Welcome to the real world. A line overheard from someone in their home country advising a traveller abroad about his future. The line is meant to convey that his travel life isn’t ‘real’ and that he should soon return to the status quo. Ha! Anyone with this line of thinking needs to take a look at themselves, because this comment is riddled with insecurities and judgments that they aren’t qualified to dole out. Whatever path you choose is personal and no one should ever tell you how to choose. Only one person can guide your life, and it’s you. Look within, the answers are there.
You travel the world for so long and it’s easy to begin comparing yourself with others. Sitting at a hostel on a river in Kampot, Cambodia, talking to a few other travellers and the conversation goes like this-
‘How long have you been travelling for?' '6 months now.' 'Wow.It's only been 2 for me.’
He sees awe in 6 months, whereas I’ve met people travelling for 4 years and think that’s nice. The time we take on the road, if any, whether temporary or permanent, is irrelevant. It’s so easy for travellers to compare journeys with one another as though it’s a race to see who conquers more land or has more experiences. Comparisons are useless when it comes to character, in all contexts.
I’ve run into all sorts of people on the road...
- Students on a gap year break
- Former corporate employees who said goodbye to their desk and office
- Long term nomads who chose a life of wandering and refuse to see borders
- Sex industry workers who used their earnings to further discover themselves
- Entrepreneurs who took risks and opened businesses in tropical places
- Alternative, liberal people who left behind a conservative homeland
The point being that everyone is on their journey for personal reasons. And sure, we can compare two people within the same category above and say they have similarities. But the point is that as humans, we’re so complex that we’re the only ones who can guide our lives. What works for you may not work for me. One size does not fit all.
I’ve been critical of both academia and university, along with the 9-5 working lifestyle since leaving on this journey. Mainly because I was apart of it for 4 years and 4 more years, respectively. 8 years of my youth were spent pursuing what I believed to be the right path, because of the influence of people and the zeitgeist around me. I watched TV and saw what peers were doing. It seemed like the right course of action at the time. But the problem is that I never sought answers from myself. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. The answer should have been that I needed to be guided by my heart. I needed to look within myself to see what was best for me.
The same applies to you. Your path is not defined by your friends in another city, your parents, your ex-partner, your aunt, or that guy who was drunkenly boasting in a hostel. These are interesting people on your life’s journey, no doubt about that. The ones you respect most will have the heaviest sway and most influence on guiding you. But the ones who don’t let you guide yourself and instead try to prescribe some patch solution for you, are the ones you must fear the most. Sometimes the ones closest to us unknowingly hold us back.
No one has the answers for your life except you. And that’s a damn scary thought. Stop for a minute and realize this- no one knows you even remotely as well as you know yourself. That means that if you’re deciding to live a wholehearted life, one where you want to be your best self and find the most fulfillment in life- then you and you alone have to do the deeply committed work until the day you die. Are you ready to commit?
This is not a grim sentiment, this is a reality that you need to seriously face in the same way I’m facing every day. I meet amazing people on this journey, and then I have to say goodbye, again and again. This is a journey that I set out alone on, even though I'm always with incredible company.
Even though I’ve made connections more genuine than ever before, the future is mine alone to decide on. Always let your social circle and role models guide you. We need their help more than ever. But never forget that at the end of the day- only you determine how your life's story goes.
Don’t stress about making the wrong decisions. Stress only in the moments when you aren’t trusting your judgment and letting your heart guide you. When you feel a building pressure from those around you, feel free to consult them and ask their opinion. But don't blindly accept their advice. Weigh it and transform it.
No matter how attached you become to a romantic partner, a friend, a family member- always remember that you’re doing this alone, but with their support. This doesn't need to be a lonely, scary thought. Ever since you learned to walk on two feet, or speak for the first time. It’s always been you. Never forget that, and never let that inner flame within you burn out. Keep it burning strong, because when you take care of yourself, those around you will take notice and grow with you- and this is the way we will elevate each other.
It’s up to you. There’s work to be done with your life. In fact, the real job you should be striving to get hired for is the one that is your life. Get real about it right now. Once you commit, don’t give up. There will be roadblocks and mazes to get through. There will be hard times and confusion along the way. But this is what life is made of. This very thing is what makes life interesting. It’s the very thing that you’ll look back on when you’re on your deathbed. Hopefully you’ll be able to say, that was one hell of a journey.
What decisions should you (and you alone) be making right now?