As a recent graduate, I have been presented with an anxiety-provoking question:
Do I start my career or do I travel the world?
Sometimes it seems so straightforward – simply do what I want to do. Other times, it’s so confusing that I can’t make any sense of all the voices.
Some people will throw job applications in your path and ask you when you’re planning on getting a job. Others will tell you to go travelling. “Travel while you’re young,” they’ll say. And then they’ll jump into stories of their own adventures. For a brief moment, a light comes back into their eyes as they recount how they fell in love looking at the sunset over the Eiffel Tower. At this point, you’re basically ready to quit your job and buy your plane ticket (or at least, I was). But instead of crying “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” you say:
2 very dangerous words. Yeah, but…what about my career? My family? My money? My fish? Something is still keeping you tied down to your home. What is it? Fear, perhaps? Guilt? Expectations? The comforts of home and financial security? Family love? All of the above? For me, it was all of the above.
The truth is, “all of the above” are simply excuses because I’m too scared to buy that plane ticket and leave.
Your career: Yes, you just got your degree (congratulations!) and you should want to put that degree to use. Of course you want to get a secure job. But once you get a job, consider that your opportunity to travel the world will be limited to vacation time. No one is going to want to hire you if in the back of your mind, you want to leave and travel the world for months at time.
Your family: This is a tough one. I know it’s scary and hard to pack up your bags and leave the people you love – just thinking about leaving home makes me sad. But you have to leave the nest eventually, right? You can’t live in your little childhood bedroom forever. The world is so much bigger than that. Just remember that leaving doesn’t mean you love your family any less…if anything, I think you’ll grow a stronger appreciation and love for them by being apart for a little while.
Your fish/dog/cat/hamster/bird: As sad as it may be to leave them…they should not be the reason you never see the world.
Fear/Guilt/Expectations: Cast them aside! It doesn’t really matter what your mom thinks or your sister or your best friend or your boss or your friend’s boyfriend – it’s not their life, it’s YOURS. I don’t know if there’s ever going to be point where you will feel “ready” – and they say that if you wait for it, you’ll probably be waiting for the rest of your life. I believe that you were meant to live in this world and not simply view it from the outside – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I’m scared too. And now that some of my friends are getting careers, I’m starting to panic a little because I feel pressured that that’s what I should be doing too. But in my heart of hearts, I want to see the world. I want to experience it and feel it. I want to know it – the best and worst parts of it – as well as I know my best friend.
The life YOU want:
I think that’s what it comes down to – you have to think about the life you want. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR life. Not your parents’; not your boss’, YOURS. (Not me, not Hermione, YOU). Do you want a promising career, a good marriage, beautiful children, and a full bank account? I do too. But I also want to marvel at the Colosseum, cry tears of joy at an Opera in Vienna, buy an old book in a Parisian book shop, drink wine in the south of Italy, watch the bulls in Spain, and drink beer at Oktoberfest in Munich. I want two lives: Life A and Life B.
Life A: This life entails a job I love. It includes living in an apartment downtown so I can walk or bike to work. I can choose to go for a casual stroll downtown without having to take an hour and a half bus ride into the city. I’ll be able to discover new cafes, buy a fish, nurture some plants, sit on my deck and watch the sunrise, invite my friends over for wine, cook dinner for my family, fill my room with fresh flowers, join some weekly classes…in short, I’ll be ready to build my life in Vancouver.
Life B: This life consists of exploring, exploring, and exploring some more. I don’t just want to touch the surface of the world, I want to dig deep. I want to feel things I’ve never felt before and ask questions that only lead to more questions. I want to make friends from all over the world, have connections with strangers who don’t speak the same language as me, and learn the language of the world. I want to be amazed by things I never dreamed of and experience things I’ve dreamed about every night. I want to learn things that textbooks can’t teach me and I want to be in the world, not simply read about it.
“I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere”
– Beauty and the Beast
How Do I Choose?
I can’t make the decision for you; no one can. You have to think about what you really want. I think if you stand very still and listen very carefully, you’ll hear your heart. Listen to that voice. Don’t let doubt or fear influence your decision. Don’t let your mom or an attractive job offer change your mind. If you have the money, go for it. If you don’t have the money, work and save, or consider an opportunity to make money while you travel. Find an internship abroad or work as an aupair. If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen.
Consider Your Future Self
When you’re 80 years old and looking back on your life, will you be happy with the decision you made? I think THIS is the moment that you’ll wish you could revisit to change your decision. THIS is the moment you’ll regret. THIS is the decision you’ll resent yourself for. I don’t want that to happen to me and I don’t want that to happen to you either.
If you choose Life B now, then one day you will get some version of Life A. You will get a job that makes you money, you’ll be a proud home-owner, you’ll get yourself a family. But if you choose to jump right into Life A, you will probably never get to live Life B. Because once you get Life A, you will also have responsibility and other lives to worry about. Your time will be wanted by your boss, your children, your husband, your children’s teacher. You will have a mortgage to pay, and mouths to feed, and you won’t be able to just jump on a plane for a month or more. (You’ll probably only have two weeks vacation, maybe three.)
Right now, you are probably the most free you will ever be in your life. Don’t you want to make the most of it? Don’t you want to do something adventurous, and brave and exciting instead of just settling into a 9-5 job? You have the rest of your life to work! Why not make life extraordinary while you can? I’m not saying your life is over once you get married and get a job (because obviously you can and will still find fulfillment in these things), but I am saying that the opportunity to travel and explore is better now. The world is bigger than your front lawn…you just have to be brave enough to go see it.