Self-Reliance: The Only Road To Fulfillment

“Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom…” – Patricia Sampson

solo graffiti walk

Traveling around the world, mostly alone, for the past four years has made me extremely self-reliant. I know that, no matter how hard or dramatic a situation may seem, I have a good chance of survival. It is also likely that I won’t need to depend on anyone else to pull me out of trouble, to comfort me, or to help me. I will deal with it in a swift manner and try to learn the lesson the problem holds for me.

This is a practice I apply to business ventures too. One of the ways that I maintain my financial freedom is to diversify my sources of income. My money comes from different places to ensure that I don’t lose everything if one part of my internet business changes dramatically in one day, or one of my coffers dries up. I chose to become an entrepreneur and work for myself instead of others so I don’t have to keep up with the whims of others.

I also believe this is excessively important in social relationships, especially if relocating to a new city. Getting to know different kinds of people and maintaining a level of flexibility is the best way to really enjoy a place.

Unfortunately, this is a lesson that I continually fail to learn. I always put too many of my social eggs in one basket, and that basket is always male.

He is usually some combination of cute and fun and we hit it off right away. After I meet him I stop bothering to reach out to people, to make different friends, to expand my social circle. Everything is great and exciting until things change and they’re not anymore. Then I am left feeling lonely and frustrated and thinking to myself, How could I have let this happen AGAIN? And then I leave the place and the person in total flight mode, feeling sad and hopeless and that the only way to resolve the problem is to go far, far away.

The old adage states that we will continue to face the same problems again and again until we learn from them and change our behavior. While I’m a quick learner in most aspects of life, I’m somewhere at the kindergarten level here. This situation has repeated itself no less than four times before in four distinct places, and here we are again.

There are few things I can think of that are more depressing than losing a playmate, especially in a strange city where you have no kind of established social network to speak of. Actually arriving in the city knowing no one is easy, but feeling that sense of loss? Crushing.

That’s why it’s completely detrimental to rely on one person or thing for fulfillment. Relationships are temporary, just like everything else on earth. People’s interests change, they may go somewhere else, or die, or they might come to prioritize another relationship over the one you have.

The only person guaranteed to be with me for the rest of my life without fail is the woman who stares back at me in the mirror every day.

This doesn’t have to be a tragic or depressing story. If we look at it through an extreme realism perspective, understanding and accepting the fact that one day the fun will end with everyone who crosses our path, we are better able to live in the moment and extract as much joy from every encounter we have.

When I’m the one on the move, this is much simpler to practice. I come to a new place, I meet people and enjoy them, and then I leave, off to the next adventure. The ones that stay are always the ones that suffer more. Since I’m the one staying this time, my landscape changes every time someone comes in or out of my life. It’s a trippy role reversal that is proving hard to adjust to. I am starting to understand why people who live in touristy areas don’t want to meet visitors anymore.

It’s so important to continuously look within for that source of fulfillment. While external parties may do the job for a short time, they are fleeting, and when they stop giving, we feel empty again.

I am obsessed with self-reflection. The questions I ask myself daily are: What do I want out of life? What do I want to achieve? What’s important to me? What skills would I like to develop? Who do I want to be?

None of these answers come from outside of me. The path to self-fulfillment and happiness is a solo journey.

  • I’ve always firmly believed that happiness in my relationships had to start with happiness with myself first. If I was content and happy, so were my relationships. If not, things go to pot with my friends also. Most seek to blame others or look outside themselves for the explanations…it’s good that you look inside first:)

  • True story! It’s easy to blame others for our unhappiness, but that ends up putting unreasonable pressure on any relationship which causes even more problems.

  • Wonderful post Jasmine. I can relate quite well to what you’re referring to, and I also find it much easier to be the one who leaves a person behind than to be the one who is left.  

    This is playing itself out yet again with a month left in Lima. I met an awesome girl, who knows I’m “impossible” because I’ll be leaving in a few weeks, yet we still want to spend as much time together as possible, building a relationship that will inevitably end sooner than we both want.Some girls I meet aren’t up for this, and the ones who are, well, I feel bad at times for my current lifestyle, but I’m also incredibly glad they’re willing to get to know me.  

    If I’d come to this full time nomad lifestyle in my mid-20’s, I’d be running all over the globe, but as I’m in my mid 30’s now, I’m less and less attracted to the idea. I think, eventually, there’ll be a girl I meet who I just won’t be willing to leave behind.  

    The idea scares the hell out of me!  ;)

  • Uncle Jim

    Perhaps you’re riding a train when what you need is a trolley. If your journey is a short one, take the trolley. You can hop off whenever you wish. The train, however, is for much longer and more exciting destinations.

  • “In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: 
    In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad” 

    No more muffled drums! 
    Uncover the drumheads! 

    Plant your flag in an open field! 
    No more timid peeking around. 

    Either you see the Beloved, 
    or you lose your head! 

    If your throat’s not ready for that Wine, cut it! 
    If your eyes don’t want the fullness of Union, 
    let them turn white with disease. 

    Either this deep desire of mine 
    will be found on this journey, 
    or when I get back home! 

    It may be that the satisfaction I need 
    depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone 
    and come back, I’ll find it at home. 

    I will search for the Friend with all my passion 
    and all my energy, until I learn 
    that I don’t need to search. 

    The real truth of existence is sealed, 
    until after many twists and turns of the road. 

    As in the algebraical method of “the two errors,” 
    the correct answer comes only after two substitutions, 
    after two mistakes. Then the seeker says, 

    “If I had known the real way it was, 
    I would have stopped all the looking around.” 

    But that knowing depends 
    on the time spent looking! 

    Just as the Sheikh’s debt could not be paid 
    until the boy’s weeping, that story we told in Book II. 

    You fear losing a certain eminent position. 
    You hope to gain something from that, but it comes 
    from elsewhere. Existence does this switching trick, 
    giving you hope from one source, then satisfaction 
    from another. 
    It keeps you bewildered 
    and wondering, and lets your trust in the Unseen grow. 

    You think to make your living from tailoring, 
    but then somehow money comes in 
    through goldsmithing, 
    which had never entered your mind. 

    I don’t know whether the Union I want will come 
    through my effort, or my giving up effort, 
    or from something completely separate 
    from anything I do or don’t do. 

    I wait and fidget and flop about 
    as a decapitated chicken does, knowing that 
    the vital spirit has to escape this body 
    eventually, somehow! 

    This desire will find an opening. 

    There was once a man 
    who inherited a lot of money and land. 

    But he squandered it all too quickly. Those who inherit 
    wealth don’t know what work it took to get it. 

    In the same way, we don’t know the value of our souls, 
    which were given to us for nothing! 

    So the man was left alone without provisions, 
    an owl in the desert. 
    The Prophet has said 
    that a true seeker must be completely empty like a lute 
    to make the sweet music of “Lord, Lord.” 

    When the emptiness starts to get filled with something, 
    the One who plays the lute puts it down 
    and picks up another. 

    There is nothing more subtle and delightful 
    than to make that music. 
    Stay empty and held 
    between those fingers, where “where” 
    gets drunk with Nowhere. 
    This man was empty, 
    and the tears came. His habitual stubbornness 
    dissolved. This is the way with many seekers. 
    They moan in prayer, and the perfumed smoke of that 
    floats into Heaven, and the angels say, “Answer 
    this prayer. This worshiper has only You and 
    nothing else to depend on. Why do you go first 
    to the prayers of those less devoted? 
    God says, 
    “By deferring My Generosity I am helping him. 
    His need dragged him by the hair into My Presence. 
    If I satisfy that, he’ll go back to being absorbed 
    in some idle amusement. Listen how passionate he is! 
    That torn-open cry is the way he should live.” 

    Nightingales are put in cages 
    because their songs give pleasure. 
    Whoever heard of keeping a crow? 

    When two people, one decrepit and the other young 
    and handsome, come into a bakery where the baker 
    is an admirer of young men, and both of them 
    ask for bread, the baker will immediately 
    give what he has on hand to the old man. 

    But to the other he will say, “Sit down and wait a while. 
    There’s fresh bread baking in the house. Almost ready!” 

    And when the hot bread is brought, the baker will say, 
    “Don’t leave. The halvah is coming.” 

    So he finds ways of detaining the young man with, 
    “Ah, there’s something important I want to tell you about. 
    Stay. I’ll be back in a moment. Something very important!” 

    This is how it is when true devotees 
    suffer disappointment 
    in the good they want to do, 
    or the bad they want to avoid. 

    So this man with nothing, who had inherited everything 
    and squandered it, kept weeping, “Lord, Lord!” 

    Finally in a dream he heard a Voice, “Your wealth 
    is in Cairo. Go there to such-and-such a spot 
    and dig, and you’ll find what you need. 

    So he left on the long journey, 
    and when he saw the towers of Cairo, 
    he felt his back grow warm with new courage 

    But Cairo is a large city, 
    and before he could find the spot, 
    he had to wander about. 

    He had no money, of course, so he begged 
    among the townspeople, but he felt ashamed doing that. 
    He decided, “I will go out at night 
    and call like the night-mendicants that people 
    throw coins into the street for.” 
    Shame and dignity and hunger 
    were pushing him forward and backward and sideways! 

    Suddenly, he was seized by the night-patrol. 
    It so happened that many had been robbed recently 
    in Cairo at night, and the Caliph had told the police 
    to assume that anyone out roaming after dark 
    was a thief. 
    It’s best not to let offenders go unpunished. 
    Then they poison the whole body of society. Cut off 
    the snakebitten finger! Don’t be sympathetic 
    with thieves. Consider instead 
    the public suffering. In those days 
    robbers were expert, and numerous! 

    So the night-patrol grabbed the man. 
    “Wait! 
    I can explain!” 

    “Tell me.” 

    “I am not a criminal. 
    I am new to Cairo. I live in Baghdad.” He told the story 
    of his dream and the buried treasure, 
    and he was so believable in the telling that the night-patrolman 
    began to cry. Always, the fragrance of Truth has that effect. 
    Passion 
    can restore healing power, and prune the weary boughs 
    to new life. The energy of passion is everything! 

    There are fake satisfactions that simulate passion. 
    They taste cold and delicious, 
    but they just distract you and prevent you 
    from the search. They say, 
    “I will relieve your passion. 
    Take me. Take me!” 
    Run from false remedies 
    that dilute your energy. Keep it rich and musky. 

    The night-patrol said, “I know you’re not a thief. 
    You’re a good man, but you’re kind of a fool. 
    I’ve had that dream before. 
    I was told, in my dream, 
    that there was a treasure for me in Baghdad, 
    buried in a certain quarter of the city 
    on such-and-such a street.” 
    The name of the street 
    that he said was where this man lived! 
    “And the dream- 
    voice told me, “It’s in So-and-so’s house. 
    Go there and get it!” 

    Without knowing either, 
    he had described the exact house, 
    and mentioned this man’s name! 
    “But I didn’t do 
    what the dream said to do, and look at you, 
    who did, wandering the world, fatigued, 
    and begging in the streets!” 
    So it came quietly 
    to the seeker, though he didn’t say it out loud, 
    “What I’m longing for lived in my poor house in Baghdad!” 

    He filled with joy. He breathed continuous praise. 
    Finally, he said, 
    “The Water of Life is here. 
    I’m drinking it. But I had to come 
    this long way to know it!” 

    -Rumi

  • Thanks for sharing the story Dave. I can definitely relate to this predicament. Having tried to settle down in a city for someone else, it is unlikely I would do it again. I like to think that when you might the right person, you won’t have to compromise your passions (traveling) to be with them.

  • LAbackpackerChick

    Dont feel bad Jasmine. I think it’s common for girls to do this anywhere in the world even at home.

    Generally relationships that are super intense tend to fizzle out just as quickly. Also when you start depending on another person for happiness, fulfillment, and consequenty energy we stop looking within ourselves for these things. It happens all the time in new relationships.

    Have you read the Celestine Prophecy by any chance?

  • Ed

    Hi Jasmine – I’ve continued to read your blog though I haven’t commented on it in a while.  Funny, when I read your blog I see so much of myself in your writings.  But I never expected that this was a pattern we shared as well. I’ve been there three times myself…in the Philippines, in Colombia, and in Peru. I’ve done the same thing as you…built my life around someone else, ultimately things don’t work out, and then I go running away. And it’s especially odd that you posted this when you did.  The same day you posted this, I was traveling back to Colombia, for a “chance at love” with a woman I met last year in Bucaramanga.  Really don’t know where it’s headed, just don’t want to repeat my pattern.  

    Best wishes on more fabulous adventures!

    Ed

  • Yes, that’s probably why I prefer being single :)

    I have of course read the Celestine Prophecy – great book.

  • Ed, even though being codependent isn’t healthy, I still think that traveling to give it a shot is pretty romantic :) I hope you find Miss Right wherever she may be.

  • i like thaths graffitttsi!!!!!!!!!! u forgot mexico ya rigth!!

  • Becoming a self-reliant and independent individual has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned on the road.  Although friendships and lovers will change, as you mentioned, at the end of the day you’re stuck with yourself.

  • Allen

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    A great study in existentialism.

    Cheers.

  • NB

    I decided to check your blog tonight because I was seeking reassurance that independence is best, and you didn’t fail me. Right before my eyes was this post on self reliance. Thank you. I guess I’m surprised that even with your lifestyle you struggle with self reliance as so many people do.  I wish you the best in your self reflection and making every interaction serve your best interest.

  • NB

    It’s just that even as you walk alone, you have to ask someone to capture your photo of solitude. No one is completely self-reliant, and the greatest lesson for me will be knowing how much I’m willing to reach out: how long I’m willing to hold on to anything or anyone. It’s about recognizing the type of relationships that help without hurting, while remembering that nothing is forever.

  • Thanks Ashton! :)

  • Zil

    I see eye to eye with you on this. Extraordinary the correlation with the man-friend to man-friend jumping. I’ve done the same, and the fizzle out, usually after it’s gone romantic and then…not. You’re left with…yourself. We pick up the pieces, call that girl I met that time on the dancefloor… Sometimes I underestimate the potential that new acquaintances (colleagues) have; these kinds of moments can induce me to call them and suddenly, I’ve branched out. Sometimes we need a push (or smack?) to go in the right direction.

    To digress…

    On the subject of PEOPLE and the lack thereof, exactly a year ago, I was living in my hometown, having broken up with my long-term boyfriend (who had moved out a few months before) and quite a lot of my best friends. I had been laid off and was receiving great benefits, inducing me to stay on the couch and just “chill”. That time was very depressing for me, because I had for years grown to have a very strong dependence on the people around me – likening them to my family members, which they were NOT.

    I am an independent person, ultimately, but somewhere (I think) between being single and being in a heavy duty relationship, I lost touch with my ‘fuck off, I’m gonna do it my way’ spirit. I now was opting for the ‘what do you think? I can’t decide’ approach: all the time. I knew I had to get away from that city and from its crutches.

    Moving cities then travel then ultimately living abroad (fell into it, so glad I did) has pushed me to stand up on my own. Nowadays, a lot of the time, I don’t have people around me. Frequently I feel alone, and funnily enough, it can make me feel so strong – to be alone and alive. Sometimes it sucks. But I think that it’s shaping me into something new; giving me a more dynamic character. I hope it sticks and that I continue to surprise myself…