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It’s Not About Travel, It’s About Freedom

By NomadicMatt

I’m a very lazy person. I’m also a very indecisive person. That combination usually means that I end up doing everything last minute. And then I usually change those last-minute plans because I get a sudden, better, brighter idea in my head. As a result, I always end up paying a ton of money in airline cancellation fees as I switch my flights around. But I guess that’s the price I pay for getting to do what I want, when I want.

Like how, originally, I was going to visit these amazing monasteries in Romania before I went to Moldova. After which, I was going to fly to Ukraine, and after that I would…well, I didn’t know where I was going after that. I can’t plan that far ahead.

But, when I got sick two weeks ago in Sighisoara, Romania (birthplace of Dracula, but sadly, lacking cheesy Dracula tourist traps), I became indecisive and changed my travel plans. I loved Romania, and it far exceeded all my expectations. However, I spent a lot of time in little, quiet country towns, which, as beautiful as they were, got a bit boring seeing alone. And knowing I was going off to the monasteries and Moldova alone, I realized I wanted more “excitement” in my life. I wanted a livelier scene. So I changed my plans. I skipped Moldova (see ya next year!) and flew to Ukraine, then to Finland, where I am now. Tomorrow I’ll take the boat to Estonia for a few days.

After that, I’m returning to Boston. No, I’m not ending my trip — it’s just for two weeks. My parents’ house will be a great place to start my book, I have a free flight there due to an unused ticket, and I received a free trip to Mexico. All great reasons to take a short break from Europe, though I’ll return next month for Oktoberfest and to see Central Europe.

I’m all over the place, and I love it. It’s times like this that I really appreciate my lifestyle. But not because I get to travel. I like it because I have complete freedom.

I remember growing up and always desiring to be “the captain of my ship.” You know, working because you like what you do, not because you need a paycheck; being able to jet off to some place you want when you want; and having ultimate flexibility, time, and freedom for anything. But then you graduate college with debt, you start working, the responsibilities pile on, you start planning out life, there are societal expectations put on you, and before you know it, you’re stuck. You’re part of that vicious rat race, and it seems like time is never your own.

Then one day you just think to yourself, “How did things get this way? I want out of this box.”

And so I quit my job and went traveling. Though the leap was the hardest part, you realize everything else is easy, and it’s not traveling that draws you in, it’s the freedom and flexibility. It’s about waking up today and saying, “I’m going to Ukraine tomorrow.” Or you’re going to play golf. Or maybe take guitar lessons. Or start that bakery you always wanted to. Or move to Thailand to teach yoga.

I think this topic recently struck me because I’ve been thinking about the last five years of travel and reflecting a lot. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race. Doing what you’re “supposed” to do because that’s how you’re told life is supposed to be lived. You get a job, a wife, a house, kids, and then retire. But one day you wake up, and you’re 30, or 40, or 50, and you realize you never did a lot of the things you really wanted to do. Maybe that’s why so many people have a mid-life crisis. Maybe that’s why my dad decided he was going to take up motorcycles again. Or why he bought that car he always wanted. Or why my friend’s mom changed careers.

I think that feeling is what causes so many people to turn to travel. Yes, it’s great to see the world, but most travelers I talk to are really drawn to the sense of freedom and adventure — the endless possibilities. While you’re traveling, the days seem to hold limitless potential and opportunity. It’s also why I think long-term travelers have a hard time adjusting back into “the real world.” After you’ve been out of the box, it’s hard to go back in.

As much as I travel to explore new places and learn about people, I live my life because, everyday I wake up, I know I can open the door and do anything I want. For now, that’s travel. Exploring my world. Maybe a few years from now it’ll be different.

But no matter what I do or where I go, I’ll never really change how I live because I’m not giving up my freedom to do whatever it is that makes me happy anytime I want.