Travel has rescued me in so many ways. If you’ve had a scroll through my About Me page, you’ll know I’ve had my fair share of tough times. Problems growing up, problems with love, problems at uni, now problems with anxiety and Fibromalgia. I’ve been up, down, all around and it has not been easy.
After I came home from Sicily, I let my mind and body pause, relax and restore. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was reinventing how the rest of my year would turn out. I read, I practiced yoga, I reflected, I wrote lists. Made goals.
I picked up a job in a supermarket chain so I could save up and pay off my credit cards while planning what on earth I’m going to do. When things started to go right for me (more on this later!) more and more things went right! It’s like I’m on FIRE. I’m buzzing with energy and can see all the light and love around me- which is so remarkable considering how the year started.
The problem? The people around me! It’s like everyone has something to say about your travel decision, and it’s rarely positive. After an inspiring trip to London with an old friend, I decided to write this open letter about what not to say.
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….” 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 to my partner? To be long-distance? To put ME first? My boyfriend is absolutely fine, 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. Aww 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. /Oh… must be nice.
Similar kind of thing to number 1 on my list, only worse. Now I’m not even lucky! 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. I don’t remember saying that at your graduation/engagement.
5. How can you afford it?! + assumptions that you’re rich/parents are funding everything/lucky/non-human.
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, first year of uni and 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 can take to achieve something you really want.
Since then I’ve been able to travel because I find work abroad and then travel within that country, as I did in Maldives and Naples, Italy. In Maldives I was given special rates when diving and visiting resorts/guest houses because I had a work permit card. In Italy, I budgeted.
I emphasis the “?!” at the end of the question because that’s the tone, like, “how can you possibly do that?!” and then when you explain, you just get “Oh, I’d never work in a fast food restaurant” or, “I’d rather spend my money on XYZ” so you don’t really get anywhere, and you definitely don’t get any recognition for your effort.
6. What are you gonna do there? *Said in a disapproving tone*
This question is said to me almost like, “what could there be to do all the way out there?”, and when I explain that I’m going to teach English or work on my blog or volunteer, even from my friends- I get some kind of nod/ “mmmm” 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 with this question always screams: “Why on earth would you wanna go to this middle of nowhere place I’ve never heard of (even if it’s Hong Kong or USA) and you don’t have an actual PLAN”. This is the case when you’re buzzing about an upcoming backpacking trip around the world or touring Oz or, as an old friend of mine is about to, move to USA. People can’t seem to grasp it, and any answer doesn’t get you anywhere.
It is, however, perfectly acceptable to holiday in Tenerife, Turkey or NYC for a week and stay bound within the resort walls and never speak to an actual person from the country. 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*
This screams: “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.”
Who knows what I’ll do after?! I’d rather live today rather than thinking about what’s next- I’ll get to that later. My friend moving to USA could excel in her design career, she could publish an e-book, I could renew my contract in the Canaries 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 for anything to 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. We have to be free to let them go if the time comes. Once you let this or that job go, another one comes bringing a new light and new opportunities and takes you somewhere else, somewhere better. 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, I don’t know but that’s my unconventional path. If I do happen to ‘miss out’ on a career while living my dreams, it obviously just wasn’t my path.
Another friend of mine took a fantastic 4 month trip around Thailand and New Zealand as she had a lot of learning and growth she needed to do. She’d recently graduated and so of course, family and friends were up in arms about her travel plans. On returning, everything aligned for her and she was offered a position in the city with the ability to progress higher. Travel didn’t hold her back, travel changed something in her which her new employer obviously saw.
What we would LOVE to hear
A genuine “well done!” !
Remember when you got that promotion, graduated, got engaged or had a baby? I was and am so happy for you and so 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 (albeit not be the most conventional), you still have my back.
You celebrate my choices.
I absolutely want to hear your advice, even if you have some doubts or worries, but let’s talk them through instead of you just raining on my parade the whole time. Telling me that it’s a silly dream, that I’m mad, that I’m irresponsible, immature or just clearly showing no interest or respect in my travel accomplishments, is not what friends do.
Anyone else out there struggle to keep all their travel plans and exciting news to themselves for fear of looking like you’re bragging and/or not really having many people around to celebrate with? Tell me your news, I’m so excited to hear them and celebrate your choices!Never give up. Go and breed! Go and breed great dreams.” ― Israelmore Ayivor… Click To Tweet