Nomad- Life on the Road
Anyone who knows me that well knows I spend a lot of time on the move. For many my life is out of the ordinary and perplexing. In this day and age, particularly in American culture we are raised with a certain notion of what a successful life entails. We all know this notion even if we don't subscribe to it ourselves. You grow up try to go to college, eventually get a job, have a family, eventually get a house, and then get ready for retirement. We all know there is so many variables to this equation and as the world gets more and more tolerant to different lifestyles slowly that equation is eroding and the boundaries of our lives, at least in theory, are expanding. If you are in your late 20's to mid 40's you were most likely raised in that model. I certainly was. And for a long time I subscribed to that model, even if I didn't think I was. After high school I went to college, and after five years I graduated. My next thought was to figure out how to make a living. That's where the equation began to erode for me.
Although I have always been artistic I didn't really explore that side of my personality until after college. I decided for no particular reason other than the fact that I didn't want to have a corporate job that I would try to make a living painting for awhile. I didn't have grand aspirations of becoming a famous artist and being able to sell my work for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Quite the opposite actually. One of the reasons I never took my artistic endeavors very serious growing up was because I always heard the monicker of "the starving artist." Even as I decided I would try to pursue a career in Art I figured I would use my business knowledge from school to try and build a business promoting artists online. I found out very quickly that even though I had a Marketing degree I was a terrible salesman! But luckily at the time people (mostly friends and family) seemed interested in buying my paintings and I started out selling most of my early paintings quite quickly. I wasn't selling for much but the fact that I was able to paint consistently and put work out there gave me confidence, and maybe I could carve out my own market and be able to succeed as an artist. What I didn't realize was that I was still subscribing to that old model, of trying to "make it" with my art.
The problem with how we see success here in America is that we constantly attach a dollar amount to how we live our lives. We determine success based on how much money we make, how many toys we buy, or how flashy we project ourselves. The problem with all of that is none of it is free. We work our asses off trying to get to a different level in life based on how much we can afford. We convince ourselves that if only we made enough money then we could truly do the things we want to do.
I figured that by pursuing Art I was breaking that mold. I was going to say "screw you" to that lifestyle and I was going to be "the starving artist." Through that path I would find my own inner peace and life would provide as long as I stayed true to myself. Well as nice as that sounded at the time it didn't quite work out that way. I found out my inner peace had a lot to do with my bank account (even if I didn't want to admit it) and my family more than just "life" helped provide when I couldn't provide for myself. Staying true to myself could only work when I understood who "myself" truly was.
It wasn't until I started hitting the road with my art, around 2012, that I began discovering what my real passion in life was. I remember my first "work" trip being a tattoo down in San Diego with my now long time friend Dan who at the time was stationed down there in the Navy. He asked me to do some touch up work on a previous tattoo so I made the trip with a few buddies and made a road trip out of it. I remember we set up my station in his bedroom, which wasn't all that big. I brought a small box with some black ink, my power supply, my machine, and some needles and that was it. Needless to say it was not my most professional hour. A fire was lit inside of me on that trip though. I honestly can't remember how much I made but I know it wasn't much, and it was nothing compared to what I spent to get down there, but it didn't matter. I had touched a friend's life in a significant way, by simply making the trip and offering my skills to provide a service. It was a memorable trip with my friends who went with me and it made me realize I didn't need to be in one place alone to do my art. Looking back now I realize that was the moment when I became a nomad. I figured out a key element to what drives me. It isn't money, fame, or materials, it's the adventure. My life had become my own adventure.
This past month I went up to Portland, where Dan now lives and I did more work on a sleeve we have been working on for years now. Dan is now one of my oldest friends and we have built a strong friendship over the years. He literally is a brother to me now. He is not the only one either. Due to my travels I have met incredible people that have all become friends. Not only that but I have connected with so much family that I never even had a relationship with before. To think that seven years ago was the first time I hit the road with my art and to look back on all that has transpired since, I literally could write a book, maybe one day I will. I have stories throughout the pacific northwest and southwestern states with people from all walks of life because of my art. The friendships and bonds I have formed because of my travels no amount of money in the world could ever pay for.
For me the key to making life meaningful never could be found in wealth. One thing I have learned while being on the road is that the human spirit doesn't respond to dollar figures. We all have to work to make a living. There really is no way to get around that, but we should not define ourselves based on how much income we make or how much stuff we have. That is a sad existence and it is apparent with the amount of depression and drug abuse taking place in America, and newsflash it isn't just poor people who are depressed. In fact, in my experience some of the most joyous people I have ever met have had very little to call their own materially, but man were they plenty rich in every other way.
One thing the road has brought me is a sense of purpose. Every year I make trips all over the U.S. not to make money, because I really don't make much, but because I feel connected to all the people I do work for. It is about so much more than the work. It is the sense of connection. Everywhere I go I have a place to stay. I never feel like a burden to anyone, in fact it is quite the opposite. The people I visit light up every time I come to town and we always have a blast catching up and sharing our stories. I know now that my way of life gives others a sense of adventure. My purpose has blossomed from my connections to the world around me.
I still have a lot to learn about myself and where my life is taking me, but I know the road will always be ready to teach. Every time I set out I know the adventure will be different from any of the others I have taken before. One thing about life on the road is that you don't have to do wild and crazy things to thrill your spirit because each new place brings a different flavor, a different rhythm, and what I have found, at least in my case, a different breath of air. That's what my spirit lives for and that's why I am a Nomad.