I Wish I Could Do That

I’d like to discuss a passage from Chris Guillebeau’s book The Art of Non-Conformity:

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?”

6 thoughts on “I Wish I Could Do That

  1. I with you. Anytime I talk about anything I’m doing (Guinness Record Skinny Dip, Skydiving, travel, etc), people say “I don’t know how you can do that! You do crazy stuff!” Its not crazy-its living!

  2. “We felt as though we were being criticized for our decision to travel and stopped telling people about our upcoming plans.”

    Relatable. I actually used to think that by mentioning my travel plans to friends that one of them might want to tag along. Almost 10 years and still no takers. I’ve actually started to forget to even mention upcoming travel plans as the whole topic is a bit awkward. “You’re leaving again?” “Why would you want to go there?!” When you guys were visiting it was SO NICE to have a chance to talk about travels. I had definitely been bottling it up.

    Paris? Awesome. So this upcoming trip has nothing to do with the one you mentioned while you were here? Can’t wait to hear more about where you end up. (And I like to think I’m one of those people that actually means it ;D )

  3. I can relate as well – only not about traveling. While it is something I would love to do someday, right now I don’t have the financial ability to (not having a job and all). I hate telling people I don’t have a job, but that I do some survey stuff to make money – I get tons of comments and weird looks, especially because they feel that I should be working a traditional job, while I’m trying to get my health at a more manageable spot.

    I am genuinely happy for you and Erin — don’t be ashamed of telling people where you are going. That’s an incredibly exciting thing and for those who continue to ask questions, I would tell them that the details of your finances really isn’t any of their business, but that you are living your life to be happy and traveling does just that. I hope you have an incredible time in Europe. I’m sure the Eiffel Tower will look beautiful as you ring in the New Year.

  4. Erin: While I can appreciate the value of a so-called “traditional” job, like you mention, it isn’t the only way. Thinking outside of the box and being creative leads to far more opportunities than working for “the man” at a “real” job. I don’t want this to seem like a work-bashing comment, it’s not. I just think that it is time to get creative, especially given the current economy. We can’t rely on the security of a traditional 9 to 5 anymore and finding innovative ways to bring income is a powerful way to improve your life. Kudos to you for finding a way to make it work!

  5. Here’s hoping you go to Italy, something I have in my future travel plans as well. It’s fantastic that you live the life that you want to. Anyone that says otherwise is suffering from an overdose of that green eyed monster called jealousy.

    Rock on, consider me subscribed….

  6. Hey Steven,

    Interesting article. I agree with what you say, but I can also understand some of the frustration and crticism of others….

    I have a friend who owns his own successful bar. He is a good, motivated guy that believes in hardwork and making things happening for yourself. Like you, he has spent a good deal of time answering the questions “how can you afford this” and “how can you travel so much”. His answers are often inspirational messages about people control their own lives.

    The problem is that this friend has a lot of advantages that other don’t. He grew up in a good stable home in a good neighborhood. His parent are very well off, he was able to go directly to one of the best schools in the nation and, at the age of 22, got an extremely high end job that set him up for life. It’s easy to make a bumper sticker statement like “you are the one in control of your life” when you have so much going for you.

    I am happy that life worked this way for him.

    Some of those who you encounter are not just jealous people who don’t understand how to free themselves from obligation. Some of them are people who really are working against a shit storm. They are just doing the best they can.

    I agree with everything you’ve said. Despite the difficulties of life, we do make our own choices. We choose to live great lives. I think everything you said was awesome, but I understand peoples frustration. Hell there are times when I read your website and think “how the hell do they afford this?” but you’re right, the answer is simple… we have different goals.

    My friend currently has two girlfriends (it’s a fully consensual three way relationship). I’m currently single. When my friend tries to identify with where I am… sometimes… I want to punch him in the face (not seriously). What the fuck does a guy with two girlfriends know about a guy who can’t get one? Sometimes… as much as we hate to admit it… someone elses success is pretty goddamn frustrating.

    I just remind myself that I’m charming and awesome and move on. I have to make a good life for myself.

    Thanks for your great site. I always enjoy reading it.


    P.S. I live near the Borden house. Let me know if you want some area recommendations.

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