By Daniella Sachs
I remember the first time I returned home from living abroad. I remember how disconnected I felt from everyone and everything that had remained exactly the same, while I had grown and changed so much. It felt like I no longer fitted into the puzzle that was life. It felt like I no longer belonged in the place I had called home. I felt like an outsider looking in.
Over the years, I have come and gone repeatedly, so much so that when people see me, they often ask where I am off to next. Many raise their eyebrows at me; many (mostly extended family) ask when I intend to grow up and settle down like a ‘normal person’. They remind me, of course, that the clock is ticking, as if turning older each year was something to fear.
My mother will tell you that I was born with itchy feet and an inability to sit still, or to settle for what is. For as long as I can remember, I have felt a deep restlessness within me, as if I was born with an invisible thread continuously pulling me forwards into the unknown.
Some of us are born with a defined path in life, and some of us are born to design, test and iterate our way through it.
I recall my first solo adventure at the tender age of 18 vividly. I remember the exquisite bubbling excitement tinged with fear that yanked at my stomach the second the plane lifted off the tarmac. It is a feeling I now know well because it reoccurs every time I launch myself into uncertainty. I remember roaming the new streets absolutely entranced, trying to drink it all in and capture the unique ‘sense of place’ and ‘sense of life’ that was London in 2001 in black and white film.
That photo-journaling experience planted a hungry wanderlust that I have had to feed and nurture ever since, lest I morph into Audrey from The Little Shop of Horrors. So far, my curious wandering has taken me to live in Israel, Australia, Madagascar, the Caribbean, Indonesia and the Netherlands — and the list will no doubt go on. I am used to people getting a tad concerned at this point. They ask, “But why don’t you ever just stay?”, as if wandering is a crime, as if it is a signal that I have an inability to commit or to settle down.
I have to admit that even I have been guilty of buying into this false adage. You see, those of us who do not fit into that neat box of a singular, defined, unchanging lifepath often feel unworthy when we compare ourselves to others. “Surely there must be something wrong with me” is the thought that often niggles in the back corner of our minds late at night when the doubt creeps in. And when it does, it is my wandering self that paradoxically taps me on the shoulder to remind me that my life has been gifted by not settling for one path. This is because wandering has taught me the following lessons:
1. Embrace Prototyping
Wandering has taught me that we are products in the making.
While many consider wandering to be an inability to commit, it is Chidi Afulezi who sparked an ‘aha moment’ for me when he said, “Think about yourself as a product and consider how you can prototype your life.” That is what wandering is about; it is about testing, experimenting and prototyping. You see, some of us are born with a defined path in life, and some of us are born to design, test and iterate our way through it. Wandering has taught me that we are products in the making. Perhaps that is the DNA of an entrepreneur — to constantly have itchy feet, to constantly want to try something else and experiment with everything, including oneself.
2. Uncertainty Is a Gift
It is within the tension uncertainty brings that creativity is truly born.
I have seen how a hint of uncertainty unravels the most well put-together person, as if it is something to be greatly feared and avoided at all costs, like a mouse under the table. When you become a wanderer, you tend to take uncertainty by the hand. You have no choice; it sort of comes with the territory whether you like it or not. What I have learnt over the years is that uncertainty is uncomfortable because it removes your blinkers. When you cannot rely on what you know, you are forced to either shut down in fear or open yourself up to new possibilities. And it is within this tension that creativity is truly born.
3. Trust Your Intuition
We all have an intuition superpower, but we just don’t take the time to listen and trust it.
When you are a wanderer and you have no compass, no grounding for who to trust, what to do or how to do it, the only thing you can listen to is your gut. So often, we silence this part of ourselves, thinking other people must know better than us. How many times has your gut warned you of something and you haven’t listened? How many times have you made the wrong decision and immediately thought to yourself, “I knew it! I should have trusted my intuition.” I often find my intuition is strongest when I have no moorings, not because it suddenly becomes my superpower, but because there is less noise drowning it out, which means I can hear it more clearly. We all have an intuition superpower, but we just don’t take the time to listen and trust it.
4. Be Open and Agile
Wandering has taught me that there is always a way.
Agility has become a hot topic around business boardrooms and startup stand-up meetings. What has it got to do with wandering, you ask? Well, when you continuously put yourself in new environments that you have to learn how to navigate, you often trip up and fall flat on your face, sometimes in a highly embarrassing way. What wandering has taught me is to embrace the falls, the mess-ups, and even the aggravation. Because each incident teaches me how to find a work-around, how to find my feet, and how to dance when I don’t even know the steps. Wandering has taught me that there is always a way.
5. You Do Not Have One Life
You have many lives to live in one.
There is that saying that you have one life to live, so make sure that you live it fully. In fact, a good friend of mine the other day turned to me and said, “Daniella, I love you dearly, but you are just too much! You need multiple lives to accomplish what you set out to do.” To which I responded, “But I have them.” You see, each time I have started afresh in a new place, it is as if I have been gifted the ability to create a new life for myself. It gives me perspective, and that perspective has shown me that we do not have one life to live; we have many lives to live in one.
Perhaps the greatest gift that wandering has given me is the realisation that there are no defined paths that fit everyone. Rather, there is the choice to explore, to poke, to test, and to experiment, knowing that there is no possibility of failure, because life is here to be designed and iterated over and over again. Wandering has taught me that there is no one way to live life. So I choose to live it my way — boldly, wholeheartedly, experimentally and passionately.
How do you choose to live your life?
Daniella Sachs is a multidisciplinary tourism innovation expert, disruptor, Africanist and thought leader who publishes regularly on why we need to change the way we think about tourism. She is the co-founder of Know Your Tourist, a travel and tourism design and innovation house that collaborates with visionary business builders to bring bold new travel and tourism ideas to life.
Some of the many thought-provoking topics she has written on include: