I have a confession to make. (Deep breath.) Okay, here goes; I, John Michael Hamilton, am a compulsive list-maker. There, I said it. Whew!
Not only do I make at least two or three lists every day but I sometimes find myself making lists of lists.
But hey, if you’re going to be addicted to something, list making is a pretty harmless addiction, right?
Lists help to keep me organized, focussed and accountable. And on the list of life’s quirky little pleasures – yes, I’ve made that list – crossing things off a daily or monthly “to do list” ranks right up there with popping bubblewrap and watching pressure washing videos.
Most of the lists I’m making these days are related to my next big adventure. While I’ve known for a while that I’m destined to return to a vagabond lifestyle, I recently made a list of the pros and cons of doing another round-the-world trip.
- I simply loved my first RTW trip. Many people who embark on something similar eventually get bored, lonely, homesick or all of the above. Not me. I don’t know what it says about me but I didn’t feel any great desire to settle down and I didn’t miss much of my old life even though I enjoyed that life at the time.
- I have few if any ties. I’m single with no kids or pets and my parents have passed away. My only responsibility is to myself. I like Toronto and it will always be “home” but I see no reason to be tethered to it.
- I can afford it. No, I didn’t win the lottery as several readers have questioned. In reality it doesn’t cost a lot more travel in Second World countries than it does to live and only work “part time” in an expensive city like Toronto. Of course it helps that I have very low fixed expenses once I’m on the road. I don’t have a house (mortgage, property taxes, maintenance, insurance, renovations) or a vehicle (financing, maintenance, insurance, parking), etc. I don’t have credit card debt, a line of credit, alimony payments, or kids to put through college. While I could probably afford a few more toys, I don’t have a cottage, pool, trailer, RV, ATV, boat, jet ski, motorcycle or snowmobile. I don’t golf, ski or belong to any exclusive clubs. Being a Canadian I don’t have US-style health insurance premiums and I’m not on any expensive meds. I don’t smoke or have a drug habit (excluding Starbucks) and I’m perfectly happy drinking beer or cardboardeaux (wine in a box). I don’t have expensive tastes in clothes or shoes and when I set off I will give up my cell phone plan, home internet, Netflix, iTunes, etc. And finally, backpacker hostels are much cheaper than rent in Toronto and way more fun!
- I aspire to be a minimalist. It’s not hard to resist the urge to buy “things” when everything you own has to fit in a carryon size backpack.
- I enjoy meeting fellow travellers. It’s easy to meet people in backpacker hostels as everyone is in the same boat. Although I’m perfectly happy eating solo or wandering a city on my own, there are generally lots of people hanging around hostels who are perfectly happy to join you for a meal or a pint, share a taxi or tuk tuk, or figure out how to get from A to B in a strange city. And the tired old stories I’ve told 100 times? Well, they’re new to them!
- I thrive on change. Many people resist change and default to the same old same old whenever possible. Not me. On my last adventure I enjoyed not knowing where I was going to sleep until mid-afternoon and it didn’t matter if it changed almost daily. Reservations are for worrywarts, he said. Trying new food, navigating unfamiliar transit systems, dealing with foreign currencies and languages, and not knowing what’s around each corner was rarely stressful. What’s the worst that could happen?
- Backpacker style travel keeps you young. Okay, youngish. Not ancient, perhaps? Most of the people I met in backpacker circles were in their 20s or 30s and most of the people of my generation that I spent time with on backpacker buses and overland trucks were well travelled, interesting and simply fun to be around. (That’s you Rodney, Robbie, Karen, Yoram, Stephanie, and many others.)
- There’s no time like the present. I’m still of an age that camping, riding overland trucks, and sleeping on trains, buses, and in dorms isn’t exactly torture. Sure, the Hilton is nice but I’m willing to sleep on a 1/2-inch foam pad in a tent in a Mongolian snowstorm if the tradeoff is memories that I’ll cherish for years. Ask me about that when I’m 70 or 80. And you know where you’ll find me? Probably on an escorted coach trip to The Grand Ole Opry or to see the fall colours in Vermont. Yes, that day will likely come. But I ain’t there yet!
- I’m going to be evicted anyway! I’ve known since I returned to Toronto that my rental loft building is slated for redevelopment and I could be given a few months’ notice at any time. If I’m still here when the eviction does occur I will be entitled to compensation that includes a moving allowance and subsidized rent for 10 years in the building that will eventually go up on this site. From a strictly financial standpoint it would make sense to stick around and take that package. But who knows when that will be? Do I really want to grow old waiting for an eviction notice and risk putting off further adventure until I’m too old to do it? Or worse?
- Disconnecting can be good. I won’t miss tweet storms from @realDonaldTrump and even if I tune out for the entire US election cycle I don’t think I will have missed much (not being a US voter).
- I’ll have something to blog about. And the time to do it! Nobody wants to read about my routine in Toronto but there were a few people who read about my last set of adventures in Rajasthan or riding the Trans Mongolian or crossing the Caspian Sea on a freighter. And even if nobody reads this stuff there’s still the motivation to do something new or interesting on another 100 Saturdays.
PS: I couldn’t come up with any cons.