“Oh, but you have so much potential!”
I just spent two years underemployed while living abroad in a place a lot of people only think of as a vacation spot. As a university graduate with a lot of achievements, making enough money to support my wanderlust is just not a good enough ‘life plan’.
“Don’t you know the UK’s economy is in the toilet?”
As I organize my upcoming long-term living abroad arrangement, I’m simply looking for work that will pay for my lifestyle and not necessarily a lifelong career that will be mine forever, forever ever, forever ever ever.
Some of you are lucky enough to have people who support your ‘lifestyle choice’—give them a hug. And the rest of us? We’re throwing away our potential, wasting time or not thinking about ‘the future’…
In this post, I talked about when my wanderlust started.
I remember being in Strasbourg on that summer abroad. I loved the freedom I had. I was there by myself on a weekend, so instead of traipsing around Strasbourg one night, I ate pizza and read My Sister’s Keeper: A Novel. I didn’t feel obliged to ‘see the sites’ or ‘discover Strasbourg’. I could just be myself and do what I felt was best for me – I only had myself to answer to.
That’s what I see travel as: freedom, independence, and being responsible for and to yourself. As I think about what I want to ‘do with my life’ I consider these things at the forefront.
So. You want to make travel your lifestyle. It’s not a hobby, or a side gig. You don’t want to be a teacher who travels during your vacations and you’re too squeamish to be a nurse working abroad. You want to travel. It’s a thing. Yet your family, friends, and/or that jerk at the bar conflate ‘traveller’ with ‘future bum’.
Once you’ve decided ‘traveller’—or feel free to insert any non-traditional life path here—is your job description, here is how you get those people onto your path of enlightenment.
When I first decided to work abroad, I would joke that it was because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after my undergraduate degree. No one took me seriously and figured I would be home the following year job hunting, but a year behind my classmates.
Maybe I read The Alchemist a few too many times, but living authentically is very important to me. I truly believe that in doing what you enjoy, being passionate and working hard, the opportunities to make a success out of what you love will present themselves.
Now I make it clear that travel is what I want to do with my life and that I would like to make a career out of what other people see as a hobby. Since I started saying that, friends, family and strangers are full of suggestions about paths that would allow me such a lifestyle.
Don’t be afraid to tell people your dreams and how you plan to achieve them (or at least show you’re willing to work hard to do so). When people hear you second-guessing yourself, you leave yourself open to them doing the same.
If you choose to do something, be confident in that decision. Never make an excuse as to why you’ve taken the path that you are.
Still, be open to suggestions.
Don’t get so caught up in this “me vs. the world” dynamic that you don’t hear anyone else. Some perceived naysayers aren’t trying to discourage you, even if it feels that way. Someone may have an idea as to how you can do things better, so take every suggestion under advisement or store it for future reference.
I have heard plenty of great ideas as to how I could simultaneously live abroad, travel and build a career: teaching (I’m not a fan), nurses are always in demand (bodily functions, ew), physiotherapist (a possibility). I thought about it and often their suggestions weren’t for me—but that doesn’t mean they won’t be for you.
Listening, and considering how you could use their suggestion to your advantage, shows flexibility and maturity. It also gives you the leverage to challenge the suggestions if you’re not interested.
Don’t let anyone crush your dreams…
Some people are simply contrarian. They think they know what is best for you and they find something wrong with whatever you choose to do no matter how confidently you defend it.
They say rude, unsupportive things and add a #getreal hashtag to it thinking they’re doing you a favour.
Simply put: they just like pissing in other people’s Cheerios.
If real life means dealing with people like that, then it’s right not to want anything to do with it. Sometimes these people resent you for following your dreams. They feel it is their real word duty to bitch-slap you awake and tell you to suck it up because #thisisreallife.
Ignore them. Walk away. Or smile and change the subject. They don’t hear a word you’re saying anyways.
…And don’t step on anyone else’s
Just as you want people to respect your life choices, you must respect theirs. This may be hard to hear, but: not everyone is jealous of you. Some people have been dreaming about that 9-5, white picket fence and 2.5 kids their whole lives.
Your life choices may not be right for someone else, so be gracious and be humble. It is not for me or you to undermine another person’s dreams, so share the positive. That way, if your friend does wake up and decide they’re not living the life they want, you could have a new plane buddy on your way to Fiji.
It may not always be possible, but try to surround yourself with positive people who support you no matter what. A lot of people have something of value to say—except when they don’t—so listen and ask questions.
Remember: when you’re following your dreams, you’re inspiring others to as well!