The Mechanics of Setting Yourself Ablaze

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Guest Post By: Shane of Emphatically Nomadic

It didn’t take long to realize that my hometown had almost entirely burned up.

The smoldering embers from a life I once lived still contained the scorched remnants of childhood memories. I remember when the flames first went up. They took over everything. I can remember how the smoke from the flames choked out my senses.

That’s why I left. It’s a wonder I even got out at all.

In my hometown, most people still seem to have their wrists and ankles bound to the spokes of daily monotony.

There are still those run of the mill jobs happening. Everyone is still rushing to go nowhere. And I can’t help but feel remissive toward the thought of ever reintegrating to this mode of living.

These days, old friends are overstimulated in the mornings, and disconcertingly drugged-out in the evenings. The bliss of a morphine-like peace keeps them quietly insulated in houses by the highway.

I remember how differently I saw this place when I was young.

In the days of boyhood, I raced my bike down the street, pedaling as hard as I could to beat my friends to the finish line.

We’d all huff and puff, laughing over the fact that so-and-so fell so far behind, and breathing in the cool summer air.

Now those same people are stuck in living with the notion that there’s some distant finish line to be reached.

“If only,” they say, “Once I reach that particular goal, then my life will slow down and get better.”

Most of the time, I hold my tongue. I yearn to shake them from these little boxes they’ve made for themselves. I want to saturate them in experiences of living in the moment, to remind them that every insufferable problem contains its own solution within it, to find repose in celebrating the joy of livelihood together, but I don’t.

My old friends aren’t how I remember them. They went and got all burnt-out long ago.

The mystery of what it means to thrive can’t really be seen until you get out on the road.

You just have to get away from what you’ve always done. Travel teaches you a number of things, but among the greatest of them is learning how to live radically.

You learn about culture, cultivating kindness, all kinds of exotic foods, and every manner of how to say hello to another person that doesn’t speak your native language. You learn to thrive with the basic remembrance that you can literally achieve anything you want to do, or see the places that you’ve always wanted to see.

It’s not about buying expensive things, and then later complaining how you can barely afford your monthly bills.

It’s about having less so that you can experience more.

Do you really want to spend so much of your waking life in a tiny corner of the world doing something you don’t really enjoy doing?

Or would you rather do what it takes to travel, and learn these mechanics of setting yourself ablaze?

When I came back to visit my hometown for a short while, I immediately recognized the signs of scalding. Temperaments were hot and dry, the neural palette was apathetic to the usual ends of enjoyment, and attention spans hastily scoured the surface searching for morsels of glowing neon distractions.

But it wasn’t anyone else who started the blaze. No, for that, the burden is mine.

Although I was the one to toss the match and let my hometown burn, no one else seems to see the fire. In fact, it’s possible that there’s no flame at all, aside from the one that’s cradled and stoked from within my heart.

After all, we’re talking about setting yourself ablaze, not the criminal undertaking of arson.

The truth of the matter is that thriving, achieving, and nourishing a fiery heart cannot be done by settling for despondency. Being “on fire” is like a radical commitment to making life exactly the way you want it to be.

It means not settling for anything less.

And in that brilliant radiance, the steadfast affirmation comes, “This is the life I want to be living.”

Like soaring to the height of the pyramids, two-stepping the tango, or diving deep to sunken vessels beneath the ocean’s surface,

setting yourself ablaze means that you’re determined to make your own life more interesting than anything else you could read about.

The idea of fire here is purely allegorical, but it’s the closest fitting thing to the sensation of enduring inspiration. A well-lit flame keeps the shadows at bay, and it can be used to ignite a whole host of other functions. When you’re burning, as they say, you either light your own way, or you get snuffed out.

So what are you to do when you realize that the windstorms of activity formed from scatterbrained occupations threaten to snuff out your flame?

First of all, you have to stop making excuses.

You’re not wasting anyone else’s time but your own if you’re stuck complaining that life is not prevailing to the highest of your standards.

No more, “I would do this, but…”

Although you’ll meet people along the way who will genuinely encourage you to continue thriving, in the very beginning you’re going to have to do a lot of the work yourself. You may even encounter naysayers, or people who give you funny looks as you breathe oxygen into your lust for life, but the early stages are the most crucial for igniting your determination.

Secondly, prioritizing research becomes paramount.

Books, magazines, the internet, they all have valuable information for answering how to achieve the life you want to be living. You can learn just about anything you would need to know to reach the other side of the world, and what to do when you get there.

The only thing is, those resources can’t provide you with the answer to why you’ve decided to set yourself ablaze in the first place. For that, only you can answer yourself—even if it takes time.

Once you finally set forth in achieving what you’ve discovered in your research, and you leave behind the dreary life you once were living,

your primary concern will be how you to sustain yourself.

If I could tell you that the flame of life is stoked simply from hopes and dreams, hippie love, and cosmic suggestions, I’d be making you out to be dewy-eyed and rather susceptible, at best.

That’s not the kind of person I take you to be.

I read something once in a forum about a girl who was planning on going to Hawaii with nothing more than a guitar, a dog, and a thousand dollars to her name. While I admired her spirit and her determination to lead an exciting life, her only plan was to stealth camp and make money from playing guitar on the streets. Needless to say, Hawaii is expensive, and mostly everyone in the forum encouraged her to think through her plan a little more, or to stay home.

It’s one thing to start a fire, but it’s another thing entirely to maintain it,

…not unlike the difference between irrational escapism and responsible location independence.

You don’t want to get yourself into a sticky situation by being forced to come back to your hometown as a result of poor planning. Surely, you do figure things out as you go, but I can’t think of any instance where tying up loose ends ultimately proved to be disastrous.

While some people do prefer shorter excursions before returning home, my feeling is that truly setting yourself ablaze means you’re not planning on coming back. The last thing you want to lose by merely returning to your old ways is that inborn spark, timid and wild, which moves passion through you like liquid iron from a hot furnace.

The mechanics of setting yourself ablaze take place in three different steps: unleashing excuses, investigating pathways, and kindling a developing flame.

Do you think you have what it takes?

Sometimes, when you realize that you can’t unsee the scorched remains of your hometown, you’re really left with no other choice. Hanging around to see familiar places and faces may be nice for a little while, but it’s usually only tolerable for as long as it takes to plot your sequential endeavors.

What kinds of things will you seek to achieve then?

When you’re burning—and I mean really, truly emblazoned with the zeal of attainment—there will be no mistaking it. While those things that you once held onto for comfort will turn to ash, you’ll find solace in confidently going forward by embracing new experiences that were once held far out of reach.

The sheer fact that you’re reading this right now means that you’ve probably already combusted.

Chances are, you’ve dealt with the unfortunate circumstances of burn-out before, and you’ve probably seen those around you face burn-out. What I’m advocating here is a method for getting out of that vicious cycle, to do something radical that will not only ignite your flame, but to sustain it for many years of superbly wholesome adventure.

Shane is an emerging digital nomad and the founder of Emphatically Nomadic, a spiritual travel blog focusing on sacred destinations, cultural mythologies, and mystical practices. He has toured many states around the US and is now setting his sites on international travel in order to capture more of the sacred. Visit his blog at

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