When you come to a fork in the road….Take it.
— Yogi Berra
When it comes to lifestyle, it’s not what you choose, but rather how you choose it.
Throughout this journey, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting people leading lives across the lifestyle spectrum. There are the traditional: married, full-time jobs, two kids, a dog, a house (or two) and a picket fence. Then there are the non-traditional: single entrepreneurs gunning for 4-hour workweeks ticked away from various corners of the globe. And, of course, there are a host of folks in between.
Buenos Aires is the sort of place that showcases it all. It’s home to European-style traditions and regular weekend family gatherings around the grill. At the same time, it continues to attract a community of foreigners looking for a relatively inexpensive but well-developed place to seek out new experiences, personal and professional.
During our stay here, the topic of lifestyle choice has come up often in conversation, particularly with the newcomers. Our personal choices have certainly resonated with them: the travelers, digital nomads, location independent professionals and those otherwise untethered. But that doesn’t mean our choices are necessarily the right fit for everyone.
In other words, lifestyle choice is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Just as the 9-to-5 life isn’t for everyone, neither is escaping the cube. And so it became clear to us that the crux is not so much about which lifestyle you choose – one is not inherently better than another – but rather that you do choose, and you do so deliberately.
But how do you know if you are living deliberately? Here are a few questions to help you find out.
1) What are your priorities?
Ask yourself a question: What is important to me? Then ask yourself something more difficult: For what am I willing to compromise and make sacrifices? What am I willing to give up?
Good for you if your life abundance allows you to avoid having to make difficult choices. But imagine, if by force of unexpected circumstance, that abundance is diminished. Now what’s important?
Our experience: It’s not that we don’t enjoy comfort, certainty and security. We do. However, the need to satisfy our curiosity trumps them all — at the moment. That is our priority; it also explains why we left behind a perfectly comfortable existence in Prague to strap on backpacks. Our priorities also account for why we spend a majority of our time these days absorbing the world through experience and writing about it.
2) Do you recognize that you have choices? Always?
No matter how terrific or how lousy the hand you’ve been dealt in life, you always have a choice. When life is going well, choices appear easy. However, when circumstances become difficult, that’s when it’s easy to forget that you even have a choice.
Most of us have more freedom than we realize. The trick is whether we choose to recognize and leverage it.
Nelson’s experience: No personal example will outdo Nelson Mandela’s object lesson. While imprisoned in his Robben Island jail cell in South Africa, Mandela managed two astonishing choices: to walk miles a day in his tiny cell to stay fit, and to appeal to the humanity in his captors so that they might recognize the humanity in him. Imagine your own response under similar circumstances.
3) What’s better: Talking or doing?
Talk is inspiring. Doing is sublime.
Our experience: Although we talked about traveling around the world for at least one year (and possibly a decade) before we set off, it meant little until we made the commitment, turned in our resignation letters, sold the junk, packed the bags and set off.
Hitting the road…
The we are human caveat: Yes, we still procrastinate, talk about ideas endlessly and wish that our tendency toward action was greater than it is.
4) Do your choices have consequences?
Every choice and action (or inaction) has consequences — some good, some bad. Although we may not always have control over the consequences, we do have complete control over how we respond to them.
Our experience: Our professional lives are currently defined by freedom and risk. Our lifestyle is terrifically liberating — but it’s not without its share of concerns, financial and otherwise.
5) Do you regret?
If you see a gap between your priorities and your actions, chances are that you are going to feel regret sooner or later. The longer you wait, the wider the gap, the more painful the regret. Think: “If I wake up 10 years from now in this same position, will I be happy?” If the answer is “No,” consider what you can do to change your path.
It is telling that the people who tend to “get us” the most are people in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. After we’ve shared our story, it’s not uncommon for us to hear, “This is the time in your life to do this.”
Don’t know about you, but we are going to go with the wisdom of our elders on this one.
Our experience: No regrets. Really.
…and a few flat tires along the way.
So you took the plunge and things didn’t work out as you had so meticulously planned? Then it’s time to adjust and make changes. Failure is a real possibility — no matter how many cheerleading books and blogs imply otherwise. But just because things didn’t turn out as you expected, should you regret having had the courage to pursue your dreams?
But you can’t go back. Take satisfaction in having the courage to move, to make the decision — and yes, to fail. Then, learn from it all.
Our experience: Yes, there are some things we hoped would have turned out differently. For example, we are still waiting for a call from Oprah.
7) Do you understand different strokes and respect different folks?
Tolerance and understanding of lifestyles different than your own: that’s a sign of true confidence.
When it comes to lifestyle, there are infinite options. Depending on the company you keep — and how small the echo chamber — it may be difficult to imagine that this is true. Also bear in mind that life is fluid: your priorities, circumstances, and lifestyle may change over time. What works for you now may not work for you in the future.
Our experience: A good friend of ours shared with us before we departed: “I wouldn’t want to travel around the world, but I am glad to know someone who is actually doing it.”
We each opted for different lifestyles, but we did so deliberately.
By deliberate living, we are not talking about calculating each and every step in life, but rather aligning your priorities, choices, and actions and making decisions about your life’s trajectory.
So, have you chosen your lifestyle? Or has it chosen you?