Almost every time I head out on an international trip, I end up talking with someone who expresses an interest in doing the same thing. Their statement is usually something like “Wow! I wish I could do that.”
Here’s the thing: I realize that there are plenty of people out there who are not able to travel or make the same choices I can. Having lived in the poorest countries in the world for four years, I know many of them personally. Most of the people I interact with now, however, as well as most of the readers of this book, don’t fit into that category. The people I talk with now who tell me they “wish” they could do something but feel unable have usually made a number of choices that prevent them from doing what they wish. They have chosen to prioritize other things above their stated desire.
Some of them, I’ve noticed, can even seem a bit resentful of those who step out in a different direction. When I offered to help a friend plan an upcoming trip to Europe, she eagerly accepted. But then she said, “You know, not all of us can just take off and fly around the world like you do.” I laughed it off and helped her anyway, but her offhand remark stayed with me after our conversation had ended. As I thought about it later, I realized that the statement reflected a common form of jealousy. This friend made more than $80,000 a year and certainly could have afforded to travel anywhere she wanted, but it wasn’t her priority.
As you begin making more and more of your own choices, you’ll encounter feedback like this fairly often. Many people are uncomfortable with change and different ideas, and they’ll work hard at rationalizing their own choices when they come across someone who has made different ones. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing for someone to prioritize a life around working at the office and buying things for their home. I’m just suggesting that they openly acknowledge that as the priority.
I’ve heard the same comments. “How can you afford to travel so much?” and “I wish I could travel like you do.” Each time Erin and I would announce plans for our next trip, we’d hear all the same questions again and again. Like Chris, at the time of the conversation, we’d laugh them off but also like Chris, the words stuck with us and after a while, even though we wanted to share our excitement, we felt as though we were being criticized for our decision to travel and stopped telling people about our upcoming plans.
When people first asked us how we could afford to travel, I tried explaining to them that our priority is travel, everything else is secondary. Eventually it dawned on me that these people don’t want to know how I can afford to travel. They don’t care about frugality or avoiding debt and, as Chris points out, they’re just jealous.
Our decision to live life on our own terms is something that many people cannot understand. Shouldn’t we be getting married, having children and buying a house? That isn’t the path that either of us is interested in taking at this point in our lives. We want to see the world and experience all that it has to offer. “Nine to five ’til ya die” isn’t the motto I wish to live my life by.
I’ve said in the past that we should pursue our goals ruthlessly and without apologies but that seems hypocritical while I sit in silence, afraid to share my excitement with the world about my upcoming adventures. I will not apologize any longer for living my life by my rules.
The other day when I was talking about doing handstands, I eluded to upcoming travels but left you wondering where they might be. The fact of the matter is, at that time, we weren’t comfortable sharing our plans. The comments, the questions…they get old after a while. Today, after reading the above passage from Chris’ book, I really don’t care anymore what anyone thinks about my life and my choices. Erin and I are doing what makes us happy.
And we’re going to Europe in January!
We’ll arrive in Paris on New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks in front of the Eiffel Tower and from there we don’t have any plans for two weeks. We’re in the process of negotiating an “itinerary” but haven’t made any commitments. The only reservations we’ve made are in Paris for the holiday weekend. After that, we’re going wherever the wind may take us and I’ll be doing handstands all over Europe!
Next time someone asks me how I can afford to travel, maybe I’ll ask them a question of my own: “How can you not afford it?”