For a long time I’ve felt suffocated by routine. Getting up in the morning has become incrementally slower, while the thought of chewing more of yesterday’s cud is as unappetising as it sounds. Writing brings its own intellectual variance, but the weight of suburbia is heavy.
Marriage and having a child has brought a legacy articulated in gym fees, utility bills and salaries. Each month the equivalent of a telephone book in character count must be created and sold off to appease the wolves at the door. First prize is going over and above a basic monthly quota to afford luxuries, novelties and travel.
Don’t get me wrong: I live a good life. Writing is at once the most glorious but awful existence anyone could ever hope for. Being a writer means being forever locked in a desperate struggle for eloquence – to give birth to ideas and build arguments that are worthwhile. But once made tangible, ideas are never as nimble or as interesting as they appear in one’s head.
But being a writer can mean a quieter life, and one in which you can work when and how you want to. It is a life that offers significant freedom and the opportunity for intellectual exploration. The more one writes, the more (hopefully) one thinks and reads and tests one’s thinking. In this sense, for me writing has been about enormous intellectual growth, and the terrifying realisation that no matter how long I live and write, I will never have enough time to get as good as I’d like to be.
Part of what a writing life (and interviewing people like David Eagleman) has taught me, is that everything we experience is in our minds, that the material is ephemeral, and that experience is everything. Travelling reminds me that I am essentially a nomad and that some of my most treasured possessions are the intangible memories of experiencing the new.
After being forced to move out of my home and find a new place to live, I found myself questioning my relationship with my possessions. Why did I acquire what I own, and where did the meaning of my relationship with that possession exist – in the material or in myself?
The problem with possessions is that they are at once a blessing and a curse. Physical possessions can add comfort and stability to a life, but they require housing, looking after and insurance. Being in custody of material possessions means that embracing a more nomadic lifestyle requires lots of planning and preparation.
There’s also a question of value. Is it worthwhile or meaningful owning land in South Africa, a country where most people don’t have the means or opportunity to do this? Why own a television set if you could hire one at a cheaper rate? Why manage a mass of electrical equipment when someone else could curate the pain of doing this for you?
The more I started exploring my relationship with what I owned, the more the relationship I had with my possessions didn’t make sense. I have shelves filled with books collecting dust. Surely all one needs is an iPad and an understanding of how to get the perfect podcast or literature that suits your current mode? Shouldn’t books be something we read and share, rather than hoard?
It’s been weeks now since the decision was made. I will pack up a small box of items I can’t bear to part with. The rest will be given away or sold. I will take only that which will keep me nimble on the road. A laptop to write, a mobile phone, my iPad, a camera, some clothes and whatever else will fit into a boot.
Where am I going?
I have no idea. The first stop’s been worked out. I will stay for a couple of months with my beloved sister before moving on. From there Jon and I become writers on the road. We will become nomads who trade the stifling certainty of suburbia with a life lived ‘Openly Curious’.
We hope you will join us as we journey.