Do you ever question everything you’re doing and whether you are living your life ‘right’? Are you one of the few who chose to go against the grain of society and what is considered a normal, respectable life, working a 9-5 job to save money for something you don’t even really want, and living for the weekend? There’s a lot of stigma attached to not living your life the way everyone around you expects. Go to school, go to university, get a good job, buy a house, get married, start a family and live the rest of your life working to pay off your mortgage and waiting for a time when you can go and do all the things you always wanted to. That’s what you’re supposed to do, that’s what is considered ‘normal’. People don’t quite know what to think when you say you’re going to live your life entirely differently from the rest of your society, and you will often get told you are wrong or that you will fail, and that ‘normal’ is ‘normal’ for a reason.
But really, what’s NORMAL anyway?
As a long term or ‘perpetual’ traveller, I definitely fit into this rather strange, ever-growing category of people who have created their own path, far away from the social norms and what is expected of us. I don’t just mean travellers though – there are plenty of people out there paving their own way in many different fields, people creating their own careers doing something no one has ever even thought of before (think Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, or Jack & Finn of Jacks Gap Youtube fame). When I was growing up I never thought I’d be doing this – travelling the world and blogging about it – I wanted to be a vet until I was 12 and then I wanted to make movies all the way through secondary school and right up until I was about halfway through my degree studying Film. I always knew I didn’t want to be sat in an office all day, everyday for the rest of my life but travelling and blogging just sort of… happened. I fell into it purely by pursuing a growing passion for adventure, and that was 4 years ago. I don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.
When I first started this blog, it was mainly just for an outlet and a chance to start writing about what I was doing and what I was planning (I didn’t really think anyone would actually ever read it!) for the future. I was midway through my degree and had just entered the STA Travel World Traveller Intern Competition, which pretty much involved dropping everything else that I was doing and focusing only on my entry – a video about why I was the best person for the job (the job was 3 months travelling the world, making videos and writing blogs about it for STA). So my blog became a place I wrote about that too, giving me some social media presence and something to aim for. And while I didn’t actually win (I was one of the runners up though), entering that competition was one of the best things I ever did, because through it, this travel blog was really brought to life, and sparked something in me that I hadn’t really recognised before. Now I knew that all I wanted to do was travel and write about travel.
While a lot of people write blogs, there are only a select few that decide to try to make it their career. And even fewer actually do this with success. I can see why. Working freelance straight off the bat is HARD WORK – you have to be disciplined and focused and not get too bogged down in what everyone else is doing. But the rewards are amazing too. When you work for yourself you have no one else telling you what you can and can’t do. I can write whatever I want because it’s MY blog – I can tell my stories my way, without any input from anyone else unless I ask for it, and best of all, I can work from anywhere in the world. However, even though I am trying super hard to make my passion into my job and my career, I still get a lot of the usual questions like ‘when are you coming home?’ or ‘when are you going to get a real job?’. Tell me, what do you consider a ‘real’ job? Does something become real when you’ve done it for 6 months, or a year, or 5 years? Is it only real if you stay in one place for a lengthy period of time? Or is it only real when you can define who you are by what you do?
Over the past few years I’ve had numerous jobs with plenty of different companies – ranging from video editor, to travel writer, to kids camp counsellor, to ski resort transfer rep, to Media Director at a summer camp – all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed and all of which have taken me around the world. I wouldn’t say I am any of these jobs, they are just what I do, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. I have enjoyed each and every one of these roles and they have all taught me different skills in varying industries. But most of all these jobs have enabled me to do what I love most – to travel, and to travel long-term.
Long-term travel is probably the thing that some people have the most issues with. A gap year is becoming more and more normal these days – it’s a chance for school leavers or uni graduates to take a year out and experience something outside the education bubble. But then it is expected that people come home, go to uni or get a ‘normal’ job and a ‘normal’ life. A lot of people just don’t understand the idea of travelling for longer than that. ‘How can you afford it?’, ‘don’t you miss home?’ and ‘doesn’t it get tiring, hopping from one place to the next and never having a stable environment?’ are just some of the questions I get asked. But long-term travel doesn’t necessarily mean living out of a backpack for years on end and hopping around every few days. I mean, that’s pretty fun too, but there are many different ways you can travel for a long period of time without getting the dreaded ‘travel burnout’.
Over the past 14 months I’ve lived and worked in a ski resort in France for 3 months, lived and worked at a summer camp in the USA for 4 months, rented an apartment in Sydney for 4 months (while working various jobs), I’m currently living on a farm in Australia and in 2 months time I’ll be heading back to camp in Connecticut to work there for another 4 months. So I’ve been pretty settled in each place I’ve travelled to, which allows me to have some home comforts, make good friendships and really get to know the place I’m living in. I can’t imagine really ever staying in one place for much more than a year – there’s just too much world out there to live this normal life that everyone keeps telling me I should be aiming for. I much prefer my own version of normal.
Yes, sometimes a life on the road can get tiresome, and yes sometimes you want to go home and see your family or your dog and be able to sleep in your own bed, and yes, even I sometimes want to conform to society and go get a ‘real’ job and be able to stay in one place for longer than a few months. But then the travel bug kicks in and somewhere in your brain there’s a little voice saying ‘go on, there are so many adventures out there to be had, what are you doing here?’ This is the dilemma I’m in at the moment as, when camp ends in September, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. I will have enough money to keep on travelling for about 6 months, and I could definitely go to a country such as Canada or New Zealand where I could get a working visa, settle somewhere for a while and save up for some more escapades around the world, but then I could also head home, get my family fix, live rent free for a bit and save more than I would on the road. These decisions are often what long-term travel can be about – where to go next, what to see, what to do. The world really is your oyster and once you’ve freed yourself from the ties and constraints of living a normal life, you can do absolutely anything.
So here I am, making these decisions over and over again. My heart wants to keep travelling but my head says I should go home, get a job and save. It is so ingrained in me to fight against the ‘man’ and the ordinary life that society says I should be experiencing, that sometimes I can’t work out what’s actually real anymore. Am I living this crazy life because I love it and because it inspires me, or just because I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m fighting normal because I think I should be. I’m 99.9% sure it’s the former – I love this absurd lifestyle I’ve created for myself, but a teeny weeny part of me likes the idea of living like everyone else for a bit, and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that either. I have nothing against those who choose to follow our social constructions – if it works for them then I totally support that. Maybe it’s naive of me and I know it’s not possible for everyone to do anything they want all the time, but I think that as long as people are happy in their lives then however they choose to live should be acceptable. It’s when someone hates the life they’re leading that I object to this idea of ‘normal’ that is constantly pushed upon us.
It takes a lot of confidence to strike out on your own and start something new, especially when the people around you might not be entirely supportive of what you’re doing. But I’m a massive advocate for taking that leap and jumping into the unknown. Not leading a ‘normal’ life has led me to more adventures and incredible experiences than I could have ever imagined. How else could I have ended up where I am now, working on a farm on the East Coast of Australia, learning something new everyday and living with strangers (now new friends) from all over the world. That’s really what it’s all about though, right? The friends I’ve made through my travelling experiences are people whom I would entrust with my life and I can’t imagine a world without them in it. If I’d just stayed at home and not moved away from what was expected of me, then I wouldn’t know any of these people. I wouldn’t have had all these amazing moments in different countries around the world.
“Disappoint anyone… hell, disappoint everyone. But don’t ever disappoint yourself”
There are pros and cons to every choice of lifestyle, and I’m sure people on both sides of the coin have things about their lives that they would change – I miss my family heaps sometimes and some of my old friendships have definitely taken a hit due to the fact that I’m just never around to see anyone – but I think that as long as you’re doing the things that you feel will enrich YOUR life and YOUR experiences, whether that be jumping from country to country until you run out of money, or staying at home and working towards that hard-earned promotion, then you’ve made the right decisions. Any decision you made for yourself and not for anyone else is the right decision.
For us wanderlusters though, life is about adventure and escape. It’s about the freedom to do what we love and experience more than what is expected of us. To inspire and be inspired. To create. To be in awe of our surroundings, wherever we may be. To break out of our comfort zones. To actively live everyday as it occurs, instead of waiting for life to happen to us. To learn, to interact, to grow.
“Better to have loved and lost than to have lived and never loved anyone” – Mystery Jets
This can be applied to life in general too. It’s better to try new things and experience moments that absolutely terrify you than to just wander through life with your eyes closed, numb to the world. And so what if you fail…you get up and you try it again, a different way. Better to live your life the way you want to and enjoy the ups and downs, than to live a life you loathe and never do anything about it because you don’t want to break out of society’s ordinary expectations of you.
And so I repeat.
What’s NORMAL anyway? You tell me.