When I first read Liz Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love a couple of years ago, I thought to myself: THIS is what I’ve always dreamed of–leaving a mundane existence behind to explore the exotic unknown that awaits in a foreign country. For a travel addict such as myself, I find it hard to believe that not everyone dreams of this. People actually see it as an irresponsible way of escaping reality. What will you do about a job, they ask. How scary to leave everything you know behind for a world of uncertainty. And yet to me, what I most fear is my life becoming a string of sameness that never changes simply because comfortable is the safe option to the alternative.
Needless to say, I am more ecstatic about this movie than words can even express, not because I expect it to capture what Liz Gilbert so beautifully painted with her own words, but because it is bringing the idea of long-term travel and career breaks to mainstream culture. I’m tired of this dream being just a dream. How many times have I wondered how I could find a way to move abroad and somehow obtain a work permit/visa so I could actually be there legally? But I’m realizing now that there will always be excuses why things are too hard to do. The question is whether I’ll let these obstacles drive my life into being paralyzed by fear.
Nothing is really impossible unless you believe it is. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can find my own happiness. I know that I feel most alive and content when I am traveling. Ever since I was a child, I loved riding in planes, especially sitting in the window seat. As I got older, I became enamored by learning foreign languages. I remember sitting in French class (which only had about 4 students, because everyone else wanted to learn Spanish or Italian) in complete fascination of the stories my teacher would tell of her younger days she spent living in Europe, which is where she learned to speak 5 languages. I’m not sure I learned all that much French in 3 years of that class, but I learned the most about life there. Or about what I wanted out of my own.
And well, you may have read a previous post about my study abroad experience which pretty much put my wanderlust on overload. I’m simply not happy to stay in the same place for very long (let alone working for the same company for years and years–which is not to reflect upon my current situation, since I just made the 5 year mark at my company). The thought of living a traditional life of working, getting married, having 2.5 kids, and living in the suburbs sounds like eternal hell to me. I often wonder if this is why I’m alone… because I’m not meant to be tied down so that I can actually live my dream. And truthfully, I can say with complete certainty that the happiest days of my life were lived abroad.
If you asked me what my dream job would be, I would say without a second thought that I’d love to be a travel writer. It sounds way more glamorous than it actually is, for the pay is low, the work is harder than you imagine because you’re not on a lifelong vacation, believe it or not; and it’s quite difficult to land these gigs since everyone and their mother wants to live this “dream.” I constantly go to seminars where speakers discuss how they make a living out of this; hell, I even went to a trade show for funsies (the New York Times Travel Show) a few months ago that was totally dedicated to travel. I’ve lost count of how many travel blogs I read. Every week I get an e-mail from Travelzoo, Kayak, and Sherman’s Travel with their top travel deals of the week and almost cry when I realize I can’t afford any of those trips right now. And I await the Sunday New York Times for its travel section like a kid waits for Santa. Maybe this is why I kicked ass at geography in elementary school…
Luckily, writing is a career I can do remotely from anywhere in the world, as long as I have a computer, reliable Internet connection, place to focus, and of course, someone willing to pay me for my work. So, really, what the hell am I still doing here? Great freakin’ question. I ask myself this everyday. What’s holding me back?
I need to channel my inner 20-year-old as she embarked on that plane to London, not knowing what to expect across the pond and knowing she wouldn’t be home for another four months. How did I do it then, when I was really just a kid, and cannot muster up the courage to do it now? I’m working on this–being brave enough to just let myself go. I’m really the only one holding me back.