There’s a an old saying that goes something like this “the only way to be truly free is to have nothing at all.”
Obviously I like the saying, most of the time… But sometimes you can see downsides to it.
Like when you’re all alone on a Saturday night, with the rain pouring down on the window outside. A single lamp burns brightly in the corner, illuminating the space that you live in in San Francisco that’s really filled with other people’s stuff.
The upside to being a minimalist location independent is that you can run forever.
The downside to being a minimalist location independent is that you can run forever.
We can live anywhere. We can work from anywhere. We can spend every single day doing whatever the hell we want. But when it comes down to it, is that worth coming back to an empty home?
This blog post isn’t about you, it’s about me. They have a saying in blog world — you’re either writing a me blog or a you blog. FBTS has this weird way of crossing that divide. It’s like a moo blog or something. I can write about me, and somehow you’re still interested? Maybe you aren’t.
To be honest, when I write here, I sometimes forget that 70,000 people are potentially going to read this tomorrow morning. Let’s just ignore that fact for a moment, and publish this post anyway.
Here’s what I’m wrestling with:
I’ve built a life and a business with three key elements.
1. Minimalism. Physical materials are out, information is in. I don’t own a lot of stuff, I encourage you to embrace this lifestyle too, because I like it.
2. Location independence. I can work from anywhere, I’m my own boss. Right now I’m making more money than I ever need. The easiest way to be rich is to embrace minimalism.
3. Automation. I don’t have to work much at all, because my business is automated. Most weeks I work less than 10 hours. I check my email once a day. I’ve even outsourced the copy-editing of my e-books, so I don’t even have to worry about that anymore.
These three elements present a pretty sweet deal, but for the last few days I’ve been thinking intensely about the dark side of the whole deal. Some might call it the paradox of choice, some might call it Kerouac Syndrome. I’m not sure what to call it.
I just know that somewhere inside me I’m battling an urge to run. I want to throw all of my stuff in a bag and get as far away from everywhere as possible.
…and I have no idea why. Maybe by the end of this blog post I’ll have some idea. Maybe you will too. Maybe you’ll think I’m nuts and unsubscribe from my blog (I hope you do!)
Maybe I’ve just been running for so long that I don’t know how to quit. Maybe it’s because I got the unrepressed hunter/gatherer genetics. Maybe I’ve just gotten addicted the feeling of walking down new streets for the first time. Maybe it’s just so much easier to say goodbye than it is to wade through the muck of normal every day living.
Maybe it’s the freezing rain that just moved in with the San Francisco winter.
These are real issues that the future of humanity will have to deal with.
When we’re all working and living anywhere, how will we know when we’ve wandered too far from home?
I’ve become so good at meeting new people, that I sometimes forget how to keep up with the people I’ve known forever. I’m living so in the moment that all I see is the face across the table from me, but so often it’s the last time I see that face again. Faces are beginning to blur together into pool of human potential and energy, devoid of individual characteristics.
The more people I meet, the more I feel like I’m just meeting the same twelve people (models?) over and over again.
You aren’t alone.
The reality is that this isn’t just me that feels this way, I know you do too. I know this because I’m not the only person who set out on this journey. In fact, most of my friends can’t seem to find a reason to throw roots down anywhere. For every friend I have that stays put, there are two more who are living everywhere and anywhere.
We’re the digital vagabonding generation, that much is certain.
This reality isn’t a fad, it isn’t going to stop being the way we live. Freedom is a result of exotropy, and that’s been going on as long as the Universe has existed.
Technology has given us greater freedom, and so we took it. But now we’re all Skyping each other late at night wondering what it was like to get a hug from someone who you’ve known for longer than three weeks.
It’ll be easier once we invent the teleporter, then I can just beam wherever for brunch. Come on people, quantum entanglement isn’t that hard to implement on a larger scale. We have all of the other Star Trek gadgets, why can’t Scotty beam me to you, so I can see what it’s like to look into your real eyes one more time?
Anonymity is addictive.
For a long time we were worried about how the Internet would end privacy as we know it. That’s all a dead issue now, google knows where you sleep and there’s nothing you can do about that. The simple fact is that once everyone knows everyone about everyone, your privacy is assured because there’s so much information out there that no one has time to do anything but try to find time for themselves.
That being said, the anonymity of being the new person in town can be addictive. Wandering down the street knowing that there is no possible chance that you’ll ever bump into anyone you know has it’s charms. Wandering into parties where you know no one can be kind of fun, once you learn enough about networking and charisma to avoid wallflowering.
When you’re anonymous, all everyone gets to know is your story. What you tell them is what they believe. You could be anyone. You’re Jason Bourne for a night, and then you’re gone forever. No one even Facebooked you, because they never caught your name. And if they did, now all they can do is ‘Like’ your next blog post…
Maybe what I’m wrestling with is that I can see everyone else’s future but my own.
I know where you’re headed, and you’re going to do amazing things. You’re all on a path to figuring out exactly how to embrace the advantages of this new society we’re building. I know, because I’ve been there.
And meanwhile I’m here sitting in the rain wondering where to run to next, but I have no idea where to. I don’t know what I’m running from and where I’m going.
So I write to you instead, maybe it’ll help. Maybe…
Strategies for anchoring the drifters (maybe only temporarily.)
The only option seems to be simple: stop running. Sit down, and shut up long enough to embrace the idea that you could find a place called home.
Plant a flag somewhere, anywhere, and sit on a spot long enough so that you can feel some sort of attachment (albeit, somewhat nervous for the group of people we’re talking about.)
…and then sit with it. Sit with the anxiety of staying. Sit with the idea that you might be around the same people long enough for them to see you on a down day. Sit down with someone long enough for them to dig under the perfect smile long enough to see the dark past that you’re trying to hide (from yourself or from them?).
…sit with the idea a person might get comfortable enough with you to assume that you’re going to be around for awhile.
This probably means walking through the rain for a winter, it probably means letting down your guard, it probably means learning people’s names, and it probably means giving up every other future that running forever could bring.
I love San Francisco so much that I could stay here forever, and that’s what I’m afraid of.
Candle lit Yoga to the People on Sunday nights will never get old.
Climbing to the top of Bernal Heights to watch the sun set will never get old.
Eating carne asada burritos (mindfully!?) after yoga will never get old.
Reading a book at Four Barrel while they play Led Zeppelin LPs will never get old.
So, I ask you this question…
How can you be a wanderer, and still have a home?