Monday, October 21, 2013

Things to Come

I've spent the better part of three years trying to find a job that brings me happiness and peace of mind. Of course, I've come nowhere close. A little more than a month ago, while my previous job was coming to an end and I was looking forward to moving back to DC to find another job, I was struck by the thought, "what would getting a job in my field really bring me?"

My internal dialogue (the telltale sign of a true madman) continued:

"Well I need money. I would be able to afford nice things, too, which I haven't been able to do for quite some time," I reasoned.

"Would having those nice things really bring you happiness? You were so excited for that new phone last year and now you spend at least half an hour a day yelling at it," the wiser me replied.

"Okay, maybe not."

"Plus," the wiser me continued, "you claim to want to reduce inequality throughout the world and all those nice things you want only reinforce inequality. Most products are made in factories in developing nations by struggling people working in horrible conditions and for next to nothing in terms of wages. They're then sold to people in developed countries who have to struggle just to make ends meet to afford these products. The only people truly benefitting from this whole system are the uber-rich and from what we've seen on TV and with limited interaction we've had with this class, they're certainly not happy either. Look at the Housewives of Whatever County: what a collection of miserable assholes. So this entire system based on producing, owning, and profiting off of nice things is bringing absolutely no one true happiness or peace."

"Fair enough. But money is kind of essential. My current life isn't exactly sustainable. I need to be able to afford a place to live, and a car if I don't live in a big city, and stuff to put into that apartment or house."

"Would any of that bring true, lasting happiness?"

"I suppose not. Okay, so I don't truly need any 'stuff.' But a job, especially working in a nonprofit, would allow me to make a positive difference in the world," I countered.

"All these nonprofits in DC and all the government offices require an insane amount of energy to run, thereby exacerbating the problem of climate change. You may feel as if you are doing great things in the short term, but in the long term, you are only damaging those whom you want to serve. Not to mention, having a job, even if it is one for a well-meaning nonprofit, only entangles you in the web of never ending consumption which we just identified as a system that perpetuates unhappiness in everyone involved."

"I can't just not have a job! How would I afford to eat?"

"Do something radical, like join a monastery."

"Well, shit."

Fast forward a few weeks to today and I may have found that radical thing. I decided not to move back to DC for a few reasons, primarily because things were already fighting me even before I got down there and the government shutdown really complicated my plans. I'm currently unemployed as I put in my notice at my previous job a month and a half before I was supposed to move and didn't feel much like staying once everything fell apart. I've applied to all of two jobs since I'm quite burned out on the whole job searching / résumé deal, but I've spent a lot of time reading in parks, which has been nice. Especially since I haven't had a proper vacation in years.

The other morning, I woke up and started reading a really inspiring article on Huffington Post about travel. I forgot the premise, exactly, because I was still a groggy and snotty mess from this sinus cold, but it's in my bookmarks! And I suppose the point of it was to inspire me to read similar blogs from people who left the rat race behind and somehow subside on travel (and apparently alcohol) alone.

It was not the first time I've researched this. Not by a long shot. And it wasn't even the first time I researched this because of an article I read on Huffington Post one morning. It was, however, the first time I was inspired by something like this and felt that I could actually do it. It seems these travel bloggers have created a very clever pyramid scheme of sorts that involves affiliate links, sponsors, clicks, and a bunch of other stuff. Each and every one of them specifically say that anyone can do it. I'm anyone, so I guess that means I can do it. All I have to do is work (yet another) crappy job so I can save up some money and then off I go! Possibly. In the spring.

My tentative plan is to start a travel blog based on volunteering in various assignments around the world. I want to make positive contributions to this planet and if I can't do by finding a stupid job, I'll do it this way. I'm planning on staying with an assignment for at least two months as that was a really good time to get the feel of a place while I traveled for grad school. "Slow travel" is better for the environment and would most likely lead to less burnout on my end, as well. Also, the most expensive part in this whole experiment will be the flights, so staying in a place for a longer period of time will help reduce costs and will allow me to travel longer.

The only thing I'm a little worried about is the fact that flying around a bunch of places is horrible for the environment, but I won't be flying too often compared to other travelers and I'm hoping to maybe plant a bunch of trees wherever I go to offset my carbon footprint.

Of course, I'm a bit worried about money, too. However, if I can monetize my travel blog in a similar way to these other bloggers, I shouldn't need more than $15,000 a year at most, especially if I will be volunteering mostly in developing countries. By not having a car, an apartment, or a bunch of other stuff, I will drastically cut down my expenses compared to most people my age, but I'll be able to do a bunch of amazing things while contributing to society and maybe learning a few useful skills along the way. I can make money through writing, selling some travel photography and possibly through teaching English if need be. A lot of the volunteer places I've seen provide housing, which will be a considerable help with expenses, and some even provide food. This could be a pretty cheap and yet absolutely amazing endeavor. I've already found some incredible volunteer opportunities that I can't wait to try, particularly volunteering with a Buddhist temple in Thailand that specializes in caring for tigers. The tiger temple would absolutely blow my freaking mind.

My car has conveniently given me a timeline of six months until I leave as it won't pass its next inspection in April. This will give me some time to prepare and save a few thousand more dollars to help fuel this trip, even if it's just for a year.

Transformative things are on their way and only because my twenties were such a miserable failure at being successful by Western standards. It's about time I stop playing by the rules set by Western society since they've failed so many people already, me very much included. I'm going to show myself and the world that happiness and peace are possible with very little money and no traditional "career." Fuck my twenties, fuck this shitty economy, and fuck rampant consumerism. Now that I know it's possible to turn my back on all this negative crap that brings no one peace or happiness, I fully intend to do so. I hope you stick around for the ride.

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