On a recent night out in Brentwood, I was drinking at the bar of a chic restaurant when I struck up a conversation with a sophisticated woman seated next to me. She complimented my hair and then began to tell me about her extraordinary life. She had run away from home at 16 and lived on a park bench for a while. She moved to France at 17 for a couple years then somehow made her way to India where she lived with Buddhist monks for six months, sleeping on the ground and waking up at 4AM everyday to practice meditation. Once she was traveling back to America and had a stop over in Tokyo. She decided not to make her connecting flight and within a day had found an apartment in the city, where she lived for a year. When she paid for dinner with her Black American Express, it was something of a confirmation of a life well lived.
Darlings, if you want an exciting life, then you’re going to have to trade comfort and stability for uncertainty and a healthy amount of irresponsibility. This means that sometimes you might be overdrawn on your accounts, your cell phone bill past due and Time Warner is about to shut off your internet. But who cares? You’ve just booked a one-way ticket to Thailand where the only person who can reach you is Akapol, the paddleboat man who delivers groceries to your rented houseboat.
It can be frightening to walk away from a consistent paycheck and a home with a comfortable mattress, but you must ask yourself whether you’re happy and growing as a person. Are you living or just existing?
There will of course be times of self-doubt and loneliness, when you question whether you are on the right path as your friends advance in their careers or get married. On the other hand, they know exactly what they will wake up to the following day (and most likely it’s the sound of an alarm clock or a crying baby) and their routine is a calcified schedule whereas your life is consecrated to self-discovery and exploration.
While for many it is a natural desire to collect things: clothes, furniture, Pez dispensers, whatever, you should strongly resist the urge to accumulate material things. Possessions are only impedimenta to living freely. You should be able to get up and go somewhere on a whim. The only things worth having are the things that you can take with you: experiences, frequent flier miles and a great set of noise canceling headphones.
In 2011, I was ready to leave New York after four years. I felt that I had metabolized the city, gaining what experiences and insights there were to be had, and so it was time to move on. I gave up the lease on my apartment, sold all my furniture and moved to India with two suitcases. I had no set goal or agenda for my stay, only knowing that I was searching for something beyond the scope of that I was living previously. India gave me many blessings, including the inspiration to start my own business.
Extraordinary living that pushes your boundaries of comfort and knowledge fosters the insight and skills to be successful. One develops a sense of fearlessness from taking a rickshaw alone in a land 8,000 miles away from home with a driver who doesn’t share a common language. Take the risks now while you’re young and the stakes for failure are lower.
If you are behind a desk all day every day, how are you going to gather new insight into the world or see what other opportunities may be available? You must be exposed to as much as possible, each experience revealing something new about yourself and your fundamental desires. Only then can you settle down, once you’re certain of who you are and where you want to be. Then buy the most fabulous couch you can afford and luxuriate.