There comes a time when many face the ultimate decision: pursue a career or postpone it for the open road?
For those looking for a job, a career, a mere direction in their lives, travel can seem like a meaningless distraction-a money-sucking way to delay those awful first few years in the working world.
When I got out of university, I was obsessed with finding the ultimate job in my career of choice. I paced the living room floor of my parent’s house nightly, raving like a maniac about interviews and resumes. They absorbed my frustrations and then meekly suggested I travel instead.
“Travel?!” I asked, wild-eyed. “Travel? Then, I’d come home and do what? Huh? What then?”
Within a month or two, I’d landed an internship, and then another. After that, I got a real job. After five months there, I hopped to what I considered the ideal position.
Life Catches Up With You
I’ve now been working solidly for more than a year, but because of my position hopping, I won’t be able to cash in any vacation days for a good six months.
My mind now wanders back to what everyone said about taking my spare time and filling it with a trip somewhere, and let me tell you, it isn’t fun confronting the harsh reality of your own decisions.
One very uncomfortable and unfortunate thought sits at the back of my mind and resurfaces on every bad work day:
You should have gone traveling when you had the chance.
It’s true the opportunity will always be there, but not without potential for ruin by sticky grown-up details such as job contracts, family responsibilities and financial stability.
As time passes, age creeps up upon you, and before you know it, your ability to sleep in a hostel, wear the same underwear for three days and haul a backpack through six countries has evaporated.
And when you’re stuck in one place, your travel fantasies become all the more graphic, making it hard to get excited about a day of fact-checking and proofreading.
Solace In A Daydream
I find myself browsing last minute flights to Cuba and signing up for newsletters about backpacking trips through Vietnam. With jealousy, I pour over the travel albums and videos of friends and colleagues, wishing I was next to them on that Thai elephant.
But dwelling on your stationary status will only encourage you to hate where you live. Travel doesn’t have to take you across the globe or even across the country.
Even the smallest efforts to distance yourself from what you call home can reduce the desire to quit your job, sell your belongings, close your eyes, stick your finger on a map and go.
As a journalist, I travel on a daily basis. Twenty kilometres to the recycling plant. Six kilometres to City Hall. Sixty kilometres out on the water with the Coast Guard.
I’m trying to expand my coverage, but my bosses will only let me go so far.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep planning that trip to India, and the one to South Africa after that. I’ll also invest in a blow-up doll to place at my workstation while I’m gone.
Have you ever had to make this choice yet? How did you decide? And do you ever regret your choice?