A friend has just quit his job and started travelling. This week he told me a story of an Italian guy he met living on the Kenyan coast who is currently building a boat.

He intends to sail it down the East African shoreline making video documentaries at beachside villages: recording what they get up, and sharing with them what others up the coast are doing.

This boat is a pretty big undertaking. Apparently he’s been working on it for 3 years and previously has lived a pretty non-conformist life: he once trekked for several months from Kenya to Botswana without a passport in part to protest against “the system”.

This guy (let’s call him Noah) is clearly at the extreme end of the spectrum, though the topic did segue into how, when “travelling” one does interact with people living by different rules to what the rest of society does.

Not quite at Noah’s level, but it can be quite possible to interact with artisans who have no fixed abode and move between locations being welcomed into different communities.

Or even people who have left the corporate life, packed up, and are moving around (in relative luxury) as they explore the world.

In terms of more stationary lifestyles, most farmers or agriculturalists will live not by appointment/ events in a Google Calendar but by when something needs to be done.

Those four scenarios all seem to me to be pretty “out there”, but I guess if you’re living them, it’s totally normal to, say, host an artist who has been teaching art classes in a nearby city and needs somewhere to stay.

The question becomes: what is your normal?

It’s some average of the other people you interact with.

Living in a world where the majority of people you interact with are working from Monday 9am to Friday 5pm, then to stay past 7pm in the office is almost unthinkable.

If your normal is 9am-9pm (city lawyers) then leaving work at 7.30pm is an almost unheard of luxury.

That said, if you at least know that some people do stay into the evening hours, it becomes less weird to think of people still at their desk whilst you’re at home eating your dinner.

Anyway, I think the point I’m trying to get at is that simply having exposure to the different lifestyles that people live can broaden your parameters of what “normal” is.

Knowing (of) a few Noahs will shift the needle of the average from whatever normality you’re currently at.

Inevitably we compare ourselves to others, and sense check if the lifestyle we have (or want to have) is acceptable enough. Not just “will society accept this”but “is it even possible to live a fulfilling life this way”.

Getting exposure to people living outside of “your normal” will (from what I can tell) only bring positives in terms of giving you at least an understanding of what’s possible.

Even if you choose to settle back to the bang-on average of people you interact with (it can’t be that bad, people have chosen it for a reason) then at least you can have comfort in that decision, rather than never having reflected on it.