A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended a fancy brunch to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. Between mimosas, the feted one was asked how she felt about being in her dreaded 40s.
“Fantastic, actually…I’ve decided to treat this as my decade of self-improvement”.
Although she didn’t specify what she intended to improve, I thought it was a great answer. And it made me think…about goals, plans, priorities, and how we measure success. More than anything, I thought about how we engage in a lot of goal-setting and planning in our work-related lives. By contrast, we seldom look inward and apply a rational planning process to our personal, “global” lives, of which work is merely a component part. We think in terms of career trajectories, but allow our overall existence to meander along a random goat path.
Odd, don’t you think? Considering this is our only life, I think we have it completely backwards. We should identify a set of overarching, core priorities, and then work outward from there. Work would probably be relegated to nothing more than a subordinate, enabling sub-plan.
In a past life, I had a job that involved all sorts of planning, and along the way I was exposed to some really useful tools. I’ll share some of this in subsequent posts. But before we get into it, there’s a fundamental consideration at the heart of it all:
What does it mean to live well?
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. (Thoreau)
Here’s a little reading that will either get your blood boiling, or cause you to smile smugly, depending on which side of the work-life fulcrum you currently sit.
Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail says that the demarcation line between work and life is disappearing, and along with it, your smile.
Meanwhile, the BBC just puts a fork in the whole notion of work-life-balance and calls it “done”. It’s all just life, the article claims. This isn’t portrayed as a bad thing, necessarily. I find that depressing.
We could debate ad infinitum the slippery slope of technology and the expectation that we be constantly tethered. Personally, I harbour this silly idea that it’s still up to us, and that the good employers understand and support peoples’ need to maintain a private life.
Then again, I also fantasize that I’ll find myself in a situation where I can pull a Peter Gibbons (Office Space):
Bob: You know, Drew, you’ve been missing a lot of important calls and emails after hours.
Drew: Actually, I wouldn’t say I’ve been *missing* them, Bob.
These are the underlined passages–perhaps the ones best relating to Escapology–in my copy of Vagabonding by Rolf Potts:
You don’t have to be rich to escape in the first instance:
the idea of a stack of money and a tropical getaway […] is an escapist cliche and you don’t need to rob a bank to prove it. Just take a modest, nonheisted sum–five grand say–to a quiet inexpensive beach in Guatamala, Greece, Goa and see what happens.
Indeed, the freedom to go Vagabonding has never been determined by income level: its found through simplicity — the conscious decision of how to use what income you have.
There’s nothing wrong with escaping and then coming back. You can always reintegrate if necessary:
don’t worry that your extended travels might leave you with a “gap” on your résumé. Rather, you should enthusiastically and apologetically include your vagabonding experience on your résumé when you return. List the job skills travel has taught you: independence, flexibility, negotiation, planning, boldness, self-sufficiency, improvisation.
A caution about your Escapological motivations:
It’s important […] that you never go vagabonding out of a vague sense of fashion or obligation. Vagabonding is not a social movement or a moral high ground […] It’s a personal act that demands only the realignment of the self.
And a single word: