I’ve had my fair share of tough times and travel has rescued me in many ways; yet everyone around me has something to say about my travel decision, and it’s rarely positive.
1. “You’re so lucky!”
Striving for something and getting it is not the same as stumbling across some loose change in an old pair of jeans. I never know what to say to this, because it so undermines all of the planning, inner practice, experience and willingness to change that I’ve worked so hard on.
I understand the phrase to mean: “You didn’t have to do anything, go through anything, learn anything, it’s just by chance things worked out for you.” I also interpret it as a guilt-trip: “Why should you have these experiences and I can’t?”, or “well you don’t have any real responsibilities, a mortgage, children, etc.” Then I feel bad that some people feel travel isn’t attainable for them and think that their life’s path is in the hands of luck. I chose my lifestyle, just as you chose yours.
I understand that in many ways I am lucky: lucky to be a UK citizen, lucky to have the opportunities I’ve had, lucky to be alive and (somewhat) healthy. This isn’t what I was referring to about being ‘lucky’.
2. “What about your boyfriend?”
Is it so wrong to have different aspirations than my partner’s? To be long-distance? To put myself first? My boyfriend is absolutely fine with the situation; he embraces my choices and is proud of me. Choosing to be separate from him physically so we can both make our dreams a reality does not frighten me.
3. “Awww… Why are you going alone?”
Errr…. because solo travel is the best thing I’ve ever done with my life?
4. “It’s alright for some” or “I guess it’s nice”.
I do not go around telling everyone about my plans, but if they ask, what can I say? So when my summer plans teaching in Italy, or a brand new job in Canary Islands later this year is met with “alright” or “nice” by my friends, it’s pretty heartbreaking.
Remember when you got that promotion, graduated, got engaged or had a baby? I was happy for you and proud of you! It would mean a lot to me if, when I am offered a job abroad, am accepted onto a course in another country, learn a new language or have a life-changing experience, you have my back too.
5. “How can you afford it?” and other assumptions that you’re rich/lucky/non-human/a spoiled child.
I’m not rich, I left home when I was 15, I’m unlucky in almost everything and yes I am a human. What’s the secret? First off I worked in McDonalds for almost 3 years to fund my way through college, the first year of university, and a teach & travel internship in Vietnam. I wouldn’t recommend this job to my worst enemy, but I learnt a hell of a lot about determination, hard work, and what it takes to achieve something you really want.
6. “What are you going to do there?” *Use disapproving tone*
What they actually mean is: “what could there be to do all the way out there?”, and when I explain that I’m going to teach English, work on my blog, or volunteer, I get a simple nod in return. Is it so wrong that I’d rather do the aforementioned than sit in a cubicle or serve customers all day?
The look on their face always screams: “Why on earth would you want to go to this middle-of-nowhere-place I’ve never heard of without an actual plan”.
It is, however, perfectly acceptable to holiday in Tenerife, Turkey or NYC for a week and stay bound within the resort’s walls and never speak to a local. If I said “I’m visiting the Canaries this September” rather than “I’m moving to the Canaries this September” friends would understand. Moving abroad, however, is not met with the same appreciation.
7. “What are you gonna do after?” *Said like there’s no hope for your future*
“You’re wasting your time, it does not set you up well, you’re wasting your money, you’re going to come home broke, there’s no progression for you here, just don’t do it.”
I’d rather live today rather than thinking about what’s next — I’ll get to that later. I could renew my contract in the Canaries Islands to stay longer, or I could train to become a diving instructor and give that a go. I could come home for a little bit or I could go to Philippines like I’ve always dreamed about — I don’t quite know!
Is that so bad? Is uncertainty and the possibility that anything can happen that detrimental to me?
Whoever says something like this should try being a bit more open. Any experience that helps you to grow, or changes something deep within you, is a necessary part of a life lived with purpose.
8. “You’ll miss out on a career opportunity at home.”
A friend of mine currently working in London is looking into moving to NYC to develop his passion of acting. If he ignored his calling and carried on as he is, in 5 years’ time he’ll probably be an extremely highly-paid manager of his department, and won’t want for nothing — oh wait, except his passion and calling in life which you suggested he give up just because of a career opportunity.
Reality check: we are all replaceable in our jobs. Nothing will change that. Certainly not travel.
For now I’m a TEFL teacher, perhaps after I’ll teach diving or yoga, work on a cruise ship, be promoted within a school, become a wellness coach, write a novel, etc. If I do happen to ‘miss out’ on a career while living my dreams, it obviously just wasn’t my path.