New Year, New Life

1 January 2011. Filed under category Nomad.
Ulysses and the Sirens by J. W. Waterhouse

Ulysses and the Sirens by J. W. Waterhouse

I created The Modern Nomad in the hope that it will serve as an inspiration to others who wish to adopt a nomadic lifestyle. Such a transformation, like all journeys, must start somewhere. Mine began on the first day of 2011.

I got up early on that New Year’s morning. I tiptoed into the kitchen, stealthily toasted some bread and made coffee. I begged the kettle to keep quiet so as not to wake my flatmate. I normally enjoy eating breakfast with him, but not today. Today, like previous New Year days, was reserved for deep reflection and making sense of my life, a task that tolerates no spectators. As I buttered my toast, I had no idea that by the end of the day I would have decided to uproot my life and take it in an entirely new direction.

Back in my bedroom, I locked the door. (Actually, I blocked it with a bureau since my door has no lock.) Barricaded, I unplugged my computer and removed the battery from my mobile phone. I tidied the room until both my space and head were uncluttered. I sat down on a chair, closed my eyes and quietly agreed with myself that today I was not going to get anything done apart from this one exercise of self-reflection.
So there I sat, on a chair facing the wall, simply evaluating my life. I thought about the year that had passed and the things I had done. I revisited old dreams and aspirations and compared them to where I was going. I paid particular attention to areas that made me uncomfortable, gently removing layers of mental scar tissue and self-defence mechanisms.

Slowly and painfully, I realised that things were not quite right. I had stagnated. I had been in London for ten years and my job for five. It doesn’t sound too bad, but when I was young, I vowed never to stagnate. It has been a personal motto and a promise to myself; nevertheless, there I was, entirely without adventures in my everyday life. I was too good at being me. I knew London as the back of my hand, and although it is a wonderful city, it did not surprise me anymore. I realised that I was similarly unchallenged at work. Nothing truly new happened there either. There were only variations on the same old thing.

At that point, I really wanted to plug my computer back in and escape onto the internet where I could lose myself in YouTube and lolcats. I did not want to look more closely at the things I did not like about my life. Who does? It hurts and demands hard work to fix. Mindlessly surfing the internet is much easier. Facebook and other social media are the modern equivalence of the mythological sirens, luring us away from our path with irresistible songs of procrastination. However, like Odysseus tied himself to the mast of his ship to resist the song of the sirens, I had locked myself into a room without internet or TV. I persevered and continued my reflections.

So, I was comfortable with my life but not fulfilled. Boo hoo. I want to make it clear that I never felt hard done by. Not at all. I was proud of what I had achieved in the ten years since I left school and my little town in Sweden. I had taken risks in leaving then and they had paid off. Now I needed to take on new risks and new challenges to be similarly proud of my next decade.

I paced the floor a bit to stretch my legs, then sat down again to figure out what concrete actions I was going to take. I gave myself total freedom to explore any idea, no matter how crazy or seemingly unrealistic. It eventually became clear that what would truly excite me would a life in where I could move more frequently, perhaps every four to six months.

My subconscious almost discarded the idea before I had time to look at it. This nomadic life was too different from the life I knew and thus shrouded in vaguely defined reasons why it could never work. But I had given myself the right to entertain seemingly unrealistic ideas, and as I did the shadows receded and the idea didn’t look so unrealistic anymore. I am a software engineer. Armed with a laptop, I can do a lot of things such as work remotely or pick up contracting jobs.

And what would this new nomadic life bring with it? A bottomless well of fresh experiences and adventure. The time and freedom to explore the world, not in weeklong holidays but by living it. A future dictated by my next decisions and not those made years ago.

The idea flooded my mind and made me positively giddy. I watched myself grin like an idiot in the mirror. I wanted to shout out ‘Eureka! I’ve got it!’ I knew that this would mean a drastic change to my life. I would leave everything I had built up in London to go in search of something new, but I felt no apprehension or fear. I felt only excitement and happiness!

Clarifications

Odysseus is one of the famous Greek heroes. During his many adventures, he came across the Sirens, bird-women who lured sailors into treacherous waters with their irresistible singing.

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  1. What a great introductory post recounting your internal reflection and the exciting endeavor in which you’re about to embark. For those of us that must ‘hold down the fort’ for awhile, we’ll enjoy learning about your travels and seeing the splendid photos! Kudos to you, my friend.

  2. Thorsten says:

    Well… good luck, the most interesting things lay often right in front of your door and one has not always to go far away to find adventures. Reading books is – in my view – still the best way to change habits. And don’t forget: Odysseus (Ulyssees) came back after his long trip. On of my favourite travelers: Patrick Leigh Fermor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Leigh_Fermor) who walked by foot through Germany and the Balcans in 1933. He wrote an extraordinary book about his trip. Take your Rucksack and keep in touch! Thorsten

  3. Yaron Avitov says:

    Nice intro to the new chapter of your life my friend. Its been 5 years since our pyramids adventures of 2005 , so… if my math is right, it seems like each 5 years you need to go around the globe – north, south, east and west, exploring the world, leaving your mark, creating memories and making new friends who will join the Gustav fan club… I hope your travels will bring you to NYC again and Brandon and I can’t wait to see you at LBI this summer. Keep the adventure going !!

    The beginning: ** from black to black the river is blue, cross it 9 times is your number 4 clue **

    1. Gustav (The Modern Nomad) says:

      I have wondered if there is something cyclical about my behaviour. Could very well be. But this move I’m doing now is a bit different. If things go to plan (And honestly, what could possibly go wrong?) then I will not just go to another place and put up camp for the next five years, but rather I will create a life that has the dynamism built in, a stable state of instability.

  4. PDragon says:

    Those lolcats sirens! Close your eyes and block your ears.

    Ah thats better, now I can really listen to the voices in my head. Whats that? Run off around the world like a madman? Okay :-)

    Glad to know you are thinking straight. You’ll be missed in London. Always a space for you if you need it.

  5. I’ve looked around a little in your blog, and what you are doing reminds me of what I did 2006. I quit my very good job as a reearch pharmacist at a nice pharmaceutical research company in Lund. To try storytelling. A leap of faith into the unknown. And I have no regrets. Which I am sure that I would have had if I had stayed.
    Have been travelling a bit as a storyteller, to various festivals in and outside of Sweden. Men resetarmen börjar suga till när jag läser what you’ve written…
    Best of luck in you endevours!

  6. Zack bukhari says:

    Hey Gustav, it’s taken me a long time to actually pick up on your blog, and I’ve got to say you have me wistfully dreaming of doing the same thing.

    Have fun, enrich your life, and continue to inspire others.
    Much love.
    x

  7. Roku says:

    I first saw your rodeo video, then went back to have a look at the earlier blog entries. Who the hell are you? I’m kinda impressed. I don’t follow blogs, but I’ll follow yours. Don’t disappoint! (just kidding)

  8. crys says:

    Gustav, finally starting where I should have, the beginning instead of the middle of the adventure. You give me renewed faith in the younger,( than myself ), generation. You really are the captain of your destiny.
    Onward, Nomad.

  9. Keldrick says:

    I am almost worried to do something like that in fear of what I might decide to do. It’s like you know that you should sit down and take stock, but what if I don’t like what I see!

  10. Brittany says:

    I have followed your more current travels and learned of your previous writings from and thru my mom. (I am now sitting down to read them myself as to understand better and live more vicariously through you.

    Months ago my Mom told me how I needed to hear how you started out, so she read me this entry. I remember thinking, “That’s what I want to do, find some way to re-kindle my passion for life! I should lock myself in my room!” Too true about the distractions in our lives and not wanting to face our fears/darkness/questions. I found some reason not to do it- it wasn’t a new year, my tv is not able to be moved, what if I fell asleep- in other words I was too afraid of what I would find out. I was also afraid I wouldn’t know how to get to the answer, you make it sound easy! So I never did it.
    Reading this entry, I realize I have done this! It didn’t happen in my room or on a special day or even in one day and the funny thing is, I didn’t realize I had done this until reading this entry right now!
    I was in a job that was a good, stable job and I knew that if I went to something else I would take at least a 33% pay cut and not have the same level of “respect”. I had worked hard to get where I was, been there the longest I had ever been at a job and received positive feedback regularly. I worked with children, which I adore, and found it rewarding and something new every day.
    Then a large conflict arose and I starting not enjoying my job- except for my children. Like a previous job, I stayed for the children.
    The conflict kept getting larger to me, overwhelming my life at work and not. My life in general was not happy. Finally, I came to a breaking point and needed to leave and I needed to do it for me. I loved the children but my well being was important and I needed to save myself. I had done my best, tried my hardest and needed a new, fresh start. So, possibly stupid considering the economy, without another job, I packed up and left. And was I ecstatic! Yes, the depression set in and the “What the hell did I do” came, but I was free. I knew with my references and background I would land a job and could do retail until. Within two weeks I had found the job I am at and LOVE! I couldn’t start for a month but with my parents support I was able to deal with a lot of excess baggage in my life, both material and emotional. I dealt with 2 years worth of things that had been, literally and figuratively, pushed to the back of the closet since my brother’s death. I was able to get healthy physically and mentally. That was all before I started my new adventure! I now nanny for a little boy and love it! As close to a perfect job as I could have landed, and since there is no perfect job, I’m just where I needed to be.

    So that is my new life that I am enjoying. Different from yours but joy comes to different people in different ways. Yes, I would love to do what you are doing but before at my old job it was a smoke dream. Now, I’m happy and anything is possible! Who knows, maybe one day my life may go in a new direction but I now I have the tools to know how to find what I want and how to get it.
    So thank you, Gustav, from the bottom of my new life’s heart!!

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Thank you for sharing that experience. My goal with The Modern Nomad is not to convince everyone to lead a nomadic life but to inspire people to be a bit bolder, dream a little higher and reach a little further. It is very rare that people do that and later regrets it. Even if we fall short of our dreams, it still feels good to at least have tried. And we always land on our feet, one way or another. And like you, we will probably end up in a better place thanks to being a bit brave. So well done!

  11. Josef says:

    Hello, Gustav!
    I’m 17 and I’ve been craving a world outside of Circleville, Ohio- or Ohio in general- since I can remember and I’m so close to being able to do that and I feel so unprepared. I’ve been reading through some of your writings and I continue to read them and as I do, I learn a lot of what I needed to know. So I say thank you! Maybe one day, we’ll cross paths.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Many thanks for those words! This is exactly the kind of motivation that I hoped my blog would inspire.

  12. Morgan says:

    Gustav,

    What an inspirational piece. You may be a software engineer, but I think it’s about time you start referring to yourself as a writer as well. If more individuals gave themselves time for self reflection, I think we’d have a much happier community of dream followers. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Karthik says:

    You spoke my mind. Not everyone dares to take this path. Hope everything went smooth from the time you wrote this. All the best for your journey. I love the idea of measuring success in terms of unforgettable experiences and voyages we took. Glad to see a traveler by soul (not a tourist – as in “The Sheltering Sky” movie).

    Good luck !!

  14. Khalil says:

    Oh man! This post really speaks to me. I feel like I am living an empty life, I have experiences but they’re all very commercial and prefabricated. I hope I also get that “eureka” moment that you mentioned. I’m not sure I could lead a true nomadic life, but I hope to at least put my life in a direction that leads me to happiness. Can’t wait to get lost in some of your other posts.

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