Thought Catalog

Why I Chose A Life Of Wandering And Travel Over A ‘Real Life’

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Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks

Everyone wants to know when the journey ends, when I’ll quietly reintegrate back into the status quo and when I’ll get back to living a “normal life” (whatever that is). But the journey never truly ends for a traveller, does it? Sure, I plan on going back to my hometown to reconnect with family and friends, maybe even resume portions of a past routine. I’ll probably rejoin the gym, see movies at the local theatre and have dinner at my favorite restaurant from time to time. But again, the journey never truly ends. And I thank the powers that be, because personally, I don’t know that I want it to.

Don’t take this out of context. If you’re happy (I mean genuinely happy) with your life, even if it doesn’t closely follow the narrative of your favorite action, drama or sci-fi thriller, that’s the life for you. And that is wonderful. You’ve managed to do something that millions (maybe billions) of people in this world haven’t: find happiness.

I’ll “like” the hell out of your happy life on Instagram and Facebook, and if I’m feeling social, I may even comment. I’ll be the first person to praise your hard work when you get that raise at the company you’ve dedicated yourself to improving, even more so if you’re building your own business. I’ll look on in admiration when I find out you’ve purchased your first home, or paid it off. I will personally congratulate you when I see the big news, “We’re engaged!” I hope my invite doesn’t get lost in the mail.

Maybe one day, I’ll be lucky and poised enough to be able to speak or write about those incredible life achievements as someone who has actually experienced them. But the truth is, I’m not interested in any of that stuff in more than a fleeting way at best. I admire you for living that life, your life, but it isn’t for me, certainly not right now.

I’m not ready.

I’m not ready to put anyone but myself first.

I’m not ready to unpack my bags. I’m not ready to accept that corner office job or to pour my life and soul into my own company. I’m not ready for that kind of routine. I’m not ready for mortgage payments or that huge loan. I’m not ready to sign my name on a birth certificate. I’m not ready to tame my wanderlust. No, I’m not ready. I’m not ready at all.

Right now, the idea of spending more than a few months in the same place is the most frightening concept in the world to me. I know what you’re thinking, “Sounds like you’re running from something.” Right? Wrong. I won’t sit here and lie to you, aside from not entirely loving my job (at a great company), my life couldn’t have been much better. And who knows? Maybe one day, that’ll be the perfect setup for me.

But life doesn’t happen one day. Life is every day. Life is right now. Life is this very instant. I’d be cheating myself out of my version of happiness if I went back to my hometown and stayed put. I’ve decided to be a long-term traveller. This is me. I find myself in awkward situations all the time (try getting hit on by a person of the same sex, in a language you barely speak as you both sit in the back of a taxi).

I have friends in dozens of countries. I speak two languages fluently, I struggle but get my point across in another. And I curse like a drunken sailor in about three or four other languages. I have a suitcase that never gets unpacked. Sometimes I wake up and have no clue where I am and sometimes I can’t sleep because my mind is flooded with thoughts of where I want to be. And you know what? That’s what happiness looks like to me.

We throw around sayings like “carpe diem (seize the day),” “life is short,” and “you only live once.” But do we live them?

Do we embody them as wholeheartedly as we could? Some of us do, but most of us don’t. The lifestyle that I’ve chosen isn’t fake. I don’t travel as some act of theatre, although if through my travels I inspire even one single soul to go out and chase their dreams, whatever or wherever they might be, that’s a “work perk” that I’ll take over any cash bonus.

Have I made mistakes? Yes. Will I make more mistakes? You can bet your last dollar I will. Will I make the same mistake twice. Not a chance. Because traveling is more than going to tourist destinations and taking pictures to show my friends. It’s more than a cool collection of passport stamps or a few cheap souvenirs. Traveling is one of the best life coaches I’ve ever had. It’s an intensive course in self-awareness, patience, tolerance, acceptance, peace, happiness and love.

Yes, I do miss my family and friends. I miss them dearly. Does living alone and traveling alone get lonely at times? Absolutely. As human beings, we crave, and thrive on social interaction. We’re at our best when we’re together with others, both similar and unlike us. But I get to know myself better, and I make friends everywhere I go. Do I have all the answers? How could I? I’m still in my twenties. Does anyone have all the answers? Again, not a chance.

I woke up one day, took a long hard look at myself in the mirror and had an epiphany. I’ve always been the odd man out. I’m not doing anything different from what I’ve always done. I’m being me. And if you don’t fit neatly into the mould society has built for us, I wrote this post for you. It’s okay to be different. Scratch that. It’s awesome to be different, especially while you’re young, able-bodied and full of life.

I spent years of my life doing what I was “supposed” to be doing. I’ll never get those years back. Remember when I wrote that I won’t make the same mistake twice? Traveling is me walking the walk, not only talking the talk. I’m going to make the absolute best of my youth. I’m going to get lost in places that I’ve never been. I’m going to hike trails even if I don’t know where they end. I’m going to buy one way tickets to destinations I know nothing about. I’m going to wander aimlessly, talk to strangers and buy food on menus that I can’t read. I’m going to live my life the only way I see fit. And you should too.

I want to arrive at my breaking point and obliterate it. I want to quench my curiosity with discovery. And for the past 13 months or so, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I haven’t loved every minute of it. I’ve seen some dark times.

I appreciate those moments just as much as the blissful ones, because both provide me with the opportunity to learn and discover a little bit more, about the world, and myself.

Let me guess, you’re thinking, “Sure, this sounds great in writing, but we can’t all just get up and travel the world.” I’m here to tell you that you can. The only thing stopping you, is you. Grab a pen and a sheet of paper, and write down a short list of your top priorities. If traveling isn’t on that list, that’s why you’re not living a life of travel. If traveling is on that list, where does it rank? What I’m saying is, we tend to do the things that mean the most to us.

Me? I know what I want. I know what my calling in life is at this very moment. I know what my priorities are. If you’ve found your happiness, even if it isn’t through travel, I’m still happy for you. But if you feel like you’re selling yourself short, you are. If you feel like there’s more out there for you, there is. I’m urging you, and begging you to go out and get it. The world needs you.

Will I go “home” some day? I’d like to think so. After all, I’m told that’s where the heart is. But right now, my heart belongs to the world. TC mark

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