The happy nomad

Since I started writing on UnboundedLife, I’ve given a thought a lot to what freedom is and what it means in the context of human nature. One theme that I’ve come back to repeatedly is mobility; designing a life from a purposeful future, versus living out an extension of the past. It’s a lofty idea that is easy to talk about but as narrow as the razor’s edge to walk. Last month I was planning to write about how I walk it in terms of the life I’m choosing, but I found myself preoccupied with painful events of the recent past. I felt like until I had honestly moved beyond the sadness of re-experiencing this loss, it would be inauthentic to write about living into a self-chosen future. Kind of like an overweight personal trainer talking about losing weight.

The theme of this park is mobility
5 Flags: the truly unbounded life

In a post from last August, Metaphysical Gravity I defined mobility as “the freedom to purposefully choose to direct one’s self”. This idea isn’t necessarily about going somewhere as it is about being someone. When we are being the person we envision ourselves to be, we are in flow. We are unconstrained by the need to measure up, to come across, to hunker down. These are the limits given by our past; obsolete beliefs about what we can be, do and have.

I say obsolete because beliefs tend to have a shelf life. I can believe in something and even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it, I will continue to believe it, because I have allowed this belief to define me. Without it, I am faced with the terrifying prospect of becoming someone else. So we tend to resolve this cognitive dissonance by refusing to see what is, and instead see it only as it relates to what has been. The known almost always wins out over the unknown, and though we may put on new shoes, we walk down the old road, as the Chinese saying goes.

Mobility is about where we choose to direct ourselves. It begins with a state of mind and results in our experiencing the things that we enjoy the most. We enjoy them because we choose them, they are not chosen for us. Living a life of mobility is visioneering these experiences; strategically creating them as concepts, defining them, building behaviors around them and turning them into results.

So here are some obsolete beliefs I have identified through adopting a lifestyle inspired by a concept called 5 Flags:

  1. Work
  2. Patriotism
  3. Borders

Let’s start with work. Work is evil. Nothing good comes from work, only more work. What about the pyramids or the Great Wall? It’s no different than the slave labor that built our modern corporations, except now there is a dental plan. Maybe. For those who say work is noble or there is dignity in work, I say bollocks. Work is what we convince ourselves we must do because we see no other choice. We continually fail to notice how we choke off possibilities in order to maintain our belief that we must work hard to provide for our families or achieve our potential. We dismiss the truly enjoyable ways of accomplishing these ends as unrealistic, and martyr ourselves in the name of obligation. What we believe we must do blinds us to all the wonderful things we could do, and traps us in the monotony of making a living instead of making a life.

I have stricken the word “work” along with the word “try” from my vocabulary. The words we use create images, emotions and behaviors that subconsciously drive our results. So when I am creatively engaged or playing, I am not working, and I am happy. I am being of service. I am creating for a purpose greater than myself. Not all of this activity makes money, but that’s not my primary goal. Money is just one benefit of a vision achieved.

Next is patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel. Patriotism is big these days, as we justify our military involvement in various lands. You can’t really call these places countries, because in the words of Frank Zappa, you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. Afghanistan? Not a country. Iraq? Well, they do have a football team.

The Bush administration was notorious for using patriotism, indeed the Patriot Act, to curb Americans’ freedoms in the name of protecting our freedom. It was patriotic to support our troops who were fighting for the freedom that was attacked on 9-11. But let’s face it, if terrorists were attacking freedom, Holland would be a smoldering ruin. In Brunei there’s no income tax. Australians don’t have to register for the draft (there isn’t one). All Swiss men keep a fully automatic weapon at home and gun deaths are extremely rare. In Thailand prostitution isn’t prosecuted. There are no open container laws in the UK and politicians regularly heckle the Prime Minister during sessions of Parliment. How did it come to be that Americans see ourselves as having a monopoly on freedom, and supporting foreign aggression our patriotic duty?

In terms of economic freedom, the US isn’t at the top and is falling fast, according to the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal index. We’re just above Denmark at #8. The Kiwis, meanwhile, got game.

Patriotism is the flair on our politicians’ lapels. It’s the mullet-wearing, NASCAR watching, tea party protest sign misspelling, chest-beating idiocy that we wear as our national pride. Not to paint it with too broad a brush. In the Colbert Report’s Olympic coverage, Steven Colbert had team-USA posters in his studio that read across the bottom: “Defeat the World!”. That pretty much sums it up. I stopped caring about the Olympics when China began fielding girls for their gymnastic team who still had all their baby teeth, but mostly because the Olympics whip Americans into a patriotic frenzy that obscures the beauty of athletic performance itself.

Last is borders. The unbounded life doesn’t recognize them, which blurs the distinction between travel, living, business and pleasure. It’s a nice segue into 5 Flags, which is also about looking at countries more as if they are hotels, and choosing to spend time in a variety of places where we receive the best service. There’s no place for patriotism in this lifestyle, or work, for that matter. Just enjoying the best the world has to offer while creating value for ourselves and others.

What are the 5 Flags? There’s a nice definition from that goes like this:

Flag #1: Citizenship
You carry a passport from your native land. This is where you are typically taxed.

Flag #2: Domicile
Where you have official residence in a second country, regardless of how much time you live there.

Flag #3: Business Base
A separate place from your country of citizenship or domicile and where you earn your money.

Flag #4: Banking & Asset Havens
This is where your assets are held and managed by proxy and safely away from where your money is earned.

Flag #5: Playground
The place where you like to spend a lot of your time as a frequent tourist and unofficial resident.

I don’t carry multiple passports or stash my money in a Swiss bank, but I have also legally avoided paying US taxes for 15 years while maintaining citizenship and property there, despite an increasingly intrusive IRS. My wife and I have our favorite playgrounds, Winter residence and businesses in a third country. I’m not a millionaire (yet), but live like one without excessive debt. This lifestyle doesn’t require renouncing love of country or a regular paycheck, but encourages us to discard obsolete ideas to enjoy all the benefits of living a truly mobile and unbounded life.

Post Script
I am happy to learn that the business insider website thinks highly of my choice for domicile.