Flash back to the last time you endured a seriously stressful situation. Maybe it was a clash with your boss, a fight with your significant other, or even a close call while driving during a storm. You walked (or drove) into the situation thinking you had it under control and then suddenly the people around you and the particular circumstances blew up, leaving you reeling with confusion. After these intense moments, some of us react by holing up in our rooms and refusing to see anyone. Others of us feel motivated to aggressively respond to the crisis. And then there are those of us who—after undergoing something painful or traumatic—desperately desire to get the f*** out.
GTFOing can be as simple as hopping in a car and taking a long drive out of town to clear your head, or it can be as serious as breaking a lease, packing up your belongings and leaving a city for good. These are not strategies of abandonment; they are getaway plans at the ready, should the need arise. Mobility is not just about escaping a bad situation, but moreover, it is about opening up the ability to say “yes” and act on the opportunities that present themselves in new places.
Just up-and-leaving sounds dramatic, but we’re all faced with the potential to change locations on a regular basis. You get a promotion and it’s in a new place. You’re unhappy where you are and you ache for new surroundings. You miss the family you left behind when you took a new job. You meet someone with whom you could journey anywhere… Depending on where you live and how you live, your escape plan may face varying degrees of ease or challenge. For instance, my outdoor-oriented friends from college escape to the mountains all the time—their station-wagons stocked with sleeping bags, tents and camp stoves ready at a moment’s notice. Proximity to nature and schedules that permit such excursions afford them their freedom. Higher up the economic chain, I’m sure stockbrokers and businessmen can escape to the Caribbean at their leisure, designer suitcases in hand.
However, getting out isn’t so easy for every person. If you’re from a dense, inner-city neighborhood and you don’t own a car, your getaway options are more limited. To even make it to the edge of town with a suitcase you’d have to take multiple modes of transit, and once you got there, where could you go next? What if your community is contained within a small geographic area because you haven’t had the luxury of travel in the past, and thus the idea of relocating somewhere unfamiliar—with a dearth of friends’ couches at your disposal—is impossible? How can someone respond to new opportunities or present difficulties if he or she is constantly stuck in the same place?
I have a few improvements in mind that could make mobility more accessible. Our world already offers a robust online communication system that permits us to speak to family members and potential employers anywhere on the planet. All we need is the transport and the logistics to get us where we want to go. High-speed rail would be an obvious advancement to prevent the need for car ownership while still allowing quick and, ideally, affordable movement. We see this playing out in Europe and parts of Asia, where rail invites higher mobility and the chance to experience other cultures. I’d also like to see a shift in lease agreements that would remove the need for someone to front a large (and unaffordable without an immediate job lined up) security deposit when he or she first moves in. Other helpful, although dramatic, adjustments would be a nationalization of school curriculums, public housing options and driving licensure. And I really sound like a socialist now, so before I alienate too many people, I’ll wrap this up.
This post is not meant to encourage everyone to move away from the homes they love in order to seek adventure, and it’s not meant to encourage you to run away from your problems either. Rather, it’s about catching up to the current reality of our global society. As the internet and the world economy increase the abilities of certain people to get ahead—and way ahead—of others, I want every person to have the option to be mobile if the need presents itself. If you’ve found a brighter future for yourself, or if you need to leave a location because it is clouded with painful memories or, heaven forbid, if your county’s water supply has been contaminated with toxic waste—you should have the option to get the f*** out.
Photo credits: My father in South Africa; me in Minneapolis packing for college four years ago