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For the past few years, I’ve been in a state of extreme transition—not knowing who I am, where I’m going and what, exactly, it is that I hope to get out of life. Sometimes I thought I was never going to get the clarity I wanted. I felt trapped, adrift, frustrated and powerless.
And then one simple conversation changed everything.
A while back I was having brunch with my sister and a mutual friend. They’re both a few years older, so we aren’t quite in the same place in our lives, but that’s exactly what got us talking.
My friend—let’s call her Jo—is married with two beautiful little kids who, after meeting only just once, I already adore.
She’s got the whole family, house and high-paying job thing down pat. Sure, her life is a daily circus, and she wishes she could travel more, but she loves her husband and kids, and she’s okay with where she’s at.
So we got to talking about what a healthy marriage, and what a healthy relationship consists of.
“But what does that look like?” I asked, in a very vague and mysterious manner. “Is it more of a ‘long-term hang’ type of situation, or are you constantly working towards things, together, as a couple, but also individually?”
“We’re a unit,” she explained. “Kids and tragedy have brought us together and we’re no longer in a place where we’re just hanging out together for a really long time. We’re doing life together. A relationship? That’s a conscious commitment. You decide to devote yourself to another person. But once you’re married, that changes. It’s not a commitment anymore. You’re a team.”
This all sounded amazing. I was sold. I needed this. I needed a teammate. But before having a teammate, I needed commitment.
“But what does commitment even look like?” I asked myself.
I won’t lie, commitment hasn’t always been very high on my list of priorities. After all, I’ve been blowing in the wind around the world since 2010. Surely that’s got “non-committal” written all over it.
I’m trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that I want out of life. And what, exactly, I need. Because, despite sounding similar, they’re two very different things.
Chasing after what you want, instead of what you need, can lead to a lot of heartbreak and stress. But I don’t want that. I want to get it right.
So the question becomes: what kind of life am I going to commit myself to? How can I cultivate that thing or those things so I can continue to lead a happy and fulfilling life?
As meaningful as the freedom of travel is to me, a life without commitment would be a meaningless existence.
“But I’ve never been the adventurous type like you,” Jo added. “I love to travel, but I like to stay in one place. I’m a serial-monogamist. I have always known that I wanted a family.”
And that’s when it hit me. That’s when I realized.
What if my definition of commitment looks nothing like Jo’s? Would that mean I’m wasting my time comparing it with hers?
A Wake-Up Call
Before I hit my late 20s, my needs didn’t seem to matter much. They weren’t a priority. But lately I haven’t been able to figure out, for the life of me, why meeting them was so god-damned hard.
For some people—people like Jo—fulfilling their life’s purpose is easy. She’s got two kids, a high-paying job, a loving relationship, and she’s damn happy.
(And when I say “easy,” I don’t mean to downplay the fact that all of these things take a hell of a lot of work. But the decision to be there, specifically, was an easy one, because the path towards it was well lit.)
It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized that I have committed—but to something else. A different kind of life. It’s what I’ve been doing all along, what has been guiding my choices and making my path through the world.
I’m an adventure-seeker. It’s in my blood. It’s just who I fucking am.
Am I Heading in the Right Direction, After All?
It means that, according to what my heart wants, I’m going to do some pretty amazing stuff in my life. I’m going to push the limits and test the boundaries, embracing chaos and uncertainty because of the possibility and serendipity that they will bring me.
That doesn’t mean this would work for everyone. This isn’t “uncertainty is better than stability” or “adventure beats having a steady job.”
Anyone arguing that is completely missing the point about how differently we are all wired up.
Jo would hate this life I’ve made for myself for reasons that make perfect sense in her situation. For Jo, it’d be the wrong lifestyle to commit herself to—in exactly the same way that Jo’s life would be the wrong commitment for me.
Neither of us is “right.” We just want different things.
Of course, this doesn’t make things any easier. How do I cultivate a life that is adventurous while also providing myself with the things that I need—things like geographical, financial and emotional stability, and love, and maybe even a family?
What if Jo and I want different things, but we actually need exactly the same thing?
It’s a balancing act, and some people don’t have to play this game. For some people, the rules are already made (a.k.a. “how normal society works”). They already have a good idea of what’s going to make them happy.
But me? I was born into a game that’s still being invented from the ground up. It looks like chaos because a lot of it is chaos, because nobody agrees how it actually works as a long-term lifestyle. The generational shift in mindset to chase a life like this is just too new and things are changing too quickly.
But what if adventure can be balance? What if “stability” actually just means having the right mix of the things you want and need in life?
Could it be possible to move from one crazy adventure to the next and feel like your life is in perfect balance? What if you can commit to a life of adventure, freedom and creative uncertainty, and still get the things you need?
The Straight Path is Not Always the Fastest
Many people choose the “well-lit” path to happiness. And despite sometimes wishing I did, too, I can’t. I’m just not built that way. My path had to be wayward. I was born to do things a little differently.
I was born to swerve.
As someone who can never sit still and loves adventure, I have a constant desire for more. I need it. I crave it. So how will I ever find myself comfortable enough in a situation to say, okay, this is what I want? This is what I need? This is enough?
Maybe there’s stability there—in movement, in constantly reaching further, in testing my limits and reassessing everything important to me. Maybe that’s exactly when I’m perfectly in balance. Maybe that’s where I need to be.
After all, that’s why I travel. I thrive on the uncomfortable.
The truth is, I’ve spent my whole life walking the path less trodden. That’s a commitment I, too, unknowingly made. And because of that, I’m going to struggle. I’m never going to have an easy answer to anything. I’m going to have to dig deep—really deep—within myself, and ask myself all the hard questions, if I ever plan to figure this “life” thing out for myself.
That’s why choosing the hard path is often the most rewarding. Because that’s the whole point.
Life in Balance
If you’re like me and you came here looking for answers, I’m sorry, but I don’t have them. And, even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to answer them for you because you’re as complicated as I am.
Your life is going to be full of deeply personal questions that only you can answer.
They’re going to take some soul searching. They’re going to take some heartbreak, and you’re going to have to make some really, really hard decisions. You’re going to have to make compromises, and you’re going to have to make some pretty big transitions along the way.
When everybody else is zigging, you’re going to have to zag.
It’s taken years of deeply personal soul searching, and a lot of fuckups along the way, to even get to the point where I am now to contemplate the difference between my wants and my needs and how to cultivate a life that serves both.
All I know is this: I’m not built like everyone else. I’m an adventure-seeker. There is no easy answer, and maybe there never will be.