Living the Dream…

Jealous is the sentiment that most people share when they hear about our travel plans.  “That’s my dream….” is something we hear a lot!  Dave and I usually have similar responses: “You should do it! Why wait!”

Living the dream

Now, we haven’t exactly gotten started.   Perhaps we should have a little experience under our belt before encouraging other people to uproot their lives.  Maybe.

But there is something strange in our culture around travel, vacations, and freedom.  Dave and I saw this firsthand on our travels both together and separately.  If you’ve been to other parts of the world you might already know what I’m talking about.  People in the United States generally only vacation for relatively short amounts of time, travel is seen as a HUGE endeavor, and taking time away from work or doing things on your own terms (what I am including in “freedom” here) is seen as rebellious – even irresponsible.

In other parts of the world though people might travel for 3, 4, or even 6+ weeks.  When we went on our (2nd) trip to Kenya with Intrepid, most of the people on our tour from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand had already been traveling for 6 weeks and were continuing on past our departure!  Our 3-week trip was confusing to them.  Why would you go so far away and only stay for 3 weeks?  Back home, of course, our friends and coworkers were singing the opposite tune… 3 weeks!!! (Subtext: “Wow, I could never do that!” or “Who do you think you are!?!”)

2 weeks paid vacation in the U.S.?  This is nothing.  In some European countries, 6-8 weeks paid vacation is normal.  And don’t even get me started on paid maternity/paternity/parental leave.  Oy.

The bottom line: our work culture is gruelling.  Vacationing is seen as entitled, working less than 40-hour weeks is seen as lazy, parental leave is seen as irresponsible and selfish.  We don’t value quality time, we put (in time) work above our relationships, we don’t feel comfortable doing what we want over what others tell us we should do.  And in the meantime, we spend our money locking ourselves into that routine.

Dave and I are no different.  We have a house, I have student loans (BIG ones), and we own lots of THINGS.  So how are we living the dream?  How are we getting off the speed train and taking back the freedom?

There are a couple things I can think of: luck, choice, and action.

Let’s talk about luck, cuz this is a big one for us.  Plenty of people take the leap of making a trip like this without financial stability.  Because Dave works remotely, we have the security of a reliable income.  He’s not completely getting off the speed train, he’s just turning it into an RV and making more of his weekends.  This is an oversimplification, but just bear with me.  So I was able to leave my part-time job to be a full-time, road warrior mother, partner, RVmaker, and (generally) my own person.  Dave’s field, remote contract, and timing?… Lots of luck there.

Choice.  Dave and I have been displeased with the state of things in our rat race for a while.  We explored our choices to find what made sense.  This alone seems important to me.  When we tell people about what we are doing, they assume they couldn’t possibly do the same thing, at least “not yet,” or “not until….”  We said, “We could do this, so let’s do it.”

Choice expands into action regarding how we’ve taken this leap.  How we’ve parted with things, stored things, brought them along.  It expands into how we keep changing the plan and chosing to keep going.  And it extends into our communication and our relationship.  How do we want to BE (and not just DO)?  What do we want this trip to BE for us as individuals and as a couple?  We make it happen.  We choose how it will be from the grand scale to every interaction we have.

Luck, choice, action.  Yeah, I’m gonna stick with that.  It sounds good enought to me 🙂

So are we living the dream, as everyone keeps saying?  It’s only a dream because people want it and believe it’s not possible.  And I know it can be difficult.  It requires sacrifices, changes, organization, courage, loss.  If you’re not interested in it, it doesn’t have to be this!  Ask yourself, what you would do if you were living YOUR dream, whatever it is?  I’ll bet you it’s very possible, even if it would be hard.

I always (literally always) found this to be true in my work with clients.  I would often ask them the “magic wand question,” which is basically the same thing as a living the dream question.  “If I had a magic wand and you could paint your life, what would you want?”  Where woud you live, how would you spend your time, would you work and how much would you work, how many friends would you have, how often would you see them?… all the questions…

I’m telling you, I always kept waiting for someone to say they wanted to live on Mars, or ride to work on a Unicorn.  I kept waiting for the impossible.  It is, after all, a magic wand.  But no….  People wanted possible things.  They simply believed that it was not possible because of the work it would take to make it happen, or the people they would disappoint or hurt along the way.  If you listened only to the tone of their voice, you would think they were dreaming of unicorns.  But the content of their dreams?… Simple (but not necessarily easy).  To go from working a six figure salary to working in a coffee shop.  To dye one’s hair blue.  To start up one’s own business.  To start a band.  To live on the road.  The real question seemed to be, “Are you willing to make sacrifices in other areas of your life to make it happen?”  Comfort, ease, simplicity, support, acceptance, money, certainty…. these are not easy things to risk losing.

My dreams keep changing.  And, to be honest, I often get what I want.  Is that because I’m lucky? Do good things come to me or do I make them happen?  Or both?  I’m not sure.  For now, I’m gonna live this dream and see where it goes.  And so far, it is definitely going places!