7am. The alarm bleeps and wakes you up for another day. Look outside the window – it’s raining. Drive to work. Spend the morning replying to emails and making somebody else money. Eat a sandwich at your desk. Spend the afternoon finding it hard to stay focused on work and mostly wasting time on Facebook instead. Go home. Eat dinner. Watch TV. Go to bed. Get up and do it all again the next day.
Life doesn’t have to be like this. There is another way.
Most of us have been conditioned from a young age into the cookie-cutter lifestyle that society expects of us. Small children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and expected to give answers like “A doctor.” Rather than “happy.” As we work our way through high school, we aim to get grades high enough to go to college and get a career. We work 9-5 jobs and live only on the weekends for years. That’s fine for those of us who love their jobs. But do you love your job?
We all have one life – 24 hours a day, every day, to do whatever we choose. And most of us choose to spend 8 of them working in a job that exhausts us so much, we have little energy to do much else but sleep and stare mindlessly at a television screen for the other 16.
When I decided to quit my job to travel, I was surrounded by wistful sighs and voices full of envy –“oh I wish I could do that.” But you can. Ok, maybe not everyone but I’m willing to bet that 90% of the people reading this could sell up, buy a plane ticket and be in a tropical paradise within months.
The truth is we follow the conventional path because it is easier. We do what everyone else does because there is comfort in familiarity and our need for change is not great enough. But remember – this is your life. What are you going to do with it?
Quit your job
When we work for someone else, we are trading time for money. Time however, is the most valuable thing we have. Is it really worth it? Yes, everyone needs money – that is an unfortunate fact of modern life. But do you need as much of it as you think you do? Is there another way of getting it?
Most people fall into the trap of working to fund a lifestyle that doesn’t really make them happy. First add up the chunk of your salary that is eaten up by accommodation, taxes, utility bills and other necessities for your current life. Next think about how much work actually costs you – buying work clothes, travelling to work, buying lunches and so on. You may be surprised. Finally think about what you choose to spend the rest of your money on – cable TV? Alcohol? Fancy gadgets? Random knick-knacks? If these things truly make you happy, then great! But more often than not, if you force yourself to admit it, you’re only buying things that help to distract you from the dissatisfaction of giving up the majority of your life to being a cog in the machine.
I can’t speak for every country but I know living in the UK is expensive. I’m pretty sure that the same is generally true of the US, Canada, Australia and much of Europe. You can have an amazing lifestyle in Southeast Asia or Latin America on a fraction of your expenditure back home. For some reason, this seems to be a huge secret.
Quit your job – you can’t afford to work.
Sell your stuff
Along with the perfect career comes the perfect life, full of all those things necessary to live in your beautiful home: A wardrobe full of nice clothes; A kitchen full of fancy gadgets; An entertainment centre; A selection of decorative items in every corner. Even those of us who live relatively frugal lives can amass a surprising amount of stuff over several years.
You don’t need it – ditch it. Be brutal with yourself. If it can be replaced, sell it; if you don’t use it regularly, sell it; if you can live without it, sell it. You don’t need much when you’re travelling. After living out of your backpack for a few months you’ll start to wonder how you ever ended up with so much stuff in the first place.
Material possessions drag us down. Selling them can give you an amazing sense of freedom as well as helping to raise money for your trip. Be as ruthless as you can bear – a few months down the line you won’t even be able to remember what’s in the boxes you left behind.
Travel the world
Why travel? Not everyone wants to travel and that’s a valid choice, but usually when someone says they’re not interested in travel, it just means that spark is yet to be ignited.
This is a travel blog so if you’re reading it, it’s probably a fair assumption to make that you’re no stranger to wanderlust. Just what is it that makes us want to reach out and explore? What can we gain from leaving what we know and seeing new sits and experiencing new cultures?
What makes you happy? Is it doing the same thing and seeing the same people day after day or is it waking up to a new and unexplored city? Watching the sunrise over a deserted beach? Experiencing the exotic sights and smells of an Asian market? Making new friends and discovering new abilities you never knew you had?
Before I travelled, I never thought I could explore a foreign country on my own. I never thought I’d get to give an elephant a bath or sail down the Ganges or walk under fluttering prayer flags in the mountains of Nepal. I never thought I’d meet all the amazing people I did met, all with their own incredible stories to tell.
I could have stayed in the UK, working in my nice cosy office job and shopping for clothes and pretty things for my home, but I didn’t. I’m no longer travelling (for now) but I can look at all those awe inspiring landscape shots on Pinterest and say “I’ve been there!” instead of “I wish I could go there”.
You can go – trust me.