A few months ago I decided to make the jump and travel full time. I’m happy now, but getting here wasn’t easy. Preceding my current and blissful reality, my life was a broken record of passive-aggressive comments accompanied by condescending side-eye glances.
It never took much for me to convince myself that traveling full time was something I wanted to do. I had figured out the means, teaching English online, and I already had the drive. However, when you tell other people this, the responses are exasperatingly repetitive. There were vocal references about this being an ‘endless vacation.’ Or the goodhearted, yet slightly annoying, expressions of ‘omg I’m soooooo jealous.’ What exactly does one say to that? What happened to the good old fashioned ‘I’m happy for you, wish you the best.’ Or, some other pleasantry with a similar pretense.
Then, the much more general, but extra passive-aggressive, eye roll that enlightened me of people’s judgment about my chosen vocation. While none of these were outright intolerable in small doses. I experienced these sentiments constantly for months and their presence began to make me feel claustrophobic. Unfortunately, at this time, I still had months before I left for Australia. So, judgment and I became great friends.
Not only was I listening to a broken record, but I was constantly surrounded by McCombs Students talking about their post-grad, six-figure salary, 9-5 jobs. While I am happy for all of those people, and I genuinely hope they are happy too, I knew that wasn’t the life that I wanted for myself (the 9-5 part, making six figures wouldn’t be the worst). At least, not yet. I mean I’m young, already broke, and blissfully unworried about my long-term future. Surely, the time was now.
However, even knowing what I wanted, it was difficult to navigate such uncharted territory while attending a school that worked hard to pipeline me through to a corporate job. I knew I was one of the few who didn’t want that 9-5 job, so not finding university resources to help me do this made sense. However, anytime I did express the desire to be a full-time traveler, I was met with a side-eyed glance that questioned why I would consider doing anything other than joining Corporate America. I believe the line that rang repeatedly was “are you sure you don’t want something more sTAblE”. Their superiority complexes and patronizing comments were exhausting, to say the least (sidenote: not everyone was like this, but enough were like this).
While I didn’t find overwhelming support of like-minded people in my school, I was extremely lucky my friends only vocalized excitement for me. When I told them I had nearly almost completely made up my mind, they kind of chuckled that they never saw me doing anything else. It is a great feeling to be reminded that you have friends that know you so well. Their excitement constantly reassured me that I was making the right decision. However, those times that I doubted that I could, or wanted, to do this, they too gave me that side-eye with which I had been so familiar. Except, theirs said, “Grace, do you rEAlLy want to work a 9-5?” I didn’t, and they knew that, but it always helped to be reminded when I was feeling particularly discouraged.
Then, the time came to tell my parents about the new direction in which I had decided to take my life. How does one tell their parents that their lovely daughter, who is about to graduate from one of the top business schools, is going to completely toss her degree aside and rough it around the world? Not without some semblance of a plan, that’s for sure.
Now, this wasn’t one of those ‘ask for permission’ situations because my mind had already been made up. I was going to travel after graduation. Besides, I have always been an ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission,’ type of person (I am sure my parents love this about me).
This was just that post-grad ‘what are you doing with your life’ conversations like all soon-to-be college graduates have with their parents. Except, instead of telling them about my shiny new job with a nearly six-figure salary. I was simply going to tell them about my plans to rough it around the world.
I knew they would never try to stop me from doing this. However, it was an irregular life plan, so they would be just slightly more concerned about my safety and whatnot. Two things they also might have assumed I wasn’t too concerned about myself. I mean, they weren’t wrong. I’m young. Safety and whatnot are not always at the forefront of my mind.
I know not all parents would be as cool as mine if their (favorite) child made this decision; and for that, I am grateful. Many friends (and opinionated acquaintances) have informed me that their parents “would never let them do this.” Yeah well, I’m an adult, you’re an adult, and you’ve got to cut the cord at some point. I may have forced my parents to cut the cord sooner rather than later, but that’s neither here nor there. I also challenge that notion by saying I am an adult who was raised to think, speak, and act for herself. Which is what I’ve always done. I know for a fact that my parents would not want it any other way.
They trust that I am doing what will make me happy and would not interfere unless they truly believed otherwise. Besides that, they have known me my whole life. By now, they know I tend (read: always) to do what I want. They know that I am fiercely independent and raised me to be that way. Maybe even too independent if you were to ask them now. Again, neither here nor there.
In the end, telling them was easier than I thought. I think they saw how happy I was to get to do this and did a moderately good job of masking all their underlying fears of my impending death, or kidnapping. Again, I saw that all too familiar side-eye, but theirs expressed concerns out of love, not doubt. For that, I am grateful.
Inevitably, the time drew nearer for me to set off on this journey. The doubts, and doubters (uncalled for critics?), quickly became blips in my rearview. My parents got better at suppressing their fears of my impending doom. Granted, my mom had it a little easier because we spent an entire month together in Australia before I really started this thing. I’m sure when the time came she was ready to be rid of me. Sorry, dad, next time!
Now, here I sit in Chiang Mai, excited this journey of a lifetime has begun and I could not be more excited. I now see those doubts, and doubters, as integral components in the process of getting here. Minor deterrents I needed to look past because the obstacles I will face on this journey will surely be more difficult — less of a side-eye, more of a stare-down.
So, if you are reading this, and you too have begun to feel anxious about my possible impending doom. Please, find comfort in the words that I have told everyone else with similar sentiments, including my parents. If it all goes to hell, and my doom becomes completely inevitable, I’ll buy a ticket back, get a 9-5, and become sTAblE.