Why can’t we all choose to be nomads?
Because we might not like it.
In my bubble, everybody travels as much as they can as digital nomads, full-time travellers, on sabbatical leave, or just splurging on fancy vacations.
From time to time, to be more specific, more and more often, this bubble bursts from all the questions I get about how to travel more, how to work while travelling and a lot of other “how’s” from all the other people out there that are not in my bubble.
They can’t seem to find the recipe on how to do it.
Maybe they aren’t asking the right questions and that makes them unable to choose and make decisions?
It’s a matter of choice.
And that opens a real Pandora box of thoughts better to be avoided because if you start playing with them, you end up analysing way too much and it will paralyse all of your actions.
We are facing The Paradox of Choice (the link sends you to a TED Talk, you can find your own way to get the book :) )— something that grew exponentially since the book with the same title was written in 2004.
I am reading that book only now, although I got the ideas from it in many other articles out there and I’ve decided to apply it as an exercise on the matter of travelling.
A matter that became trending because it’s so well sustained by globalisation and perpetuated by social media and because we desperately try to correlate it with happiness.
“No people can be truly happy if they do not feel that they are choosing the course of their own life,” states the World Happiness Report 2012. The report also found that having this freedom of choice is one of the six factors that explain why some people are happier than others.
In order to maximise our welfare, we need freedom which translates to options to choose from, and that freedom of choice will make us happy.
Or will it?
When faced with what we say we really want — the freedom of choice, of travelling in order to be happier, we’ll be washed ashore by a sea of questions like:
Work hard and play hard?
Office from 9 to 5 or work remotely when I’m more productive?
Being always connected in order to not miss out or disconnect to be more present in what I’m already engaged in?
Will I be productive and enjoy all the travelling?
Will I make friends that can understand me better than the friends I leave behind?
How’s the food, the internet, safety, do I pack light and what do I really need to bring with me?
And most of all, how long will I be able to afford it and what will I do when I come back?
Will I come back or am I on a mission to find another place where I wanna settle in?
And the list goes on and on and what’s more frustrating is that our wants keep changing.
We’re like a cat that sees a toy but on its way to get it, there’s food or another sound that will grab its attention. We want to think about ourselves as more evolved — but after finishing a scrolling session on Instagram, we want to eat that smoothie bowl, be on that white sand beach and party like animals with tons of friends on that yacht, while getting the monthly paycheck and procrastinate in front of the screen.
Well, we want everything and we can have all of it, but there are questions to ask, answers to give and decision to make.
With choice comes decision. Or indecision!
I bet your brain started to freeze from the very first question you wanted to erase off the list because it involves options. As the number of appealing options increases, the effort of making a decision also increases.
Plus, if we end up with a bad option, the mistake will hurt more, only because we know we had the opportunity to make choices and we blew it.
And what are we humans known for? Complacency.
If the word is too hurtful, I have other synonyms: procrastinators, binge-watchers, scrolling-professionals. Cause that’s what we tend to do in order to avoid difficult decisions, we get distracted. And social media makes it easier, so does Netflix. They offer small incentives, that make our brains even more tired and we’ll be fine with not having time or power to think about what choice will make us happier.
We make the easy choice of being entertained for the time being. We will still want to quit our job, but we will keep pushing that option for later when we will be more prepared for it.
That has to do a lot with what we are able to trade-off. Options involve alternatives which have to be measured and we will feel less good with a choice when it also implies a trade-off.
And there’s the endowment effect — which translates into the fact that losing what you already have hurts more than gaining something small or uncertain. The job is something you already have, you worked for it and it’s yours. The idea of travelling is well-dressed in uncertainty, although it can look like more fun, you don’t know if it will be enough to trade stability for it.
Losses have greater impact than gains.
The way we value things depends on what we compare them to.
You should know by now that it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others, or that life on Instagram has too many filters to be something achievable. But there’s also your imagination, that will keep producing alternatives to whatever choice you will make. These alternatives are mostly inspired by what you see others doing and it will lower your joy because you will feel as losing that alternative by choosing another.
Everything will feel like a risk you’re taking. And you guessed, we humans are also risk-averse.
RISK AVERSION can be lowered by asking questions differently
Each of us has the power to create reasons, why not focus more on creating the ones that make us feel better about our choices, not worse.
How much do you lose by leaving the safety net can be changed into how much you gain by enjoying the change?
You won't have all the things and clothes you would want to? Or will you finally only have what fits and you really need?
Use your imagination for making more excuses for your failures instead of producing alternatives that steal from your joy!
Choice = Happiness ONLY when the expectations are lowered
You will never be pleasantly surprised because you had other expectations.
How apocalyptical does this sound? It’s the truth. Although you’ve been dreaming of quitting your job in order to travel, if by travelling you can’t imagine traffic, other people queuing and sometimes bad internet… you’re expectations are just unrealistic and you won’t be ok with your choice, although it is the biggest you made until now.
If you keep postponing choice, are a maximiser, have a high-risk aversion and keep comparing your life to an idilic one, maybe you don’t really want to travel as much as you’d think.
When do you choose something different and big as entering the bubble of travellers?
If your daily actions and choices make you unhappy just by doing them, without comparing them to any other activity, make a deliberate choice to change direction.
No matter how bleak or desperate a situation may appear to look, you always have the choice of change.
Let’s not look at choices as something that raises our stress levels, but as just another random thing to try out!
If what you read was some kinda food for thought, why don’t you share it with your friends who you usually talk about this kinda stuff? It might help them too, and it sure helps me make the choice to write more often :)