When it comes to the kind of people who’re curious about the world outside their front doors, hometowns and cultures, there are only two types; those who go and those who don’t. The thought processes and motivations of those who go are well known, thanks to numerous viral pieces around the internet. Fearless, free and occasionally even reckless, they walk the world, sometimes embracing their labels of ‘minimalist’, ‘selfish’, ‘hippie’, ‘vagabond’ and ‘digital nomad’ but often indifferently shrugging them off like stray autumn leaves on their shoulder.
Then there’s the kind that doesn’t go. The kind that says they’re waiting; for a better time, for someone to go with, for a certain level of financial stability or for their children to settle down. They truly do intend to venture into the world and believe that they would miss out on many invaluable life experiences if they were never to travel. In their minds, it’s just a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.
Here’s the fundamental problem with this belief:
We don’t know how many minutes, days, weeks or years we have left.
Well, of course we don’t know, you say, nobody does but that doesn’t mean we expect the worst. The general human condition is to go through each day working hard at things that don’t necessarily make us happy in order to prime the course of our lives, in the hope that someday, we’ll finally be able to paint our grand masterpiece. Of course, this way of living life, or rather existing makes one critical assumption; that someday is a supposedly better day in the future and when it comes we’re going to be ready for it.
So as we prep and prime each day, believing that the harder we slog through tasks that are both menial and inconsequential to the condition of our happiness, the greater will be our reward for endurance, we fail to recognize an important pattern that we begin to adopt. It’s one where we begin to postpone events that make us happy to a future time when we believe we’ll actually deserve that happiness.
Sort of like how we were treated as children, ‘If you finish your homework, I’ll take you out for ice-cream’, except that the tasks we’re telling ourselves to get through are much bigger in terms of the effect they have on our lives than boring math homework. It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “I’m going to work hard, climb the corporate ladder for the next ten years and when I’m financially strong, I’ll see the world in style”. There are two aspects to this that I find it hard to wrap my head around. One, there’s something really wrong about postponing the fulfillment of a dream to a time so far into the future and two, it’s overly optimistic to believe that other variables (such as poor health, debt, other commitments) won’t come into play in the waiting period leading to further delay or a complete abandonment of the dream.
Then there’s the classic, “I’ve got no one to go with”. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that one, I’d take all that cash and book a trip to Antarctica (it’s expensive, I hear). Of course, what’s really being said here is, “I don’t want to feel and look lonely. I don’t want to dine alone in public. And I definitely don’t want to be the person people stop on the street to take a couple or family photo of them.” To someone who really wants to see the world, the minimal cost of ‘looking lonely’ versus the obviously greater benefit of having his or her mind blown by spectacular landscapes, new cultures, exotic cuisines and a wealth of experiences should be a no-brainer.
At this point, if you’re thinking, ‘Well, travel is not a priority for everyone and that’s okay’, I must say that I agree and this isn’t just about the travel dream, it’s about anything that makes us happy but doesn’t necessarily come with a financial reward. For obvious reasons, it’s easier for me to use the travel context. And to be fair I did start this post with ‘When it comes to the kind of people who’re curious about the world’.
Thanks to the internet, it’s now common knowledge that we don’t need to be trust fund babies to travel. We don’t need a whole lot of money saved up before we embark on long-term travel and there are ways to earn while we do it. For those of us who don’t like the idea of a permanently nomadic life, or have jobs that we love, there are plenty of ways to balance our other priorities with travel and ensure we see as much of the world as often as we like. Some people have found ways to travel while they pay off their debt by traveling slowly and working while they travel. So, it can be done.
My problem is with the belief that we don’t deserve to live our happiest moments in the present. Almost like it’s just too good to happen to us right away and we must wait for some ‘right’ time in the future. So we weave a whole lot of conditions around the core of our ultimate dream, like having an x amount of money saved up, or finding the right person to go with, and then spend a lifetime disentangling it all to get to the center.
Life isn’t just something that happens to us. Even when we’re being lazy, hesitant or less than proactive about how we want our lives to shape up, we’re actually doing something we may not always realize; we’re deliberately keeping ourselves from happiness because we believe that we can’t, or rather shouldn’t have it all. But why shouldn’t we? Why can’t we have it all, or at least try?
There is no someday. All we’ve really got is today. So let’s begin to deal with it.
What are your thoughts on waiting for someday? Please share in the comments below.