had run from for so long, to come billowing in. I had enough chances to continue to move away and start fresh to know that despite starting fresh, doing ultimately the same things and living the same professional life that orbited around horses, may not be my solution. But what would the solution be? At this point I had allowed myself to break down so much to the point where I was now considering ideas I had once discounted. I was so broken that everything was an option. And if I were to say there was any pivotal point to my evolution, I would accredit this moment. I have always subscribed to the idea that life is about evolution. We were designed to grow and learn and become better versions of ourselves which eventually leads to becoming a better version of humans collectively. And this was one of my greatest evolutionary moments. I learned in a matter of minutes, if I were to allow myself to be open to solutions I never even dreamed of, all that ever stood between me and those solutions was my own doubt. Eliminating that doubt was the simplest and hardest thing I would do in this entire journey. Plainly put- when people look at me with such jealousy and meet me with so many excuses as to why it could never work for them, I smile and shake my head. Anyone could live in a bus, not everyone wants to live in a bus.
Too often we quickly address the problem but become discouraged when the solution requires change or harder work. But understand- it isn't the work that is corrosive. It's your interpretation, your preconceived notion of what you can't or won't do. We know we aren't happy where we are, and we know we want to be happy- everyone does, that's the simple part, it's why only 1 in 3 Americans are happy. But finding the materials to build that bridge from unhappiness to the alternative requires engineering. When I began to allow myself to see the things that truly brought me happiness, the building materials took form right in front of my eyes, but it took me pushing and remaining open to just about any solution.
But how was I going to live this nomadic life, freely following a breeze? I needed to take an inventory- what were the non-negotiable's, the things I had to have in order to both live the life, but to live it in a happy way? For me, it was having Sam and with Sam came many more necessary's. He has needs that will always far surpass mine so in order to have my non-negotiable, he needs his. While the things I needed were accounted for, the things I didn't need vanished and have never been missed since. I took car loads of clothing and furniture and artwork and household goods to donation without a second thought. I quickly and gladly quit a job I had grown to despise. I made arrangements to move back to Florida, albeit a place I really didn't care for but one I was willing to relocate to all in the name of happiness. And as I shed even the smallest amount of tangible goods, I would gain mountains of freedom and joy.
You see, the fundamentals of happiness are lifestyle changes, but those lifestyle changes tend to be specific. True and honest happiness isn't some reservoir we can add to periodically throughout our lives and intend for it to carry us through. For me, happiness was something obtained when immersing myself into beautiful people and places and cultures. I was kidding myself to think that I could fill that void on random weekends throughout the year, sporadically dispersed among weeks of frustration and exhaustion at a job that afforded me the funds to take said trips. Randy Komisarre so bravely and famously wrote, "And then that is the most dangerous risk of all...the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later."
So yes, while I understand that I have taken a huge leap of faith committing to a unique way of life, I sleep soundly at night knowing that I sensibly have made one of the wildest decisions of my life in the name of fulfillment, exhilaration, education, self sustainability and true honest to goodness happiness. Living in an old school bus full time may be a bit of a stretch for some people, and honestly choosing happiness may not look like a skoolie for you, but to choose happiness, seeking out that solution outside the lines is imperative. The next time someone stands across from you painting an insanely crazy and auspicious plan for their life, don't meet their intentions with jealousy, rather allow their inspiration to guide your own.