A few days ago we were enjoying dinner out. Talking with a family friend, we were asked what we do for a living. It’s never pleasant to answer this question. Not because of the reply per se but, because more often than not, this moment is followed by comments such as:
Well, you’re gonna have to settle down soon!
Since we got married almost 3 years ago, I have stopped counting how many times people (generally older folks, rarely our generation) have tried to “organize” our lives. We MUST settle down. We MUST have a house. We MUST buy nice things. And, most importantly, we MUST get a job.
People can sound so glamorous when they say “I am an entrepreneur” or someone refers to some other individual as a “business person”. But, when you do all of that online, it seems like it doesn’t fully count. If you don’t commute to a shiny office, if you don’t go up the elevator every morning looking crisp with your Starbucks in hand, if you don’t roll around your boss chair in front of a fancy desk, it’s like it is not real.
The Glorification of Work
We live, we travel, we work. We might not be the busiest or most stressed out people on Earth – thankfully! But, as long as we do what we do with our own means, hurting no one in the process, why would that be a bad thing?
I am done with the glorification of work I see all around me. I too have gone up the elevator coffee in hand, while Bloomberg was showing the latest stock market news on the in-elevator TV. I too have received phone calls and BBMs at 11PM and was expected to reply. I too felt like I was important, that I was needed. But the truth is that work went on without me and my life improved greatly when I finally had more time in hand to do things I like. And, sometimes, to simply do nothing at all. Even that is healthy every now and then!
When Stuff Owns You
The world is becoming more and more obsessed with buying stuff and having things. We see it. No matter what part of the world we travel around. The more I realize how people are prisoners of the latest fashion, of the latest gadget and even of their biggest possessions (houses, cars…), the more my desire of having less things gets reassured.
Sure, we too want to have a house some day (personally, I prefer to rent than to buy). I too want to have my kitchen, my full fridge, my couch and my own pillow. But I never want those things to tie me down. I never want to have more than I can handle. I want material things to make my life easier (specially the day we grow this family), but I don’t want them to limit my freedom.
I want to be surrounded by people I can talk about things with. Not company I can compare my latest phone, clothes or shoes with. Because I am not my things. And, also, I am not my job. I am not a travel blogger. I do travel blogging. I AM many more things. What I do or have may be part of who I am, but I am not only what I do or have.
Privilege, Nationality & Borders
I know it’s easy to look down upon owning too many things. At the end of the day, I didn’t grow up with a shortage of anything. And that is a privilege that is important to acknowledge. Our whole lifestyle is an immense privilege, actually.
I have days when I feel like I’d rather belong somewhere. Feel closer to one given community, while being more dependable and having a couple more people I could also depend on. But to travel, just like with anything else in life, you have to make choices. You have to set your priorities straight, knowing that you will never have everything you want at once.
Yet I don’t think I am ready to belong to one place only. It doesn’t matter if I have 2 passports stating that I am from Portugal and Spain and a PIO Card saying that I am also from India. I am from the world! For better or worse, I didn’t choose where I was born. And, on a privileges note, I try to never forget that none of us is directly responsible for the good or bad things that happen in our countries. And this is why it is so important to open our doors when anyone else is in distress. Birds fly ignoring man-made borders … fish swim wherever they feel like… and us humans, the most advanced of all animals, we keep on making the world a more restrictive and unfair place by the day.
We get too attached to our so-called identities, tied to our nationalities, to our religions, to our race, to our age, to our socio-economic status, to our sexual inclinations even..
I know that no place in the world is perfect. And no one has the formula behind being a good human being. But I know that while I have my youth, my health and my freedom, I’m going to be roaming the world. I am going to keep searching for answers, that often present themselves when I didn’t even know I had a question to ask.
As often as possible, go someplace you’ve never been before. Experience new places and new things. You might find yourself with someone or somewhere that makes you much happier than your previous circumstance. The Earth is so vast with unique and beautiful places, why wouldn’t you want to go explore them? – Dalai Lama
Cheers to a new year full of travels!
Very well written, Zara. Happy new year!
Happy New Year for you too! :)
I disagree that the world’s borders should suddenly just pop open : ) but what you write about the realities of the office life does resonate with me! Keep on travelling and who cares what grannies and aunties think : )
I didn’t mean that “the world’s borders should suddenly pop open”. That wouldn’t be realistic at all! What I meant to say was that we keep on making those borders tighter and tighter, at a level that is really unfair from a human point of view. Say you are born in country A, without food. And your neighbor, country B, has plenty of food. Because of man-made borders, you can’t cross and feed your self (like animals would do, for example).. or be healthy, or safe, or satisfy any other basic human right. Even though country B may have enough for everyone. That’s the type of situation I meant. That, at the end of the day, borders are a human construct so it’s up to us, humans, to look at them and act in a flexible (and compassionate!) way when need be.
It does sound reasonable when you make an example involving one person in country A needing help. I guess what throws people off is when not one, but millions of people in a country in distress take off: most will end up in relative safety somewhere near, but a few hundreds of thousands of the fittest ones – the ones who arguably need help least – will travel on further and arrive in a richer country of their choice they have meticulously shopped around for, displaying different degrees of entitlement and seeking privileges in addition to help. It is not a wonder such situations induce anger in country B – but many individual stories are no doubt heart-breaking and help-deserving.
The only thing that puts me back on the open borders are cultures, they would be in risk because of humans mix with eachother and have mixed kids and then their habits would be a mix again.
I personally don’t care if cultures mix. I think we could be learning all from one another way more than we do.. taking the best of each culture, perfecting our way of living. At the end of the day, cultures are living entities. They (and we) are always mutating, adapting, evolving..
Happy New Year, guys! Can’t wait to hear so much more in 2016!! :D
Happy New Year, Tim!! :)
Very well written, so very inspiring and thoughtful, Just got back from Argentina and chile – thanks for all the help – your posts have helped in visa (Indian passport :) /planning our itinerary. Happy new year, and hope I get the courage to walk a similar path soon :)
Happy New Year for you too!
I’m happy to read that our Argentina and Chile content came in handy for your trip. It’s an amazing part of the world, isn’t it? :)
Cheers and please, do keep in touch!
this is the first time i read a blog of your site and its amazing that it just made my day.loved the article more than any other i read in past 3 months really.keep up your journey and make us dream more so that we corporates can at least think of getting lost somewhere we have never been:)..
We’re truly happy to have “made your day”! ;)
And even though this is the 1st time you are reading Backpack ME.. we certainly hope it’s not the last.
Keep in touch!
This is one of my favorite pieces you’ve written! I especially love your minimalistic philosophy and couldn’t agree more about owning less and renting to have more freedom. Well done! Happy New Year!
Thanks a lot, Cameron!
Happy New Year for you too! :)
Nicely said, Zara! It is good to be able to live in the now, especially when the opportunity exists. We did while we were able to and will travel extensively again whenever our kid grows up a bit. I will be looking out for schools with long summer breaks! :)
Thanks a lot Niru! :)
By the way, I saw your Bhutan photos.. it makes me really feel like traveling there. Unfortunately, I don’t get the entrance privileges that Indian passport holders do, but we must really visit sometime anyway. It looks beautiful!
PS: schools with long summer breaks for the win!!