Are You Ready to Make a Sacrifice? (goats not included)

3095328182 c52bba4b61 b d Are You Ready to Make a Sacrifice? (goats not included)

To have anything in life, you have to give something up.

That’s the way it is.

A liberated existence comes with the burden of conscious choice and with conscious choice comes the understanding of what you sacrifice to gain something. This applies across the board – finances, relationships, work, play.

My own choice to vagabond through the U.S. – and soon abroad – was a deliberate one.  I put a constant home on the block and struck it down myself.  I did not know what other sacrifices that it would take to maintain a life on the road – but as each comes up I learn and accept each for what they are.

Some are easier to let go of – not always having a comfortable bed, while others are harder to deal with – letting go of the possibility of a long term relationship.  Yet the vagabond life is one I have chosen and still pursue. It is an honest part of who I am right now and forcing myself to deny that would take me away from my path.

What have you put on the block?

Similarly, to choose self employment over a regular job is to sacrifice the goat of security.  That security comes in the form of a regular paycheck, company health insurance, colleague banter we all pine for (maybe not), and so on.  We sacrifice the security of being taken care of by a company for the freedom self employment offers.  With that freedom we take on the responsibilities that were taken care of by the company – finding clients, paying for health care, finding collaborators on projects, etc.

What is your goat a symbol of?

There are many examples of things that we offer up as sacrifices yet understanding what we gain and what we have given up is important.  Whether our sacrifices are for our sanity, our health, our freedom, our security – the choice is ours to make.

What would your sacrifice afford you the freedom to do?

Why haven’t you done it yet?

Flickr photo by Melissa Maples.

How To Get Kicked Out of Canada

entreeinterdite How To Get Kicked Out of Canada

And Why It Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

I don’t tell this story all that often but it’s probably the biggest story in my life (so far).

Back in the fall of 2007 I was a student in Montreal, living with the woman I thought I would marry. I was a teacher and artistic director for a great dance studio, a barista at a local cafe.  I was applying to a graduate program in Educational Technology.  I did yoga and pilates regularly, and trained in capoeira when I wasn’t teaching or social dancing at night.  All things seemed to be on their merry conventional way in my life.

Cups of tea were plentiful and there were no jarring questions to shake my existence.

Fast forward to a Sunday night on a return trip from Albany, NY with my girlfriend.  We arrived at the border station at 10pm.  The guard checked our passports and said we needed to go inside.  I’d been through the border so many times it didn’t bother me.  Inside we waited. They called my name.  Took my documentation.  Asked a few standard questions, told me to sit down.

They called me back up and asked prying questions about my studies.  Something was wrong.  After the long weekend, driving, being generally exhausted, and now confused I started to panic.  I was called into a back room.  Small, gray, windowless.  A desk and two chairs.  A Quebecois border guard came in with a stack of documents and a yellow legal pad.  She did not look friendly.

Apparently they believed I had purposefully lied about my visa and study situation.  My old visa for prior undergraduate work had expired but no one had removed it.  Assuming I was studying on an expired visa and with no alternate paperwork with me to back my story up, I was out of luck.  She accused me of lying.  Badgered me.  Said I was taking advantage of their system.  It was probably after midnight by now but there were no clocks.  I was horrified.

She read a passage from the immigration law book, quoting the law I had supposedly broken.  Then two more.  The punishment, exclusion from Canada for a year.  Oh it could be much worse, I could be deported for life she said.  As if just a year was a kindness.  She handed me the card for the Consulate Generale in NYC and said that I could appeal it there but that I had no chance.  Obviously she was steadfast in her belief that her decision was law.

I was crushed, crying and really in no right space to think.  Really at a border you have no power.  But it got better.  I couldn’t just turn around.  They had to drive me back to the U.S. border.  I was locked in the back of an SUV and driven to the U.S. where they brought me inside for more paperwork.  Even the U.S. borderguards gave me crap.  Like I was in any state to receive more insult.

It was 1am.

I called my parents when I was back in the car with my girlfriend.  They say in books that people choke out words and they are right.  I had my life torn out from under me.  In 3 hours.

Life changes that fast.

Eight months later, thousands of dollars in travel expenses, lawyer fees, and immigration fees and the expulsion order was overturned as a misunderstanding.

That’s right, a misunderstanding.

In the meantime I had racked up credit card debt, moved to NYC, gotten a real job where I worked 40 to 60 hour weeks, and watched let my relationship fall apart.  3 hours and a misunderstanding had destroyed my idyllic Montreal life.

Life as we know it hangs on the edge.

Now you ask, how can that experience be one of the best things to happen to me?

Tragedy, despair, displacement, loss.  All of these things have something to teach us about ourselves, how we walk in the world and treat the things we care about.

Those 8 months weren’t the end of how low I would sink.  I turned to drinking, women, traveling and dancing to fill the voids in my life.  I ended up hurting friends, driving myself further into debt, and the tale goes on.

In all the pain and tragedy I ended up causing and feeling, I found the part of me that was strong enough to stand up, smile and make my way in the world.  It took me almost a year to sort out the layers of guilt, the feeling of powerlessness, and get my head on straight financially.  But for the adversity I withstood in a year, I have gained a strength of character and an understanding of myself that I never would have had if my life had remained idyllic.

So, besides the most obvious thing it taught me (always have a good lawyer versed in immigration laws if you are traveling, studying or working abroad), it taught me more about myself, my potential and my weaknesses, than any other series of events in my life.

Adversity and tragedy holds the potential for our greatest strength to come forward.

When we are stripped bare by loss and pain there are rarely more than 2 roads for us to choose from.

The road of apathy, self-pity, denial, anger.

The road of perseverance, courage and acceptance.

Sometimes only after we follow the first road for a while do we realize that the other road is even there.  Often not far out of reach but we can only see the brambles of self-doubt.  To realize that we can make it to the other road by steps regardless of how small they are is the biggest challenge and hardest step of all.

Each step towards the other road is the beginning of our own road and soon they are one and the same.

Tragedy shatters the reality we took for granted and we can only bury our head in the sand for so long before we suffocate.

It’s time to come up for air.  To breathe in a new life every moment and live to our greatest potential with the courage that tragedy has shown us we possess.

Flickr photo courtesy of Mechanikat.

We’re All Full of Shit – David Duchovny Would Agree

90705344 7fd0ce01ee d Were All Full of Shit   David Duchovny Would Agree

Live any honestly self reflective life and you’ll have this thought:

“I’m full of shit.”

Occasionally paired with this thought:

“I hope no one else notices.”

I know I do.  More often than I’d like actually.

So where is all this coming from?  Clay brought it up when we met up for brunch on my roadtrip.

“People are full of shit.” That’s what he said.

I laughed.  I knew it was true.

Look at it this way.  There is this epic joke that one day people are going to catch on to.  That I’ve really no clue as to how to live and have just been ranting and raving lunatic things.  That’s how I’m certain it looks.  We’re on the edge – our unconventional lifestyles, vagabonding, freedom businesses, liberation manifestos, working for no man…  we teeter very close to lunacy (not that I mind).

So we’ve got to push the joke past the limits.  You’ve got to believe your own joke.

Really, that’s it.  Being the real deal is doing it even when you don’t believe yourself.  You’ve got a mission, the hard facts of life, and the road before you.  If the words that come out of your mouth feel fake – fake it.  Sometimes to be the real deal we have to act it, like David Duchovny.

That’s right.  You’ve got to be so full of it that you can fool yourself into believing it’s possible.  That’s your game.  It isn’t just positive affirmations and productivity tools it’s about action in the face of self doubt.

Once you’ve got that.  You’ve got it.

As long as you’re the only person to catch on – good – the longer you can get away with it.

Cause, really, we’re all full of shit.

Flickr photo courtesy of danny.hammontree.

Also, this post in no way has been endorsed by David Duchovny – even though I think it should be.

Today I Am Lost Again

lost Today I Am Lost AgainVagabonding is a life of letting go.

Of things.  Of places.  Of people.

Each day is new, unique, fresh.  Yet the day before is gone, a shadow, a memory of the road you can’t turn around on.  As a wanderer of the globe you are not rooted in one place.  You will meet amazing people, you will love them, then you will leave.  Your life is not there.  It’s out on the road.  One you have chosen, perhaps one that has chosen you.

That road calls.

It is not about falling asleep content at home.  It is collapsing – exhausted – wherever you may be because you have spent all you have in the world.

“When will you understand that being normal isn’t necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

One day another road may call, it may reunite you with a world you once knew but the time is not now.  It is not time to step off your road.  Instead…

Strive to break the world.  When it shatters a new one is revealed.

Embrace the impermance.  Love the temporary.  Live it fully.

Vagabonding is about losing yourself.  Then finding yourself.  Then getting lost all over again.  Without the lows (the letting go) the highs (the experiencing) would never be revealed.  We only know what we had once it’s gone.  And for vagabonds, we are always going.

Vagabonding reveals to us that which a stationary life cannot for we are always in the process of losing something.

Today I am lost again.

Epic Roadtrip 2k9: 17 States, 13 Cities, 27 Days Later

ER2k9 Map Epic Roadtrip 2k9: 17 States, 13 Cities, 27 Days Later

The life of a vagabond is one of shifting cities, hours in transit, waiting, boredom, loneliness, excitement and the unknown.

But that’s not always the case.

The past 27 days have been a fast forward blur of cities as a friend and I road tripped from Massachusetts out to Denver then down to Atlanta.

We have stayed in 13 cities (or metropolitan areas) and passed through 17 states in less than a month.  Generally an advocate of stays lasting at least a week (usually 2 weeks) this rush of scenery was a drastic change from city hopping via planes.

Traveling in a car through the U.S. as an American is an experience that so few of us actually take the time to do.  Had we been in Europe we would have passed through as many countries as we had states with their flags, culture and language.

In short the U.S. is massive and diverse in culture, landscape and even language.  The experience of driving through Nebraska end to end with a detour along a state highway towards Chimney Rock was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen.  I would never have called Nebraska beautiful but driving through the windswept plateaus and ravines, kicking up dust and rolling through towns with nothing but a water tower, a gas station/grocery, and dirt roads changed that opinion.  Admiring the country that you live in is something so few Location Independents do.  Most of us are technological nomads accustomed to urban centers with the occasional wilderness jaunt to sate a cultured desire to “get away from it”.

Yet the miles of cornfields, empty highways, decaying farm and industrial towns that I have passed through and stopped in has given me an appreciation that I think only an older generation of vagabonds and nomads understand.  There is a hint of Kerouac in the true cross-country road trip.  Kerouac saw the road as a spiritual journey, whether you are 300 miles into the middle of cornfields or in the heart of Chicago, it is a journey which changes you if you are willing to be conscious of it.

There is no getting away from it, it is always there.  Those cornfields go on for miles.  Those people work to feed hundreds of people.  Those roads are vacant with the occasional semi screaming through at 85 MPH.  The vistas of wind carved stone are populated with cows and rattlesnakes.  The world is always there – vast, living, growing, dying – whether you are there or not.

Consider that vastness.  It should make you feel small.  Then the vastness is in you. You are as much a part of that vastness as the dust, the windmills, the mountains.

Before you consider leaving the country you live in, take a moment to consider if you really know it or just your little corner of it.  Then, go out and journey.