Notes on following your dream

April 17, 2017 in Life,Philosophy,Travel

There’s something that’s been bothering me lately: this concept where a life in which you travel is inherently better than one in which you don’t.

It goes without saying that I love to travel and that I find it incredibly valuable in a multitude of ways. Going to new cities inspires me: wandering aimlessly down unfamiliar streets feels liberating, figuring out foreign public transportation systems challenges me, noticing all the little ways in which cultures differ (and are also the same) makes me feel more connected to both my own home and the world at large. And escaping the chaos of New York City in a cabin by a lush and verdant lake or a sun-soaked beach relaxes me and rejuvenates me. I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences that I’ve had living abroad, traveling solo and traveling with (new and old) friends in such a wide variety of places: I fully believe they’ve shaped me into a better (but not perfect) wife, daughter, friend, employee and citizen.

That said, I don’t think that “living the dream” necessarily means a tropical drink in a hammock on a white sand beach in a faraway place. The dream could be a lake house where you spend every summer weekend, or a baby (!) and all of the commitments that come along with it, or a job where you give back to the community and feel fulfilled every day, or a life in which all of your debts are paid off. Not every dream needs to be filtered and captioned and shared immediately on Instagram.

You don’t have to go across the world to find yourself. You don’t have to quit your job and buy a round-the-world plane ticket to be a traveler. You don’t have to leave the country to have a relaxing or inspiring vacation (although I do think it’s nice to have a passport and thus have the possibility of doing so, should you please), and you don’t have to leave your backyard to be curious. You don’t have to give into the 2017 version of keeping up the with the Joneses (and their perfectly Instagrammed Iceland road trips or Bali yoga retreats or croissants in Paris) to be happy and fulfilled.

I’m friends with a lot of travel bloggers (both online and in real life), and there’s often this very obvious (or sometimes sneakily subtle) feeling of superiority because they travel regularly and make a living from it. Sometimes they even want to teach you how to do it too (!), as if the world needs fewer accountants and engineers and secretaries and is instead calling out for more people to get paid to take photos of waterfalls and post them on Instagram. Even as someone with her toes dipped in the industry, I have the very real sense that this whole travel influencer thing is all a huge bubble that might very well burst. And I see all of the ebooks and guides on “how you can do it too!” and headlines screaming about six-figure salaries while thinking: but is the behind-the-scenes as desirable as the highlight reel? Is that flashy salary paying for health insurance and 401Ks? Are you really as content as the life that you’re trying to sell?

Because within this narrative of exotic travel equaling the dream life, there’s a latent disdain for a life of commutes and offices and mortgages and “the real world” in which many of us live. Speaking as someone who regularly deals with train delays and arbitrary work hours and exorbitant rent payments, I can say quite honestly that there are certainly days in which I would prefer to be sipping a margarita while staring at a turquoise sea instead of dealing with “real life.” But as someone who travels fairly regularly for work and for play, I can also say that real life has a way of catching up with you, no matter where in the world you are. There can be joy and heartache and arguments and the feeling as if everything is finally clicking together at home or the office or while stuck in traffic on your way home just as much as it can happen on vacation.

When I started this blog seven years ago, I certainly considered the possibility of one day being a freelance writer. Maybe even dreamed of it! But after trying out life as a full-time travel blogger as I traveled solo through Southeast Asia for three months, I realized: this isn’t for me. I like routines, and coming home to a comfortable bed and flowers on my bedside table, and having friends who I can see regularly for book club or a workout class or an emergency bottle of wine while watching reality TV. I like having a life that isn’t just travel, and I like the fact that I truly appreciate the new places I get to go because it’s not just work and it’s not just what happens every day.

Sometimes I think the crux of the issue is the notion of feeling trapped, feeling stuck in a job or a small town or a relationship: you have to remember how much you own not only the choices you make but your attitude toward them. If a life of travel is your dream, then go for it. But if that’s not the life you dream of: be secure in that choice too.

p.s. notes on authenticity, and comparison is the thief of joy

  • Briel79

    I love this post! I love to travel but I don’t think I’d ever want to be someone who does it full time. I like having a place to call home and all the comforts that come with that. Everyone has different versions of what they want their life to be like and that’s a good thing!

  • Allison Kowalkowski

    I totally agree with all the points you make here! After self-reflecting I’ve come to realize how much I like routines and how important it is to find joy in everyday life. I think I’d like to do a stint of full time travel at some point to challenge myself and get a lot of dream destinations checked off my bucket list, but I know that’s not what I want my whole life to be even though that’s what everyone seems to be trying to sell. I think in the US we need to make work-life balance more of a priority (more vacation time given perhaps) and then people wouldn’t want to “escape real life” as much.

  • jeanine

    Great post! As a muuuuch older person, I have to say that you are wiser than your years. You hit it out of the park on this one! Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Dana

    THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS.

    I don’t comment as much as I should but I’ve been following your blog since you were in Nice (I had just come back from my semester abroad and wanted to live in France again too!) I love the way you are so honest in the way you discuss travel Blogging. I was like you and also wanted to travel and be a free lance travel, but even just one month of travel post-France was too much for me. I love travel but I thrive on routine, as you do. I love the current life I’ve carved out for myself inn frqnxe because I have stability with a good paying job at an international school in a subject I’m Passionate about. I have friends and hobbies and favorite restaurants and there is a lot to be said for that.

    I used to think that travel was the only route to happiness but over the past few years I’ve. Realized it’s just a vital part to my happiness, and that’s okay. I can’t stand the arrogance of bloggers I used to really really love reading, but cannot anymore.

    You are living your best life and are an inspiration to many, including myself. Thanks for saying what I wasn’t able to put on paper. Keep being you. X

  • “But as someone who travels fairly regularly for work and for play, I can also say that real life has a way of catching up with you, no matter where in the world you are.”

    Yes to the above! I have also written about something similar on my blog and feel very strongly about everything you wrote here. People ultimately need to do what is best for them and not try to live the lives of others. It’s harder to do these days when we’re bombarded by stunning photos of people who travel nonstop and articles about couples making six figures traveling the world. There’s so much more behind the scenes that’s not shown, and it’s important for people to realize that and to not buy into a fantasy. I also wonder if/when this travel influencer bubble will burst and what happens next? It will be interesting to see. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

  • Whitney

    Thanks Christine! I so agree with your point of view. I love to travel and do so frequently. And because of this passion, people assume that I would want to somehow turn travel into my job. I actually love that travel isn’t my job and that I’ve built a life that I love to return to when my trips are over. The world really doesn’t need more instagrammers or travel bloggers – that being said – I’m so glad that there are inspiring people out there showing off this big, beautiful world. Sometimes all I need it a 5 minute vacay from my Monday morning desk job :)

  • Brandy

    I completely agree with you Christine. There was definitely a time in my life when I obsessively read travel blogs and felt like the only way I’d ever be happy is if I could “escape” the 9-5 and travel long-term (and a lot of blogs reinforced that idea). In reality, a few months of travel was plenty for me, and I like the (relative) safety of a regular paycheck. I love to travel but I prefer it to be a break from my normal routine, not something that is my normal routine. I will say that sometimes I still have to tell myself that it’s okay to take a vacation somewhere in the US. I always seem to prioritize vacations abroad, even though there are lots of places in the US I still haven’t visited and would love to (Seattle! Montana! Hawaii!).

  • New Denizen

    Thank you for this post Christine! Really puts things in perspective. It’s really hard these days to feel like your “normal” life is enough when everyone’s social media is plastered with the perfect version of the life you’re obviously not living. Reading this made me feel a lot better!

  • Yvonne Kaisinger

    Thank you for this post, Christine! It came at just the right time for me, as I am currently trying to figure out the best ratio of routine and travel for myself. I certainly need traveling in my life (whether it’s international or discovering my own backyard), I just haven’t figured out yet the best way for me to have a sense of routine and safety (and ultimately some degree of actually “settling down” somewhere) while also exploring as much as possible and living life to the fullest (again, very subjective). So thank you for the reminder and for sharing your thoughts on the topic! :)

  • I’m so glad you shared this post because you’ve perfectly voiced the near-identical thoughts I’ve had for some time now after seeing travel post after travel post, often (though certainly not always!) accompanied by that subtle sense of superiority you described. Like you, I like to travel, but I also find I appreciate it more when I’ve worked for it and it’s not an everyday occurrence. And, as someone who considers her family a big part of her dream life, constant travel is by no means desirable. So, let’s celebrate travel, yes, but let’s also realize everything else that makes life enriching, including the staycations, the pets and babies and all the commitments that come along with them, the lessons we learn from conventional jobs, the simple pleasures like a weekly lunch with Mom or brunch with close friends, living debt free, etc. etc. Thank you, Christine, for putting this so eloquently!

  • M

    I’ve never commented before but felt compelled to this time. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. We’re so inundated with images and snippets of insta-influencers and bloggers who live these curated lives who appear to never have to deal with ‘normal life’. It’s so easy to feel a continual ‘FOMO’. But real life does catch up with you, no matter where you go, and who you are, so it’s important to cherish all moments, at home and away, because they all make up the fabric of our lives.

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  • camorose

    Yes! It would be boring if everyone was doing the same thing–and travel would be especially boring if there weren’t any locals, etc. to ground the places we travel to.

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  • camorose

    YES! I totally agree on the work-life balance thing. I think that giving people more vacation time or even just more flexibility to work remotely, make their own hours, etc. would make people way less likely to want to flee the whole thing.

  • camorose

    Thanks Jeanine! It was great to see you last week! :)

  • camorose

    Thank you so much for the kind words! I’m so glad they resonated and I’m so glad I’m not the only one feeling this way :)

  • camorose

    I totally think there’s a bubble and I’m very interested to see what happens next!!!

  • camorose

    Totally agree–especially in the heart of winter, I’m not always too mad to see a few palm trees in my feed! :)

  • camorose

    Yes! I think making travel a part of your lifestyle is huge, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life. So funny you listed those places in the USA–I’m going to Hawaii this year, and I CANNOT wait (it’s one of my favorite places). And Seattle and Montana are both super high on my list for being really cool and also apparently really scenic and stunning. I also prioritize traveling abroad but it’s crazy how much I haven’t seen in the USA!

  • camorose

    I’m so glad! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • camorose

    Yes! It’s all about finding a balance that works for you!

  • camorose

    Thank you so much for the sweet comment! I’m so glad you’re able to relate–and yes, I totally agree that there is SO much else that makes life enriching, particularly time with family and friends :)

  • camorose

    Yes! I’m so glad that you read and so glad that it resonated–and that you took the time to comment! I too feel the constant FOMO and it takes a lot of energy to figure out a way to rise above and focus on living your own best life.

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