It’s easier to be weird than it used to be.
When I was at school, if I’d admitted that I spent the weekend hacking my favourite computer game so Watford was the best football team in the UK, I would have been even more of an outcast than I actually was. When I first met people at university, I reflexively pretended to be into clubbing and dance music rather than going to gigs to watch weird bands that no “normal” person had heard of.
Is there any less pressure to conform now than there was back then? Probably not. But something that was the ultimate weird and dangerous thing when I met my first girlfriend in an IRC chatroom – meeting someone “off the internet” – is now a totally everyday thing. And that means that finding people who share and appreciate your weirdness is easier than ever before.
That’s great for finding people for heady weekends of translating Shakespeare into Esperanto, but what about dealing with the more everyday forces that try to shame you into smoothing off your rough edges and living your life in a certain way?
Those are the forces that make you go to watch football just because that’s what everyone else in your peer group does at the weekend, or wear shoes you don’t particularly like just because they’re in fashion. I even read about one guy aged 55 who hated his job and could have afforded to retire ten years ago, but was too afraid of what his friends and colleagues would think if he quit.
So weird we’re not worth arguing with
Completely by accident, we found one single thing that we could do to remove almost all social pressure.
As it turns out, moving away from the idea of “living in one place” is the ultimate weird thing to do, and it’s inoculated us against all other attempts at outside influence.
I think it works for three reasons.
Firstly, we don’t have one predominant set of norms being imposed on us. We still have our friends and family back home, but we’re also influenced by our new friends all over the world, and the locals in all the places we visit.
Secondly, living “anywhere” makes us hard to get a handle on, and turns us into something of a lost cause. No one is going to attempt to pressure us into dressing a certain way, for example, because it pales into insignificance next to the ultimate weirdness of not having a home.
And finally, the new people we meet are unusually accepting and open-minded. They’ve broken away from the mainstream too, so they’re happy for you to exhibit your weirdness in any way you want.
The key ingredient here isn’t just “travel”: plenty of people do a round-the-world trip and come back fundamentally unchanged.
Nor is it running a business: although most digital nomads do, that’s just because it’s hard to have a job when you’re always on the move. Plenty of people with small businesses have broken away from traditional employment, but are still terrified of standing out in any other way.
No – the key seems to be the notion of not having a home, and moving around sampling different ways of life (whether that’s for days or years at a time) without any plans to “settle down”.
What’s the point of this post?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure – so pick your favourite takeaway from:
- Living this lifestyle has yet another benefit that we haven’t explicitly talked about much before
- Sometimes, it’s easier to change the game than to argue with each rule one-by-one
- “Digital nomads are awesome”, redux
- The mainstream is by definition “OK” because it’s the averaging of what’s right for most people. But being able to do things fully your own way is totally worth it
Anyway, enough of the shallow attempts at philosophy: next week, “The ten best dogs we’ve seen on our travels” and “How we use IFTTT to ensure our fonts always match the weather”.