End of the World Advice

Warning: Unsolicited Advice ahead

The world didn’t end yesterday but all the excitement over the “End of the World” really makes you think. IF the world would end tomorrow, or the day after that, would you be happy with the life you lived? As a facebook friend pointed out: Why is everyone so worried about the world ending, but so few people are worried about the impact they are making on the world? I like to think I am making a positive impact. I treat others kindly, I am happy to lend a hand where I can and most importantly, I love to share my knowledge with others. So, some unsolicited advice:

As luck would have it, I happen to have some really brave friends who have asked me for advice this past week. They asked me about moving abroad, dreams of traveling and moving away from home, be it across the country or across an ocean. Well my first response is, seriously? You’re asking someone who quit a well-paying engineering job to move halfway around the world? What kind of a response are you really expecting? But secondly, I get it. The desire to travel, or move to a new place. To make new friends and try new cuisines, be it a town favorite or a cultural tradition, is what I live for. When I stay in one place to long I get “itchy feet”. I have a desire, or more a need, to go somewhere new. It doesn’t have to be far. I’m happy to check out Orange, Virginia, a small town a long drive from any city, or New Zealand, the extreme sport capitol of the world. For me, it’s not should I, but how can I get there.

So my advice? Don’t have any regrets. Try. If you have a desire to move abroad, make it work. Give it a try. Apply for a few jobs overseas. If you want to travel, put a small bit away at a time. Plan your trip. Go ahead and plan a dream vacation, then think about what part of the trip is non-negotiable and cut back elsewhere. Travel in the off season, check out a hostel rather than hotel, search Groupon for that great deal on a bed and breakfast and scour the web for the cheapest airfare, bus or train ticket. Take a job that isn’t ideal, study abroad be it at an ashram for yoga or a masters in your field, or just wing it. You can do it! Go!

I know many of you are thinking, well, that’s nice, but I can’t do that. I thought that too. Two years ago I was working as an engineer and Andrew was at an animation firm in DC too. We had friends just get back from a trip to Asia. Someone posted on their photo album (which was breathtaking) that it was so fun to live vicariously through their pictures, but that they could never afford to go on such an adventure. I didn’t say anything, but I agreed at the time, could never do that, I had student loans to payback and rent in DC was astronomical! My traveling friend responded that anyone could go, you just have to be creative. Now I realize it wasn’t that  I couldn’t, it was just that it wasn’t a priority for me. At the time, establishing myself in my career and getting a handle on my post college financial situation was my priority. Not two years since then, when Andrew got the job in Auckland, my priorities had changed.

I think a lot of what makes living abroad and moving to a new part of the country so exciting is the challenge of it. But at the same time, that same courage that it takes to leave everything you know behind and start somewhere new is exactly the kind of courage it takes to be successful in your new locale.

Take one step at a time.

When I was growing up my good friend and I made a pact. When we were sixty-nine years old we would both travel to the South Pacific together before we got “too old”. No matter our relationship status, our jobs, how well we kept in touch or financial situations, we would make it work. Then, about three years ago when  I was working in the gift shop at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. two elderly Australian woman came up to the counter to purchase some postcards. They immediately reminded me of what I expected my friend and I’d be like when we visited Australia before we both turned 70. We got to chatting a bit and I told them that my friend and I were going to visit, we made a pact to go when we were both sixty-nine. Their demeanor changed from “nice old ladies” to “stern lecturers” and they insisted I go now. Don’t wait another day, make it work. Do it while you’re young.

Here is the predicament of the young and old. When we’re young, we have all this energy and enthusiasm but no money. We can tolerate a 15 hour plane ride, but we can’t afford one. As you go through life, you earn more money and you have even less time and less energy, more responsibility and while a trip to a far off land is still a great idea, it’s much more difficult. Why do you think you don’t see many seniors filling the bunks in the hostels? Life is a journey, and everyone gets one shot at making the most of it. There are some things in life worth striving for. For me, that’s travel. I am so much happier working a dinky retail job barely able to afford a rental car for a weekend rendezvous than I would have been buying a new house or car and meeting the traditional mid-late 20’s milestones. I have some friends who are incredibly happy getting married, buying a house and living life to the fullest within their community of friends and family. While it’s appealing to part of me, it’s just not the life I want. At least, not yet. I don’t think anything will quench my travel bug but a sunrise in Vietnam, a bushwalk through Borneo and a good beer in Munich.

So to anyone who wants my advice? Well, how important is travel to you? What will you regret more? Not taking that risk, or spending your last penny for a chai tea in India?