Hot! Why I’m Settling

They say life is about choices, and over the last several years I’ve given a lot of thought to one choice in particular: what do I want to do with my life?

You see, I’ve always felt like I’ve got two people trying to inhabit one life.  One person wants to be a world traveler, a war correspondent, a writer who goes on five, ten, twenty-year adventures in a style more befitting the 19th century than the 21st. The other person wants to live an exceptional life at home, to restore a historical home, to live sustainably in the countryside, to build a biplane in the barn and buzz the neighbor’s cows, to become a local fixture in some small town somewhere.

For years I have gone back and forth, trying to figure out which of these dopplegangers was the “real” me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re both me, and that while they can be combined into a kind of chimera-Kelsey, there are some aspects of each which are mutually exclusive of each other, necessitating at least a favouring of one over the other.

After much thought, as well as talking to many people who have done the things I dream of doing, who have become the people I’d like to be, I’ve come to something of a decision:

I’m going to settle.

This is not “settling” in the sense that has become de rigueur in pop psychology today, implying a defeated compromise. This is “settling” in the sense of making a conscious decision to have a home base, choosing the comfort and stability of home rather than the discomfort and instability which often come with the nomadic life I used to have. It’s choosing to build a life centered around my own world, rather than the world at large.

I'll still be this person, just more...settled.

This isn’t saying no to adventure; it’s choosing to see life as a whole as one big adventure. It isn’t saying yes to fear; this is the most scary thing in the world to me: embarking on a life that I never foresaw for myself. It isn’t choosing the easy path, either; living overseas would be cheaper and would allow me to run away from many of the most difficult parts of life that one must confront in a more settled life.

I have come to this conclusion after a truly massive amount of quiet (and not so quiet) contemplation, and there are many factors that have gone into the decision. For one, I’ve realized that I am constantly acquiring new interests and projects and living a life on the road closes far too many doors and would, I think, result in more regrets than I’m comfortable with. Also, while I am definitely an adrenaline junkie and have rarely felt more alive than I did while I was photographing a million+ person riot in South Korea, the logistical nightmare of being a freelance photojournalist would likely lead to a nervous breakdown in short order. Also, of the two lives, this is actually the easier to back out of, should I realize that I’ve made a grave mistake. It’s easy to sell your belongings and head overseas – I’ve done it before without much trouble; it’s much harder to come back and settle down once you’ve made that leap (been there, done that too).

In short, I feel that this decision will allow me to get the most out of my life – to live a less ordinary while retaining my inner peace. I want to get my pilot’s license, become an organizing figure in the world of historical reenacting, learn to play the banjo and the Mongolian morin khuur, raise chickens, and learn to build things.  Choosing to live a more settled life is choosing to say yes to those things, while not completely saying no to traveling the world with my camera in hand.  I think it’s the best of both worlds.

I will be writing more about this and what it means for my life and my immediate future soon, but for now, I would really love to hear your thoughts.


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  1. It’s very mature to recognize that these two yous make up the same person. Took me, well, a lot longer to figure out it was ok to like decorating but also to travel and not even have a home. I always think of the quote, “To everything there is a season”. Maybe it’s time to settle now, if it feels right, and there might be a time in the future when you need to take flight again. The biggest thing is not to yearn for the other aspect of your life when you are living one that isn’t compatible at the time. In other words, live in the moment, but nurture the dreams too.

    • While I’ve always felt like two people in one body, it took me awhile to realize where each of them originated from within in my psyche. Once I figured that out, it was easier for me to figure out which of them makes me happier at a given time.

      As you said, everything has a season. I think that’s part of why I’m choosing to go a more settled route – it’s easier to travel again after you’ve settled, than to settle again after you’ve been traveling.

  2. I think about this sometimes as well. I’m not ready yet, but I know I will be someday! (I really do dream about the day I own chickens and goats. Haha.) I think if you feel ready to settle down, then you should by all means go for it. It sounds like you’ve already had your fair share of adventures, and if you have the right spirit, you won’t stop having adventures just because you choose a home base. Good for you for talking about this decision that I’m sure many adrenaline/travel junkies struggle with.

  3. I completely relate because I have 2 selves, so to speak, and often say that I wish there could be two lives so I could do all the things that pull me in different directions. I have recently come to the conclusion that my life is probably best lived the way I’ve been doing it– working 8 months a year in a career that I love, traveling as much as I have time and money for, and learning to view the settling in its best light. It gives me the chance to establish relationships and pursue interests. I wish you the best and look forward to seeing where this takes you!

    • Yes – I do wish I had two selves, so that I could live two lives! I want to do everything, and the problem is that some things are mutually exclusive, so you have to decide!

      And yes, that’s my plan – work 8-9 months of the year, while taking 2-3 long trips in the remaining months.

  4. Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.

    I look back on my life after 49 years, and while part of me can say “I wish I’d done more, been more, been able to do the things my son does with ease,” I also find myself thinking, “… really? I did that? Cool!”

    The things we notice in retrospect are also things most people cannot even imagine at the start of their journey in this life.

    If you want exceptional things, you’ll be rightly surprised how everything turns out — beyond your wildest expectations. No matter what path you choose *today*.

    • I think we have a tendency to discredit ourselves in the present, and it is only later that we’re able to see the awesomeness of what we did. For instance, I used to be a tall ship sailor. How cool is that? However, at the time, it seemed rather ho-hum and an everyday thing, so I didn’t realize the significance until later.

      And yes, I believe that if you keep your goals high, you’ll assuredly be up there somewhere, even if it wasn’t where you expected!

  5. I like this post a lot and relate to the paradox–the two selves you mentioned. I’ve sometimes felt torn, too.

    You’ve obviously really thought this through,and what you’re saying makes so much sense. I lived overseas twice and both times, I found it easier to leave than to return. And while I loved certain aspects of those experiences, I like having a home base and simply traveling when I want. I’d consider a very long trip somewhere as long as I could keep my apartment. I don’t want to go through having to re-establish myself. Your quality of life really declines during those times (usually). Anyway, I like/respect your decision and think it’s wise and mature!

    • Yes, I have found that your quality of life drops off pretty precipitously every time you come home, and I really hate that feeling. If I were to live abroad again, it would be for at least 5 years (in one place), because the stress of leaving one place and then coming back again a year later really just made it feel not worth it.

      I love having a home base, and while it does on rare occasion make me feel a bit anchored, I think that ultimately that’s a good thing.

  6. Kelsey – this is a beautiful post. I *totally* relate. There are times when I tell Rand about things I’ll do “when I’m done with all this travel nonsense.”

    His reply is usually, “I don’t think you’ll ever be done with it.”

    I’m not entirely sure of my own path, but it’s inspiring to see someone who has come to a decision about their own life. Whatever you do, I know it will be full of adventure. :)

    • And see, that’s my thing – I don’t think I’ll ever be done with travel, but since I have so many other things that I want to do, I’m deciding to make travel a PART of my life, rather than my WHOLE life. I think, as you said, it’s about figuring out which path is best for you.

  7. ” For one, I’ve realized that I am constantly acquiring new interests and projects and living a life on the road closes far too many doors and would, I think, result in more regrets than I’m comfortable with.” I love this. It explains exactly why I have been feeling that the nomadic lifestyle may also not be right for me. I can’t imagine giving up all the projects we are working on and I think it would be too difficult and stressful to try to pursue them without a home base. I like the balance of having a home base and the freedom of traveling whenever we want. I look forward to reading about your future plans!

    • Yes. I think that many travelers (such as Candice Walsh) are starting to realize that it can be just as rewarding, if not moreso, to travel part time and have a home base as it is to be fully nomadic. Travel is a part of my life, but it isn’t everything, and to give up everything else to travel would, in my mind, be just as untrue to myself as to give up traveling to do other things. You can do both, contrary to what many bloggers seem to imply.