So in the previous post I explained how much I love the experience of new and unfamiliar surroundings, and ended on a question – why not keep that feeling going?
It’s easy to find practical reasons why not, but they all boil down to being tied to one location. Modern society seems to be built around the assumption that most people want to have a single permanent base, a place to call home, a place to put down roots. We get tied down financially, by jobs and contracts related to our homes – and emotionally, by relationships, dependents and family obligations. And of course we’re tied down physically by all the stuff we own.
Which is fine if you’re a put-down-roots sort of person. But what about those of us cursed with so-called wanderlust?
The idea of living without ties came to me gradually, originally starting as a nothing more than a pipe dream (“If I ever win the lottery…”). When I was in my early teens, my dad once showed me a decades-old map of the USA that he’d had since he himself was a kid; I recall sitting in bed poring over that map, looking at all the unusual placenames and dreaming of visiting them some day, some day in the far future when I would of course be an adult and could afford it.
Fast forward to my early twenties, by which time I’d learned French and spent some time in France due to a previous relationship. I was living in Manchester by that point, and being generally obsessed with languages and hoping to improve my French, I’d been spending a lot of time with local French expats. It hit me that those people had done something I’d only ever dreamed of – living in another country – and that such experiences were clearly within reach of ordinary people.
So I hatched a crazy plan to move to France. I did my research, looked into possible locations, searched for jobs, went down to London and passed a DELF B2 exam, and even told my boss about my plans to leave. And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for one of those pesky relationship things…
Onward a few more years of tied-down existence, to March 2012. I was on holiday in New York a couple of weeks before I was due to start a new job. Sitting in a bar watching the city go by, I was full of my usual holiday thoughts (“I wish I could live here!”) when I suddenly realised: the new job was a remote-working thing, over the internet. Maybe I could convince my new employer to let me spend some time over here?
That never happened, because that employer turned out to be a complete bell-end, and I left the job after only a few weeks – but the idea had been planted in my mind.
An idea which came to fruition when, almost exactly a year ago now, some random googling for information on the Mandarin language led me to Benny Lewis’s blog, and I was absolutely captivated. Here was someone pursuing the kind of lifestyle that I’d always dreamed of, proving that it was possible. Not so much the endless travel thing – though I admit that does sound appealing – but simply living with a minimal set of possessions, free to travel anywhere at pretty much any time.
I was half a year shy of my thirtieth birthday at that point, and so I made a promise to myself. I’d spent the entirety of my twenties living in north-west England – a small corner of a small country inside another small country – the same part of the world in which I’d been born. I’d spent those ten years tied down by various combinations of education, jobs, contracts and relationships. But my thirties were going to be different.
Little did I know that just under a year later, I’d get an opportunity to fulfil that promise…