How to lead an interesting life

When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.
~Walt Disney

When people learn that I’ve been to Japan and spent a month living in a tent on top of a mountain in Colorado, I hear a lot of “Man, I wish I could do stuff like that!”

Why don’t you? There’s nothing stopping you. I mean, nothing. At all. Period.

I’m just about twenty-five and opportunity has knocked more times than I can count. I missed out on a trip to Spain in high school, trips to Africa and Turkey in college.

But once I became more or less independent of my parents, I picked up second jobs that landed me in Colorado and Japan. I busted my ass to get to those places, and it was worth every bit of it.

I needed to intern for my degree in wildlife biology. I’d been to Mission: Wolf before and knew they did internships. I mentioned it to my adviser and she thought it was a great idea. I had to do some work to get all the paperwork straightened out, got a second job to help pay for it, and then camped my way up to CO. A friend wanted me to visit her in Japan. I took a year of beginning Japanese, saved some money, got another second job, and spent eighteen days touring Kanto.

I didn’t let money stop me. I didn’t let fear stop me. I didn’t let my cat stop me (he got to hang out at “grandma’s” house).

I do admit that I’m letting fear stop me from joining the Peace Corps for two years. I’m letting my bills stop me, and my cats stop me. Two years is a long time for my mother to babysit my cats (and teach them bad habits). It’s an excuse. If I really, truly wanted to, I could find a way just like I did with the CO and Japan trips. Maybe one day I will. No doubt I will find the experience just as rewarding as I did those.

Too often we let fear and discomfort and “obstacles” get in the way of what could be, and usually is, an amazing experience. We clutter our lives with bills and obligations and believe these to be too important to miss out on. Focus on the experience instead. The fear becomes meaningless when you realize that after it’s all said and done, you will have had one hell of a time. Even the bad parts give you a story to tell (I never tire of telling my “Lost in Tokyo” story).

On the other hand, my parents took a trip up to Alaska when it wasn’t wise for them to do so. They didn’t enjoy it as much as they could have, I think. Debts and mortgages and decisions that were bad in hindsight plagued their trip. Sometimes it is wise to ignore the opportunity. I’m certainly not going anywhere very soon.

And an interesting life doesn’t mean you have to visit places. It can involve small, simple, cheap things. Take a continuing education class. Learn pottery, become a master gardener, learn another language, pick up a hobby, train for a marathon. I took bellydancing for a semester. Not terribly long ago I took apart a broken vacuum cleaner and tried to fix it.

Be real. Quit the TV and find other ways to occupy your time. It may not be as relaxing, but people will find you much more interesting if you spend your weekend canvassing for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign than sitting on your ass at home watching American Idol reruns.

Take risks. I just cut my hair off more or less for the hell of it. I may decide that I don’t like the way I look with it this short. I may catch hell from my relatives or complete strangers. But fuck it, I’m going to try it out and see. One technique I often use is to tell myself “Do something that scares you.” I can get nervous in stupid situations, but I make myself do it anyway. I won’t die. I’m not going to lose my job.

So go on, do something that scares you. Something that interests you. Something you care about. Something that might be a pain to organize, but in the end will turn out to be one of the best things you’ve ever done.


3 Responses to “How to lead an interesting life”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Interesting read. The first part, I think the biggest thing there is the “tying down” factors. In school, when I was really fucking broke, I didn’t have enough money to even consider such a thing. When I worked, there was vacation days to worry about (and yes, taking more of those than I had would lose me my job). Now it’s the money again. You seem to trivialize those a bit much here.

    None the less, I think I still manage to pull it off. It just takes different things. I mean I stilt walk for crying out loud. Not very many people do that. Nor do many people have the guts to actually dress like I pirate and parade around in public on Talk Like a Pirate day.

    The link between “interesting life” and “well traveled” is too strong in my opinion. As you stated later in the post, there’s tons of interesting stuff to do fairly locally.

    None the less, faking death and going backpacking is still tempting.

    • cwnmamau Says:

      I agree with your criticism on the well-traveled bit, although I do think ideally I’d like to construct my life in such a way that I can jet off for two weeks if I want to. Probably not more than once every couple of years, but traveling is a must for me. Which is why I will probably never be able to go completely car-free. I’m too much of a roamer.

      And getting fired for taking too many vacation days should be regarded as bullshit. I don’t think a company should have to offer more paid vacation days than they want to, but I believe that an employee should be free to take off as much time as they want (within reason, of course).

      • Dargon Says:

        Do not get me wrong, I, too, would love to travel, as there is quite a bit the world has to offer that I would love to experience. Ireland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Japan, The Phillipines, all places I’d love to visit before I die. However, they’re places I probably won’t be visiting for many more years, though with how I have things planned, it should not be a difficult task. I gots the wanderlust, and when I have the money, I will sate that wanderlust. My point is simply that society seems to entirely equate “interesting” with “well traveled” and “well traveled” with “international,” especially “intercontinental.”

        With regards to the vacation days, this is one of the problems with capitalism. In a small company, you’re too damned important to the company to be allowing you to take off willy-nilly, and in a large company, you’re too replaceable to risk taking off willy-nilly. While I agree with what you say (and know a few private businesses that do stick with that idea), it’s somewhat unrealistic to expect such a thing.

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