I’ve read a lot recently about different people making inspirational life changes, whether that’s leaving a top job in New York to scoop ice cream in the Caribbean, becoming a wilderness therapist or cycling round the world with a dog.
And I’ve heard of friends taking their lives in different directions (geographically and metaphorically), perhaps learning to kite surf in Sri Lanka, moving to Cornwall and retraining in carpentry or spending a few months on a xen retreat to figure a few things out.
My own move is perhaps not very physically intrepid but definitely involved a lifestyle change, going from buzzy London to a sleepy Provençal village. Why did I make such a drastic move?
I knew for a long time before I left London that I was denying myself some basic needs for happiness. Working in an office was stifling me, being in London felt exhausting. Not to say I didn’t get a kick out of city life but after eight years I knew instinctively it wasn’t the experience I was looking for any more. It certainly didn’t bring me many opportunities to swim in lakes, hike in the mountains or indulge in paddle yoga, for instance.
So are these just anecdotes of a few people looking for a change of scene or is there something more going on? My hunch is the latter. Increasingly it seems people in their mid 20s to late 30s have the means, the confidence and the desire to make big changes in their lives, prioritising experiences over material possession.
Perhaps they were advised at school to go down a certain route and were too young to know what they really wanted. Perhaps they realised that having a family wasn’t a priority for them. Perhaps they just wanted to take in as much of the world as possible in one lifetime. Whatever the reason, I don’t think our parents had the same freedom and inclination to explore a non-conformist lifestyle.
Of course, I’m not naive enough to think everyone today can just waltz into a new existence whenever they feel like it, or even that everyone wants to, but it does seem there are more opportunities to change your life and take in new experiences than ever before. Part of this relates to technology. It is so easy now to connect with friends, families and colleagues wherever you are.
In the marketing world they’ve also recognised this movement and given a name to those who prioritise unique, money can’t buy experiences. According to this Economist article,
“The Experientials tribe… enjoys experiencing different cultures and travels frequently to see friends and family.”
While it sounds like hedonistic pleasure-seeking, it isn’t. We’re not talking about simply running from one crazy experience to the next. My theory is that people who want to see something of the world or move somewhere remote give themselves the space and time to look inwards as well as outwards. Often when you’re removed from the humdrum of daily life you gain a little more perspective on what you truly value.
But regardless of whether this is a trend or an age-old desire for freedom, it can only be a good thing to be able to take the time to make an escape, look at your life and respond to what might need to change. This perhaps requires a move from a path already set (whether by yourself or others), but that’s ok.
So I’d like to add a new section to this blog looking at some ‘Lives Less Ordinary’, where I profile people who have done something inspiring and made a drastic change to their life journey. That could be rescuing injured lamas, training to be a samurai warrior or learning to knit on the Outer Hebrides (doesn’t have to be that extreme, but you get the picture). If you know anyone who should be featured here, please feel free to make suggestions. And watch this space for the first interviews.