So You’ve Traveled the World, Now What?
Life After Travel: Travel Experience as Life Experience
Just a heads up, this is not a how-to guide for writing a resume or for highlighting the skills you learnt while traveling. It isn’t even a step-by-step guide to applying all you’ve learnt travelling to your career.
It is, however, a perspective-shifting guide on how you should view and treat your experiences. And how you should use them to build your own future. A future that is 100% aligned with you, and your happiness.
It is about backing yourself, and the life you want no matter what.
The void that is Travel-Life Limbo
For me, travel and freedom have always been synonymous. Freedom meant being able to travel where, when, for as long and with whom I want. At some point however, my definition of freedom began to change.
If I’m being honest, travel just wasn’t enough to fulfill me anymore. I wanted to add value to the world, contribute to it, and build a future for myself. But, how?
Digital Nomad? Move abroad longterm? Build a business? Go back to school? Start a blog?
I felt trapped somewhere between nomad and 9-5 employee, and had no idea where to start to know what to do about it.
Looking back on these few years I can see that my travel-driven lifestyle was the beginning of me being stone cold determined that my focus was going to be on building a life instead of a career; a life I was 100% in love with.
This limbo period was tough for me. That period where you transition from a trip being that finishing line in the distance, to not really knowing what the hell’s waiting in the distance. Just a big scary pile of “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”
I know I am not the only one.
What follows is how I escaped this vortex of fear and tears while simultaneously continuing my love affair with adventure.
You Are a Chocolate in Forrest’s Chocolate Box of Life
If you don’t understand this reference, we can’t be friends.
No, not the point I’m trying to make. Although, I could probably ramble on about my love of chocolate for a while. Another time, perhaps.
What I am trying to say is that you missy are unique, your life is unique, and your choices are unique to you.
There is no one way to do anything. There is no “right” way to do anything.
There is only the “YOU” way to do the thing.
I’ve spent the last several months completely engulfed in “How To Start a Successful Blog or Business” articles, masterclasses and courses, and the last couple of years engulfed in “How to Make Money Doing Something You Love” books and webinars. Wanna know what I’ve learned?
Just do what works for you. Yup. That whole Just Be Yourself ploy rears its persistent head.
I am of course going to seek guidance, and learn from other peoples experiences ( I suggest you do the same), but who I choose to be influenced by has been restricted greatly. You have to find who hits home for you but for me it is those that are propelling the message that:
To really succeed in life, in the long run, you have to choose to get in touch with what is best for you. What the heck do you want Susan?
What is your gut or intuition telling you to do? Are you brave enough to listen?
And, are you willing to work for it?
I wasn’t for many years, but I can tell you that today I can give you a resounding YES.
Other peoples opinions do a really good job of clouding our minds and making us forget what we wanted in the first place. Our innate desire to belong makes us physically predisposed to doing so. To conforming, or to shushing the voice inside our head/heart.
This has oftentimes made me feel like my life choices have been “irresponsible”. That there needs to be some give in the way I live to make room for more of the infamous adulting.
Ummm, no thank you.
My life choices have led me to the magical place I am today and, unless what you’re suggesting is going to contribute to my personal growth, I think I’ll just keep doing me, thanks.
I will say that I have not always been completely in touch with what I really want (again, still a work in progress) or had confidence in trusting my own gut feelings. Or, even being aware that I had gut feelings for that matter.
I had a crippling inability to decipher between what I SHOULD do and WANT to do. The lines were so blurred I couldn’t see them, they just blended.
I SHOULD get a stable job with a pension plan and benefits. I SHOULD just work now to pay for my future dream life. I SHOULD stop being so sarcastic or swearing so much. I SHOULD buy a house. Blah Blah Blah.
Ok, got it. But, that’s not (at all) what I WANT.
Let me be clear, I do not mean that people in my life directly were walking around telling me I suck at life. Quite the opposite, those closest to me are incredibly supportive and many people often expressed “I wish I could do that” kind of sentiments for my ability to just pick up and go.
This always confused me because um...you can.
You simply decide what you want, commit to doing it, and then make it happen.
Once you decide and commit, the action it takes to make it happen becomes so purpose-driven that you’re more willing to do it than ever before.
For me, this meant working a lot of hours and saving my money so that I could take just as many hours off (aka months) to live my life through travel.
For you, it could be that you want to own a home, start a family, excel in your career, go back to school, whatever. I am ZERO amounts judging anyone else’s dreams.
I simply hope that you are doing all of those things because it was what you truly want, that it’s what is right for you. That you took the time to declutter your brain/heart and make sure it is what is best for you and your happiness.
Remember, perception is a CHOICE. Other people choose to perceive your choices their own way, and you can choose to perceive them your way. So, what do you WANT? Are you willing to commit to making it happen?
This will not happen overnight. Talk to me a year ago and I would have told you that I had no idea what I really wanted for my life. Seriously. I knew what I didn’t want. Sure, that’s a great place to start but it’s definitely not clarity or actionable.
So, just take the time and get in touch with yourself. That’s all I’m saying.
Yes, it will probably suck a little bit, but it will suck a lot less than looking back and realizing you were living for other peoples expectations of you.
Travel Life vs. Real Life
I’ve only ever felt a natural ability to apply all of this in travel. Decide where I want to go or even just that I want to go somewhere/anywhere, commit to making it happen, and then, you know, going. Repeat.
I am so incredibly grateful that in a lot of ways I did the easy and hard thing by making travel a priority in my life. I travelled because I didn’t really know what I wanted but I also travelled because I wasn’t willing to adapt to what I KNEW I didn’t want.
But, I felt pretty clueless as to how to execute these “success” and “fulfillment” notions in all areas of my life, mainly my income.
It was no longer enough for me to feel 100% stoked on life simply 50% of the year. I needed to figure out how to eliminate the phase of “work for the money” in my cycle of travel, work, travel, work, repeat. I needed to find a way to commit to making it all actionable and purposeful.
I knew I wanted to create something for myself, to support myself, to express myself, and to add value to the world. But what? How? And, you know, bills (aka travel fund).
I didn’t understand how my life experiences could possibly translate to success in my career. Or, how the life lessons I had learned through travel and...life...could contribute to a dream career. All I really saw was my degree, and 10 years working in the restaurant industry. I saw a bleak looking resume.
I did not see how my love for writing, my ability to plan travel like a motherf****r, and my resolve to go after the life that I want translates to a money-making, fulfilling career.
This, my friends, was a dumb response to the way the school system I was raised in conditioned me to feel.
I had taken step 1 of my 3 step process but was too fearful and lazy to follow through.
I decided I wanted to live a life aligned with my values, making a really good living doing something that fulfilled me.
And then I became overwhelmed with how to determine what that really looks like for me. In other words, I did not commit to achieving it.
The fear of failure gremlin got the best of me. That not so little bastard.
I was completely unable to see how the things that I knew and had learned through travel could possibly translate to a successful career doing something I cared about.
How do I make my “skills” marketable on my resume? Is booking plane tickets for cheap a marketable skill?
Who’s going to hire someone who only has experience working in restaurants and travelling the world?
Hint: ALL OF YOUR EXPERIENCES are valuable. They are what has made you, you. And, YOU are what is “marketable”.
All of those experiences can and have been translated into all parts of your life. It is just a matter of context and perspective.
You just need to decide what you want, commit to figuring out how to achieve it, and then make it happen.
Why can’t I make all parts of my life purpose-driven?
Why can’t I start a blog about what I want to talk about?
Why can’t I create and be me for a living; a really good living?
Why can’t I have an amazing career without sacrificing the freedom for me to live a life as fully me?
Turns out, I can.
Turns out, it really just comes down to making the choice.
To taking action every day towards that life.
To CHOOSING that I perceive success “purposeful action” not “busy”.
To no longer feeling like my decisions are “irresponsible” or “impulsive” rather than what they really are, “intuitive”.
To realizing, I am “marketable”. I am a motherfreaking valuable resource.
To becoming completely set in my resolve to making my life 100% stoked levels at all times.
To traveling where I want, when I want, with whom I want while also having a successful career.
Sure, it takes discipline, hard work, commitment, and some serious “getting over your fears” soul searching but, for me, there is no longer any other way.
I don’t really know that there ever has been.
I’m here to tell you that you can feel this way too.
Because, life’s the adventure, you can define it however you’d like.