I have a friend that I hang out with frequently when I’m home from traveling. He’s recently finished his university degree and can have a very lucrative career in something he’s really looking forward to. Him and I were hanging out one night and talking about heavy “real life” stuff and I mentioned how I feel a lot of societal pressure when I come home to have an SUV, a husband (or at least a boyfriend), a house of some sort, a career, and may as well throw in a baby or two. Because that’s what my friends have, and that’s what society is telling me I need. And sometimes, I feel like the crazy, single girl who has no savings and no purpose in life even though I know that’s not true. My purpose is just on a bit of a different path and timeline than theirs currently is. And realistically, my friends might actually envy me a little bit for my freedom and lack of major responsibility. Maybe, anyway.
So as we were talking, my buddy said one of the wisest things I think I’ve heard in a long time about why he doesn’t feel the way I do, even though our situations are almost identical. But first, let me quickly fill you in a bit on the back-story. Currently he’s 28 and works a job similar to mine: a seasonal, outdoors, machine-operating job. It also happens to pay as much, if not a little more, than a beginning teaching job would pay. It’s Monday to Friday, set hours with no take home work at all, and the odd opportunity for double-time overtime. It also has medical benefits, every third Friday off, and the autonomy that I couldn’t work without. I love having my independence at work and not having to be told what to do. (Granted I’ve put nine seasons in at this career, so I would hope they trust me to do things on my own!). I also eat lunch at home and soak up as much Vitamin D as the sun can offer. So with all those perks and happiness in what both him and I do, why do I feel the pressure to get a “real job,” “settle down” and quit traveling when all I want to do is run and wander and explore, even after four years of doing just that during my off season at work?
As I was telling my friend about this, he explained why he was in no rush to start his job. He liked what he currently did as it’s clearly a really good job, he didn’t feel any stress during the day, and he had the rest of his life to start his future career and the rest of his life to do his future career. There was no rush because he knew where he was going and what he wanted to do, and it didn’t have to be today or even tomorrow. For all the pressure I feel, he felt none of it and I couldn’t help but be a little jealous. I guess the difference is that he knows what he wants to do, and I’m still left out in the dark on deciding on where I should apply myself even after five years of university and four years of what I consider an unofficial degree in life around the world.
So why don’t we encourage our children to travel and see the world and not just step from high school, to university, to career? Instead of stepping on the straight and narrow path, they should be jumping into the world and exploring and discovering and zigzagging anywhere and everywhere their heart desires. Canadians and Americans seem to be far behind the European gap year trend, and I really think we’re missing out. I’m a completely different person than I was four years ago, with different ways of thinking, new perspectives, and I have a different appreciation for the incredible diversity and experiences the world has offered me. From growing up as a small town farm girl, I think I’ve blossomed into somewhat of a world aficionado and a passionate travel advocate. Sometimes I don’t even realize how much traveling and my experiences have impacted me because it has just melded into part of my new personal ideology.
So at the end of it all, who cares if I didn’t get started on a career until well after I received my degrees, and who cares if I spent more time wandering “aimlessly” than the average person. I think, at the end of the day, I’ll be happier, healthier, and more satisfied with what I finally decide on than if I just settled down and ground out some arbitrarily chosen career just because I felt like that’s what society wanted me to do. Because settling is not what I want.
So is this just a justification article on why I do what I do? Perhaps, but I feel like it’s a bit more than that. It’s an encouragement to those that feel the same way as me and those that aren’t ready to settle down into what society tells them is the right path. Because in reality, there is no right path. And to those courageous few who have not only dreamed about it, but have managed to take on something unusual or different in their life, they get to be a part of a fresh and exciting perspective that very few get to experience.
So regardless of the right or typical thing to do, the one thing I’m certain I must do, is exactly what I’ve been doing. Traveling.
The world is calling me, and I just need to go.