“Do it while you’re young.” “Live life with no regrets.” “YOLO!” No matter your generation, there is a corresponding cliché adage serving as a reminder that our time on earth is limited and that it should be spent in a meaningful fashion. Why then do so many of us fail to heed this timeless advice? Why do we continually construct traps for ourselves, exchanging freedom and happiness for security and acceptance? Rather than honestly contemplate the answers to these questions, we sweep them into a dark crevice deep inside our mind and return to our daily lives, seeking distraction and those fleeting moments of contentedness. Or, at least that’s what I did.
In late November 2014, I found myself again dangerously pondering these very questions before a Quantitative Analysis course one Friday afternoon at the London School of Economics. For the first time in a while, I allowed myself to be blatantly honest with… myself. While the idea of self honestly seems far from novel at first blush, the truth is I had been lying to me for quite some time. However, as I set foot inside the classroom, I knew I was entering the danger zone. As the professor droned on about linear regression analysis, I proceeded with my own self-analysis; I reflected on how I ended up at the LSE in the first place. WHY was I there?
rewind to… “the initial decision”
In the fall of 2014 I had decided to leave a very comfortable lifestyle and job as the head of Finance and Accounting at medium-sized financial services firm. It was a bold move which was questioned by many, but I was quick to respond to the cynics with a myriad of pre-packaged assertions: “The ROI of a Master’s degree in Management is 100,000%!” or “I’ll be joining the likes of George Soros, Monica Lewinsky, Mick Jagger and countless other prestigious LSE Alumni!” Come on, who wouldn’t like to party with those guys? Well, maybe Mick back in the day. In time, all nonbelievers were converted and thoroughly convinced that I was making a superb life decision – even I drank a bit too much of the proverbial Kool-Aid.
But why had I decided to leave my comfy office and lavish lifestyle in the first place? Well, it’s simple really: I wasn’t happy. I woke up every morning, drove my luxury sports car to work out with a company-sponsored personal trainer before donning my designer threads and making my way to a capacious office where, more times than not, a coffee or smoothie was already on my desk to greet me. So what was there to be unhappy about, right?
While I enjoyed the perks and fruits of many years of hard work and dedication just as much as the next guy (or gal), I felt like I wasn’t being true to who I was at the core. For a paycheck and prestige, I had traded my freedom, innate thirst for adventure and travel, and ultimately, my happiness. I wasn’t living life on my terms – I wasn’t heeding the advice of the aforementioned modern-day proverbs. Often, I morbidly envisioned myself on my deathbed; I knew that on that fateful day, the material items obtained in this world would disintegrate with my bones, but that my memories would accompany me and live on as does one’s spirit. It was time to act.
I made the decision to put my forty-year-old life on hold and travel the word, but made the mistake of doing so under the guise of furthering my education and vocational skills at a prestigious university. It was a farce. I felt, at the time, that I needed to give myself permission to pursue my passion and follow my gut and its spirituous adventure. Furthermore, I feared leaving the security of a well-traveled “career-path”, or whatever PhD’s are labeling it these days. Ultimately, I didn’t want to confront the angst associated with letting someone down, be it my family or someone who believed I would aspire to greatness.
back to… “the decision”
It took me the better part of a semester to confront and reconcile my initial decision to attend the LSE with the decision to leave. I received the final prod on Black Friday. No, I didn’t wander down to Oxford Street and max out my credit cards, nor was I still in a funk from consuming a surfeit of turkey and pumpkin pie. Before my last course of the week, Quantitative Analysis, I stumbled across a post by a friend of a friend (FOAF) on Facebook. In a nutshell, said FOAF was not only following his dreams, bicycling from the northern United States to the southern tip of Patagonia, but in this post he was also reflecting on spending Thanksgiving, and by default Black Friday, away from his family. Further Facebook stalking revealed that he was proudly following in the footsteps of his parents, whom too had set off as nomads to explore. This simple post served as the catalyst leading me to confront my decision, reflect upon my own itinerant tendencies and think back about my own parents who were themselves somewhat roving nonconformists in their own right at my age.
The decision was made in a matter of nanoseconds – it had to be. The post by the FOAF had given my heart the excuse to have that long overdue conversation with the left side of my brain. As it turns out, the dialogue was over before it begun. The following week I submitted my intention to withdraw to the administration and packed my bags. Though I would soon be entering uncharted and unanticipated territory, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement, adventure, and most importantly, I felt that I was finally spending the priceless commodity, time, as everyone should – on their own terms!
The title of this blog is “the happy nomads” not because the “the happy nomad” domain name was taken; rather because there is another nomad very much involved in the decision to form “the happy nomads”! Ms. Ryann “Ry” at the time of the decision was teaching English in Hong Kong. She was my rock along the way, and was and still is more supportive than I could’ve ever hoped for in a partner in crime. When I proposed the idea of simply traveling late last year, I knew before I asked that she would be joining me in this adventure of sorts! While it was a tough decision for her to leave the books behind, we both knew that this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Donning our Osprey backpacks, with those unmistakable, navy dirty-look-provoking-passports in hand we boarded a flight to freedom and happiness on February 1st 2015 and the happy nomads was born.