What are you looking for, Adam?

This isn’t one of the five most common questions we get, but it’s one that tends to make me think, so now, apparently, I’m writing about it. We’re obviously looking for something, right? Well, everyone’s looking for something, probably plenty of things, I guess. The man with the yacht is looking for a distraction from his caring, unexciting marriage, or looking for the feeling he gets when the breeze pushes him and his knees wobble with the bouncing of the waves, or maybe looking for a bigger yacht, or looking for a yacht-purchaser, his large white boat a careless whim requiring too much maintenance. You get it. If you’re not looking for anything, it’s probably hard to find much purpose. Maybe happiness is looking for what you already have and finding it, repeatedly, like a dog with his squeaky toy or a baby playing peekaboo.

I wonder what Pacino’s looking for…

But as to us, we’re not looking to get away from anything. I love the people I’m so often so far from. And yes society is fucked, but frankly it’s fucked in our favor, so I’m not running from a pile of injustices. Getting away itself isn’t going to make the world any better. So if we’re not looking to get away from something, we must be looking for something out here on the road. I don’t think I’m trying to “find myself”. I know who I am, more or less, and I even have a pretty strong set of beliefs about the world. Am I just looking for fun? I don’t think so. I like fun, quite a bit, but I think there are probably things that are more fun than hitchhiking and talking about society. I know I want to learn, so am I mostly curious, looking for knowledge? I really like learning, but what’s drawing me specifically to learn about the variety of people out here and these places? I’m not looking for a free ride, by the way, despite not using money. There are way easier ways to live than this.

I think I’m trying to figure out how to change the world.

What the hell does that mean? I’m not the smartest person in the world, and I’m never going to be the most powerful. I could study linguistics (as I did in graduate school), but it’s very unlikely I’d do anything super relevant. I could teach 8th grade social studies, and I imagine I’d be slightly better than the guy I’m replacing. I think that would be a good thing. But I think it might be possible I could be even more useful to society than that. I’m intelligent, I care, and I’m more able than most people to be OK with sleeping in parks and getting into cars with strangers. So what do you do with that combination? Well, there’s more. There’s your analysis of what better is and how to get there. If you’ve read anything on this blog, it’s pretty clear that for us better is a world where more people have more well-being, and we get there through personal and systemic changes that make for more love, more cooperation, and more access to needs and desires. We think the ideas of the political left – from progressivism to socialism to anarchism – are fundamental to this change. So is just being really really good to people, but that’s one that anyone else can help to bring about probably as well as we can, and we do try to do that. We think the ideas of the political left shape our society more if we’re taking action to put them in place. And so, we think being an activist is one of the best things a person can be. Every human is an activist to one degree or another, but some people spend a lot more time on it than others. And some activists spend that time a lot more usefully than others. I think being a Young Republican is a particularly poor use of activism time. So we’re looking to learn how to be the best activists we can, by combining our passion and activism experience with a bunch of unique perspectives gained by living a particularly intentional and different lifestyle that we’re maybe unusually suited for and definitely have the privileges to facilitate. I’m really glad there are people pouring over Marx, Kropotkin, and Piketty right now. I think their study is really important. I’m glad our friends in Athens are working to organize an active leftist movement there. I’m glad someone’s rewriting the curriculum to more accurately portray the incredibly terrible Christopher Columbus. And I’m looking to broaden my experience and knowledge in such a way that I can contribute something particularly significant to the building of the windy road to a more reasonable society.

That was quite the paragraph. I also put a lot of words in Jesse’s mouth. And what are you looking for, Jess?

I’m looking for more, too. I’m looking for variety. I crave the mental stimulation of newness. New things to process. New challenges to my ideas. New people to love. My neurotransmitters reward me when I build maps of new cities in my head and when I articulate ideas I didn’t have before. It’s so hard to do things our neurotransmitters aren’t into.

Oh, I’m also looking for hope. I want so badly to get to Uruguay and find it a society that’s actually moving toward something really better, without the moral noise of the United States in the time of income inequality and gay rights. (To be absolutely clear, income inequality = bad, gay rights = good.)

On the most superficial level, I’m looking to get better at Spanish and get a better body. For the latter, I don’t want to die of diseases, I want girls to like me, I want to run really fast, and I want girls to like me. We’re all just animals.

I want every human to have food to eat, much like my dad wants everyone to enjoy themselves when we’re at a football game. I guess I’m looking for the best tailgate organizer I can be.

– Adam
from Miami Beach, FL, USA

This was written in Fort Lauderdale where I spent the day playing in a pool, for what that’s worth.

This was written in Fort Lauderdale where I spent the day playing in a pool, for what that’s worth.


The Pull Is Stronger Than the Push

There are many reasons for each of us as independent humans to set out on this indefinite journey to indefinite places, living differently and learning about humanity. This entry fits in the densely filled space where our reasons overlap.

Taking off indefinitely is the kind of thing that prompts questions like, “What are you running away from?” But we’re not running away from ourselves or anything else; we’re running to other places and people, to things we’ve dreamed of and read about, to the things we would’ve rather been doing while toiling at Market Basket or FedEx.

There are some factors pushing us away from the lives we’ve led to this point. There’s a deeply held conviction that we should limit, as much as possible, our participation in actions and systems we feel are more destructive than constructive. There’s a commitment to not let our lives be dictated by momentum and convention when we’re more than capable of creating our own, hopefully more useful, paths. There’s a recognition of the difference between being comfortable and being happy. And there’s the pressure of time, the knowledge that we don’t live forever and that our life situations might not be as conducive to this in the future.

But what’s pulling us is so much stronger. We’ve both slept til 4 in the afternoon on probably too many days after reading Wikipedia articles about Comoros or debating the feasibility of an anarchist society until sunrise. We want, intensely, to experience things on a human level, first-hand. And we hope that we can be more productive facilitators of a better future by spreading our ideas, and our questions, beyond the relatively local and homogeneous gardens we’ve thus far been pollinating.

Unlike the oft-referenced Chris McCandless, we are not turning our backs on, or experimenting with dropping out of, society. We are investing ourselves in society by filling what seems to us a necessary yet largely underplayed role in it. It’s certainly true that many of our opinions diverge from the mainstream or from generally accepted ways of looking at things. But they are the products of years of earnest, fervent reflection on ourselves and the world we live in, and we think that sharing them with the people we encounter is a real contribution to our common endeavor of bettering the human condition. And while we have a responsibility to share the insights that our genes and our experiences have combined to create, we also have a responsibility to take what others have to offer, to incorporate it into our ways of seeing the world, and to share it widely.

In terms of our utility, we’d argue that we do more good via idea pollination than through a more conventional role as a cog in the material economy. Our society has more than enough stuff. What we can work to provide on this journey are the novel experiences and social connections that our isolated and routinized society so dearly lacks. These oft-belittled opportunities in everyday life are what the social sciences have consistently and convincingly shown to be the more important components of happy lives.

As idealists, we strive to live out not only our ideals, but also the questions hovering around them. Doing so requires repeatedly asking ourselves how necessary compromising those ideals may be. There is a constant struggle between idealism and reality, between the perfect and the good, between the good and the merely less bad, and between personal convictions and the status quo. We also can’t forget that the status quo represents, to various degrees, large parts of the human race with which we feel so intimately connected.

We are often told, if not by people we know then indeed by the droning rhythms of our societal machine, that we have our heads in the clouds, that dreams and ideals can only go so far, that we need to come down to Earth and acknowledge the need for jobs, for money, for routines. To this we ask, what makes those things so necessary? It seems those things are at least less necessary for us than for most, as we are, for whatever reasons, more comfortable than most with having less, with giving in to chaos, and with challenging so many of the arbitrary conventions our society disguises as obvious truths. The supposed guarantees of capitalism, routines, and isolation are not on par with gravity.

This exploration is both something we want to do and something we think is right. This may indeed be a rare convergence of those two things, desires and convictions, but for us these things have come together quite well, both as individuals and conjointly. Our friend Zach Peckham has a song that says something to the effect of, “I don’t believe that you can be anything you set your mind to, but I do think you are the only authority on your own life.” That sums it up pretty well for us too.

Ultimately, we know we have the capacity to have an impact on our world. Actually, it’s unavoidable. (All actions have consequences, inaction is action, and all that.) We all have a responsibility to one another. We feel that this responsibility exists to an even greater degree for people like us, given our relatively privileged roles and our personal tendencies toward intellectualism and activism. A world built on exploitation can only succeed at perpetuating an unjust, prejudicial, and damaging status quo for as long as we remain ignorant of others and the many ways in which we are so constantly and significantly tied to those people.

We may indeed find that our future selves will better serve the world in some different way. Until that moment arrives this will be a learning experience, and a shared experience, that hopefully leads us to an even better understanding of the world and how we can best live as part of it.

So yeah, we aim to contribute as wholly as possible to the happiness of humanity. This includes not forgetting that we are a part of humanity, and that our own happiness is as valuable as anyone else’s. This adventure, done in this way, seems to us at this time to be the best means of accomplishing that end. And it’s certainly refreshing to live lives in which, moment by moment, our means and our ends look an awful lot alike.