The problem with my friend getting braids in Brazil, surfing in Bali and telling me to "find myself".

We all know that person who’s always been a bit of a ‘free spirit’.

Carefree. Chilled out. Not phased by the little stuff, taking the big stuff in their stride. An adventurer and a traveller and existing in an orbit separate to our own.

But what about the modern ‘free spirit’? It’s something a little different, isn’t it? One part Miley Cyrus, one part Instagram celebrity: beautiful, super fit, and much less underarm hair than the traditional hippy.

I am thinking of one right now, a friend of a friend. She’s almost 30, very beautiful, and has a social media feed that could make you weep.

Over the years – as you do – I’ve been following her enviable lifestyle thanks to frequent posting across her social media accounts. There she is, surfing in Bali. And again, climbing Macchu Picchu. Getting braids in Brazil. Singing with a ukulele in Byron Bay. Sun bleached and rested and toned and healthy and looking like she smells like Herbal Essence.

And as I would sit at my desk, shovelling day-old sushi down my gullet as I raced for yet another deadline, I’d be green with envy. “Create a life you don’t need a holiday from,” she would caption an Instagram post, doing handstands on the beach. Yeah, I thought. She’s right.

She’s really stuck it to the man.

Yoga on the beach on a Tuesday, because....who needs to work?! (Image: iStock)

But my gushy reverie of this globetrotting beauty - and all the other ones I had come to know - came to a grinding halt when I realised that the lines between 'free spirit' and 'mooching slacker' were a little blurrier than originally thought.

See, all this time, little niggling questions nibbled away at me: how did she earn money? Where did she stay between trips? What did I mean, surfing and making acai bowls and getting your hair braided is great fun, but not really full-time activities.

The answer, it seemed, was to be propelled along through life at the hands of everyone else but her own.


She stayed with Mum and Dad in their *very* large home in between trips. She made money off subtly sponsored Instagram posts. The trips were funded by a considerable inheritance from her grandmother. She was #blessed, alright, just less in the spiritual way and more in the financial sense.

Upon reflection, I'm not sure why I was so surprised. What did I think she survived on? Fairy dust and goji berries? And to be honest, if she wasn't so scathing of everyone else's lifestyles, I might have had just thought 'Good on her!' and moved on.

But the past year has seen something a little nasty work its way into her posts. Something a little judgey. Something a little...uppity.

What did I think she survived on? Fairy dust and goji berries? (Image: iStock)

"Work only for what you need," read a post last week, "and commit to living simply." This, coming from a woman who circles the globe like a patchouli-scented satellite.

Is she serious?

As someone who moved interstate at 18 and has fended for herself ever since, I'm happy to admit I have a sizeable chip on my shoulder about professional moochers. I think that everyone in this world - rich, poor, or otherwise - should be working. Somewhere. Anywhere. Doing something that not only gives them a sense of purpose, but also gives back to the community.

Soapbox moment aside, I also reckon work-life balance is important, too. That's why I left the rat race to become a freelance writer. Sure, I work seven days a week, but I get to set my own hours, exercise daily, and create a lifestyle that keeps me healthy and relaxed. I'm the first to advocate shunning the status quo to create your own personal happiness.

But then there's the 'free spirits'.

Just another free spirit. (Image: iStock)

In every generation before us, there have been slackers. People who feel entitled to rail against the modern trappings of work, money, routine, and hard work because...well, they didn't have to. Or just refuse to, living off the kindness and hard work of others instead.

Perhaps I wouldn't have to be swirled up in their orbit in the days before social media. Maybe I would have met them at a beachside bar on holiday one time, intrigued and impressed by their globetrotting hippy life - only to have forgotten about them before my plane touched down on the tarmac back home.


But thanks to the echo chamber of social media, I feel like a permanent passenger on their envious lifestyle.

Unfollow them? Sure. But still...I know that they're out there, mocking our bourgeois existence as they experiment with henna tattoos and perfect their downward dog.


(Image: iStock)

Last year, my cousin and her husband checked out of modern life in Sydney on a one year, round-the-world trip. Both high-flying executives, they had plenty of money but not a lot of time together. They needed the break to take a breath, consider their next move.


Another buddy has been studying yoga and meditation in India for almost two years now. She has completely gone off the grid to immerse herself in the mental and physical challenge.

These types of alternative lifestyles, the journeys of intense self discovery and adventure? They inspire me.

But the modern 'free spirit', so quick to promote their jobless, homeless, struggle free existence as what we should all be aiming for - well, that's not inspiring at all.

For every self-confessed 'free spirit' who is using inspirational quotes and hand-made mandalas to conjure up a life of holistic living, I wonder if they realise their extraordinary lifestyle is an anomaly.

We are not slaves to the man because we have to work. We are just trying to get through Coles without our cards declining, or stashing away enough dough for a month's break somewhere warm each year. Sure, it would be nice to live in a Balinese bungalow for the summer, but for most of us, we can't. And that's fine.

Social media, the great distorter. Where reality is skewed, and modern-day moochers become 'free spirits' to inspire us all.