Lesson 24: You can’t have it all

One of the biggest drivers of travel is the bucket list. You can hear about it everywhere.

“1000 experiences to do before you die.”

“I have been to 100 countries.”

“7 continents done.”

As I started to travel, I got caught up in the bucket list. I wanted to check the items off a list and shout out to the world my accomplishments. Over time, that receded.

I no longer wanted to see it all. I wanted to go deeper. I was happy to stay in a place longer and possibly miss out on many experiences. I stopped chasing the dream of seeing everything or going to every country or checking off lists built by travel companies and blogs.

The reframing of explorations opened tremendous opportunities. I could relax and enjoy my experience. I could connect to a place and be closer to communities.

Today, I desire to be nomadic living in places worldwide while experiencing everything as I go along. It has meant reframing my personal and professional aspirations and letting go of traditional goals generally sought after by most of society.

The act of being nomadic has its pitfalls. Some of these I have alluded to in the book. I can’t be on the road and also be part of a core group of friends in any location. I will miss birthdays, anniversaries, and significant events if I am somewhere else in the world. Loneliness, Health Concerns and Finances have to be thought of and addressed by me.

When I was away from London, I missed out on important occasions. Since early 2017, I have been sending postcards to my friend’s children as a way for them to connect to the broader world. It is also my humble way to communicate with friends and family in a meaningful way. Among these children is a young girl Clemence. Clemence was about three when I left London for the second time. I missed her birthday, missed her during the festive season and generally missed spending time with her. A video call is a great way to keep in touch, but nothing beats the emotional connection of physical presence. It is hard to accept that being on the road has the trade-off of emotional intimacy. However, it is the reality of being nomadic as there is no sense of permanence, and you are always on the move.

I cannot be physically present in a location and build a stable relationship by being present. It means missing out on long-lasting intimate relationships, deep friendships and the sense of being rooted in a place I can call home.

Today, I don’t have an idea of what home is. I have lived in many locations but none of which feels like home. I love London, having lived there for almost a decade, and always cherish my moments when I am there. The neighbourhood of Swiss Cottage and Finchley Road is familiar, and I love going to the cafes and restaurants there. There is a sense of being at home there, but it is fleeting. It feels more like a temporary base where I come back to every few years for a while. London is as transient as any other location.

In reality, as I embark on a nomadic existence, I may not have a stable traditional future, and therefore I need to mitigate the risk that comes with uncertainty. I may not have a steady source of income and a regular job. I may never have enough money, and at times I may have to balance my nomadic instincts with some stability to build some resources. I may never be able to afford a place in a large cosmopolitan city because of my uncertain and unstable life prospects. It means I need to give up on buying large assets that require storage and space. I have become minimalist for the last few years, which has helped me become asset-light, but there are times when it is tough living out of a backpack. There is a lot to ponder, but when I consider all the drawbacks against the gut instinct of being on the road and experiencing our world, the pitfalls pale compared to the joy I feel about being on the road. There is no more incredible reward than the feeling that everything feels right when I am on the road. The price, whether it is financial or emotional, I have to pay is worth it.

There are many tradeoffs in life. I haven’t met a single person yet who has it all. Somewhere something has given away. Many successful people I know, who are captains of their industries, are physically and mentally exhausted. Others are struggling with finances but are blissfully happy with the time they get to spend with their families. In life and travels, you have to choose very well, knowing the challenges, the risks, the opportunity costs and the rewards.

“What pain are you willing to accept to get what you want” – a paraphrased comment from a Huffington Post article, which neatly captures my sentiment about my ambition to be nomadic.

As I continued my journey, I started to accept travel’s simple reality and indeed of life. “You can’t have it all.” It is more meaningful today than it ever was.

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