You Can Have It All!

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I love reading travel blogs by people who have opted for the unconventional life of living on the road.  It's exciting, adventurous and spontaneous.  It's entertaining and not at all a life for me.  I realized after traveling in my twenties that I yearned for both roots and adventure.   Solo travel was very attractive.  My body buzzed with enthusiasm every time I visited a new country, however, I also wanted a career and didn't feel trapped by the American Dream myth.  I actually wanted to learn all I could about my field and invest my life in developing a deep knowledge in it.  An adventurous travel lifestyle and career need not be mutually exclusive.

What I found most important is honoring space for travel as I pursued my career.  A life vow I made at 21 years old to visit a different country for the rest of my life became my star to steer by.  I planned for travel as I would a one or five-year goal in my career but gave it the longer horizon by proclaiming it in "forever" terms.  By defining it, it was less apt to be negotiable in future relationships too.  The first five years were critical, since I'd suspected that I would need the momentum to continue when career and everything thereafter was in full force.

I loved the anonymity and wonderment of travel and it was so addictive.  After more than a month, though, I’d feel like an outsider looking through a snow globe at someone else's life, which left me wondering if I dive in and fully integrate or go home.   I wanted to own my home, actively maintain a core group of friendships, develop mastery in my career, and sleep in my comfortable bed with that fresh-drier sheet softness.  Was I gritty-enough for solo travel?  Probably not.   Was I as cool and sexy as full time travelers?  No.  Did this stop me?  Absolutely not!

I wondered why it was seemingly so difficult to bring the perception of travel off the pedestal to a level that fit my lifestyle, rather than trying to mold to someone else's travel experience.  It occurred to me that regret was a much higher price to pay than restructuring a mindset.  Everyone’s situation is unique, but for me, it involved looking for opportunities to travel for work.  I’d incorporate some of my favorite parts of traveling in my work trips, like sitting down at the restaurant bar for dinner and getting to know absolute strangers and swapping stories.  It became a great way to carry the spirit of travel that I yearned for, and to adapt it to my life.

We all make allowances for other things in our lives, and often travel ends up in the mañana category.  Most of even the strictest budgets have room for travel.  It’s not all or nothing.  And while we’re at it, we need to stop looking at the air-brushed perfect photos of those that boast full-time travel.  Instead, let’s raise a glass for the everyday people that don’t have all the travel answers, best blogging tools, fantastic cameras, a trust fund, or nomadic commitment to travel.  Celebrate our own path as beautiful and simple.  The courage to travel to a new place and observe a different culture transforms and adapts to meet us where we are in life.  We can have it all! 

The Only Wrong Time to Start Solo Travel is "Someday"

They say it's never too late to reinvent yourself.  Get going.


Growing up I was the type who only did things I was instantly good at.  When I tried something and found it difficult or scary, my parents would let me quit, telling me, "That's okay.  You don't have to do it if you don't want to.  I know they meant well.  They only wanted to protect me from the pain of failure and the fear of the unknown.  Yet when you create a pattern of only doing the things that are comfortable or easy, it weakens you.  You lose confidence in yourself to face new or unpredictable situations.  Deep inside you know that you've succumbed to fear.  Oftentimes you make your fear by telling yourself you'll do it, just not right now.  You'll do it someday.

Someday is that beautiful indefinite point in the future when all the stars have aligned.  When you have enough money.  When you have more time.  When you get in better shape.  When the kids are grown.  When you retire.

"I'll do it someday" doesn't take into account that the future might not turn out the way you thought.  Someday your health condition might take an unexpected downward turn.  Someday your family member might need you to care for them.  Someday the place you always wanted to visit might be inaccessible due to political turmoil or a natural disaster.  Someday you might be so set in your ways that you're afraid to take any risks.

I was this someday type for many years. Most of my 20s was about "work hard, play hard," but my idea of play hard involved partying at bars and clubs.  That's pretty normal for 20 somethings.  I don't judge myself for it, but those memories all tend to blur and I feel some remorse around how many countries I could've visited and how many unforgettable experiences I could've had with all that partying money.  I was lucky to study abroad somewhat in college, but I mostly stopped traveling after, figuring I'd have more time to travel later.

In my early 30s I got more serious about my desire to see the world.  I decided I would get certified to teach English as a foreign language and that would be my meal ticket for international travel.  I completed the training in Guadalajara, Mexico and secured a job there teaching English.  The only problem was......I discovered I hated teaching English!  I'm not the type to spend the majority of my time doing something I dislike just so I can live abroad.  Quality of life is essential for me.  So I quit teaching and came back to the US.  Fortunately my boyfriend was a pilot and so I still had more chances to travel than the average person. I know that sounds opportunistic to date a pilot, but seriously I didn't plan that (although some would argue that it's an effective strategy for increasing travel options.)

Someday is that beautiful indefinite point in the future when all the stars have aligned.  When you have enough money.  When you have more time.  When you get in better shape.  When the kids are grown.  When you retire.

At this point I hadn't considered the idea of solo travel.  My travel plans always included others, but I felt frustrated that no one else was able to go away for as long as I'd like.  I wanted to do slower trips of at least a month, where I could immerse myself in the culture and experience a place from the inside out, rather than have the typical tourist experience from the outside looking in.  After several years dating the pilot, it was obvious the relationship wasn't going well.  I felt stuck in a rut in more way than one in my life.  I needed fresh perspective.

I learned of Help Exchange, a program in which you can volunteer practically anywhere in the world in exchange for accommodation and meals.  I had the kid in the candy shop experience - so many listings, so many possibilities!  I lined up a gig helping at a bed and breakfast in a little village in the Andalusia region of Spain.  The other helpers form around the globe became my built in group of friends.  My working days involved picking nuts or olive trees on the terraced hillside looking out towards the ocean.  Days off were spent hiking or taking the  bus to explore other nearby villages and historic sites.  My daily plan consisted of freedom and adventure.  Needless to say, from that trip on I was enchanted with solo travel.

There's that point when you try something for the first time and discover you love it.  You think, why have I never tried this before?  Where has this been all my life?  Well, it's been there all along, just waiting for you to stop looking forward to someday and to give it a shot now.  I was a late bloomer when it comes to solo travel.  Perhaps I wish I began sooner, but I'm just thankful I found the courage to finally try it.  There really no right age to get started or to fit it into your life, just get going.  Getting started traveling solo at this time in your life may seem like a huge risk, but the biggest risk is waiting until someday.