I’m drinking a cup of freshly ground coffee from my favorite mug covered in blue, pink, and green flowers. My sister sits across the table from me, our plates full with slices of a simple frittata and homemade banana pancakes. She is a newly graduated college student struggling with transition into the adult world, I am well into my professional career, trying to shrug the weight of expectation off my shoulders. As we sit and discuss the changes we hope to make in our lives, one thing we both long for is time. Time to listen. Time to play with children in the streets, to talk with the homeless man under the bridge. Time to love and to laugh, time to waste, time to spare.
As I prepare to quit my job and explore the world around me I am excited for the freedom I will experience. I love to travel for many reasons; I enjoy the challenge of learning a new language, I am thrilled when I can sit in a sidewalk cafe and watch people as they pass by. I grow and am stretched when I meet and become friends with strangers from a different culture than my own. When traveling I come alive with joy and feel wholly present. Present with my body, present in the moment, present with the ebb and flow of life. Stepping beyond my comfort level when traveling I remember how blessed I am and become grateful. I wish I could experience all of these wonderful things from my own backyard, pushing myself to learn and grow without ever leaving my hometown. Sometimes I’m frustrated by the lack of stretching I undergo when I’m home, often feeling stunted and unmotivated, pulled into a routine I can’t escape. Travel is my catalyst. It is my force field, setting in motion a series of welcome transformations I can only look forward to with anticipation.
Travel may be the catalyst but time is the equation’s secret ingredient. When I first started thinking about traveling long-term I realized my current priorities were backwards. I was working really hard so I could go on vacation, cherishing every carefree hour, dreading the return to my daily grind. What I craved and wanted more than a sizable paycheck was time, yet my life was not reflecting this desire. I lived in a beautiful apartment my income allowed me to afford yet I was incredibly alone. I worked overtime at a stressful job just so I could afford to get away. It didn’t make sense. Still, I was following society’s rules for success, living for the moments of freedom I could sneak in-between my “real” life.
With courage and support from loved ones I’ve slowly started to realign my life so that it reflects the values I have come to hold dear. I realized the lifestyle I had been living wasn’t making me happy even though on paper it seemed ideal. I had placed my hope in a career that offered security and financial independence instead of valuing creativity. I had chosen the ease of living alone instead of finding comfort in community and sharing life with others. I believed working hard and being busy meant I was accomplishing something important. It’s taken time for me to understand that’s what I want more of, time. I want to work less (and yes, earn less money) so that I can be fully present with others without rushing off to the next appointment or multi-tasking myself into a frenzy in hopes that everything will get done.
Travel is my catalyst, time the secret ingredient. These are not values I expect everyone to share with me. We are each unique and so hold secret hopes and longings for our own lives. I am simply sharing mine with the quiet encouragement for you to chase after your own authentic life as you listen to the whisperings of your heart.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay