The danger of outgrowing your lifestyle

I have mostly seen this within the context of backpacking, which in this modern age is known as “incredibly awesome minimalist traveling” or something, and institutionalized education. It is a surmountable problem which comes from the fact that most people treat these lifestyles, the traveling lifestyle and the student lifestyle as phases.

Anyone who repeats the experience for a decade will turn into the “old one” finding him or herself surrounded by “kids”. This may be a problem insofar that the interest of the “oldies” and the “kids” differ. For instance, someone older may not be as interested in relationship drama and partying which the majority of the group of early 20 somethings is engaged in. Conversely, most 30 somethings are interested in careers, whoever offers the best daycare, and what rate they can get on their mortgage.

I think of this as a trajectory on a diagram where age is an inevitable progression along one axis and interests are a distribution on the other axis. On this diagram there will be a line describing where most of the people focus their attention at a given point in their life.

For me, most people with my lifestyle are older than me and I don’t see this as too much of a problem. On the other hand, I would have concerns about going “back to school” and hanging out with the 20 year old crowd because I am not interested in “the college experience” anymore.

The danger comes about if you do not have an exit plan for your lifestyle. For instance, if you spent you 20s life traveling without getting the education that most people get at that age. Then you probably have to go back and get it in your thirties. The same “problem” will appear in your career. You will be working together with people younger than you at the given stage. This may make it hard to relate. For instance, if you are a professional in the early part in your career, there will be little tolerance amongst your peers if you have to take time off for other parts of your life, where the younger crowd are yet to tag on too many responsibilities yet.

The importance of being able to change track is something to keep in mind when engaging in “lifestyle design”. The best way to do so is to keep a foot in the other camp so to speak. For instance, I am maintaining some continuity in my “resume” because this is for some reason important to people. The way I see it is to be able to swing from liana to liana. Momentum is important. If you keep swinging on the same liana, you will eventually lose energy and it will be hard to get to the next one. You do not want to be left hanging on one liana or lifestyle for too long.

A proper lifestyle design thus needs to have some form of progression much like careers have it.

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Originally posted 2010-03-22 10:51:33.