Up until about 10 months ago, when I quit my job to travel the world, I still felt like I was able to understand some semblance of what “normal” people considered, well, “normal.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: this wasn’t because I considered myself “normal.” In fact, many of my issues in my early adulthood stemmed from the fact that I couldn’t understand why the fuck I couldn’t just get my shit together and be “normal.” I always felt on the fringe of groups that were considered “mainstream”: I was a vegan, that didn’t want kids, that barely believed in monogamy (and then didn’t believe in monogamy), and ultimately an ex-professional that quit a lucrative, forward-moving career to be a free-wandering hippie.

As I’ve aged, though, I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’ll never feel “normal” – because it is about the feeling, right? There is technically no such thing as actual “normal.” Even the people that are more…let’s call it, “conventional,” often don’t feel normal themselves, because there is no such thing. We’re all different. That said, even though I had mostly made my peace with my freakness, I was still having several moments of just wishing things could be different and wishing that I could be normal – at least normal in what I wanted. Things like a husband, and 2.3 kids, and a white picket fence around a house in the suburbs. I thought, for a long while, it would be EASIER if I wanted those things.

As time went on, and as I met more amazing people who thought like me in a lot of ways, I felt less and less like I needed to try to fit some normal mold. And the reality is – I don’t even KNOW what’s normal anymore. When I quit my job last year, I was still in the world where people had cocktail parties, and talked about the kids, and asked about work, and discussed “safe,” polite topics. Over the past 10 months, as I’ve gotten to live the life I want, I’ve also gotten to talk about the topics I want: things like the idiocy of religion and politics and our puritanical views on sex and drugs. And of course, having sex and doing drugs.

Enter: new experiences. You don’t exactly quit your job to travel the world if you aren’t planning to constantly seek out new experiences to challenge you and change you and make you grow as a human. And of course, to have some fucking fun.

The past several months have been a series of new experiences, one after another. I’ve tried new outdoor activities (hiking), I’ve tried new thrilling stunts (boarding down a volcano), I took a class to learn something new (surfing) and I’ve met a lot of people.

In the middle of all of those new experiences, I stumbled upon a few communities of people that I already love and value, despite that I am *relatively* new to all of them. What are those? Glad you asked. My favorite communities are swingers, EDM ravers, and travelers! (And yes, before you ask further, I mean swingers that swing…sexually, with other couples).

Now, if you’re one of those people that likes a bit more stability and fits a more conventional mold (but also likes to read my blog), you may already be rolling your eyes. I’m just turning into more and more of a hippie as the days go by, right?  Well, maybe, but I don’t think that’s why I love these communities.

See – with Donald Trump as our president and one of the shittiest, most idiotic, hateful administrations I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of existence at the helm of this supposedly “great” nation we call the United States of America, “mainstream” has gotten less and less appealing every minute. But it’s not necessarily because a “mainstream” life makes me feel bound – it’s because “mainstream” cultures and subcultures are filled with hatred, vitriol, and the kind of secret club atmosphere that comes from being one of the popular kids in high school.

Things you wanna be? Married. With a family. Climbing the corporate latter. CHRISTIAN. WHITE. RICH. WITH A DEGREE OR FIVE.

And if you aren’t those things? Well, get ready to fear for your mental health and sanity every day in this new world of the U.S. of A. Because you just weren’t one of the lucky ones. You just aren’t “normal.”

The first time I ever went to a swinger’s club, I didn’t know what to expect, except, well, a lot of sex. The first time I went to an EDM show (just a few weeks ago), I didn’t know what to expect (except loud music and drugs). The first time I met fellow full-time travelers, I didn’t know what to expect.

Of course, all of those experiences were different. The swinger’s club was a lot of sex…and it was also a lot of people being totally, 100% honest about who they were and what they were looking for and accepting everyone else. The EDM show was a lot of loud music and a lot of drugs…and it was also a lot of people being totally, 100% honest about who they were and what they were looking for and accepting everyone else. The full-time travelers at the hostel were fun to talk to and knowledgeable about travel…and they were also totally, 100% honest about who they were and what they were looking for and accepting everyone else.

See a pattern? If it’s that I unexpectedly found that these marginalized and made to feel less-than-normal communities contained the most accepting people I’ve ever met, you’d be right!

The atmosphere at a swinger’s club tends to be not exactly what people would expect. Of course, there are lots of naked people, and there is lots of sex happening, and it’s clear that everyone is there just for that. But it’s also so cool to be in a world where everyone there has analyzed the relationship “story” we’re fed and decided it’s not for them. It feels super nice to be among people who have all thought for themselves in various ways and decided to be honest about who they really are. And accept other people who are being honest about who they really are. Non-monogamous communities are this way too: people who have decide to ditch the dumb ideas of what we should be and accept people for what we really are.

I didn’t realize it would be the same for the EDM world. Of course, there are less naked people and less sex (though they are a lot of ALMOST naked people). But there is a lot of loud music and drugs…and love. The people in the EDM world I had the pleasure of interacting with, even just for a few moments, were some of the kindness, most welcoming, most accepting people I’ve ever met in my life. No social niceties needed – when you’re at a big event hall, and you’re wearing a shiny spandex body suit and almost nothing else, rolling something serious and just enjoying the music – nothing really does matter except the music and the acceptance of your fellow attendees.

Similarly, full-time travelers. Those individuals who decide to ditch the 9-to-5 grind for the idea that there’s something more – something better, something freer – out there. It may not sound like much when it is compared with swinging and raving but it truly is – it’s the unbinding of the shackles from the ideas you’ve grown up with, the ideas that everyone has told you are the only ideas for the way you can live your life. It’s a community of people who have decided that the one-size-fits-all-mold for how we should be living is bullshit.

I feel so much more at home in my own skin and in these communities over the past few weeks or months than I have in the “normal” world the rest of my life. It fits me well, because my creed lacks any kind of structure or rules, save for “Be kind to everyone. And love yourself.”

So here’s the point of this blog (you know, aside from all the talk of sex and drugs and travel) – the next time you meet someone from a subculture or group that you don’t understand, instead of casting judgment, maybe stop and ask them something about the community that they clearly love and value so much. You might be surprised by what you find.

And I can guarantee you that you’ll start opening your eyes to the idea that there’s no one right way to live.

All that matters is being kind to others, enjoying your own happiness, and of course, living in the moment only.

Swinging, Raving & Traveling: The Cultures Of Acceptance