Every day is a new lesson when you live on the road and that is one of the most exciting things about it. The anticipation of what is to come. The endless potential and opportunity each day brings. I think the thing I liked the most is simply being excited about the day.
Here are 8 lessons I learned combined with 8 of my favourite images I made during my first year as a full-time travelling photographer:
1. Simplicity = Freedom
You give up a tiny bit of freedom with each thing that you have going on in your life. Every time you buy something not only did you give up time that it took it you to earn the money to pay for the thing, but now you have ongoing obligations for the thing. You have to learn how to use your thing, you have to store your thing, clean your thing, maintain and fix your thing. You might even have to insure your thing and lock up your thing. Your things own you.
This doesn’t just apply to stuff. It is everything that is going on. Maybe you have a job, you’re taking a course, doing volunteer work, and have a gym membership. I’m not saying all of these are bad things. Just that each thing requires time and/or money. Each thing takes a piece of your freedom so if you have too many things you no longer have any freedom.
Most people would define freedom as being able to do what you want. So remember each time you acquire a thing you are giving up a tiny bit of freedom.
Every time you buy something consider the freedom you are exchanging for it. I am reminded of when my husband and I were in Florida considering buying bicycles. We weighed the freedom we would loose by buying them (we had to spend money, we had to use limited space on the rack of the RV to transport them, we had to maintain them, we had to lock them up) with the freedom we would gain by having them. This is one of the few cases where the freedom gained outweighed the freedom lost.
2. Making judgements about other people is harmful to yourself
Take a moment to think about what makes you feel good about yourself. Go ahead … I’ll wait… Got it? Ok.
So did freedom even cross your mind? ‘Cause like I just spent four paragraphs writing about freedom
Most people tend to judge themselves and others by things that are quantifiable. It’s easy to count the value or size of your house, how much money you make, your weight or how far you can run.
It doesn’t seem inherently wrong to feel good about yourself because you own a home, make lots of money and can run 10 miles. There is nothing wrong with those things. But why do you feel good about them? Because of ego. Because of the appearance of success to others.
But the things that really matter in life are those that are not quantifiable like love, friendship, freedom, happiness, peace, independence, kindness, integrity, honesty.
It is easier to relate to other people when you can look past the superficial things that separate us.
When you are out there in “normal life” you know so many superficial things about a person as soon as you meet them. Maybe they are wearing a suit and you meet them downtown, or they are carrying a surfboard on the beach, or collecting cans in a park. We make snap judgements about people.
But when you are travelling, other than perhaps the size of someone’s rig, you don’t really know anything about them. And you tend not to judge by the size of someone’s rig because you have no idea if that’s all they have or if they have a mansion at home somewhere. You just don’t know anything about them. No one is working and everyone is wearing shorts and sunglasses. Pretty soon you find that you stop asking people what they do or did for a living. You ask them where they are from or what direction they came from and what is over there that they found interesting. You tend to talk about history or the beauty of nature.
Eventually, you learn to let go of your ego. There is no keeping up with the Jones’ here because you encounter a different set of people every day. It no longer matters what other people think when you’ll never see them again.
If only we could look past the superficial things all the time and not judge people based on them, they would stop judging us, and perhaps the things we value in “normal life” would change.
3. Change is easier than you think
Some people think that whatever is supposed to happen will happen. Fate or destiny will take over. The chips will fall into place. No they wont. Your ship isn’t going to come in unless you are at the helm.
Having said that, it is easier than you think. You are not the first person to do this. Once you start travelling learning to adapt to change gets easier all the time.
4. It is not a lonely life
You can be as social as you want. There is no shortage of other travellers to befriend. Sure, most of the friendships tend to be short term, but that is not always the case.
We met Jeanie and Tom in South Dakota. They were from Nebraska. Tom was in a terrible propane accident. We learned a lot from them about life and love. They made us the best garlic sausages and invited us to visit them anytime. I know years could pass and we would still be welcome at their home.
Bill and Mary had travelled all over the east coast and they sat down with us and helped us plan our route marking specific highways and places in the map book. It was so much fun to hear about the places that could be in our future some of which we had never heard of but made sure to include in our plans.
We met Bob and Mark on the ferry to Newfoundland. They told us all about the beautiful place they live on Jekyll Island in Georgia and later in our trip we visited them there and shared a wonderful dinner.
At the same time we kept in touch with our families via the internet and Skype and made many new friends online in various travelling and photography communities.
There is no need to be lonely. If you share your experiences with others, they will share their lives with you.
5. You don’t have to be rich
♬ You don’t have to be rich to be my girl,
you don’t have to cool to rule my world
- Prince ♬
I have shared the exact number of dollars and cents I spent during my year of travelling around North America in an RV, but I assure you it can be done with far less money. In fact, it can be done with no money!
I met plenty of people who worked their way around the world. You can work on a cruise ship, do housesitting, volunteer at animal rehab centers, find work online. You can do it with your kids too. Not that I have any personal experience in that, but I met many families who were “unschooling” their children while travelling. It can be done.
6. Don’t wait for the grand finale
News flash: as you get older your body AGES – I know, it sucks. But it seems that a lot of people are unaware of this and they are waiting for retirement to travel around the world or do something else they have dreamed of their whole lives.
That’s a really bad idea.
Especially with today’s technology when people who do not have physical jobs could work later in life. The only thing of real value in life is time, yet so many people defer their dreams to some fictional time in the future.
Use the time you know you have!
7. Always pack a lunch
Once your life is unscripted you just don’t know what’s going to happen. But it sure is nice to know where your next meal is coming from even when you don’t end up eating it.
8. Being a nomad is not for everyone
Some people need roots and others need wings.
For some people security is external – it comes from having a job, a home, family, and friends. They like to stay in one place and grow roots and there’s nothing wrong with that.
My security comes from my wings – it comes from being self-reliant, independent and having no anchors to hold me down.
While I have chosen travel and photography as my personal dream, yours might be something totally different. Maybe you want to become a violin maker or open your own business. I’m not saying everyone needs to travel. But I do think everyone needs to fulfill their dreams now. And I think my lessons from the road can apply to everyone regardless of what their dream is.
Not all those who wander are lost.
- J. R. R. Tolkien
Did you learn any lessons while on the road? Share them in the comments below!