My whole life, everything and everyone around me had me believe that work and what I produced was all that mattered, that was my value and that was who I was, or who I was going to be at least. I didn't have anyone particularly pushy in my life, it was just a given, a background belief underpinning everything. I didn't even notice it much until someone helped me look a bit harder; in my microculture what you produced was mostly who you were.
But then I discovered a different point of view. Upon reading the digital nomad bible a.k.a. Tim Ferris' 'The 4-Hour Work Week', the most revolutionary and relevant idea I took away from the book was the idea that as an adult your life does not have to revolve around work as your sole identity and purpose. Tim talks about how to shift to a four-hour working week and that's all great (I'm not there yet...), but at the heart of this lifestyle is the notion of spending at least some of the hours of your life doing things that don't matter for money or skill refining or producing anything 'good'. It's about doing things for the sake of doing them, for learning and experience, not in the name of an outcome. He talks about learning to dance or cook or fly a plane, without the goal of becoming a dancer, a chef or a pilot.
I'd talked through this idea with people before but this time it really hit home. I realised deep down it was a foreign concept to me. When Tim comes to the point where he's telling you, ok so you're going to work four hours a week and then you're going to have all this free time, and he asks you what you're going to do with it all, I didn't really have an answer. No one had ever asked me. Since I left high school, and probably before that even, most of the hours of my life were spent with a goal in mind, practice the piano to get better, read the book to improve yourself, take photos to make stories for your blog, sit at your computer to do your work.
No one in school ever asks you what you'd like to spend your life doing, not really, not so much as they ask you how you'll make money in this world, how you'll survive, because 'it's tough out there in the real world'. But the real world is subjective and highly personal I've come to believe. You create the reality you experience by the people, places, things you surround yourself with, the things you let into your life. And all these elements are held together by some common energetic frequency you share and they rub off on you and you rub off on them and you all intertwine and the sum of all these things is what you experience, that's your reality. I don't believe there's an ultimate 'real world' that seeks to crush you and force you to spend all your hours working.
So I guess travel is one of those things that doesn't have much of an outcome, you don't make money from it, you don't hone your skills in anything in particular, you don't produce anything, but it changes you for sure, in ways you can't fully measure, explain or see. The change is fairly invisible but it's big and important whatever it is.
And the digital nomad lifestyle certainly sees you asking yourself what the meaning of your life is, what you're going to do in it. When you travel around to experience things, work is not the sole focus, it's what you do to keep travelling. Don't get me wrong, most nomads I've met, do love what they do for money, including me, but it rarely seems to be the only thing for them. So that new question of what you actually want to do in your life that isn't work naturally comes up as a nomad, and I've seen so many people answer it well. They spend time volunteering locally wherever they are, learning a new skill like yoga or ceramics-making, learning the language or teaching local kids english and obviously they spend time seeing amazing things like any traveller.
So I'm sitting with this idea and it's growing on me, I've picked up musical instruments again, I'm spending more time reading just to read, I'm trying my hand again at sewing even though I'm a pretty questionable seamstress. I'm not producing much but I walk away feeling happy afterwards, I think it is productive on some level to spend time doing things that just make you feel good and nothing else. So what do you want to do in this life?