One Life Is Not Better Than Another

I have two conflicting bees in my bonnet this morning, and one of them is likely to sting you.

They’re unavoidable in the New Year – the ubiquitous posts about resolutions, how we’re all going to “do better” this year and finally get off of our asses and live our dreams. I find it interesting how large a proportion of these articles are travel related in some way. I could find fifteen articles in as many minutes about how great it is to “break free,” “stick it to the man,” and “live the dream, baby!”

Is your next stage<br />
in life travel related?
Is your next stage
in life travel related?

Subtext: I’m smarter than you, because I “got away.” I’m sexier than you, because I’m posting beach pictures from everywhere. You’re settling; I’m not. You’ve sold out; I haven’t. My life is exciting; yours is boring. I’m living; you’re just existing. I’m cool; you’re boring. I’m doing what matters; you’re wasting time. This is what the dream looks like, in technicolor; your life, black and white.

In a word: bullshit.

Then, of course, there is the other side. There are the vocal proponents of the status quo. Study hard, go to a good school, graduate, get a good job. Get married. Buy a house. Have kids. Work hard. Buy insurance. Go to church. Coach little league. Work your way up. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Subtext: If you’re not doing this, you’re a fool and you’re wasting your life. You’re going to end up a drain on society. Remember what happened to Pinocchio on Pleasure Island? The world is not your playground. You are selfish. You are ruining your kids. You’ll have nothing to show for your life. In short, you’re irresponsible.

In a word: bullshit.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life fit neatly into boxes? If dreams could be summed up with a snappy little meme on Facebook? Actually, that would be rather terrible, and thank goodness that’s now how life works. There is no such thing as a simple life; life by it’s nature is a many layered cake with badly done icing and a handful of nuts thrown in, several of which I’m allergic to. We bake it the best we can, and we have the joy of eating our creation, one bite at a time. Sometimes a piece gets shoved up our noses, like at a wedding reception, so we’d better be sure it’s a flavor we enjoy!

Here’s the thing: One lifestyle is not better than another

Walking

I’ve lived several, so I should know!

There are seasons, reasons, and dreams that require deep roots and grounded living. There is nothing wrong with a house in the ‘burbs, early morning hockey practice, volunteering at the homeless shelter on weekends, and clocking 40 at your 9-5. There’s nothing “less” about spending your days tying shoes, wiping noses, reading books, singing songs, and building humans carefully for a decade and staying home to do it.

There are seasons, reasons, and dreams that require deep roots and grounded living.

I did it, on purpose: Pregnant or nursing for a decade. It was worth every minute. You’re not necessarily settling for less by building a house, cultivating a garden, attending book club on Saturday mornings, and pushing your kids on the swing in the park in the afternoon. Anyone who tells you otherwise is short sighted and likely narcissistic.

There are also seasons, reasons and dreams that compel a person to live differently in some capacity, to travel for a period of time. There is nothing wrong with recreating life in a new way, trying new things, going new places, expanding a worldview. It’s not somehow “less” to work online than in an office, to live in a series of places instead of just one, or to spend time in exploration instead of little league. You’re not somehow “throwing it away” by releasing what you have to reach out for something else, for investing in the intangibles. Anyone who says you are is short sighted and perhaps lacks experience.

There are also seasons, reasons and dreams that compel a person to live differently in some capacity, to travel for a period of time.

Newsflash: Your life is not better than mine, and mine is not better than yours

Alice Spring

We spend a lot of time judging one another on the externals, on what we see, or think we see, in another person. We measure against social media profiles, blog posts and what we see at church on Sunday morning. We measure against busy-ness, bucket lists, and bank accounts.

Travelers will say, “At least I’m not home punching the clock!” and toast friends in the hostel common room with a cheer and a derisive laugh for “Those poor guys who haven’t figured it out.” Arrogant, much?

Then there’s the solid “at home” guy in the extended family who makes no secret of the fact that he thinks lifestyle travel is a waste of money that could be spent on missions, that it’s a destructive way to raise children, and a waste of career time. Self righteous, much?

The question no one bothers to ask is the all important: “Why?”

As someone who writes, talks, teaches, and encourages toward people living their dreams, it might surprise you to know that I do not care (not one little bit) what you do with your life. What I do care about (what I think we should all care about) is the “Why.”

Staying home, working forty hours a week, and another twenty pro-bono, looks entirely different when the “Why” behind it includes a deeply held dream to build an intentional community based on organic farming principles and to connect at risk youth to the bigger picture through it.

Trading a house, a car and a comfy retirement for uncertainty on the road at sixty years old becomes admirable, instead of hair brained when one looks through the lens of a growing dedication to digging in for the long haul and giving back to the world through an orphanage in Cambodia.

Please don’t judge my “Why” without asking.

reading to the kids

That ten years of pregnant or nursing was intentional. We wanted these kids. We also were building our financial base and a career network. It was important to me to have a home and routines, to provide a solid base on which to build. Staying home isn’t the only way to do that, but it was our way. I traded a lot of things I wanted for that time, because I wanted that time more. For that decade, diapers and playdates, bedtime stories and sing-songs were the dream. I lived it, intentionally, knowing it was my dream, even when it seriously sucked.

I traded a lot of things I wanted for that time, because I wanted that time more.

The past six years of full time nomadism (with the same four children) is also intentional. We travel specifically for the educational benefit of our kids and to give back to the world, through individuals and organizations that present a need. We are giving the travel, the time as a family in the world, as a gift to our children. We’re giving up more than a few other things that would be nice to have along the way.

We are giving the travel, the time as a family in the world, as a gift to our children.

I won’t judge your “Why” without asking either, but we should be asking.

One lifestyle is not better than the other, but living the right lifestyle is of paramount importance.

You must, you must, choose your lifestyle and own your “Why.”

It’s not about whose life is best, it’s about living the life you have on purpose. It’s about not wasting it. It’s about doing the things you’re passionate about, at home or abroad; at home and abroad.

One of the things that some travel bloggers seem a bit short sighted about is that there are phases of life. Perhaps it is because the vast majority of them are young and unattached and completely enamored with this first phase of their adult existence. Trust me when I tell you that life will change, dreams will change, and who you are as an individual will change. That’s not only okay, it’s good. If you stop changing, you just died. Call 911.

It’s not about whose life is best, it’s about living the life you have on purpose. It’s about not wasting it.

There are incarnations of life. In some phases it’s about us. In other phases it’s about someone else – lover, children, parents, community. There are decades when living outside the box sings to our souls. There are other decades when the realities require us to learn the beautiful art of building a dream around what we have to work with. There are other decades when we will choose to make someone else’s dream our own; this isn’t a sell out, it’s maturity – Learning our place in the epic of history and a passionately given gift.

If you’re reading this article, on this particular website, then you probably fall into the “travel is my dream” category. I love that about you, because that’s me as well. I get it. I get that fire in your heart that keeps pushing you forward. I know you’re excited about what you’re doing and passionate about your adventures. I know it blows you away when other people don’t get it and don’t seem to care when you get back.

Can I give you a piece of advice? Shut up. Quit talking about yourself and your dream. People already feel judged by your adventures, as if they somehow don’t measure up in their quiet lives (not all of them, but more than a few). Don’t be “that person” who walks into a room and insists on being the center of it. You’re not special just because you have more stamps in your passport.

What you should be, having been where you’ve been and seen what you’ve seen, is more humble, more grace extending, more patient, and more interested in the daily realities of those around you.

What you should be, having been where you’ve been and seen what you’ve seen, is more humble, more grace extending, more patient, and more interested in the daily realities of those around you. You are those things when you travel, I hope, be those things at home. Walk into the room with questions instead of answers. Walk into the room looking for the why. Quit assuming that what you’re doing is bigger, better, and sexier than what your college buddy and his wife are doing in suburban Chicago.

Seek to unearth and understand the “Whys” around you, and within yourself. That is the bridge to understanding and mutual respect. It is the question that leads to respect for any number of lives that you are not interested in living.

So tell me about your dream? What’s your why?

Read more:

manifesto - defining your values

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Leave a Comment

  • Vagabond Gene said at 2014-01-18T00:19:40+0000: Thank you for helping to bridge the gap between us all, travelers and untravelers. I've been both. I am both. I have said many of these same things to friends and family, trying to explain that neither lifestyle is better than the other as long as you are living the way that you have purposefully chosen. I have felt judged by untravelers when I was traveling and travelers when I was stationary. I know they felt judged by me. It's time we all stop touting that our lifestyle is better and more important, whatever lifestyle that may be. It's time we starting having respect for each other's decisions. Thank you for speaking to travelers on a subject I have often felt was taboo.
  • Renee D'Antoni said at 2014-01-17T19:54:34+0000: Well said. Many travelers and online travel groups are dismissive of different lifestyles or even different travel styles. Living intentionally is what counts, whatever that means to you. :-)
  • Anita Oliver said at 2014-01-17T12:47:51+0000: I always look forward to your posts but this one hits home! I'll be thinking about your words today....
  • Jessie Voigts said at 2014-01-17T04:45:50+0000: Love, love, LOVE this.
  • Naomi Brooks said at 2014-02-20T00:06:02+0000: what a refreshing article. Nothing like the words of a wise mother to put things in perspective. Your children are indeed blessed.
  • Delina Soumis-Roehm said at 2014-02-06T13:36:40+0000: loved this. I am one that thinks the traveler route is better than me, etc since I would LOVE to be in that category right now but I am not. I'm raising a family & this article made me realize that that is okay at this point in life.