As is so often the case, I have found myself working in a random job to fund my travels. I’m the sort of girl who is usually somewhat strapped for cash post-adventure but can always be relied on to have a memory card that is chock-a-block full of amazing photos and a mind that brims with stories that I cannot wait to weave into blog posts for years to come.
Did I mention I’m also in a small town on the West Coast of Australia, miles away from my native England and on my second year visa in this beautiful, diverse country?
I view my current job as a means to an end; I earn money so that I can afford to travel. My job doesn’t define me, and it is certainly not what I see myself doing in years to come. It helps me to afford my chosen lifestyle.
This leads me to a couple of questions I’ve been struggling to find answers to: what is the difference between a lifestyle and a career?
And, more crucially, is it ok to have a lifestyle rather than a career?
Hi, My Name Is And I’m A…
I don’t know about you, but I’m frequently asked, ‘so, what do you do?’ Perhaps it’s because I’m so often the outsider, the newcomer and the one with the strange accent that marks me as being out of place.
I tell people that I am currently working part time in a restaurant and bar, that I recently qualified as a massage therapist and have spent the last (nearly) five years travelling and working abroad on an off-on basis. I love to write so also document my travels on my blog. There are many strings to my bow.
Maybe it is people’s discomfort with the massage thing, or maybe just because my answer is not clear cut, I feel there is a slight awkwardness to the conversation. I haven’t answered them with a definite ‘I work as a [insert sensible, admirable career here],’ so their point of reference is a little off.
Some people are interested in my travels, but then their head cocks to one side eventually as they come to the conclusion that I am a little bit of a tumbleweed, blowing in the wind, and isn’t that a bit strange.
When I Grow Up I Want To Be…
We grow up being asked what we want to do and by the time we are about ten we can rattle off our hopes and ambitions.
During our teens we hit a wobbly patch where we don’t know what we want to do, but that’s ok, because we’ve still got time to figure it out.
Then we go to university or start working and we’re still not really sure what we’d like to do, but don’t worry, we have still got aaaages before you need to figure it out.
Fast forward to your mid-to-late twenties and suddenly you’re supposed to have it all sorted. Now you’re being asked, ‘so what do you do’?
Suddenly, people expect an answer.
You’re nearly thirty and you still don’t know what you’d like to do? Suddenly, the tone is less indulgent than when you were an idealistic student in a baggy hoodie.
The supportive smiles on the faces of parents and teachers have long since faded.
Now you are a grown up.
Get a grip.
Lifestyle Vs Career
I looked up the definition of the word lifestyle. In its most simplest form it was boiled down to: “the way in which a person lives”.
Then I looked up the definition of career and read that it was “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life with opportunities for progress”.
Great. By now I have more questions and a twitch in my eye.
Can a lifestyle not be an “occupation” Although in a different sense of the word a lifestyle is something that occupies your time just as fully as a career. A career could be the chosen way in which a person lives, but I suppose people take a dim view if your lifestyle doesn’t pay the bills.
Why must we only have one and not the other? People say they work to keep themselves financially stable at a level they have been accustomed. Does that mean they’ve chosen career over lifestyle or a lifestyle they want to maintain over a career?
My gut feeling is that people expect you to choose career, because, well, why wouldn’t you?
Surely you want to put food on your table, a roof over your head and clothes on your back? The only way to pay for all of that is work, right? Holidays, cars and technology are all the trimmings of that life; they come second to the essentials of food and shelter.
But a job can pay for all (or some) of that – depending on how much you want it – just as well as a career can. And a job can fund your travels with a degree of freedom a career may not be able to provide you with.
By choosing a lifestyle over a career, for now, why do I feel like I am getting life wrong? Why does it feel like I’ve got to find the job which defines me, to allow my life to suddenly fall into place?
These days, if you Google “lifestyle travel” it has become “A Thing”.
Suddenly, travel bloggers are popping up all over the show to tell you how they quit their nine-to-five, started travelling the world and are not looking back, thank you very much.
And with the enabling tools of social media and the internet, some of them are now making a career out of travel and doing incredibly well with it.
So if long-term travel is becoming more widely recognised as way of life, even a profession, then how come telling people that you choose travel still leaves a sour taste?
I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t have children or credit card debt and in the present moment I choose to spend my money on experiences rather than things.
Since I left my office-bound job in 2011 to embark on a solo trip, I’ve not looked back. Travel has enabled me to find happiness and fulfilment in ways that were not being met before.
To fund my travels I have worked as all sorts: chambermaid, bartender, barista, ski tour guide, retail sales. The list goes on, as well as my CV. But these are all jobs that I view less for the work itself and more for the experience it enabled me to have at the time in one far-flung country or another.
We place a high value on our careers to enable us to afford a lifestyle, but should we be focusing on simply creating a way of life that may bring us more happiness than a career may ever do?
Work is essential on many levels, not just from a practical – what would we do all day if people weren’t occupied by useful endeavours? – or financial sense, but employment feeds us emotionally too. Work makes us feel needed and valued, gives us a sense of purpose, helps us to grow our skills and experience base – plus affording us to get a round of drinks in on a Friday night.
I feel that people still strive for the ultimate goal of employment that best fits their skills, experience and interests. How does the saying go? “Love what you do and you’ll never have to work another day in your life”?
This is now echoed by the somewhat outdated notion of a career for life. Most people change jobs over the course of their working life, many retrain and take up completely new professions.
People are searching for work that leaves them feeling fulfilled, challenged, satisfied, just as they might in the choices they make in their personal lives.
I guess what it boils down to over the arc of your life is finding the right balance.
There will be stages in your life where you are grounded, busy setting the foundations in place in your work and personal life and there may be other times when you are looking to loosen the bow lines and drift slightly.
For all those people who are vociferously renouncing their careers to make their way across the globe, good for you. For those who chug along at a slower pace, perhaps teaching language in a foreign country or working in a restaurant to fund the next stage of their travels, good for you. And for those people who holiday a couple of times a year, or take the odd long weekend break, good for you.
Some friends seem envious of my semi-nomadic existence and the way I choose to pack it all up and leave whilst others are not so interested in the way I live my life. And that’s fine.
I try to adopt a live and let live attitude as much as I can.
The choices other people make may not necessarily make sense or resonate with me, but does that mean they are making the wrong ones?
No, of course not.
I want to look back when I am eighty, remembering the times I walked through a tropical jungle, scuba dived, kayaked, slept under the stars, skydived, hiked, danced, and love the life I chose to live.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you work to fund travels? Have you found the perfect balance between your job and vacation time? Have you just put the brakes on your career to jet off travelling?
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