What is your life’s purpose?
To help people maximize their control over their time and attention, then give them the encouragement and permission to do what makes them come alive. Being alive is the best foundation for connection—the centerpiece of life!
How are you living your purpose?
I became a travel hacker so I wouldn’t need to trade control over my time and attention to get money. Instead of using money to do the things that most inspire and fulfill me—spending time in a new environment and being with my friends and family—I travel hack. I leverage the lucrative American travel credit card industry to fly for free. I participate in rewarding programs that allow me to sleep for free. As a travel hacker, I get to skip straight to inspiration and fulfillment, which allow me to fully live my purpose.
Travel hacking is a just a piece of the puzzle. To help others gain control over their time and attention, I break down some basic truths in article form on HalfTheClothes.com. I produce a podcast called Ticket2Blog about making a living as a content creator without losing your mind or selling your soul. I am creating a website called Wanderlife.co to help people hack their housing costs by living in mobile structures.
I also practice what I preach: I set firm barriers to keep control over my time and attention. I muster the courage to turn up the volume on my inner voice so it drowns out the external voices that would otherwise push me onto a path serving someone else’s purpose.
How did you find your purpose?
I trusted myself. I trusted my intuition and gave myself permission to do what my intuition was telling me to do without requiring a logical reason or approval of others. I gave the finger to the 9 to 5 life and all the “supposed to dos” of the world.
I grew up being what I call “a hoop jumper”—agreeing to perform my way through every obstacle placed in front of me by parents, society, etc. A need for approval propelled me to get the best grades possible (while living and breathing extracurriculars) in high school, then head straight to university to rinse and repeat. College graduation day—a societal “finish-line” in my mind—found me incredibly disappointed. Had I really just wasted four years killing myself to achieve a goal the world set for me?
I began phasing out the world’s demands by traveling for a few months between bouts of working jobs. I lived “meagerly” according to commercials on TV (which I never watched), but never wanted for anything critical while saving over 50% of my salary for my future life.
I set down the world’s expectations one at a time. My inner voice got louder and louder. In 2010, I quit my desk job to travel the world “for a year.” (I’m on year 8 now.) In 2011 I worked odd jobs in New Zealand. In 2013 I worked construction in Australia, vowing every day to make it my last stint ever as an employee. In 2015 I escaped a relationship where I had no voice. In 2016 I began making a living from online content I created.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Courage and connection are critical.
As terrifying as it is to let your inner voice get up on the stage of your life, you must. You must. I’m paraphrasing Howard Thurman, but you must do whatever makes you come alive. The world needs people who have come alive.
Accept that 80% of success… is failure. A better word for failure is experience. You cannot “win” at life without also losing (gaining the experience it takes to “win”)! Often. Don’t be afraid to lose (gain experience!). You must lose (gain experience!). Repeatedly.
I lose (gain so much experience) all the time. I am constantly failing (gaining experience!). I’m also constantly “winning.” Failure (gaining experience!) is the main course of life. Success is just dessert. Don’t go hungry! The “clean plate club” needs you, and you can’t have “purpose” without failure (gaining experience)!
The more time you spend thinking about others’ life experience, the more the emptiness in your life will fill and fade. Practice the script for turning your eyes and energy outward. Rewards will cascade inward.
Solve problems. You cannot identify problems without connecting to others. Connection is the precursor to getting your solutions to the part of the world that needs them. Whenever you come across an unsolved problem and you have a solution, drop everything and solve it. Everyone’s purpose is to solve whatever problems their inner voice tells them to solve.
What resources do you recommend?
If I could only get you to spend your attention on one thing, it would be this TedX video: “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over” by Mel Robbins.
If you have a little bit more attention to spend on improving your life:
Read this book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg—a terrible title for a wonderful book. Name and tame the foundations of unhappiness! And this article, Why a Hard-Working Perfectionist… Doesn’t Want Job—it gives you permission and motivation to stop doing what others want you to do.
Throw your phone in the garbage (Here’s how)—it’s the biggest time and attention-suck in your life.
A curated collection of my favorite “get your act together!” resources:
12 Tools to Become Fearless and Unstoppable.
The other four books I’m constantly recommending:
Families and How to Survive Them by Robin Skynner and John Cleese—discover and surmount your personal kryptonite. Laugh while doing it!
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns—use the exercises in this book to joyfully tolerate things you currently loathe. It’s not just for depressed folks.
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel—learn to have the relationships you want. Understand why culture produces the relationships you’ve had.
Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert—for anyone who wants to stop being disappointed by relationships.
Connect with Jema Patterson
Jema Patterson: A ridiculous altruist who is doing her best to live life on purpose. A hard worker… who plans to never to have a job ever again. A shameless luddite surviving happily without a smartphone. Adores quantifying things. Never been addicted to caffeine.
She loves connecting with fellow free-spirited life hackers, so don’t be afraid to send her an email. Although she’s almost died eight times—including being struck by lightning —she promises she’s clinging tightly to her 9th life… you’re in no danger! She’s on a mission to get the whole world to start flying for free, so you might have to listen to her rave about travel hacking.
She writes about life change and transformational travel at halftheclothes.com.