Time for another tip!
I spent a fair chunk of my twenties studying and working overseas. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times (as they say).
It was the best of times because I felt that glorious sense of ‘this is life!’ ALL. THE. TIME. I had days when it felt as if I’d learnt more in six hours than I had ever learnt before.
It was the worst of times too when I had my heart broken, or my boss was awful, or I was about to fail an exam. Just ask my mum. She got the long distance phone calls.
Over the past three years back home in Australia I’ve had the (often maddening) luxury to contemplate what I would like to do with my next decade.
My first impulse is to get back on the road! Plan an adventure that involves big cities, remote villages, jungles and huts on beaches.
But I remember the hard bits too and remind myself not to wear rose-coloured glasses (as so many of us do with our travel fantasies). I also contemplate the future, trying to make a plan for the next year that I won’t regret in 10 years.
I diligently think about my past experiences and try to uncover which parts worked and which parts were disasters. I want my next steps to be informed by where I’ve been and what I’ve learnt about myself.
On the way home from work yesterday I was walking past some men smoking and drinking coffee. I noticed the mingled scent before I noticed the men and I was transported to a place somewhere in my memory. ‘Yes! The coffee and cigarettes! The old men who sit in the same place all day! I want to be there.’
I didn’t know where “there” was exactly. But my longing for distant lands leapt out, grabbed me by the arms and shook me.
Whoa, I suddenly felt painfully aware of my longing for travel…and so marched forth an epiphany –
I had been overcomplicating the whole thing. I didn’t need to think about the next decade. Right now, planning out the next few months would be fine. Indeed, just taking the next step would be fine: I would buy a plane ticket.
I had also been oversimplifying the whole thing. Even though a part of me said ‘travel!’ another part said, ‘rose-coloured glasses!’
I experienced heartbreak, bad bosses, failing exams while travelling. But these are all things I probably would have experienced, in one way or another, even if I’d stayed home. I had thrown the travel baby out with the life-is-tricky-sometimes bathwater.
Also, I’m not in my early- mid- or late-twenties anymore. I won’t necessarily run into the same trouble again. There is probably a whole fresh round of trouble for a thirty year old waiting for me.
I don’t need aptitude tests or career coaches to know what my next step should be. I will buy a plane ticket and start my decade with travel. If it bothered to leap out at me on the footpath, the least I can do is listen.
Maybe it’s as complicated and as simple as that.