The reward of breaking the rules

The reward of breaking the rules

For the most part, I have always been a rule follower. I am the daughter of a former FBI agent—I was bound to be brought up with clear definitions of right and wrong. Even during a particularly rebellious streak in high school, I still managed to earn good grades, hold a part-time job and never get in trouble at school (and only get caught about a fraction of the time).

Lock and offerings in Chiang Mai, Thailand

But still, I’ve always been a fan of setting down what was OK and what wasn’t. I had rules for boyfriends. There were age requirements and acceptable jobs and did-he-open-car-door-for-me expectations. I had rules for roommates. It had to be a girl (because why would I want to live with a dirty, smelly boy before I absolutely had to) and we had to be friends but not best friends and she always had to do her own dishes. I surrounded myself with friends who were essentially just like me: college educated, upper middle class, supportive families, successful and passionate. There were rules for my career, my family relationships, how long could go before I needed to send a thank-you note (I stand by that one needs to be in the mail within a week of receiving a gift or getting treated to lunch or even just meeting someone brilliant).

Breaking away from the life path that I had originally set for myself—success in PR, marriage and kids in Silicon Valley—was the first rule that I broke.

And  then it seems like I kept breaking my rules, yet kept being rewarded. Lived with a guy in St Kilda, and he turned out to be the best flatmate I ever had. Worked as a bartender in France, and found a side job in a cooking school (wash the dishes, eat the meals, get the leftovers and get paid=utterly amazing). Stopped worrying about finding “the one” and had an adventure with someone who never opened my car door, but who met me at the airport with my favorite beer (complete with twist of lime).

Bang not boom stickers in Chiang Mai, Thailand

There was a time when I never thought I’d go to Asia. Why go to crowded, smelly, backwards Asia when I could sip wine in civilized Paris or sun myself on a fancy chaise lounge on a private beach in Nice? Why bother to step out of my comfort zone, when I could be blissfully ignorant?

Asia has been full-on; it’s a heady mix of chaos and chili peppers, traffic and temples. Sometimes I love it: the street food carts, the smoothies, the smiles. And sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the smog and buzz of motorbikes, and worried about offending someone without knowing it (have I accidentally brushed against a monk on the street? Does sitting crossed-leg with my feet up break the foot taboo?).

A friend recently mentioned that I don’t seem like the same person I was a few years ago: I’m less uptight, more go-with-the-flow. I joke about my newfound hippie-ness: everything I own fits in three bags, I don’t own a real pair of shoes (flip-flops and Vibrams for the win!) and I have given up on straightening my hair.

Red flower in the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, as it goes. The more I give up on my “rules” and open myself up to what life has to offer me, I realize I thrive on new things. I used to order the same dish at every Italian restaurant: I knew what I was getting with capellini pomodoro, and I liked it. In Southeast Asia, I can’t imagine ever eating the same thing twice when there is so much to try. I usually don’t even know what I’m eating: I simply smile and try to look as hungry as possible, and eat whatever the street vendor decides to give me. And to be serious–it’s almost always better than I could have imagined.

Rules are there for a reason: I still believe that. But limiting ourselves to a life within set standards automatically limits growth and change and potential.

Break your rules. Try something new. Question everything. What’s the worst that could happen?

  • I am ready to break some rules! I hope after all my traveling  I can find a more low-key laid backe person as well. 🙂

  • This sounds kinda like me! I often tell people I’m like Hermione Granger. 🙂 But I’m learning that I need to break the rules more often and do different things. I often feel a bit regretful I didn’t try sooner (I’ll be 38 here in a couple of months), but I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer. *shrug* Better late than never!

  • Kristin

    Nice post, Christine. I especially like your full-on description of Asia.

  • You said it sista! Breaking the rules can be the scariest thing you’ll ever do, but once you’re out the other side you’ll wonder what took you so long.
    It’s a matter of knowing the rules to break them too sometimes.

    Awesome post! x

  • Wow, you sound so much like me when you were young!  We were almost the exact same person!  I do like rules, structure, and all that stuff.  There is also a time to break the rules.  The key is this – are you doing all those things because it is what you learned or who you are?  I think there are some rules that are OK to break and some that aren’t.  That is for each person to decide.

    However, the key is that you are learning to live your life in a way that fits who you are.  Not sure I would have broken all the rules you have but glad you are living your life and having a blast doing it!

  • BrielKrystek

    Hi Christine. I don’t comment very often but I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog and hearing about all of the adventures that you have on your travels! I love to travel, though I’ve never done it as extensively as you have. I hope to do so more someday though and your blog is an inspiration! 🙂

  • jennaebert

    ahhh so proud- vibrams, and flips.  I have a few months to slim my wardrobe down, and freshen up  my vibrams…they have started to stink.  Spain better be ready for some Five Finger action!  keep up the great writing xtreme

  • camorose

    It has to happen! Traveling just forces you to be more flexible–so many things that you just can’t control 🙂

  • camorose

    Exactly–as long as you’re young at heart, you’ll always be young!

  • camorose

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • camorose

    So true about knowing what rules to break–you’re a fabulous example of breaking free of the rules set as well! x

  • camorose

    There’s something different for everyone, but so many of the rules seem to be universal–better to figure out what works for you as an individual 🙂

  • camorose

    Thank you so much for the kind words–totally makes my day to know that people are enjoying what I write. Crossing my fingers they stop living vicariously through me and go out and travel the world on their own–surely it’ll happen! 🙂

  • camorose

    The trick to cleaning up smelly Vibrams–let them soak overnight in a sink with denture cleaners. Don’t ask me how I know this, but it works!

  • Agreed. I reckon rules can turn into expectations we set upon ourselves. Turning us into our own gatekeepers. Nothing wrong with having standards and boundaries – but we should constantly renegotiate them with ourselves, ask the most important question – “why?”. Otherwise they turn into the worst sorts of rules…the kind we stick to, even though we don’t know why. Many of my biggest screw-ups have been down that road.

    Also, there’s a thrill in bending or even breaking our own rules. 🙂

  • Great post– I can totally relate!  It seems like when you’re away from home, all the personal rules you set for yourself (living with a girl, dating someone who doesn’t open the car door, etc.) get a little more relaxed, but that’s where the adventure comes from.  I’m even inclined to think that people who adhere too strongly to the rules couldn’t have as fulfilling a travel experience as you’ve had

  • Saviomeireles

    A long time I didn’t feel that I identify myself so well with a text in a accurate way. Thanks for the words…it fits perfectly in my personal life !

  • Though I’ve always been entrepreneurial (which implies a bit of risk), I wasn’t really a risk taker in the traditional sense growing up –I got good grades, didn’t break many rules, didn’t (often) ditch class, steal candy, etc. Traveling is a risk in itself, every day is a new challenge…and its made me a happier person overall. Some rules are good..but not all 🙂

  • Posts like this are why I love your site so much, Christine! Such wise words; and I totally agree! I feel like our upbringings were probably quite similar, albeit on opposite coasts – my dad was a cop, and my parents always had big expectations of me, as did I. But then I fell in love with the idea of travel, and decided I’d much rather be happy than rich. So instead of going to college to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer, I got a journalism degree. And now that’s I’m addicted to traveling, I can’t imagine going back to that life full of so many silly rules!

  • camorose

    Definitely agree–the most important thing is being able to recognize WHY we’re following and/or breaking the rules.

  • camorose

    It is A LOT easier to break the rules when you’re away from home and in a new environment–somehow, the same rules just don’t seem to apply in someplace foreign!

  • camorose

    Glad you were able to relate 🙂

  • camorose

    Definitely agreed in traveling being a risk–every day is a new adventure with its own rules!

  • camorose

    And for me, journalism was the “successful” choice! I wanted to major in philosophy, and my parents were none too thrilled about that 🙂 Luckily my parents are still super supportive of my traveling, although my mom does keep asking when this “hippie lifestyle” is going to be done 🙂

  • Katelyn

    This post is brilliant and I love every single word.

  • Joya

    Stepping outside my comfort zone is something I always struggle with whether traveling or at home. I did travel solo for the first time last year and realized how sufficient I can be on my own though. I’ve primarily traveled through Europe also and want to start getting out to Asia or South America too.  Great post!

  • What  an inspiring and poignant post — plus the pics are fabulous too!

  • camorose

    You’re the best–glad you liked it xo

  • camorose

    I was honestly really scared about going to SE Asia on my own–and had such a brilliant time, such a good experience and really reminded me that I am totally capable of doing it on my own.

  • camorose

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Vibrams eh? Toe shoes still freak me out. But I do own Injinji toe socks. A must have for any Vibrams owner! Being in India has seriously put me out of my comfort zone. But I feel that I’ve gained more out of the 3 weeks here in India than almost any other trip abroad.

  • camorose

    The greater the risk, the greater the reward–right? Can’t wait to read about your time in India!

  • Andrea

    It’s weird how much letting go of a rule, preconceived notion or a fear can result in so much growth. I’ve been feeling that way myself lately. I’m living and working in Asia, and the culture of the country (Korea) and general chaos of my life (teaching English to elementary school kids) have taught me to really go with the flow, keep an open mind, and appreciate everything I used to take for granted (such as having co-workers that could understand me). I love how you’ve written about this topic–I just love your blog so much! I’ve been reading it all day…I have a blog crush. 🙂 

  • camorose

    Awww that’s so awesome to hear–not only that you like the blog, but that you can relate 🙂

  • Pingback: My list of favorite Southeast Asia travel joys | C'est Christine()

  • Love this, Christine!  It sounds as though you’ve grown so much since your pre-travel days (at least from the description).  I love that you do things that are out of your comfort zone- like bush camping across the Nullarbor or solo traveling through Asia.  I really admire that about you 🙂

  • camorose

    Thanks, Melissa! Yes, there was once a time when I NEVER would have considered bush camping or going to Asia–but so glad that I did. Some of my absolute best experiences!

  • Pingback: Postcard from Southeast Asia | C'est Christine()