Screw settling down, I’m going travelling instead
“How old do you want to be when you get married?” I would have been roughly nine or ten when I was at the hairdresser with my mum and my at-the-time engaged hairdresser asked me this, tongue in cheek. I distinctly remember proclaiming that I wanted to be married with a house by the age of twenty-four. I can safely say that I have failed on both of those goals.
Right now, at the ripe old age of twenty-six, I have no house to my name, not a great deal of savings and no engagement in sight (at least I don’t think so!) with my partner of almost five years. What I do have, though, and now realize is much more important to me, is more travel experiences up my sleeve than most people who are equal, double and triple my age will ever have.
I recently popped back to Australia for Christmas after living abroad in Canada for almost three years. While I was there, I came to the realization that I am now the odd one out within my friend group. Having made the decision to move and live overseas has put a definite wedge between me and those who I was once so close with at home. While my Australian friends are frantically saving every penny to buy their first homes or to plan the perfect wedding, I am spending all of my money on travelling and unique experiences that I wouldn’t be able to have if I was still living in Australia. (Did I tell you about the time I went ice fishing on a completely frozen lake?!)
For many months leading up to my trip home, I had visions of the extravagant stories that I would share about my life as an expat; unfortunately, this wasn’t how it actually went down. Instead of recounting my gripping tale of dog sledding through the Canadian Rockies in -30 weather, or the sense of excitement I felt being surrounded by thousands of other enthusiastic tourists in New York City’s Times Square, I found myself suffocated in my friends’ conversations about their new car or the dining set that they simply could not live without.
With every ‘catch-up’ with friends, the same conversations and questions seemed to arise: a few vague questions about my life abroad, followed by seemingly endless home decorating discussions, as well as debates over the best home appliances. I still remember the shocked look on one friend’s face when I said that I didn’t even own a vacuum in Canada. (We only have wood floors, okay! A broom is totally sufficient and much cheaper!)
I would love to proclaim that I am happy and content with my decision to be a travelling nomad all the time, but I simply am not. Doubt often creeps in as I wonder if I am doing the right thing. Throughout my three weeks at home I questioned myself a lot more than normal: Should I be doing all these things others my age are doing? Is it okay that my partner and I aren’t engaged? Is it acceptable that we rent a shoebox apartment with no intentions of buying a home in the next five years? Will we regret spending our money this way when we reach retirement and have less to show for our lives?
I wish that I was able to snap out of these thoughts instantly simply by remembering the beautiful views I saw when I hiked high above Lake Louise in the Rockies, or remembering how pretty the first snowfall I ever witnessed was, but instead I was stuck in my own head the entire trip—torn between the “adult-ing” life and that of a traveller.
I would love to proclaim that I am happy and content with my decision to be a travelling nomad all the time, but doubt often creeps in. Should I be doing all these things others my age are doing?
It was only when I returned to Canada, exhausted after no sleep on an almost thirty-hour journey, that I was once again reminded that I had made the right decision to break out of the house-dog-kids mould. While I sat in our tiny apartment, I looked around at all of the mementos of trips gone by that give our home life.
Instead of the front of our refrigerator being cluttered with bills and payment plans for things I don’t even remember purchasing, it’s become a travel trophy cabinet of sorts.
It’s filled with cheesy photos as well as an obligatory magnet from every town in North America, the UK and the Caribbean that we have visited. I may not own a fancy sofa or even a dining set for people to sit at, but I will always have stories and memories for those who want to listen.
Now don’t get me wrong; one day, sure, I want to have nice things, but for now I am happy living with a little less. If driving my car that barely gets me from A to B and eating dinner on the sofa because we accidentally spent the dining set money on a last-minute trip to Cuba means that I get to keep experiencing a unique and exciting life rather than the 9-to-5 life that is so familiar to most, I’m more than fine with that.
As for my relationships with those back home, I stopped taking our newfound differences personally. As hard as it is to come to terms with, sometimes we just go in different directions from those we love, and that’s okay.
I will forever be proud of myself for taking the leap I took, at a time in my life where it would have been so easy to settle down and follow a more socially acceptable life path. If years down the road I still don’t have many possessions to show for my life, I will find comfort in knowing that my life experiences far outweigh my net worth.
Not many people can say that at twenty-three they condensed their life into one bag and took a leap of faith, having no idea where they would end up! I am so glad that I did, and Canada will continue to be home... until the next adventure!