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The Settle in Settling Down

Posted by on May 20, 2011

I am just over two weeks into my ten week living experiment in Barcelona and so far things couldn’t be better.  We’ve adjusted to the timezone differences (took a while), joined a gym, and have planned out the rest of our trip.

Except for a few overnight trips around Spain and 8 days in Italy, we decided to spend our time primarily as Barcelona locals. And the experience has been eye-opening regarding the difference between home in Hamilton, Ontario and the life in Spain.

Now of course, the major difference most people need adjusting to for a long trip like this is the lack of family and friends nearby, although with skype, gmail chat, and super great calling rates the only real difference I have noticed is the time zone difference.  Living my life 6 hours ahead of the majority of the people that are important to me makes communicating rather tricky at best (although it may also be because I have made a temporary exodus from Facebook and no longer have IM on my iphone.

But most important, I think what I am starting to realize is that I am just much more comfortable, and consequently happier, living the minimalist lifestyle (which I only realize while I am traveling).   The most relaxed and happy I have ever been in my life is when I have been traveling and living in Europe.

Warmer winters aside, I have always loved the freedom of having an entire continent and the thousands of years of history at my doorstep. I find the thrill of new adventures are ever so close and available and I enjoy the constant emails from family members about “being on yet another trip. Are you even going to settle down?” lol.

My simple answer…. probably not.

For some the term might be a description of a calmer, gentler, less scary, kinder life. The point in time in when you become an adult. Life is stable, and you can take solace in the fact that you know where your future is headed.

Personally I think that’s a bit delusional so my personal definition is slightly different, and in fact, the term itself makes me a little nauseous and uncomfortable, like when someone farts near you in a small room after they’ve had mexican food. yeh, kinda like that.

Remember as a kid when you were having an incredibly fun time with your friends, laughing and making up absurb ways to make one another laugh?

Then just when you were about to start creating the rules for a new game you could play with a 3-legged dog and a box of apple jacks  comes the sound of pseudo authority reigning down their opinions and judgement with the famed buzzkilling request of,  “settle down” guys.

I don’t see much of a difference in this example and the suggestions most of my well-intentioned friends and family mean.

I have never been the “get married, buy the biggest house I can afford, start a family, and start buying/collecting things forever” type of person. And as for landscaping and home-repair… well, let’s just say those skills and desires were not passed down through genetics.

To watch me try to hand a painting on a wall is akin to watching a blind man paint a portrait.  Sure it might get done in the end, but it’s not gonna be pretty during of after. So instead of deciding that my life has to be a certain way that sounds awful to me, somewhere along the way I decided to start being honest with myself in terms of what is really going to make me feel fulfilled in this one shot at life.

Most people from the time they are in their early teens, dream of owning their own home. They scrimp, and save and work 2, 3, 4 jobs and do whatever they have to do to make that dream come true, and I applaud that goal. Its lofty and its attainable.

But for me, for whatever reason, I never really cared to own a house.  Didn’t seem “interesting” enough to me. And everyone I know that owns a home, after a couple months of moving in, doesn’t really have anything overly positive to say about it. Unless of course they are buying new things for their home, or changing the way it looks, then of course they’ve got more than enough to say.

Its not a big secret that humans thrive on novelty.  New things excite us, they make us yearn for more and feed the reward center of our brains with the satisfaction of gathering new information and experience. And in my eyes, owning a home always got in the way with chasing experiences I wanted.   It was never the novelty I was chasing.

I’m not against marriage, nor having a family, but my idea of settling down has evolved to a significantly different place than most of the people I know.

For example, I’ve recently (the last couple years) met and become friends with people who travel quite regularly, home school their children, and live a life of experience and learning.  It has really been eye-opening for me, and has blown the doors off of all my misconceptios about home schooling.  ( Yet another case of me finding out something I have been so clearly ignorant about).   With all of this new knowledge of “non-settlers” not only did it make the case for “settling down” even more off-putting, but its given me new vision of what marriage and family can mean.
Its like there is this completely other dimension and I have found a new species of human being and not to mention this paradigm shift would allow me to keep connected with the one true love of my life…. traveling and learning.

Every since I returned from my first backpacking trip through Europe I don’t think I ever honestly let go of that feeling.  The euphoric rush of arriving by plane or train into a new city, or each day learning something new. Or even better, meeting someone new.

I still remember my long flight home from Athens to Toronto (via London) after my 6-7 week trip through Europe in 2003.

I sat in my upgraded British Airways seat, the humble realization and satisfaction of all that I had seen and experienced flooding over me like a series recap of my favourite TV show.  I was, at that time, completely content with my life and what I had achieved by facing my fears and leaving behind the city, country, and continent I had become so accustomed to.

Looking back at that flight home in October of 2003 up until this moment, I think I now realize how much that trip changed my life, and opened my eyes to just how much of life I was missing while staying comfortably nestled in my cocoon inside Canada.    It was this feeling that has propelled my travels and my current lifestyle.

And though I know not what the future holds for my mobile lifestyle, my online business, or… anything else for that matter; should it all crash and burn tomorrow, it would have been all worth it (especially with this incredible 20 days I’ve already had on this trip).

Regardless of what it may be that makes me happy, everyone is starkly different in their needs.  Each of us individually are the only keepers of to the answers of our own happiness. But I think as long as any of us just keep pushing ourselves towards personal accomplishment and satisfaction, and our type of enjoyment isn’t negatively affecting anyone else, well…

Never *settle.

*”settle” being your own personal definition.


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