It’s All a Crap Shoot Really

I was talking to a close friend the other day about whether or not he should quit his job to travel. He has a good job for his young age and a solid career plan, but he still toys with the idea of giving it up.  “I just don’t want to be thirty and have nothing to show for myself,” he finally admitted.

Leap of Faith
Creative Commons License photo credit: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser

Well, neither do I, and no matter how much I hide, thirty isn’t all that far away for me. The things I want to show (to who?) are probably less tangible then money in the bank or a highly placed job, but they are still important.

There are people out there who think I’m flighty or ambitionless because my major desire right now is to quit my job and travel full time. They don’t often say it to my face but I can see it in their eyes and in the uncomfortable way they change the subject. These people generally aren’t invited to hang around in my life too long. I find them less threatening than amusing. I think I’ve thought out the principles that govern my life better than many people have. 

Principles like:

  • There’s no reason you need to do what everybody else is doing.
  • Don’t put off your dreams until later when you could be doing them RIGHT NOW.
  • Above all else, be interesting. Take risks, learn and treat everything in life as an opportunity.

Laid out on paper they start to sound less like revolutionary principles and more like clichés. The down and dirty truth is I don’t really know what I’m doing or how things are going to turn out.

People tend to ask my advice a lot. I think that is great but it also perplexes me. I’m twenty-five, single, I don’t like my job and I sleep in my childhood bedroom. Does that sound like someone who has it all figured out? In reality I am just a girl with a tirelessly upbeat attitude, a lot of big ideas and either enough luck, willpower or blind stupidity to make them work.

So there is 30, just five years away. I think about myself five years ago. Oh man, I was a different person then. You guys wouldn’t recognize me! I’d barely been out of the country and I was way too caught up in my own insecurities and personal dramas to think beyond the semester, let alone configure a life plan. There are a lot of things I’d like to go back and change about being 20.

So, will I feel the same way at 30 looking back on 25? Will I seem foolish and idealistic? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I don’t know what my life will look like then, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change so drastically that I regret what’s happening now. I’m not racking up loads of debt, and I’m not slamming doors. I’ve observed enough lately to know that there are grounds here for a career and/or lifestyle. And even if my life goes in an entirely different direction than expected, I’m confident that my thoughts and beliefs now are going to guide me, not spite me.

So no I don’t have it all figured out, but anyone who says they do is lying.

The thing that I should have reminded my friend is that there is no panel of judges you have to face at thirty to have the merits of your existence evaluated. You don’t need anybody’s rubber stamp of approval to go on living. In the end the only person you have to justify your actions to is yourself.

The only things I can justify doing at this point in life are the ones that make me happy. They are what makes sense to me and I’m pretty sure that in the end, I can live with that.

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34 thoughts on “It’s All a Crap Shoot Really”

  1. Well, I’m sure you’ve heard the quote by Mark Twain so many times you are sick of it, but there is a reason for that – even though this comment is three years late, I still believe it’s better to go and live your life your way instead of following what is standard. As someone else said, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than you did, and if you’ve ever dreamed of something but failed to follow through on those dreams, then you most certainly will regret that.

  2. I thought I would travel for a year RTW and come home ready to settle down and get back into the office. It was the polar opposite. I did enjoy being home and not moving around for a while. But on my 3rd month home now, I’m ready to leave again. And highly motivated to create my own work and own income that does not involve being in a large company, stuffed up in an office.
    Preach it! There is NO judges when you hit the age of 30. I have to keep telling myself that now that I’ve heard it. Only a few years away from that :S

  3. Stephanie I absolutely love this post. It is great and well written. I just finished reading all the comments and I had to ask myself wait how old am I??? It seems like everyone is in the mid-twenties. I am 24 will be 25 in Feb so I will be turning 26 on the road.

    I think the thing that scares a lot of people is the future. People have the tendency to NEED a path that they think they MUST follow. Its like we must know where we are going to be in a year or 2 or 5. Instead of living in the moment we spend our time plotting a future that we dont even know will happen.

    When I tell people I am planning my RTW trip 1 of the 1st questions they ask is: What are you going to do when you back? I look at them crazy, I have no damn idea and its something I am not worried about. It just puzzles me that people cling to what they are used to and are scared to go off the norm a bit.

    1. I am also turning 26 on the road- in a couple of weeks!I also get the “what will you do after” question a lot and I usually just shrug. Who knows who I will be by then or what my plans will be. I think people are just looking for a context to fit us in and travel for the sake of travel doesn’t work for that.

  4. “People tend to ask my advice a lot. I think that is great but it also perplexes me. I’m twenty-five, single, I don’t like my job and I sleep in my childhood bedroom. Does that sound like someone who has it all figured out? In reality I am just a girl with a tirelessly upbeat attitude, a lot of big ideas and either enough luck, willpower or blind stupidity to make them work.”

    That pretty much sums up my experience as well. People ask me for advice all the time and talk about how they’d love to live the life I do, but…I guess I never really see it that way. I’m 26 with a crap resume, no car, about $5k of debt, and a job picking up dog poo. Yes, I’ve done cool things in the past, and I will continue to do cool things in the future, but it always kind of boggles my mind when someone asks me how they can “be more like [me]”.
    .-= Kelsey´s last blog ..Laptop Death! =-.

  5. I feel the exact same way! I graduated college in May and spent a few weeks backpacking through Europe this summer, but came back to a serious boyfriend and a great job in my field. Now that I’m single, I dream of quitting my job, putting my stuff in storage and moving to Paris (or Sydney, or Munich, or Tokyo…) and blogging. But I feel like I can’t do that for another year or so–I’m not sure why exactly, but I feel some sense of obligation. Still, I feel like if I don’t do it now (or, at least, soon!), I never will.
    I’m hoping that reading your blog will give me the inspiration and the resources to motivate me to buy a one-way plane ticket and start living. Thanks for this post–it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    1. It’s a paradox. You want to be well prepared (financially, emotionally, whatever) but there’s also that, totally valid, fear that if you keep putting it off it will never happen. I had a really hard time with that when I decided to postpone my travels for a year to save for money (I still have 9 months to go, which sucks). But I think if you keep working towards the goal, and putting money away, it’s possible to stay on track.

      Thanks for posting Christine!

  6. Hi Steph, I missed this thoughtful post as I was enroute to Thailand. Glad you started this discussion, and the comments are all insightful. I worked for in a traditional career (as a corporate lawyer) for 6 years and then quit to travel, and I turned 30 on the road this year. Though some family and friends thought I was running away, or wondered when “this travel thing will be out of your system”, as the months bled into a year and now into almost 2, they’ve come to see the personal value in what I chose to do, and how it has made me a more multi-faceted, happier and calmer person. Also? They’re jealous of all the good food I’m eating on the road.

    The bottom line is, as others have said, that people will judge because (sadly) it’s what people tend to do, especially when they are not similarly inclined to give it all up. If you know that travel will fulfill something in you that your current situation does not, then go for it. It isn’t running when you have nothing to run from.

    1. Thanks for adding your perspective Jodi! I really like that “it isn’t running when you have nothing to run from.” I try to be really honest with myself about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, which is part of why I’m confident everything is going to work out as it should.

  7. Thought-provoking post, Stephanie. To play a little devil’s advocate and to pose something that I’ve been thinking about once in a while, don’t you guys think some of us travelers are, gulp, running away? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes “running away” is not a bad thing; it leads to a broader understanding of the world, unique experiences, unexpected friendships, but other times it leads to drifting, drifting, drifting…and avoiding. A British lady I met in Argentina asked me point-blank, “What are you running away from?” She said it jokingly, but I soon learned that she was running away from a marriage gone awry and a job lost. What do you guys think of the whole notion of “running away?” If you’re not guilty of it, have you met fellow travelers who are?

    .-= Alex´s last blog ..Teaching English and Living in Bundang, South Korea- Your FAQ Answered! =-.

    1. You know, I think people travel for a lot of different reasons and one of them is escape. But I think that most long term travelers have realized that you really can’t run away from your problems, at least not for very long. Your emotions and issues follow you wherever you go, so it ends up not being a terribly satisfying motive.

      For many of the traveler’s I’ve met traveling has been more about self-discovery than escape.

      I guess what I’m saying is that people whose primary motivation is to escape, either end up going home to face their problems, or their motivation ultimatly changes. For a long time travel was a really useful way for me to put off figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Now, as you can see from the column above, I inadvertently figured out that what I want to do with my life IS travel.

      Anyone else have any input?

  8. Ugh, so true. My family doesn’t understand my urge to hit the road at all. I’m afraid that by the time I do hit my 30s, my priorities will be completely different and I’ll want to be more settled. I don’t want to look back later and wonder wtf I didn’t get out there and MOVE.
    .-= Candice´s last blog ..The Weirdest Christmas Tradition Ever =-.

    1. Yeah I think it’s way too easy to get settled into the routine of life and let oppurtunities pass you by because you are “comfortable.”

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