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Am I Doing It All Wrong?

Pondering the path.

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BANGOR, Maine- I’m leaving on a road trip to Western New York tomorrow morning. Today I got an oil change.

I went to one of those $22 ten minute places. I guided the car into the garage and over the pit. I stepped out and walked off to the side to wait.

I watched as the workers did their thing. They were all around 22. They laughed and joked as they buzzed around the car, opening the oil valve, checking the stick, putting a new change-in-3k-miles sticker on the inside of the windshield. One of them noticed a dude out at the stoplight in a bright orange convertible tweaking out. He called out to the rest of the crew. They looked out and shared in the laugh.

They were co-workers — unchoosen souls who unwittingly spend huge portions of their lives around each other.

I became a little jealous. I don’t have any co-workers.

I’ve been working on my own for over a decade. While I will sometimes jump on a project with others, that’s just a two to three time a year endeavor. Mostly my work is made up of me … and me alone.

Ultimately, I like things this way. I can make all the decisions, do things my way, chase any intrigue that I fancy. There is nobody to run things by, nobody to ask permission from. I just go out and do it.

However, the personal and professional value of working with other people is something that I know I’m missing. When I work on a big film project it’s generally with people who are better in some aspect of the production that I am. I can watch them and learn from them. And, I have to admit, the end product often comes out better than if I was working alone. There is also the fact that these projects are often … fun.

Going out into the middle of nowhere with a group of people overcoming obstacles and facing challenges for the attainment of a mutual goal is something integral to the psychological makeup of the human animal. It feels good to work in a pack.

It’s also nice to be with people who are in a common profession as me and who have common interests. There is really nobody in my day to day existence that I can talk shop with. This seems small, but in the long run this kind of superficial bonding really means something. It’s the glue that holds communities together.

I’m sort of isolated in my work — floating on this island that can proudly be anywhere in the world at anytime. I have no community. I don’t have co-workers.

It’s fine, but …

Maybe I seem ungrateful? However, every lifestyle is at the expense of all others. You make your choices, pick your fruits, and chew your pits. It’s not all good anywhere, and recognizing where the traveling life falls short is necessary for truly having

Many people travel, travel, travel, think they are living a dream, and then when they’re not happy they think there’s something wrong with them. Usually, there’s nothing wrong with them. The traveling life is highly imbalanced. Traveling is very natural — you could say that there’s a lingering nomadic programming left behind in our DNA — but living without a tribe trumps that with finality. It’s not normal.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Any traveler who walks down a path without constantly asking themselves if it’s leading to where they want to go probably isn’t going anywhere good to begin with. The Road is kaleidoscopic — it churns and changes and becomes very different than it was before.

And the fun of any journey is looking back and saying, “f’ck, how did I end up here?”


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Filed under: Maine, Perpetual Travel, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

11 comments… add one

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  • Rob May 19, 2019, 4:26 pm

    The guys in the shop.. all they need is an asshole boss or an asshole co-worker and suddenly the job is not so fun anymore. But that is life… I’m sure most any of them would be happy to trade places with you when you’re sitting in a bar in Faroffland having a cold beer listening to someone’s story. They might feel different when they realize they have to write something AND sell it because we all pay rent.

    The grass is not always greener, no matter how it looks from here.

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    • Wade Shepard May 20, 2019, 10:47 pm

      Right on!

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  • Trevor May 20, 2019, 11:56 am

    Co workers suck..

    id rather work alone.

    as a mailman, we must work in pairs..and if you are a newbie, the old hands stitch u up something chronic. they take the easy parts, you r lumbered with the harder parts. only since i am driving, and doing over time alone do i learn about how the deliveries r set up.

    and think…. wtf ..when i re call how much more of myshare i ended up doing.

    lazy workers are overlooked by bosses wanting a quiet life.

    i’d work alone, any day.

    as for wanting to share a thought, u have 3000 people a day hitting u up…. surely there r one or two who would be goood for an alternative opinion??

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    • Wade Shepard May 20, 2019, 10:50 pm

      Haha man, you are such a traveler!

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      • Trevor May 21, 2019, 10:56 am


        Moldova/Transnistria coming soon

        my friend who runs Emir guest house in Jeti Oguz i re posted my review of her place on my new blog and she messaged me to say she got guests who saw my post. thats so cool to hear. this is why i restarted my blog as i do hav smthing to share..

        and will do more reviews for free until i make a name for myself then ill want free nights !!

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        • Wade Shepard May 22, 2019, 12:29 pm

          Good plan!

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  • Lawrence Hamilton May 23, 2019, 5:06 pm

    I agree with others, don’t overthink a job. Work sucks. It does depend on how much you are making. You can definately get stuck into golden handcuffs…like I don’t want to work on my actual birthday but 500 bucks is a lot to turn down…and thus your life gets slowly sucked away. But I just have the backbone to take time off and put that money for a trip or gear or whatever…but maybe that is just me…..

    But yea, don’t stress on it…grass is always greener

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    • Wade Shepard May 25, 2019, 7:42 pm

      Happy birthday! Right on about that. But there is a lot that we take for granted about the good side of work dynamics. I very nearly went back to doing archaeology a few weeks ago … and I would have done this just for fun.

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  • Trav May 29, 2019, 2:59 pm

    I think those dudes at the oil change place probably think they’re doing it wrong way more than you do!

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  • Jack July 29, 2019, 12:19 pm

    So much truth there when you say this:

    “Any traveler who walks down a path without constantly asking themselves if it’s leading to where they want to go probably isn’t going anywhere good to begin with.”

    I think it applies to everyone and in all situations. I always ask myself: Am I doing it right? Am I really right? If you aren’t willing to question yourself then you can’t push yourself ahead.

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    • Wade Shepard July 29, 2019, 3:09 pm

      Very true!

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