One day in 2011, stuck somewhere between broke and unhappy, I decided, actually resolved to change my life. I promised to redefine what a rich life would mean for me. I absolutely and outright rejected that happiness came from a large pay check, slinging papers for the man in a cubicle.
I came up with several realizations, not all of them easy conclusions. I cried and felt frustrated at times, cheated by the promises of post-college life. I felt taken advantage of and used by a crumbling economy and shitty internships. But most surprisingly, I couldn’t believe how EASY it was to change my mindset and live a life I was proud of.
First I resolved to define what SUCCESS meant to me. One day, while trying to make it to an interview on time for an administrative assistant job, I realized that the job wasn’t what I wanted at all. Interview after interview on the 20th floor at some big wig company in Center City didn’t make me feel valid. It made me feel fake. I felt like a blown up balloon, all dolled up in a skirt and tights: I so badly wanted to deflate and take my tights off and strangle all the miserable people in their cubicles. It was sometime around failed interview number 3 or 4 when I downright decided to make my life rich with experience rather than money or status. I decided that what would make me happy was not a job that paid me a lot, but one that gave me enough to explore the world and live a relatively free life.
Second I reached out to people that had the same goals in mind. I reconnected with old friends. I made new friends at the restaurant I was working at that were artists, writers, students, thinkers. They’ve seen the world. They worked service jobs their whole lives to live around the world. I exchanged stories with friends who’d studied abroad, done a semester at sea, had couchsurfed in Egypt, were going to backpack through Thailand, had travelled South America for 2 years. I started a travel blog. I signed up for travel writing classes. I became addicted, and still am, to the free spirits in the travel community, those who make it their life’s goal to experience life.
Deciding to live a nomadic life comes with its connotations. I rejected and still continue to reject the negative ones. When my aunt described a girl who traveled with a family to be their Au Pair as a gypsy, I had to imagine it as a compliment. I’ve learned to tune out people’s disastisfaction with a traveling lifestyle. Some may call people with itchy feet hippies. I think they are right, in a sense. But I don’t listen to people who say traveling means you have no goals. In fact, I think those that travel and seek to experience have very specific goals, most of them very personal. Just because we reject a “traditional” life doesn’t make us bad. What makes traditional good is the same thing that makes a nomadic lifestyle bad: There’s sometimes uncertainly, financial woes and missing friends and loved ones. What makes a traveling lifestyle great is what a traditional lifestyle sometimes lacks: Spontaneity, adventure, freedom, beauty. I’ve learned to love all sorts of lifestyles, whether or not it’s for me.
I’ve accepted that travel is a lifestyle choice. Either you take the time to do it or you don’t. I will. I always will. I’ll almost always say yes, whether I can take that trip right away or not. Now that I’ve developed a whole new mindset about the way to live my life, striving to fill it with meaningful experience and adopt an non-traditional attitude to “vacationing” has been my first priority.
2012 is a year for me to step out of my comfort zone. So far, this is what I have planned:
1. Solo Travel: Starting at the end of this month, I’m taking my first solo trip. I quit my job without the prospect of another. Some call it foolish, but I’m certain I’ll be able to make money again. I’m packing my bag and hitting the road for about 5 weeks, maybe longer if things go well. I’m flying out of California after staying with some friends and into Sydney. I will be alone to the (almost) furthest place I can think of. I’m scared, but of what? I’m actually excited. Think of who I’ll meet. Think of what I’ll see. Think of what I’ll learn!
2. My ‘first’ International travel: Okay, so I went to Canada in 2011. That’s international. But it was so close to my USA roots. I’m going to Australia. Like, seriously. I don’t think that’s sunk in yet.
3. Stop being my own worst enemy: My friend Marjie said it best, “We are our own worst enemies. I am the only person I know of who has ever called me ugly, stupid, worthless, or not good enough. I’ve never met anyone else who’s said those things to me, and if I did, I’d be like ‘screw you!’” I need to give up my self-defeating attitude and believe that I can get out there and DO IT.
4. Travel vs. Vacation: Instead of staying in a hotel, like I’ve done my whole life growing up, I’m doing a homestay in Australia. I’ll be with a host family, one of which owns their own Beef Jerky company. I’ll get to try biltong! What is that even? Who knows, and who cares, but I’m willing to try it. I’ll be able to save money and experience a place longer and immerse myself into a local culture. Talk about cool.
That’s a bit about my goals and plans for early 2012 and how I arrived to those points. I’m sure I’ll have more adventures this year. But one thing at a time, eh? Happy travels!