One Month Gone By: Dave's Thoughts On Returning

We have been back a month today so I've decided to try and express how my attitude has changed after living in Korea for 12 months and having been on the road for another 5.

Although my nomadic existence is on hold, I’ve decided that I don’t want my new perspective to change; I’m going to try to stay in the same "explorer Dave" frame of mind. This doesn’t mean infrequent washing, and only wearing one pair of shorts. It’s all about mindset.

I want to continue experiencing life with the same wonder and excitement as I have been doing during the last 17 months. I refuse to be bogged down with buying and owning things rather than experiencing. I have lived out of a bag for 5 months, survived without a mobile phone, with limited internet access (I only really used it to update the blog), very limited TV, and only a handful of clothes. And it was great. I was unplugged from advertising and negative news networks, and started to think for myself. The lack of outside influence meant I was more free thinking and I didn’t suffer as much from the manipulation that a constant, sometimes unconscious bombardment of adverts, slogans, and jingles has on a person.

Yes I’m sounding like a bit of a hippie but I tell you one thing; I am a lot happier for it. My self esteem has improved and I have a very clear vision of what I want from my future. And for the first time, it isn’t about money. It’s not about owning things and buying the next big thing to give me a glimpsing moment of joy. Obsessive possessing is a survival instinct – one we no longer require but one that seems to take up an increasing amount of our lives. I refuse to get sucked back into the consumerist lifestyle – it doesn’t bring me sustained happiness.

I’m not going to update my phone until it breaks. I’m moving away from some past addictions that have held me back. Life should be about experiencing the now and enjoying the present rather than worrying about the future. I’m sure most people will agree with that last statement but how do you go about implementing it?

I think the major obstacle in most people’s lives is a need to rush and be busy. This mindset isn’t too common in Asia outside of Japan, Korea, Singapore, etc. I remember rushing around in my car getting pissed off at anyone that dared to slow ME down by a fraction of a second, or being annoyed at someone for taking longer than a minute with the bank teller. What was so important in my life that a second or a minute delay would irritate me?

I remember people asking me how I was doing and I would respond, “Busy.” I was complaining, but really that wasn’t all I was doing. I was gloating about how much I had going on. As if being busy is something to be proud of. I’m only justifying my own existence by spending my time on something as worthwhile as taking a two day dump. We fill our lives with meaningless tasks, and I don’t mean meaningless on a nihilistic, grand scheme of “everything is meaningless” level. I mean meaningless on a middle level. A level where if I didn’t do it, would it really affect anyone? For example, how many jobs are essential to running a stable society? We kid ourselves into thinking our work is important when really our job was only created so we would have something to do, to earn more, to buy more and keep the machine chugging along. I’m not just talking middle management either. Take recruiters, they arrange meetings with their clients (people looking for work) even if they don’t have a job to give just to keep themselves looking busy. How many of you, at work, basically spend half your day appearing to be busy? All I’m saying is that society has made itself needlessly complex in order to satisfy a need for employment. And to keep everyone working, you have to keep everyone wanting new things.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all bad. It has led to economic growth, longer lives, a higher standard of living, better healthcare, etc. But I feel like we have lost something along the way. We have lost the freedom to enjoy ourselves in the long term in a stress free environment. We have probably never had this as a species but shouldn’t we be striving for it instead of the latest iPad? Mechanisation of production lines and the industrial revolution was supposed to halve the working hours of everyone. But it didn’t, instead they sacked half the workforce.

How else can you go about enjoying the now and forgetting about the worries of the future? I think a lot of it is rejecting fear. Fear from strangers brought on by mass media and a few rogue minds. If someone says hello to you, you are more likely to think they are a rapist, begger, or mugger than a friendly person - what does that say about our culture!? Batman once said, “To conquer fear, you must become fear”. Now I don’t like to disagree with Batman, but I believe to conquer fear we have to realise that some of our preconceptions may be incorrect. I think that 99% of us are fundamentally kind (Damn the 1%!!!) but we sometimes lose track of this because of our own fear induced panic attacks where every hoody is a mugger and every stranger is a pervert.

Fear brought on by a negatively focussed media network epitomised by the Daily Mail but present in all the major news corporations. Fear brought on by worry about our lifestyle of debt and consumerism, and fear brought on by isolation from real human connection due to social conventions. How will I combat these things? Fear is easy, I’m not going to read the tabloids and I’ll become sceptical about every news article. Not worrying about debt when I took out £25,000 worth of student loans will be a tough one – not buying shit I don’t need is a start! Viewing student debt as a graduate tax is a good way of looking at it. If I don’t earn, I don’t pay… If I do earn, I'm paying for the great years I had at Manchester.

Reducing my isolation in life by not limiting myself to a few choice groups of friends, i.e. Jews in North London, middle class university educated smart-arses, etc. I believe that segregation in these groups within society breeds contempt for one another, as well as enforcing ignorant stereotypes.

I knew a year and a half ago when I stepped on the plane to leave for Korea that I would come back a different person. I'd like to think I'm a happier person and one who is more attuned to the world and its workings. I'm also aware that I'm being very idealistic at the moment. Maybe you can't change the world around you, but you can certainly react differently to it.

Okay I’ll draw a line under this and call it finished. Well done to anyone that read all of this – you deserve another ten minute break off work.