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#24: Am I making the same mistake again?

I always wanted it: my own four walls on a large plot of land far out in the country with plenty of distance to the nearest neighbor, a sauna in the basement and a burn barrel for balmy summer evenings next to the vegetable garden.

As a child, we had an apartment in the city and a house in the country. City life was horrible. It was noisy and dirty, and I was bullied at school. Driving to the country on Friday afternoons was pure freedom for me.

After graduation, it was friends ten years older and more experienced in life who had just built a beautiful house in the Taunus and thereby awakened my longing: That’s exactly what I want.

I’ve fulfilled this dream, and some days it feels like a nightmare: the mortgage calculated such that I can just about pay it off by the time I retire. That’s what you do, right? See what’s in the bank, add what the bank is willing to give you, and build for the sum. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s made this mistake.

The house and garden are way too big. I can take good care of them, always wanted to. But then no time remains for my projects, my travels. On the road I get a guilty conscience because I neglect the garden. If I stay at home instead, I also have a guilty conscience as soon as I take time to relax. Paying someone to take care of it is not something I want to do either.

So I made my decision: I’m selling the house. The dream, it was not my own! It’s what society tells you to do. Get married, build a house, have children. Well, perhaps it’s telling that I did only one of those.

Friends often tell me a tiny house would be right for me. Yes and no: I’d have less responsibilities and obligations, but I would still be bound to one place.

The more I think about freedom, the more I realize that I’ve always wanted to be on the move. Long summer vacations on a sailboat, every evening in a different bay. Moving thirteen times before ending up in the so-called dream house. I want to see new things, waking up not daily but every now and then to a new view.

Living in an expedition truck seems to me the right way to do that. In the ABC of Freedom, I wrote about the pilot who lives in an RV with his family. That’s my plan! We humans have always been nomads, sedentary life is new and perhaps even unnatural.

Michael Nast writes about detached house neighborhoods: “I find them to be a perfect metaphor for the understanding of affluence that we cultivate in our social reality. People save up from one purchase to the next. Everyone creates their own little world, their own property is just a copy of the other properties.”

Is it an different with an expedition truck (or any form of vanlife for that matter)? Minimalism in honor, affluence again shows itself in the choice of the vehicle: old creepy white van or modern truck, how big is my budget? Individual builds are en vogue, but in the end each cabin is again just a copy of the other cabins. The bed is in the rear – across if you can afford a truck or are short enough – in front of it the seating area and kitchen, larger motorhomes have a bathroom.

Creativity is expressed in the color of the upholstery, but most walls feature a world map and macramé. And the inspiration, it comes from Instagram, YouTube and magazines like campervan and RV Life.

So am I making the same mistake again? Have I let myself be influenced into a great idea that I now believe is my own? Am I living someone else’s dream again? Possibly!

You might be facing similar questions that culminate in a single one: Will I ever know? There’s only one way to answer that question: by doing it!

If I hadn’t built a house, I probably would have had doubts for the rest of my life whether I should have. I don’t want to doubt, I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out. Life is finite and in the end most people only regret the things they didn’t do.

It’s not about a house or an expedition truck. What counts is what I do with them: what I see, experience, where I travel. A house holds me back, but the truck fuels my possibilities.

Maybe someday we’ll feel what Gabriel García Márquez meant: “Until reality taught them that the future was not what they dreamed it to be, and so they discovered nostalgia.” We’re not there yet.* Don’t need to get there, either. And until we do, we create the best life we can imagine for ourselves.

* hat tip to Andreas Altmann for the quote


Yours, Ulrich

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