society as a bucket of turtles
It's an interesting thing this pursuit of going against the norm. We chose years ago to take a slightly different path than most and to forge our own way, but it sadly hasn't always an easy road, and there hasn't been much support. Lucky for us we do have a small group of people who we care about who support us in whatever we choose and who we know we can rely upon no matter what happens. Their love and support is huge to our confidence, to our being able to continue on and to keep chasing our dreams.
We've spent a few days over the last week meeting new friends who have chosen to take long road trips. It's clearly the season for those who are beginning their travels and we have had a few couples stop in to meet us, share their stories and dreams as they begin their journeys south over the coming weeks. It's been a fun reminder of the questions and excitement we had before departing on our trip and it was great to meet each of them, spend time talking about dreams and plans and to see them off on their trips.
It was also a good reminder of exactly how hard it was to break away from what society in general suggests or promotes. Each of these couples was clearly excited for the road ahead, but also had tons of questions about what's next, and had their own stories of how difficult it was to break against the norm when everyone around you tells you that you're crazy. I remember these comments and how we at one point stopped telling many people about our trip until we were already gone. I'm continually in awe of how difficult family and friends can make change for someone, even someone they clearly love and support.Maybe it's fear, or lack of understanding or maybe it's simply not wanting to see someone leave or change for fear of losing them... but there rarely seems to be a story of a supporting community rather than the typical story of everyone trying to talk you out of change, giving you reasons to abort or continually trying to get you to stick with the "status quo". Im always so impressed that people can still find the inner strength to push forward, follow their dreams and fight for a better life despite often having to do so without the support or understanding of anyone around them.
We also just spent an evening helping friends with a house remodel project. This project is the latest step in their path to free themselves of their jobs and the stress of "normal" life. We couldn't be more proud of the work they have been doing, or more inspired by what they have already achieved. This couple also has excitement for what lies ahead (even despite the exhaustion of the hard work and hours they are putting in after long days at their regular jobs). But we also talked about family and friends making the path more difficult for them rather than supporting them or helping them along. Friends who have started to judge them, cast them out as being rich or spoiled or entitled despite having watched the hard work they have put in to better their lives. It's such a pity to me that on top of the stress and work to make change in life, that anyone would also have to spend time worrying about friends and family, about what others think, or about how you will be accepted (or rejected) by your peers.
How have we become a society that tries to keep others from attempting to find a better place simply because we chose not to? How can anyone be so selfish as to not want to go out of your way to try and help someone succeed at whatever it is they are seeking or dreaming of? How did we become a people more likely to grab someone and pull them back down rather than trying to prop them up?
I remember a local entrepreneur in mexico who was struggling to start a hotel in his hometown. Everyone else in town seemed against him despite the jobs he was creating for his friends and family and others in town. He told me a story of how he believed mexico was different than other places. In america or japan, he described, a bunch of turtles in a bucket will climb over each other to get out of the bucket and escape to freedom. Im mexico, the turtles will sit at the bottom and pull the other turtles back down with them. It was an interesting analogy, but honestly can't say i feel like our society is so different.
It seems one of the risks of trying to change your life for the better is sometimes losing the connection to those people that are in your life right now. We have also struggled with how to speak to family and friends who don't understand our pursuit and who judge our lifestyle. We have also sadly lost friends in the process. Obviously there were the groups of people we spent almost everyday with at our jobs. Many we still connect with but many others we no longer have an opportunity to see.
Somewhere in the process of fighting for freedom, and running away to start over we also lost a couple of our closest friends. Friends we considered family. Friends who we believed would be closely linked to our lives forever. I honestly can't say if it was because of our decisions, because of something we said or did, or simply an accidental occurrence that may have caused us to drift apart eventually regardless. We sadly don't have answers to why they are no longer in our lives because they never bothered to give us the gift of telling us what happened. Never explained why. Never thought it was worth the conversation. They just disappeared and broke our hearts without a word.
I also spend possibly too much time reading other blogs and stories on the web. Travel blogs, blogs tracking families seeking to downsize or find a minimalist lifestyle, those fighting for financial freedom...and I'm always amazed at how the general attitude from those who write comments is negative. Condescending and often hurtful comments outnumber 30 to 1 people writing in to show support or offer positive advice.
I'm both saddened and surprised by the horrible, horrible judgemental place that is the internet. Not since middle school has anything been so inherently negative and bullying as the response of people on the web to those who are actually trying to break the norm. If you read the comments of others, it has a real ability to make you feel worthless and bad about almost everything. Can make you question your goals and dreams just because they are different than the masses. Seriously, what ever happened to "if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all"? Whatever happened to helping others and building them up rather than breaking them down simply to somehow make your own life seem better?
It has often in the past made us afraid to put ourselves out there, and has made us terrified of opportunities like being on film or questioned on a podcast. (Note: the podcast we recorded a few months ago with Chris Ryan is now live on his site Tangentially Speaking. Against my better judgement you can listen to it here if you are curious...)
Luckily, I think it all the negativity is finally starting to have the opposite impact on me as i surf the web. Reading so many ridiculously hurtful and condescending comments about our lifestyle, our projects and our decisions (as well as those directed at pretty much anyone else who has tried to change their lives for the better) has also somehow led me to confidence. Shown me that society is simply filled with negative antagonistic people who would rather take anonymous shots at someone they've never met than to actually go do something themselves.
The question is, how do we find a way to surround ourselves with others who have similar goals, aspirations and dreams. How do we continue to find others who offer advice and feedback, who make suggestions and add confidence rather than trying to hold you back and break you down. How do we build a community of people aspiring for freedom and passion rather living in fear and attempting to pull everyone else back down into the bucket?
We feel so lucky to have a small core of loved ones who will support and love us despite our decisions. That list of people seems to grow as we meet other travelers and others with similar dreams and goals. I hope that we in some way can help others find the confidence, the courage and the support to keep chasing their dreams. I hope we continue to stumble across each others paths and that the interactions and trajectories after those meetings are hugely positive and spread to larger groups. We will continue to seek out those opportunities, and if you happen to be one of those people looking to make positive change in your life (or the lives of others) please, please reach out and or stop in as you make your way through town, stumble upon our blog or see us on the street. We will have a huge hug waiting for you and can't wait to hear your story!