When travelling, people often ask the same questions e.g. "how long you away for?", "where are you going?", "what are you planning to do when you get there?". In contrast, people from back home might say: "when are you going to settle down?" and "what are you going to do when you get back to the real world?". A traveller often gets asked more questions about their adventures by locals and others they meet on the road, than family and friends. I remember one trip, returning after touring the USA, seeing 33 states, and some people won't even ask how it went, were others might feel obliged to ask: "Was your trip any good?". In response, I'd say: "The whole trip was amazing, but I definitely have some favourite places." Rather than continue the natural progression of the conversation, thinking they'd ask more questions, it'd stop with a: "Oh that sounds good." A 4 month trip, is cut short by a 30 second conversation. Yet a curious stranger will talk to you for hours/days; someone who is genuinely interested and 'gets' your lifestyle.
I accept that the friends you make when you are younger, don't necessarily mean friends for life, or the boyfriend you have when you are 18 years old, doesn't lead to marriage; people change and the chances are, you will often grow apart from the people you know as you get older. People tend to associate themselves with others that they have things in common with and thus when we hit our 20s and out of the educational playground, life takes us in different directions and friendships.
I used to fit into the social norm - I went to University, then had the serious job in the professional corporate world, had the rented apartment in the city centre trying to save up for the mortgage 'dream', whilst also spending too much on drinking at the weekends. I lived a ordinary 20-something life, but I questioned whether I actually liked it that way, or was it because I wasn't brave enough to burst the bubble? Then, one day, I looked around the office and realised how miserable everyone was and how my naive Ally McBeal fantasy hadn't panned out the way I thought. This life wasn't for me.
Indeed, people think you tend to fall into this travelling lifestyle, but you don't. You choose it, and work hard for it too. I choose to hand in my notice, buy a plane ticket and three weeks later I was volunteering in Uganda, the start of my African adventure. When I came back, I 'd had a taste of how I wanted my life to be: lack of responsibility, lack of possessions, lack of monotony, and a whole lot of 'mores'. No longer did I feel the need to want that mortgage, or settle down, get married and have the 2.4 children. Over the years I have naturally drifted from a few people, but have gained many more friendships as my common ground has shifted.
Sometimes, people will say: "I wish I could do what you do." Then when I say, "why not?", their answer is often associated with fear of finding a job when they get back, or financing the trip in the first place.
I can understand these concerns as I had them too at one point, but now, I'm confident enough that I'll always manage to get a job when needed (even if it's not exactly what I want). I'm open to the other possibilities and remain flexible. But, it's still JUST a job to me; to fund the life I want and not let it define me as so many people let it be.
As for financing the trip, this just comes down prioritising and what really matters to you. It can be done, with patience, determination and seeing the bigger picture at the end of it all. In our society, most people are in a rush and want things almost instantly. Saving takes time and sacrificing the things you often like and are used to.
The strange thing is, I've said to people in the past: "Hypothetically speaking, what would you do if I gave you $50k?". Hardly anyone would say they'd quit their jobs and spend every last penny on seeing as many places and doing as many things as possible. It's often: "I'd use it as a deposit on getting a house", "pay off the mortgage", "buy a new car", or "buy designer clothes". People like the idea of travelling, but in reality they are content with their annual 2 week holiday, in their all-inclusive resort somewhere in the Mediterranean (the common trip for the British). There's nothing wrong in that and I'll genuinely 'like' pictures on Facebook of friend's holiday snaps with their family in Tenerife. I am very much of the opinion, that if you are happy, then I am happy for you. I also understand their priorities, as I had the same goals/desires once too.
So, why if I get other people's situations, do they not understand my lifestyle choices? I've never been one to care what people think of me and what I do, but it's more a discussion on the opinions of social norm vs people who live their lives out of a backpack that fascinates me. Now that I've been living this nomadic existence for sometime (outside of the 'acceptable' college gap years), having sporadic jobs as and when needed, people are starting to question what I am running away from or why I am escaping life…or rather, their understanding of life. A long-term traveller must lack education, can't hold down a job, and/or is trying to find something (that they'll most likely never find). I am none of those. I do this, because I can. Because I looked at my life, didn't like what I was doing and had become, and decided to have the balls to change it. Going to a different country won't necessarily make your life any better; I have known many people 'escaping' to Australia to live very similar lives they had back in the UK. 95% of people live the same week over and over again. Office work is often the same everywhere. 9-5 work either works for you or it doesn't. What I seek is something different. The path of life for the vast majority of us follows the same boring trend and I’ve just no motivation for it. I want to see every corner of the world, not be stuck somewhere behind a desk, even if it's in a hotter climate. That to me is not travelling; it's just a different post code.
I've always been an explorer, an adventurer, a curious soul. Yet breaking the mould can often be interpreted as someone who is lost in themselves, having no purpose or direction. I think it's quite the opposite. We travel to experience new things and live on our own terms. I'm a traveller who is running towards something too; it may not be the social steps one must take by the age of 30, but it's still a direction i.e. a purpose to see the world, try new sports, learn a new skill, see new cultures, testing oneself, breaking barriers, tasting new cuisines, and making a difference. If by 'lost' it means looking for the right choice for myself given the options I have open to me, then I suppose I am, but I would disagree that I am lost because I have an unconventional lifestyle. I'm exactly where I want to be, living life according to how I want it, not persuaded or defined by my culture. I will not compromise for anyone, as to change for others is to lie to yourself. I don't want to be that person who regrets not doing these things, rather I want to live for the now and deal with the consequences later.
I have always said that travelling doesn't make you an interesting person, you either are or you aren't to begin with, but what it does do is make you realise how life is short, how there is a big world out there, and there's a lot to see and do. When you live this existence, time goes out the window, weekends are no longer defined, every night can be a Friday night. This is what makes me happy. Not everyone requires the same stability of driving back every night after work to the same house, the security of having their post go to an address, or the comfort of watching their weekly shows on television.
However, I am under no illusion that I'll probably have new desires and dreams as I get older and maybe I'll be living a different life in 10 years time. Maybe, I'll crave the security, so many of us have been conditioned to want/need. It's likely. But, what if I don't? Will I still be a lost then, or will I still be living a life on my terms, not following the pack? This 'phase' in my life then becomes an actual existence. Who knew?! For I believe that breaking the mould does not equate to a wanderer who is lost, especially those who seek truth beyond definition, beyond the image, and beyond the tradition.