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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Off the Straight and Narrow Path

Since I quit my job nearly one year ago, I began to really stray off the straight and narrow path.

My journey really began though with my big move 6 years ago when I cut the cord from my hometown of Toronto, thus freeing my conscience from the numbing expectations of my society. The new and wild geography of Calgary and the majestic Rocky Mountains presented an unexplored map of unlimited paths before me in the universe of my imagination. Calgary allowed me to explore these different life paths, be humbled by nature, and discover what I truly value.
Just a happy traveller - Croatia, 2012
But I didn't stop there. Drunk on the adrenaline pumping excitement of travelling, I sought new and wild geographies in India and Europe. Since then I have witnessed exotic cultures, wandered breathtaking landscapes and met inspiring people. Each individual experience left an impression on my soul, and every day spent out of my comfort zone slowly sculpted my mind like putty, molding it, carving extra details here, and niches there, producing a more concrete but genuine and recognizable form of who I am.

At some point, slowly, my worldly preoccupations began shifting from wistful wanderlusting to earthbound concerns. One aspect of society I continually ponder is its dependence on the traditional economy, which is a major driver for excess consumerism leading to global issues such as social inequality and environmental degradation.

Thoughts turned to action. My path took me to the experimental realms of hitchhiking and dumpster diving. I already knew a lot of hitchhikers, so hitchhiking wasn't so hard to try out. But dumpster diving was an activity that was really out there, highly taboo, and something I feared would trigger the alienation of my peers.

Around this time I also began to realize how quickly my life path was diverging from the majority of people I knew, mostly friends and family back in Toronto. I pledged that no matter how far I wandered on my path, I wouldn't stray too far from society, or alienate myself to its bitter fringes, like monks living in caves. But at the same time as I feared this direction, I couldn't step off of it - my heart involuntarily spurred me forward, my legs ran with the mental brakes off.

I have now transformed my initial fears, about hitchhiking and dumpster diving, into full embrace. As have I become comfortable in my hobo's skin. Well, I prefer to call myself a modern day nomad.

When I look back, I developed my spontaneity and craziness through the steady accumulation of my experiences... in other words, I didn't go crazy overnight. But I feel with strong conviction that most of what I am doing and how I am living is right, not only in my heart but also morally and environmentally.

With my return to Toronto, the new question frequently on my mind is that if I am right, then is everybody else wrong? If most people are doing one thing, and I am doing something else, doesn't that make me wrong?

Gathering all of the wisdom I have accumulated on my travels, I am discovering that the ultimate answer to any question about individual human nature is that everybody is right in their own way and nobody is completely wrong. And within the context of society, broadly the globe, there is not one correct lifestyle or solution, but it is about balance. In other words, the answer is not black and white, but somewhere on the sliding scale of the mind-boggling spectrum of human behaviour.
Back to basics - life in rural India 
Consumerism is not wrong, but it is out of balance, and society needs to scale back. Not everyone can live on a farm or dumpster dive, but more people can start growing their own food or wasting less of it. Not everyone can hitchhike, but some can drive less or offer rideshares - or pick up more hitchhikers!

I see myself as an extreme representation of an alternate lifestyle. But I do not think I am wholly right. Thus I'll try not to preach it brashly from a pedestal. Nor do I wish to be feared or repulsed by my peers. Instead, I seek to engage, educate and inspire about different ways of life to those who are curious and are willing to listen. In the big picture, my goal is to connect with society, not rebel from it.

This is my challenge going forward. This is the real me, stripped down, heart out, like the classic cartoon Care Bears. So let's put down the boxing gloves, exchange ideas, not insults, and trade hugs, not punches.

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