Time is running out. We all have a tendency to put off living our dreams.
First we’ve got to get a college degree to ensure a good job in the future. Then it’s time to start a career and get ahead in life. Next comes the new car and the fancy wedding. Before you know it you’re tied down to mortgage payments on a large house in the suburbs. After that comes saving for retirement and socking away money for the kids’ college fund.
The time to get away just never seems right.
And don’t kid yourself. The perfect time to leave ‘regular life’ and set off on an adventure will never present itself. NEVER.
There will always be good reasons to keep doing what you’re doing.
A job promotion on the horizon. A need to top up the retirement fund. An addition to the house. A new relationship just getting underway. Family commitments.
It’s easy to let time slip away into a series of NEXT YEAR I’LL DO THAT’S which often become I WISH I HAD’S once we hit retirement. Let’s face it, at 65 your bicycle touring prime is long past.
I’m all for being responsible in life. Getting an education, contributing to society, saving for the future—those things are important to me just as they probably are to you.
Some things I don’t believe in
What I don’t buy into is the idea that we’ve got to be tied down to a steady job for 40 years. I believe in taking time out. Getting some perspective on life. Slowing down. Finding the fulfilling and focusing on the meaningful.
If you’re reading this blog post, then you probably live in the developed ‘rich’ world. Just by chance of birth, we have enormous opportunities. We got the long end of the stick, so to speak.
The real key
If we are content to live simply, saving money will not be all that difficult. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but it is possible in most cases. I’ve met many people with only moderately well-paying jobs who nevertheless mange to save money for extended travel. Teachers, students, waiters, postal workers, auto mechanics.
I don’t know about you, but when I really, truly want something, this something has a way of happening.
Of course, there can be setbacks.
Back in 1995 I decided to quit my (moderately fulfilling) job with a big San Francisco bank and set off to explore the world. I was 28 at the time. Even though I was on a good career path and earning a decent salary, I had absolutely no real savings.
This is not an uncommon situation for many Americans. Spending all that we earn (and more!) is one of our defining cultural characteristics.
But suddenly, I was determined to travel.
At the time, I lacked the discipline to pound out a sound budget and stick to it for a couple of years and watch my bank account grow. I’m impulsive by nature, and at 28, two years sounded like eternity.
A slow start
So I did what a lot of North Americans do: I went abroad to teach English. Not exactly adventure travel, but a pretty good stepping stone.
Eventually that decision to give up a ‘good job,’ did lead to a pretty adventurous life.
But not without some setbacks.
An initial teaching job in Japan was a disaster. The company was disreputable. Three months after setting off for Asia, I found myself back in the US. Waiting tables at the local German restaurant and living with my parents in Montana was a big step down from a corporate job in San Francisco.
After a summer serving Wienerschnitzel and Apfelstuedel, I picked myself up and landed a job in Korea. My experience teaching English turned out to be much more successful the second time around.
I taught, I learned to enjoy the simple life and, quite naturally, I saved money.
After my one year teaching contract expired, I had enough in the bank to finance a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia and India.
This is where travel addiction sets in
Finally I got my first taste of the freedom of extended travel. I loved it. New cultures, new ideas, new languages, new people.
Of course eventually I came down from my cloud and there were more setbacks ahead. Worse things to deal with than having to wait tables at a cheesy German restaurant.
But I think from the point I took that initial plunge and turned in my resignation at that respectable bank, I took responsibility for my life. I decided, in a small way, that I could live life on my terms.
We can experience incredible freedoms. We can take off and explore the world.
But in order to experience these freedoms we’ve got to take some chances.
We’ve got to be willing to step out of the box and embrace the unknown.
I truly believe the freedom of a long-distance bicycle tour is possible for the majority of readers of this blog. If you’re interested, that is. Many aren’t, and this blog post isn’t for you.
Sure, we’ve got to give up something in return. I don’t have a beautiful home filled with lovely objects. I’ve missed out on some important family events. I can’t claim any impressive career achievements.
What I do have is a lot of memories of incredible experiences. I’ve camped under star-filled skies in the Sahara. I’ve shared tea with beduins in the Sinai. I’ve coasted through California’s giant redwood forests. I’ve cycled through the Alps and the Andes.
I’ve got friends from around the world. And, most importantly, I’ve got confidence in the future.
I think it’s worth it.
Are you on the fence, considering a long-distance bicycle tour in 2011? Maybe it’s time to take the plunge.