The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “Bohemian” as someone, “especially an artist, literary man, or actor, who leads a free, vagabond, or irregular life, not being particular as to the society he frequents, and despising conventionalities generally”.
In today’s world, the term “Boho” or “Bohemian” is mostly associated with a fashion style or certain way to decorate a home. In fact, the bohemian style has become a real trend over the past few years. The brand Freepeople, for instance, is a great example of this bohemian styling trend. But there’s a lot more to it.
“Bohemianism is not a trend, it’s a timeless movement, a way of life both fleeting and enduring that reappears every now and then as a backlash against our bourgeois, mass market, easy access culture.” Laren Stover, author of Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge.
Bohemianism is a lifestyle. It stands for those free spirits who are living a life away from the usual everyday life, the stress and pressure, a life in which we are disguising our own feelings and personality in order to fit into today’s society and its ideals. We become the “perfect” version of ourselves, living our allegedly “perfect” lives, rushing from one place to another because those 24 hours just aren’t enough to fit in ten hours of work, working out at the gym, eating, getting dressed, grocery shopping, and picking up the kids from school. You get the idea.
Living a life always hassling from one place to another isn’t always what we really want. We do it because everybody does it. From early on, we give our very best at school in order to get into a decent university. When we are at university, we give our very best in order to get a good job with some major company one day. And when we are at work? Well, we are giving our very best in order to please our bosses, to get a pay raise, or to finance the next vacation. At the same time, we are constantly working on ourselves, trying to fix our flaws, to get in better shape, to get a better look.
While we are doing all this, we tend to forget our talents, our dreams, our true selves. We forget about the things that actually make us happy and fulfilled. This “perfect” version of ourselves often isn’t ourselves. That is where Bohemians are one step ahead of us. They live the life they want to live, they fight for their ideals, they are their true selves, managing to live out their dreams. Even if that means that they don’t have a permanent place of residence or a hefty savings account.
Even though this lifestyle might not suit everyone, it clearly involves some aspects which any of us can, and maybe even should, consider implementing more in our own lives. All points are underlined by statements from what has become one of my favorite books: Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge by Laren Stover.
1. Have the courage to follow your own ideals and live your life to the fullest.
In order to live life to the fullest, you’ve got to be willing to take a risk once in a while. Have courage and know that the risk is worth it.
“Giving up security takes guts. Bohemians have the courage to reject mainstream society; to follow an ideal and forsake praise and security; to alienate family; to be, as Jack Kerouac put it, ‘yourself at whatever cost’.”
2. Free your artistic self and surprise yourself.
Take photos, take notes, jot down your thoughts, paint, or do pottery. There are a million ways we can act out our feelings. Just try it.
“Art is a way of life to the Bohemian, so it is difficult to separate art from life. They make it. They sell it. They barter it. They inspire it. They find it on the street, on the beach, in the Dumpster, in the stars. […] Walls, floors, shoes, shirts, sidewalks, street lamps, skylights, no surface is safe from the Bohemian with a paintbrush, marking pen or glue gun. Broken objects may become art; broken crockery or scallop shells end up as mosaics.”
3. Speak out loudly for what you believe in.
Don’t hide your feelings and thoughts just because they might not seem appropriate for some people. Be true to yourself.
“Revolt comes naturally to Bohemians; they are contrary, irrelevant and disobedient. They like to shake things up. They tickle, rattle, inspire, amuse, repulse and overthrow. Bohemians revolt against dress codes, the circadian clock, business hours, temperance, established mores, the conventional idea of a work ethic, established art forms, politics, traditional living arrangements and institutions.”
4. Dare to live a more unconventional life.
Who tells us how we have to live our lives? High school, college, work, family, kids. For some of us, this might sound wonderful — which is fine. For some of us, however, it doesn’t. It’s just not us. So why should we force ourselves?
“The bohemian is not a follower of the virtues espoused by bourgeois society: routine, temperance, convention, mediocrity, materialism and respectability. Bohemians despise authority, the status quo and, because they are often broke, capitalism and consumerism.”
5. Be proud of being different.
You simply cannot identify yourself with the “normal,” ordinary way people around you talk, act, think, and live? You feel like you are kind of weird in some way? Different? Extraordinary? Well, congratulations. Be proud of it.
“To Bohemians, there is no shame in experiencing altered mental states and sometimes even a little glory in it. […] The Bohemian is never shy about sharing any alternative or outlaw experience. This includes asylum stays. They will illustrate treatments, painting doctors and wards and discussing the stay as though it were something of notoriety or great prestige.”
6. Embrace your body.
Bohemians are comfortable with nakedness because they are comfortable in their bodies. Imagine how much happier we would all be if we could just accept our bodies the way they look and see them as the beautiful things they are.
“Nudity as a state is liberating, free of class, inhibition, pretense, rank and fashion. It’s an opportunity to return to the earth, to create a Utopia uncorrupted by buttons, buckles, zippers, neckties, bow ties.”
7. Stop believing in materialism.
Owning a lot of things doesn’t necessarily make one happy. On the contrary, it is not a rare occurrence that this stuff gets in our way and becomes a burden. So, what exactly is the point of all those possessions we accumulate over the years?
“The Bohemian makes do — creatively, exultantly — and does not need the newest appliance, car or gadget to impress, to feel whole, to define himself or herself, to pursue dreams. The true Bohemian is a connoisseur of texture, color and sensation. While the bourgeoisie can experience excitement, a feeling of fulfillment only through consuming, the Bohemian is exhilarated by observation, by creation, by experience itself.”
8. Travel away from the destinations of guidebooks and tourist hotspots.
Discover new lands, foreign cultures, freedom off the beaten track. Get inspired.
“They travel inordinately, incessantly, restlessly; observing, freeloading, freewheeling, free loving, freedom bound, drinking, mountain climbing, [..], taking jobs, taking notes, taking photos, typing away in the room at night, maybe all night. […] Bohemians shun tourist attractions. The Bohemians has been to Paris ten times yet has never been to the Eiffel Tower, and when they do, always by accident, end up at a tourist attraction, they’ll get there so late it will be closed.”
9. Reconnect with nature.
A walk in nature is often referred to as the best medicine. In today’s modern world, however, we tend to forget that and rather turn to our electrical devices or even pills to calm us down, to distract us from our problems, from the struggles we have. So the next time you are feeling down or stressed, try a walk in the park. It will not only help you de-stress, but also to get a little physical exercise.
“Bohemians are more primal, closer to the earth, and more prone to embrace nature than people who consider themselves above the four-legged with tail or scales. They do not, as a rule, put out sticky traps or tear down spiderwebs, and never one that is inhabited. Bohemians rescue animals.”
10. Don’t be afraid to try new, foreign things.
Trying out and learning about new things will not only open up new possibilities and chances to you in life, it will also make you smarter and benefit your personality in a great way.
“Bohemians embrace, whenever possible, unconventional food and eating habits. […] Bohemians like to eat and prepare food from countries not native to them, or from another time period.”
However you are living or planning on living your life, take just one minute and think about it. What’s the feeling you are getting? If it feels good, congratulations, that’s great. If it doesn’t, however, there might be a weak spot in the way you’re living. Now, think of those points mentioned above. They are all crucial elements in the bohemian lifestyle. Maybe you’ll find yourself in one of them, maybe there are some small adjustments you can implement in your own life and maybe, just maybe, they will help you to live your life more fully, more happily, and more truthfully.
After all, “there’s just something about the freedom, recklessness, scandal, artistic vision and spiritual splendor that makes it tantalizingly worthy of membership.”
Featured photo credit: via Flickr // taylorfranks via flickr.com