This post was written by me (Jess) with healthy input and editing from Jon. Over the last 6 months, 9-12 months really, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the decision to sell our stuff, leave our jobs and go on the road was plain irresponsible or an attempt to live life to the fullest before it passes by. With us closing in on 6 months out, and spending my 31st birthday in England, I think it’s both.
When we decided to make this trip, we met a lot of people that said, “Oh I could never do that!” Or, “I have too many responsibilities;” or “I could never afford to travel like that.” Well, I had responsibilities, and I really don’t have much money. But what Jon and I do have is drive, flexibility and creativity. It’s working out for us so far. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s working.
Part of the reason I wanted to take this trip was because I wanted to stop working simply to live. I stopped believing that I was required to live the status quo life - that it wouldn't be that outlandish to want more hours in the day of enjoyment than occupying a desk. There's nothing wrong with the 'status quo' life - it's just not for me at this time. The meager funds that we had could actually provide for us for quite some time. And, we’d have the rest of our lives to provide for family, house, job, material goods etc. Now, we are the healthiest we are ever going to be (well, despite the series of illnesses we had early on in the trip). So, we decided to buy experiences. Luckily, and we’re really honest about this, we have the privilege of being highly educated, middle class Americans. Sorry, but that’s a reality.
When looking through the lens of the ‘status quo’ lifestyle, one that involves a career-track full-time job, regular rent or a mortgage, and other ‘adult’-like responsibilities, what we’ve done is horribly irresponsible. You could say, “Jess you had a great job, you were on the up and up, it was going so well!” And yes, it was, although I did feel a bit overworked, there was still something missing for me (see our earlier blog post about it here - Taking the Leap).
But when thinking about buying experiences – an alternate lifestyle is interesting. I’m not talking about some ‘alternative’ live in the woods type deal – I’m talking about financial stability, location independence.
While driving along the Northeastern English coastline the other day our friend got me thinking about this whilst listening to a song. There’s a bit of 22 year-old defiance there that I don’t identify with, but nonetheless, it got me thinking. I have pasted a few lines below with a link to the song by Frank Turner.
“Oh when no ones yet explained to me exactly what's so great About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate Look I'm meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity Well if that's your road then take it but it's not the road for me
And I won't sit down And I won't shut up And most of all I will not grow up"
I thought about this song, and the lyrics as we drove and I said to Rob, “You know, I don’t mind growing up.” And it’s true, it’s actually quite fun. Plus, I’d much rather be 31 than 16 again – for me every year gets better as I learn more about myself and the world in which I live. Rob so poignantly replied, “Yeah, I guess growing up is really just about taking charge.”
Well said, Rob. Although growing up is about taking on more responsibilities, it’s about thinking independently about your life, grabbing the reins and not just sitting by while life passes. That’s at least my young 31-year old take on it.
This form of taking charge wasn’t some flighty version of let’s up and leave and throw caution to the wind. Our trip was a highly calculated risk – one whose consequences and possibilities were carefully weighed.
This trip has already afforded us opportunities to take charge – of our finances, of our marriage, of the things and experiences that really truly matter to us.
Anyway now that I’ve thought about it a bit, I have to change my original statement. This travel experience isn’t irresponsible at all in my mind – in fact it’s the most responsible thing we could have done as adults. Because, in the end, if we hadn’t taken charge and chosen this experiment - even though I miss my friends, the people I worked with, the garden, the car and yes I really miss my pillow - I think after awhile I would have been miserable just hoping that someday I might be able to travel and see the places I’ve dreamed of. The best part is that it wasn’t that hard in the grand scheme of things to make those dreams a reality. I recommend trying.
What’s the worst that can happen? People say it all the time, but really, I would challenge you to ask yourself: what is the worst that could happen?