“If your house was on fire and you only had time to grab one thing, what would it be?”
My coworker takes a pause in her family-feud style questionnaire to laugh at my outburst. It seems like a joke but it’s honestly the first thing that came to mind. Funnily, I actually keep it right beside my bed. Talk about perfect for a hasty getaway.
Needless to say I love my passport. I love it’s worn pages. I love the stamps; some of which are perfectly clear while others are barely legible, all crowded tightly together on the pages. Except for the Italian stamp from the jerk-of-an-immigration-officer in Rome who took a whole page to himself. I’ve even grown to accept (not love) my deer-in-the-headlights photo that awkwardly graces the second page. Not only do the pages of my passport tell part of my life story, and hold some of my most treasured memories, but they are the key to more. More fun. More adventures. More travel.
Over the past couple of years travel, for me, has morphed from a dream to a lifestyle. It seems like only yesterday that I was clicking through photos of Irish castles, the canals of Venice, Asian temples, and African savannahs while ‘listening’ to boring professors drone on about the criminal code, personality disorders, or absurd Freudian theories. Even though that was more than five years ago now, I still feel like that twenty year old girl stuck in the lecture hall. The girl who felt like her boring, typical life was slipping away far too quickly.
Except it hasn’t. The criminology grad quickly retired the research papers and bought a backpack. The girl who never went to Disney World for March Break, or partied on the graduation Caribbean booze cruise has quickly become the most travelled of her friends. I’ve swam off the islands of Croatia, hiked through the Scottish Highlands, and climbed the Temples in Myanmar. I’ve sang karaoke in underground Romanian clubs, drank with the Irish on Paddy’s Day, and tried pretty much every flavour of Polish vodka. In four years I’ve done so much more than I ever thought I would. But it’s not enough. I’m still riding the high, chasing the thrills, and searching for adventure. But as I edge closer to thirty than twenty I find myself starting to wonder if what seems to be the best choice for me right now is really the best choice for my future.
While most people treat travel as a luxurious fling or affair, I’m completely devoted to it. It’s like a torrid, high-speed relationship that I just can’t say no to. The lows suck, but the highs are so good that it’s worth the occasional hurt. It’s all I think about and all I want. If travel was a man, we’d be the picture perfect pair. We’d be the couple that everyone wants to be, but with some potentially serious closed-door problems. Because although what I have right now is amazing, it might not be that healthy of a relationship in the long run.
My Facebook feed is filled with friends and old schoolmates who are getting engaged, married, and having kids. At almost 27 I can no longer brush them off as “really young” and being the odd ones out. As the notoriously single girl who runs around the world on her own, that roll has quickly become mine to fill. And it’s not the easiest label to change either. Spending 2-4 months of the year living out of a backpack doesn’t exactly make me prime girlfriend material. Not that I ever have the opportunity to meet someone at home for that to became a possibility. I spend my days working my butt off, sometimes at multiple jobs, to pay for my next plane ticket. I barely have time for my friends and family; much less bars, dating, and men.
Being a travel addict has made me fantastic with managing my money. I can make my own saving plans with target goals, work within a budget, and minimize spending. I’m actually really good at saving money for the future. The travel future. Right now as my friends shuffle through their funds trying to pull together enough money to shove into an RRSP before filing for taxes, I’m deflecting all suggestions at even opening one. They are thinking of retirement in 30 years. I’m thinking Asia in 5 months and maybe Africa or South America a few months after that. There’s no question that I’m planning for the future. It’s just not in the way that I probably should be.
While I am quick to admit that travel has changed me (I like to think for the better), and opened plenty of new doors, it’s also closed a fair amount of doors as well. Having tasted the freedom of extended time off and the flexibility of working from home, I can’t imagine ever going back to a 9-5 office job. I did away with that three years ago and have zero regrets. I chose to embrace my creativity instead of my degree, and the freedom that comes with it. But while it pays for my backpacking adventures, my job is more of a convenience than a career. The money I make right now will never be enough for me to buy my own house. And while I neither want or need my own house right now, I tend to think that I probably will in the not-so-distant future.
I’ve been accused of playing Peter Pan; chasing after the moment and not thinking about the future. But that’s the absolute opposite. I may be a dreamer but I’ve always been a dreamer with a plan. That plan has slowly been coming to life through this blog and the (amazing) followers who have supported my crazy travel tendencies. My dream job as a freelance writer is more alive now than it was when I started. But will it ever reach the point where it can be enough? It has for others, so I can’t help but think if it they can do it, I can too.
But can I? And if I can, in five or ten years down the road, will it still be what I want? As I read about the successful bloggers like Adventurous Kate and Nomadic Matt who, over the couple of years, are admitting to burnout and anxiety, slowing down and settling into apartments or places to call home, I wonder; will this happen to me? Probably. I love my family, I love having a dog, and I’m pretty sure, at some point, I want kids. But part of me wonders if I’ve ruined those chances. Half of me thinks that if I continue like this I’ll be the lonely old travel lady doomed to die alone. The other half thinks that if family and stability is what I want I need to get my shit together and figure it out ASAP. But I know I’m not ready yet, and if I chose that path right now I’ll only come to regret it.
So what do I do? I have no idea. I’ve got 3 months of travel coming up in Asia later this year and am hoping it opens some new doors to potential partnerships. I have a few ideas up my sleeve but will they work? I don’t know. I hope so, but even if they don’t I know I will still have the adventure of a lifetime. Because right now, this is what I love to do. So I’m going to focus on my now and continue searching for adventure in the hopes that, one day, I will find my happily ever after. Whatever it may be.