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If I had a pound for every time someone said, or insinuated, that I travel to run away from the responsibilities of adult life, well – I’d basically be able to afford an around-the-world ticket (see ya suckers!)
“Are you just going to run away every time life gets tough?” said by a male friend of mine, has to be my favourite sweeping statement made to date.
My initial reaction to this was naturally ‘get f*cked’ and other defensive retorts like ‘I have staying power you know’ and ‘I do have emotional strength to face issues in my life, you complete moron’.
Perhaps, on reflection, I was a little harsh.
It has been a few years now since that comment was made and although I don’t agree with him, rather annoyingly, I can see where he was coming from.
Looking back at some of my trips, there did appear to be a pattern behind most of them. Whether I was having job issues or a relationship break up, going through boredom or a shift in mindset, these things did seem to spur me to just ‘up and go’ without much of a second thought. My most recent quarter life crisis actually, resulting in moving here, to Melbourne.
But I’ve thought about it and do you know what? I don’t think it’s because I’m fearful of facing tough situations like my friend was rudely/affectionately (I think?) suggesting. In fact I know it’s not. Instead, it is because I am in control. If I don’t like something in my life – wait for it – I actually change it.
It’s a proactive concept that in recent years I have been trying to apply to many aspects of my life especially when the things in questions are affecting my mental health. Yes, sometimes I implement these life changes so quickly that to others, perhaps it does look a bit reckless. To me on the other hand, this is perfectly normal, exciting even – why would I wait around moping for things to change by themselves?
I have so many friends who are unhappy with their jobs, their current inability to travel and so on, but frustratingly they just won’t do anything about it. As much as I love them, this is something I will just never be able to relate to. You’re in control of your destiny guys!
Travelling has at many points in my life provided me with clarity to tackle difficult decisions. It has been a beautiful escape helping me to reset and refocus. Time and time again, I come back from travelling energised, motivated and totally ready to go kick ass, in whatever form that might be. I’m not running away when things get tough, rather taking ‘time out’ to prepare myself to tackle them.
To some people I guess this cause/effect trigger could well be perceived as running away. But who cares? I don’t believe there is a single thing wrong with it. In fact, I completely condone ‘running away’ as the perfect antidote for a wide range of personal crises.
Heartbreak? Go and have a rebound fling in Bali. Feeling down at work? Get some space hiking the Alps. Can’t sleep? (OK, maybe go to the doctor for that one). In my world, there is not a single thing (at least emotionally and intellectually) that travelling can’t solve. Though I admit, it also often presents me with a few different issues like low funds, but that’s another matter…
Then there are others who think you’re avoiding growing up by always travelling. Firstly, I’m not an adult stuck in bloody Peter Pan’s Neverland wishing to be a child for evermore – to be honest, being a child sucked. I very much enjoy the benefits of being a totally independent adult, thank you very much.
It’s just as I approach my late 20s and my friends are starting to get engaged, married or have babies, it’s made me realise that I too am getting older. Unlike them, my membership to join the nappy club is not high on my priorities. There are just way too many things I want to do first.
For my friends, the joy is in sharing these moments with their offspring, for me, it’s doing it without them (at least for now). I always swore my 20s were to be my selfish years to, as cliched as it sounds, ‘find myself’. Freedom is a precious thing that we miss the moment we lose it, and I for one, am not going to take my free years for granted.
My path to get to the same place as many of my friends is simply different and I want to take a nice old leisurely stroll (with hopefully lots of memorable pit stops) getting there.
Then there’s the perception that you’re running away from a career or ‘hard work’. Don’t even get me started on this one.
Anyone who knows me well knows that leaving my corporate job was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I am not a defeatist. Though as much as I loved my job and the responsibility and sense of achievement I got from organising events for some of the biggest brands in London and the world, corporate life was just not me. I regularly felt a fraud. Pretending to be someone I was not for so long became exhausting and bit by bit, it ate away at me. I could have stayed sure, but I value my sanity so much more.
However since leaving my corporate job, I feel the career questions have only got more frequent and the insinuation that I’m avoiding a ‘proper job’, stronger.
It has always pained me that the first question a stranger will often ask you is ‘so, what do you do for work?’ Its a sure-fire away to instantly get me wound up. Why can’t it be, ‘what do you do for fun?’ or even better, a more open ‘so tell me about yourself’ so you can take it in any direction you wish? Our lives are somehow defined by our jobs and as much as I do love working (and like to think I do not shy from hard work), some of us define ourselves on a lot more than simply how we earn money to live.
The fact I make enough to live comfortably, I have free time to work on side projects and entrepreneurial dreams that fill me with joy, the opportunity to explore new places and learn about the world, well, that’s fulfilment for me. It’s certainly something I couldn’t do properly working my corporate job.
So the next time someone asks me if I travel to run away, I am not going to be defensive. I am not going to take it to heart that they think I am weak. Instead I am going to look them in the eye and say “yes!”.
Yes I am running away from your version of life and instead running towards my own which, by the way, just so happens to be shaped by a hell of a lot of travel.