I wasn’t always nomadic. Not even close.
For the first 50 years of my life I slept in possibly 50 different beds. Typical. The beds only changed when I traveled – camping, vacations, visiting relatives, and when my mattress wore out.
When I ditched my old way of life some 84 months ago, every aspect of my life has changed in some way or another – including where I slept.
Gone was the daily grind, waiting for weekends and vacations, and planning for retirement. Life became an adventure, full of travel, and jumping into new experiences.
My wife and I minimized our possessions and simplified our lifestyle, allowing us the freedom to move at will.
Along the way there were new beds: hotels, motels, AirB&B’s, weekly and monthly rentals, in the jungle, on the beach, camper-van, a mock cave, and the old stand-by – the floor. And just as many types of beds: hard-as-rock, soft-as-pillows, sunken, creaking, springy, and a perfect pillow-top.
My old life was predictable and routine. My mattress exemplified that. I believed it was critical for a good sleep and to support my unstable back. My worry about my bed matched my lifestyle – I lived in a state of fear of what might happen if I strayed from my comfort zone.
Taking the leap of faith to sleep in over 100 beds has taught me much about myself and what I’m capable of. Here are eight insights from sleeping in over a 100 beds in 84 months.
1. Adaptability And Resilience
I discovered I would survive sleeping on a cruddy motel bed as the sounds of a freeway roared past in the night. Sure my sleep wasn’t great, but I was resilient. I would get up in the morning and get on with my day. The more beds I slept in, the more resilient I became, and the less concerned I was about the next bed.
2. The Certainty Of Uncertainty
Change is the one constant in life. But in my previous lifestyle, my life appeared repetitive; changes were small and managed over time. I was kidding myself. Traveling emphasized the reality that life is uncertain, even when living the daily grind. Coming to terms with the certainty of uncertainty – never truly knowing what the day will bring – was freeing, and encouraged me to seize the day.
3. Wisdom Through Experience
We only know what we know. I’m not referring to book knowledge, but rather to experiences. Wisdom is born through contrast and ‘trying on’ something new. Sleeping in over 100 beds gave me experiences such as: living off-grid on a remote island in Fiji, a beach-front cabana in Belize, beginning to speak Spanish in Central America, learning to surf and ocean SUP in Costa Rica, and going cross-country in a customized 1986 Dodge Camper Van. Ten years ago I never imagined I would be turning on the taps in a ‘suicide shower’ in Guatemala. You can’t get wisdom like that from a book.
4. Travel Begets Tolerance and Acceptance
This builds on wisdom through experience. In my prior life my travel to other countries (outside of the US and Canada) was limited to all-inclusive and upscale resorts. Traveling with a backpack mentality to countries with unfamiliar languages and cultures gave me the opportunity to develop tolerance and acceptance. My preconceived notions and fears of others in ‘developing countries’ were stripped away as I lived among them.
5. Patience and Presence
It was a useless exercise to fret about how long the security line at the airport was, whether an plane was on time, or when a ‘Collectivo’ might arrive – trying to influence what was outside of my control. Patience became the norm. Impatience bred stress, frustration, and resentment. Instead, I learned to relax, take it all in stride, and be in the moment. And most often everything worked out just fine in the end.
My status as a successful career man meant nothing when I traveled. I was treated like every one else. My wife and I also made a point of taking local transportation, eating local foods, and walking as much as possible – to experience some lifestyle aspects of the locals. My ego began to dissipate as we immersed ourselves in this simpler way of life. I was the stranger in a strange land.
7. Gratitude And Empathy
To witness people living on less than $10 a day is humbling. To see families living in shacks, sleeping on mats on the floor, only being able to afford junk food – changed my perspective and belief system. I began to question the system of the modern world. I looked upon the opportunity to sleep in my bed each night with gratitude, and with empathy to those struggling to survive. I would no longer look at modern life in the same way. It’s impossible to un-know what you have experienced.
I swung the arc from one extreme to the other – from the daily grind of the corporate world to the nomadic traveller. What I’ve discovered after 84 months and over 100 beds is it’s about finding balance, the right life-balance for me. Nomadic life had its time and purpose. I still want to travel, but not as often. Perhaps it’s a result of me edging closer to 60 orbits around the sun.
I wouldn’t change the past 84 months for anything. The 100 plus beds has completely changed by perspective and world-view. I am not the man I used to be because of these experiences.
Take a risk. Move out of your comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty ahead. Who knows what the next bed will bring?
I write to inspire men to greater self-awareness, to make better choices and create a better life.
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