Are We Reckless Or Are We Free-Spirited?

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The silhouette of a free-spirited backpacker on a field during a sunset.

I spoke to someone the other day and they asked when I’d finally “settle” down. They felt that a man my age should hunker down and turn his marriage-hued headlights on. I completely respect those who did settle down early on in life. It was their choice and their path. And it’s funny, you know, someone once told me expats abroad are either looking for something, or running away from something–was it you? Anyway, I’ve been married before. I had the beautiful, intelligent wife–an ex-cheerleader at that–and three houses and two cars. But if the home invasion hadn’t killed me by then, boredom just might have.

I’m not saying this to brag, but to let you know the decision I made to travel was based on trying many other paths first.

I’m not downing anyone happily married with children, either. Many of my friends and family are, and my blessings go out to them. But I also know plenty that fall on the other end of the happiness spectrum. Those that wish they could just up and go.

An old jeep truck on a stormy beach with palms swaying in the winds in the background.

Those that wish they could unshackle their bonds and gallivant across the world. That said, I don’t think many know how hard long-term travel can be on the psyche. You have to make a lot of sacrifices when you’re abroad; life in a foreign place is definitely no vacation.

It’s easy to talk about the free-spirited lifestyle; but doing it is different altogether.

You have to constantly remind yourself of what you’ve achieved away from home.

No one is there to remind you of what you’ve done. It’s a lonely world at times. No one is there to say great job, most will ask when you’ll return from your fantasy world. When you’re feeling down, very few may be there to lighten you up. Skyping just isn’t the same as being in that home with friends or family.

The support structure from back home becomes a mirage over the months, over the years.

But there is beauty in this challenge. You’d have to stand on Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia, or on the shores of Cannes, France to feel the reward. Naturally, there are thousands of other places that’ll reward you, but this is the path of the free-spirited, not the reckless.

There exists no recklessness in travel, no matter how long you’re at it.

You will always be rewarded with wisdom, with new friends, with work opportunities.

You will always be rewarded with beauty.

Forget the merchants. Forget the touts, forget the dangers.  Your eyes will drink the smiles of a thousand travelers from all over the world. Some will look like people of class, some will look like bums, but all will share a singular essence burning in their chests: the free spirit.

A close up of bright blue ocean waves frothing and churning in the sea. The image is slanted and the foreground defocused.

Some take trains, some take planes. They travel here and there, some with places to go, some without destinations, only a dream and a determination.

Someone once told me we are all born free, and that society’s norms becomes our burden and debt.

I believe all should just do what they want.  A job can be lost tomorrow. I worked at the largest home lender in the world and it went belly up in 2008. Apple corporation could crash next year. You could be shot today.

Recklessness lays not within the free spirit, but within the fear in our hearts.

The fear to pursue what we really want.
A few additional resources you may be interested in:

Do you believe travel is reckless? At what point do you feel being free-spirited becomes reckless?


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