Chasing THE LIFE
To start this here with somewhat of an introduction, my name is Till, and on day to day basis, I’m making videos about what it means to be a creator who lives life somewhat off-grid.
A little over a year ago my girlfriend and I found ourselves searching for a simpler life than the one we were living in the city. Maybe not overly simple but just one that makes you, for once, feel satisfied with the work you have done during the day. A life, less digital and more physical — hard work outdoors included.
Back then, it seemed like a dream to ever be able to wake up early, rested, and without an alarm again, stoked rather than desperate to make the most out of hours ahead. Or at least somewhat like that. Everything is better than constantly waking up with that slight emotional hangover that you probably know all too well from the last late night in the depths of Netflix and Instagram.
Fast forward, we ended up moving into a small cabin in Norway, bought a van, and got a dog (Yuki, a fluffy Alaskan Malamute). Instead of apartments, the cabin is surrounded by a lake in front and mountains in the back. The next neighbor is rather far and it takes 15 minutes of driving to the closest supermarket.
Life in paradise should (hypothetically) feel different
Even tho, I would fully confirm that this cabin is the perfect place to reconnect with a simple life in the way it once was for me, so far, it just didn’t happen.
One year into living off-grid, the days are still running by, while I’m, despite decent work effort, not being able to live up to the expectation of growing a somewhat profitable YouTube channel, or even better, finally making a living online. On every given evening, the habit of pondering about work and minor personal insufficiencies (some made up and some not) surfaces like groundhogs on the 2nd of February.
The mismatch of reality and expectations built (most likely) from fragments of what I have been idolizing online myself does not add up. With changing our surroundings dramatically nothing changed within.
Looking back, the fact that living in a van or cabin off the grid is often displayed as the epitome of a free and happy life on YouTube might have been the basis for some of my expectations and ideals. These people seemed so at ease in their little off-grid homes that something in me wants it too, the freedom of mind.
Now that it is here, things aren’t that different. All the annoying dissatisfaction just moved from the city to the countryside.
Why we are actually stuck…
From experience, I can tell you that living in a city, van or cabin contributes little to being satisfied at the end of the day.
If there are no fundamental changes in daily behaviors, we’re most likely still going to bed with little if any feeling of accomplishment only to snooze through an alarm earlier than the ones of most CEOs nowadays (back to the expectations).
From one digital dopamine junky to another, here is what (I think) makes a difference (let’s set aside the hypocritical aftertaste of the following lines considering that I’m mainly working with social media and online).
So here is the thing.
Most feelings of insufficiency, are caused by our customization to fast, if not immediate gratification (Media, SoMe, novelty from the internet, and news) and often facilitated by the wave of emotions from another hormone (I guess much dopamine) triggering substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
Progress in working on long-term projects, relationships, and life goals require is what “normally” should make us feel at ease. Hell, I’d even personally promise that the feeling to be on the right path is releasing so much energy that you can’t even wait to get out of bed in the morning.
A major issue we are dealing with right now is that nobody can focus on anything over a decent period. When eight-minute YouTube videos are too much to sit through, building a business or writing a book is way out of the league. Without being able to follow a distinguished path of working towards a bigger goal (that was prior identified as meaningful), you won’t ever be satisfied. And concerningly, it’s nearly impossible to stay on track in a life surrounded by on-demand, virtual slot machines for every one of us.
My internet, SoMe, and caffeine habits had followed me from Copenhagen to Norway. Without much doubt, they were the true reason the feeling of insufficiency came along too.
Instant gratification had to stop. There was nothing else to change.
Delayed gratification does not fit 2021
The dopamine topic is a bit run down, I know, guys. People are stopping to drink coffee left and right, the cool kids meditate and do Yoga and how far did we come that nofap could EVER be a trend.
I mean, really? People that use these little, too narrow, wannabe life hacks to address that the majority of the world's population developed an issue to ever be satisfied with anything, don’t seem any more satisfied off-camera.
So here is, what I, another dopamine addict, think could be the solution.
Eliminate all standard drug consumption (mentioned earlier) and heavily restrict access to any form of dopamine-inducing media or the internet (maybe even food).
A rather complex idea too considering that the internet is neither categorically good nor bad (infrequent consumption of caffeine and most likely other psychoactive substances might be neither) and pretty fun.
But damn, unless we find a method to control the little dopamine traps (not the real hard work — great outcome dopamine) within our daily lives it’s better to get some distance between us.
This can be viewed as pretty backward or even the standard YouTube self-improvement advice but if considered thoroughly, it would most like turn everyone’s life upside down.
A few weeks into avoiding dopamine traps myself, the sim card of my phone is only inserted on Wednesdays and Sundays (In exemptions also to upload stock footage, YouTube videos, or medium articles, which already has to be taken with care). The temporary restriction was so far the only thing that could change prior habits.
I know that seems outright impossible at first glance. In the past years, I’ve had many similar attempts of minimizing internet exposure with low to success too. Quitting caffeine changed the game. Without the baseline tension or even slight anxiety of two cups of coffee, it was finally manageable to stick with it. As soon as I could get past the caffeine induced-dopamine in the early morning, crashes were less frequent, and the consistent search for the next hit in the afternoon vanished(which otherwise was happily filled with our daily dose of social media).
In the end, no changes in the environment and no new acquisition will fill the void and bring the peace we are searching for. Avoiding short-term gratification like lukewarm cantine coffee does at least make a difference. Together with identifying truly meaningful work (for you in the first place but hopefully for many, let’s not even start the discussion of what meaning itself might be), this might be the only way to do great in the time we are living.
Maybe some stoicism is what we need.