A Bohemian, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is someone who leads a free … or irregular life … despising conventionalities. So, being bohemian is a choice to live against the grain of modern society.
If society has you wondering why you’re stuck on the social ladder, wondering how you can get off the rung your clinging to, or thinking if you should just try flipping the whole thing over, you may be ready to embrace the Bohemian lifestyle.
Being bohemian means getting rid of whatever weighs you down. It may be a briefcase, a mortgage, or the judgment of your family and society writ large. When you break away from the burdens of your life, you will want to take a good look around you, particularly at the path you just traversed. Is it littered with hurdles you just hopped over to get to here? Was “here” worth all that work?
Of course, many of us have some pretty important anchors keeping us on the field of play. Those anchors might be our loving spouse or our beautiful children. However, you might just find that your beloved anchors might be ready to get untethered, too.
Are you planning a trip to Disneyland over Christmas because that’s when your Facebook friends go? Could you skip Disneyland and, with input from your family, put that money toward letting one or both parents stay home for extended periods of time over the summer? Could you take a driving trip with a borrowed tent and check out the great outdoors in your own region?
Sometimes the best gift you can share with those you love isn’t concentrated bursts of fun right when you’re ready for your photo. Maybe your tween really just wants to take an hour-long walk with you to tell you about their crush. Maybe your 4-year-old really needs your engineering skills on that Lego kit. It could be that your spouse, instead of sniping at you about housework, would just love for you to sit down so they can rub your shoulders.
Cut back on shopping as entertainment. Consider reducing your work hours so you can enjoy more time with your children, your spouse or partner, your friends, and your pets.
Being bohemian means celebrating having fewer hours to work (and fewer dollars) not through disdain but by moving to a smaller house with more land around it, turning off the television, and taking a blanket out into the nearest meadow.
Sit still and look for butterflies. Make whatever space you’re in an enchanted wonderland by falling into the minutiae of the natural world around you.
To reduce your impact and start building the environment around you learn more about growing your own food in this post: Growing a Victory Garden in 2020
As you break away from materialism, you may find yourself untethered from the real estate of life. If travel appeals, your inner nomad is waking up. Being bohemian means many can pare their belongings down to such a small amount that suitcase living is possible.
Bohemian design and decor are eclectic with a capital “E”, so if you do find a spot in your travels where you want to stop and stay, it’s possible to hit some second-hand shops, yard sales, and even residential dumpsters and find a whole new house worth of furniture.
Additionally, this lifestyle is passionately anti-consumer, so the buyer’s high that many are continuously seeking will hold nothing for you. Shopping is not entertainment. In fact, as you break away from material consumption and dive into being bohemian, you may find that shopping actually lowers your energy.
So many products that will create debt, cause clutter, and end up in a landfill somewhere. You can continue to travel light while reducing your expenses. You can also put second-hand objects to good use with a new purpose.
However, as a traveler in this lifestyle, it’s important to break away from the standard tourist fare. While other folks in San Francisco are rushing to take a cable car to the waterside for seafood, you might prefer a trip to a small Afghani restaurant and a stroll towards the art museum.
Unstructured time is also an unfettered time. If structure gets in the way of your joy, it’s perfectly possible to visit the most remarkable cities in the world and not see any of the big sights. Your trip is focused on connection and experiences, not on checking locations off on your list.
Thanks to social media and the culture of being always “on”, it’s easy to ignore the joy of simple experiences. When shifting into being bohemian, you may find that you need to break away from the living theatre that is social media. Too much of it is a falsification of joy. To truly dig into the lightweight boho lifestyle, disconnection may make it easier for you to personally celebrate a simpler way of being.
Breaking away from personal presentation platforms doesn’t mean avoiding connection, however. You can still find ways to connect with others if you seek out other creative artists, non-consumers, and wanderers.
Too often, the traditional consumer lifestyle of
- work, to
- buy, then
- store or stash what you bought so you can
- worry about losing your stuff only to
- buy an upgraded version, and just
- consume, consume, consume
until you’re too worn out to enjoy life means you think you are what you bought. Luckily, those in the bohemian lifestyle learn early on that it’s entirely possible to fully express yourself without needing a tottering platform of stuff to be worthy or valid.
Being bohemian means you value experience overall. Even better, they’re excited to try new, even foreign ideas. Creative anachronism can be boho, as can learning to make veggie sushi or learning 100 ways to cook black beans from a Cuban friend.
Members of the bohemian community know that art isn’t a class you take for 40 minutes a day, something you do after you visit the craft store, or an object you put on the wall. Baking a perfect pie from apples you picked in the orchard down the road is an art form. So is digging up a weed patch and planting vegetables.
Sometimes one of the most important creative steps you can take in being bohemian is to stop and think. People may think that being bohemian and minimalism are poles apart, but actually they can walk side by side. While conscious minimalists strive to have nothing more than they need, experiential minimalists can enjoy a rich and full nomadic life with little more than a hearty suitcase, a map, and the thrill of the next location.
Experiential minimalists need to travel, to get on the road, to seek out the next remarkable experience far away from the bustling crowd of tourists. Doesn’t that sound like being bohemian to you?
The world of the mind can be explored from the back of your camper van as well as your mansion. If being bohemian appeals to you, be ready to read everything you can get your hands on. The power of creation is in the generation, not in marketing. As you respect your own creative powers, revel in that created by others.
Teachers and gurus aren’t people you need to chase or seek out to sign up for their class. They can be the Laotian lady next door who can grow fresh fruit on her back porch. Your next teacher may be the retired man next door who knows a lot about woodworking, or the kid who takes everything apart to figure out why it works.
That being said, while being bohemian is inherently thrifty, it isn’t cheap. If your neighbor can teach you to speak Polish and needs help replacing her mailbox pole and you have the strength to dig, do so. A dedicated person in this lifestyle will seek out new and challenging experiences that will stretch them into a bigger, more knowledgeable person. Everyone becomes a teacher, every experience becomes a lesson, and every step on this path can lead you to your next, remarkable experience.
Many in the lifestyle seek out solitude and find themselves settling, at least for a time, in a rural area. If you find that your next physical location is in an isolated spot, you may find that your new neighbors don’t quite know what to make of you. As a traveler, you will likely be viewed as an outsider by the neighbor who lives in the house that his grandfather built.
However, you can still connect and learn from your new neighbors. While you’re reading everything you can get your hands on to learn a respect for the experiences of all, don’t forget to seek out the expertise of those closest to you. All people seek connection in some way or another. People also
- want to know they are valued,
- need to feel important, and
- like to help!
Be ready to ask new people in your social sphere a lot of questions. No, maybe the farmer next door hasn’t read Kant. But he probably knows how to start the tiller you found in the shed of your rental house. Ask to be taught how to do new things. You will pick up skills that will make your bohemian experience better as you travel through life.
Your studying process will never be linear. If you notice your brain breaking away from “if, then,” or list thinking and turning into a hub-and-spoke structure, let it. An interest in fabric dye may spark an interest in working with onion skin, which may lead to an interest in growing your own onions, weaving your own cloth, or spinning your own yarn.
Your bohemian life may look untethered to those who need a physical anchor to a location. However, as author Amy Dacyzyn states in her brilliant series of books, The Tightwad Gazette, doing without money doesn’t have to mean doing without.
Once you have weaned yourself from the buy, buy, buy mindset of popular culture, and built yourself a lighter life of travel, study, and experience, you will feel a desire to produce. In fact, you must. Not only will you seek out ways to express the joy and freedom you’ve found in your life, but there are many in the world who will benefit from your lessons.
It’s important to note that being bohemian doesn’t mean an equalization of skills. Many in the lifestyle simplify as much as possible to stay flexible so they can paint or draw as much as possible. Others may pour all of their focus into caring for their kids, writing poetry, or designing textiles. Being bohemian isn’t about balance. It’s about making space to build your skills and focus on what really matters to you.
That being said, this lifestyle is not at all insular. You want the flexibility to travel and enjoy unique experiences. You don’t really care about having the latest fashions, the biggest house or the newest gadgets, so your life can be focused on something besides earning money. However, to truly live a creative life, you must continually seek out new information. No matter what is going on in your creative life, learning can never stop.
Producing is personal. There’s a process of synthesis that happens within each mind. A field of sunflowers may inspire one person to paint, another person to cook, and a third person to fight for the environment. Each decision or choice is based on the filters we build from the knowledge we’ve gained. You’re in charge of your filter. You can change it by expanding what you know. Anyone can be your teacher and each experience can be a lesson.
Also, be ready to step away from the process of production. Play is very important in being bohemian. If your main expression is sculpture take a break with a little needlework. Watch or listen to a documentary while you learn to make pasta. Take a blanket into the park and study the shape of leaves from under a tree.
As you’ve been taught, share. As you’ve been guided, suggest. Don’t expect anything you share now to have an impact today. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, we are entitled to our labor, not to the fruits or rewards of our labor.
Take your joy in your work without focusing on the reward. It will make you a better, and happier, artist.
Being Bohemian Is a Freeing and Wonderful Choice
Being bohemian is an experience. Are you ready to take the plunge? Learn more about the bohemian lifestyle in this post here.
Want to make some boho fashion choices? Our top picks are here.