LIVING THE DREAM: WHEN IT'S
WNW Member #5670 Steven Skoczen has been sharing his recent travels with Free Range. After selling all his possessions in order to live for the next few years abroad, hopping country to country every few months, Steven has experienced his share of ups and downs. Having recently moved from Thailand to Mexico, Steven shares his latest adventure, realizing how truly lucky he is: "There are times in this crazy sell-everything and live-everywhere life I live that are a nightmare. But there are moments like this when all of those living-the-dream stereotypes fit. But what's it like, day-to-day, to actually live the dream?"
I'm writing this from my balcony, here in Zicatela, Mexico. A hammock swings in the breeze, still cool among the palapa's shade. Hummingbirds flick to the feeder. Tonight they'll be replaced by fruit bats. Geckos and iguanas stop by to say their piece. In the background, I can hear the ocean crashing - just two blocks away.
Welcome to my office.
There are times in this crazy sell-everything and live-everywhere life I live that are a nightmare. But there are moments like this when all of those living-the-dream stereotypes fit.
But what's it like, day-to-day, to actually live the dream? Interesting.
I absorb the cultures around me.
Every time I move to a new country, the culture and way of living seeps into me, and changes how I live.
Here, the biggest adjustment for my work-hard get-shit-done personality is Mexican time. Mexican time means that if someone tells me they'll be by at 1pm to install the Internet, they might be there at 1pm. Or 2pm. Or 3pm. Or four days later. Mexican time also means that if they do in fact show up four days late, there won't be an apology or any semblance of guilt. Something came up. My sister had a thing. There was a fiesta. It was raining.
I’ve made my freelance career by delivering everything early and better than expected. Late and half-assed is a serious culture clash. But it's also a way of looking at the world that's soaked into me - and for the better. The truth is that nobody is going to die if anything I do in life is late. The truth is also that we get a finite number of minutes to live, and once spent, we can never get them back. Here, there's an understanding that you should enjoy your life as much as you're productive. It might not be on time, but it sounds a lot like sane.
These shifts, for good or bad, are what happens every time I'm immersed in a new way of living. My interactions with my own life change, sometimes in profound ways. Always, change is unavoidable.
Insane things become really normal.
A few days ago, I spit out a cockroach that had crawled into my cocktail. I regularly have no power, no internet, and I’m bitten by at least twenty things over the course of a day - and all of those things seem completely normal. It’s hard to remember that things weren’t always this way.
We have an amazing capacity for relativity as human beings - a fact reflected in staggering research that shows that people in some of the world's poorest countries are happier than their richer neighbors. Our brains adapt quickly, and once they’ve adapted, we just go about our days thinking my life is so normal.
On calls with friends to catch up, I mention the mundane here - picking ticks off the dog, being cut off by a man on a horse as I walk the dirt lane to the store. I completely forget that it's not normal for them. Then comes the silence. "Did you say a horse?"
The Grass is Green on Both Sides
Perhaps most of all, living all over the world has served as a powerful reminder of the danger and the beauty of looking at someone else's life - things never livehow they look.
Things out here aren't at all like I imagined they'd be - they feel pretty normal, just tinged with new. Out here, halfway across the world, there still are people whose lives I still sit and look at with awe (some of you are reading this piece right now.)
But if I'm to trust this experience, the reality is that each of your lives are a lot more normal - a lot more like mine - than the stories in my head.
Every one of us is living someone's dream life. If we're lucky, we consider it our dream life, too.
Here and all over the world, I keep running into a reminder of a truth about the dream. It's everywhere. With everyone, right in front of us.
All we have to do is see it.
Steven writes about his journeys, big life questions, and the occasional terribly embarrassing travel story over at Ink and Feet.