It seems like every time I log onto Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, my news feed is flooding with posts about how a 20 something year old quit her job in recruiting and traveled the world. It proceeds to tell us that we should all do the same, because youth is fleeting and our lack of responsibility is something we will never have again.
Some of these things are true. A lot of people grow up and reflect, saying that they wish they would have traveled the world more and taken more risks. Many people go through their whole life without taking a chance, without living life that does not follow a plan, and without experiencing true bliss through adventure. However, the majority of people that are probably reading these articles and experiencing FOMO levels through the roof are people like me – 20 something year olds who have traveled a decent amount through a combination of family vacations and “studying” abroad, and who are generally interested in exploring the world.
On the flip side, we are also enjoying the challenges of work (and the free lunches on Fridays), and the joy of learning a new city that we may be living in post-college. We know that we are lucky for our past experiences, but we still feel slightly jealous and anxious that we cannot abandon our very short list of responsibilities and go backpacking through Europe.
If this describes you, this is a PSA to tell you all that you should not feel pressured to fit into yet another mold. If you’re like me, you read these articles, roll your eyes, and think – yeah it must be fuckin’ nice. True, there are ways that you can ball on a budget (re: that one viral link about how that really first world broke girl traveled around the world) but the reality is – this is really logistically difficult to do. Most of us have student loan debt, many of us have credit card debt (because we forgot that you have to eventually pay for all of those shots), and some of us eat lean cuisines 90% of the week. And that’s ok, because we are young, and just starting to set our roots for our careers and our lives.
The modern day happiness to me is – being able to pay your rent, and hang out with your friends whenever you want. Happiness is subjective, so we all have different definitions. But don’t for a second believe that your job has to define you, and that you should quit and travel the world to achieve society’s definition of happiness. You just gotta do you. If you crunch numbers everyday in an Excel and are on the brink of a mental breakdown, backpacking across the world might be what you need. But if you are pretty happy where you and might die with a crippling case of FOMO, you better unfollow that Instagram account and remember how much you love the life you are building for yourself.
If you still don’t believe me and think I’m a bitter asshole, here are two perfect examples to show how you different paths lead different, but happy, lives. My mother, who has raised three somewhat functional and selectively smart children, traveled to many countries for the first time in her 50s. When I asked her if she regretted not traveling more, she said – “There are plenty of places I wanted to see, but I slowed down for a reason – to have my kids, and raise them while I was still very young.” Even though many of us are settling down and having kids later in life, we can still relate to this statement because we still have responsibilities we are attending to rather than traveling.
The second example my cousin, who has a circle of extremely influential friends and is pretty much always flying VIP to a different country. When I asked her if traveling had significantly changed her life for the better, she said “There were so many great things about traveling. I got to see the world. On one hand, I got the travel bug and realized that life was short – and I needed to expand my horizons and see as much of the world as possible. On the other hand, I experienced intense anxiety when I realized that I was traveling constantly, rather than staying in one place and forming roots like other people my age were doing.”
Here you can see two people who had completely different life courses. My mom’s life revolved around raising a family, and my cousin’s life revolved around constant jet-setting. Both of them had great experiences, and different paths, but one is not better than the other. What makes one better is if you follow your heart, and make your choices based on your heart’s desire, and not what a girl with 20k followers on Instagram is making you feel like you should be doing.