As a write this (I’m behind on my entries…), I have less than one month left of my trip. Today, I spent the afternoon on a beach in Vietnam playing volleyball with a group of travelers. Nice, right? For me, this hasn’t just been a trip, but the start and continuation of a life/style that I have dreamed of for many years. In sharing this blog with my friends, family, and the larger world, I hope I can offer inspiration and encouragement to people rather than evoke jealousy and envy. Many avid travelers, including myself, experience friends and acquaintances saying things like, “you’re so lucky,” and “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Well my friends, traveling is not some elusive intangibility, but it does take ambition, and you must want it (it should be noted that many romanticized aspects of traveling get shattered, and you should be emotionally prepared for that). As someone told me before I left, “many have the opportunity, but few take it.”
My life is filled with blessings, privileges, and “luck” in it’s own right, (I’m sooo lucky that the nice people that found my wallet at that gay bar in Cambodia contacted me and returned it!) but, I’ve manifested my reality through creativity, hard work, creating goals, and making traveling my number one priority. My priority isn’t being the busiest, most successful wedding photographer in New York City. Nor is it (currently) to build buy a home and settle into a traditional family life. I have no property. My job doesn’t come with health insurance. I have no partner to come home to. No kids. No predictable monthly paycheck. But the truth is, no matter what kind of lives we are living, “security” never really happens, does it? Security is an illusion. It is one in which we find a great deal of comfort, but in the words of the Buddha, is as transient as autumn clouds. I’ve learned (through relationships, traveling, and various other means) that real security comes from within, from knowing how I can use my time, talent, and love to provide wholly for myself and others.
To those who have dreams of traveling, I say to you, go forth and live the life you’ve imagined. If your dreams have gone unfilled up until this point, be generous with yourself, and forgive yourself for opportunities that may have slipped by. Create new dreams and work systematically towards achieving them. This also goes out to people whose dreams may not include traveling the world. Your dream might be settling down with a partner, raising a family, and teaching part time. But the point is, no matter what you are doing, always have dreams. And for those that do wish to travel the world? Well, as Kate writes, “You can keep waiting for your life to change or you can do something about it.” Instead of waiting for friends or significant others to take that trip, get up and go alone, because they may never be ready. “Instead of a blow out weekend in Vegas, you could be learning to kite surf in Mui Ne, Vietnam…. You can have this life too, if it’s what you want.” (Thanks Kate, great post!).
My life isn’t all waterfalls, sunsets, and rainbows so to speak. Even now, at a time when I can truly say “wow, I’m living my dreams!” I still have my personal struggles just like everyone else. I don’t share them on Facebook like I do all my exciting travel photos, but they exist. I acknowledge that a big part of how I got to where I am is the emotional and financial support of family, friends, and mentors in the pursuit of my dreams. Through traveling, my awareness of privilege (being American, white, from an educated, financially stable family, loving home environment, etc), has magnified exponentially, as has my gratitude. We all have our karma, privileges, and obstacles in life. But, at the end of the day, our lives aren’t handed to us. We build them. All I’m doing right now is building the life I want, and the thing I will say to friends over and over again is simply, “you should, too.”
I have met people from a huge variety of financial backgrounds and personal circumstances who are currently traveling around the world. You don’t need to be rich to travel, but you do need to have savings plan, and you will likely need to simplify your life and curb your spending habits and material lust. For those of you wondering, I averaged about $25-35 dollars a day on this trip, including sleeping, eating, transport, shopping, and massages!
One of my favorite blog entries, Five Regrets of the Dying, originally shared by Bonnie Ware over at Inspiration and Chai, has started going viral on Facebook again (and she’s since released a full length book). I wish I had the courage to be my true self, and the courage to express my feelings. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish I had let myself be happier.
Indeed, as exemplified by this beautiful compilation from those nearing the end of their lives, true security doesn’t come from diamond rings, 9-5′s, and big houses. And I would say that freedom doesn’t necessarily come from being single and traveling the world. Freedom, and the sense of “security,” comes from fulfilling our own needs and pursuing experiences that bring us joy and a sense of purpose. I’ve discovered that for me, this means traveling, capturing photos, sharing my feelings, seeing my family, and building a community of friends that digs deep into life, encourages, and inspires me. Above all, I think the first step to realizing personal dreams of any size or grandeur, is to believe that you deserve to be happy, and live the life you want. It sounds simple, but our culture doesn’t teach us this. It’s a lesson we must teach ourselves.
Thanks for reading…GO BIG…and stay tuned for my next adventure.
kuang si falls is a special place. what’s better than swinging from a tree into a turquoise waterfall? not much. jim and i hiked to the top (kuang si falls is a series of 5 or 6 waterfalls) and worked our way down, so that we could enjoy a swim at the bottom after our hard work. it was a fairly challenging, steep hike. there were many paths, some of which led to dead ends and/or away from the falls, but it was a fun maze and we listened for the falls to find our way back.
keepin’ it classy with the stripes!
it was a bit tricky to get a hold of the rope…
jim snapped these pics of me, i like the guy in the tree in the background
jim crossin the bridge
played with these kids for a while…
hiked to the top of one temples for sunset
one of our favorite eating spots… 50 cent beers!
peace out luang prabang!