The following is adapted from a speech the author gave in Denali National Park, Alaska at a My Seasonal Life showcase—a project by LivingSeasonal.com
This is how it happens. At breakfast, a coworker sits down across from me in the employee dining hall, exhales heavily and says, “Do you want to climb Kilimanjaro with me?” I pause as I swallow my bite of Raisin Bran and—perhaps fueled by my healthy breakfast choice, or delusional from seven hours between work shifts—I respond, “I think so. Give me a week to see if I’m lying.” I resume conversation with my other breakfast buddy and the topic drifts to the possibility of sailing the Virgin Islands with a boat captain friend.
Later that day, I’m in my room with my current and former roommates divulging my new intentions. “I think I might go to Africa this fall,” I clear my throat to consider how ridiculous the next phrase will sound, “and climb Kilimanjaro. Is that weird?” Immediately, one friend responds, “I’m thinking about going to Africa this fall to do some rock climbing!” The other chimes in, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to France and probably touring a great deal of Europe.” So on and so forth as I share my half-baked travel plan over the next few days my friends in this nomadic community share theirs.
Sure enough, no one ever responds, “That’s weird.” No one says, That’s crazy,” because it isn’t. Certainly, no one ever chides, “That’s irresponsible,” although financially they’d be somewhat right. But, fuck it. Africa, ya know?
In this community this is normal, even expected, and definitely celebrated. It’s almost easy to lose sight of how adventurous our friends are, because everyone is out there pursuing something badass in the off-season—the time when we’re not working and life really begins. In actuality, there’s nothing really “off” about it.
A good friend once told me, “our friends are better than Travelocity.” He couldn’t be more right. Last year, my friends trekked the Himalayas in Nepal, celebrated Oktoberfest in Germany, explored Colombia, fished from a sea kayak in Hawaii, spent the winter in India, borrowed boats and sailed in the Virgin Islands, taught diving in Indonesia, and mushed the Iditarod and Yukon Quest. The list goes on. All of those adventures—all of that personal expansion and testing of oneself in the unknown—was enabled by embracing seasonal living. Our people place more emphasis on what you do with your time than how you make money.
As easy as it is to lose sight of how badass our friends are, all we have to do is look to our childhood friends back home for reassurance. They’re getting married and popping out fleets of children. They’re fretting over floral arrangements and the color of bridesmaid’s dresses. Alternatively, our friends living seasonally have the decency to elope, get those pesky vows out of the way, and then save the good part—the reception—for us so we can celebrate their marriage with good food and copious amounts of alcohol. We just value things differently in this lifestyle. Money buys our fun and adventure. It provides for us, too, but our needs span a much different scale than what we once valued, pre-seasonal adventures.
But here’s the downside. The good ones leave. They burn out, move on to new adventures, answer that call to settle down, or become fed up with steadfast corporate idiocy (a funny thing that rears its head even in this lifestyle). Worse yet, some forget how awesome we have it compared to the 9-5ers because the excitement dwindles as adventure becomes prosaic in our world. The reality is that almost everyone bows out eventually. The place, though home for so many of us, is still just a stop along the greater migrational path.
The decision to climb Kilimanjaro really was made that simply. All the subsequent research I did was essentially fodder to support that decision. When else would I plan such a thing for myself? Right now I’m in decent shape with a wide open fall season to decorate any way I choose. Why not select Africa?
The possibilities in this lifestyle are limited only by one’s imagination. The seasonal community is expansive yet tightly knit, so we make new friends but the good ones never leave us entirely. We’ll cross paths on another adventure and crash on each other’s couches down the line. Our friends really are better than Travelocity. Not only can they provide travel advice to everywhere, but they understand why we must continue searching for new horizons.