The past eight years have been a real rollercoaster ride. If someone had told me all those years ago that I would be an expat in Poland, living in a shared, rented flat; teaching English; producing and publishing online content; and happily travelling around on my own with a backpack, there is no way on this earth I would have believed them. The thing is, that’s exactly what my life is like at the moment.
Over the years, my life and my outlook on life have changed immeasurably. Because it happened over a period of time, I hadn’t really noticed. I only started thinking about it the other day when I was updating my website and Facebook header. I started writing ‘Don’t settle. Live the dream’ and it got me thinking about it all.
When I look back at how my life was, how it is now, and what I have done in that time, I realise how different it is. Eight years ago, I was in my late 30s. I was settled and living a very conventional life. I had a house, doing a job I enjoyed, and I was in a relationship. I was happy with that, or so I thought. When I think back, rather than being settled, I had decided to settle in life. I didn’t think I could do anything else or live a different life. Then, one day, that all changed. I literally woke up and realised it wasn’t what I wanted, but I had no idea what I wanted instead. That was a really confusing stage in my life. If I didn’t want what I thought I had always wanted, what the hell did I want?
I had always had the desire to travel. Over the years, I remember thinking back to a couple of incredible places I’d travelled to years before, Egypt and Canada. Egypt was the most adventurous place I had been to. A friend and I went with a tour group. We didn’t have much money, so we opted for the cheapest tour we could find. As a result, we had a real adventure. We took an overnight train, spent a few days and nights on a felucca, and used some interesting modes of transport such as camels and donkeys.
I went to Canada on a business trip, and then took some holiday to explore it a little more with my boyfriend at the time. He didn’t want adventure, but I did. We had completely different ideas when it came to holidays. He wanted to relax and do nothing. I wanted to get out and do things. We made our way using public transport from Edmonton to Jasper and then on to Vancouver. I loved it because I got to skate on a frozen lake in Jasper National Park, went snowshoeing, and went for a glacier ice walk. I had wanted to do more trips like that, but I wasn’t with someone who shared my passion for adventure. For years, my love of travel and adventure were suppressed. I lived vicariously through people like Ben Fogle. I loved watching his adventures on TV, but never thought I would or could do anything like that. How wrong I was!
With help from some personal development CDs I bought, I realised that I wanted to go travelling. That desire to travel had been there all along. The sticking points were: I had no one to travel with, and didn’t want to travel on my own; I wasn’t rich; I had a good job and a career; I had a house; and I was no longer in my 20s.
I would have stayed in a job I thought I liked, living the life I thought I had to live because it’s easier to follow the path of least resistance and stay within your comfort zone. However, the thought of being in the same position a year on scared the crap out of me. That got me out of my comfort zone long enough to resign from my job, rent out my house, and get on a plane to Delhi for the start of my year-long trip around the world.
That really was a trip of a lifetime for me. It helped me to see the world and my life from a completely different perspective. I was like Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride) when she had to work out how she liked her eggs. I, like Maggie Carpenter, had somehow lost who I was over the years. During that year, I had time away from the stress and strain of every day life. I had time to think. I was living a completely different life that was alien to me. I met other travellers who had been travelling for a lot longer than me, and locals who lived in a completely different way to the one I was used to. It was an eye-opener. I also had to rely on myself and had to deal with all manner of situations that arose. This gave me the chance to find out more about who I was and what I wanted from life. It helped me to reconnect with myself. It was the catalyst I needed to change my life and outlook.
I returned home at the end of my year-long trip, and got back into the same routine as when I had left. The thing is, I had changed. I no longer wanted that life I had left behind. Once again, I was in a state of confusion. What now?
When I returned from my travels, there were two things I wanted to do. The first thing I wanted to do was share my travel experiences, knowledge, and photos with people, especially other women who were in a similar position to the one I had found myself in. That’s what prompted me to start this blog. As a result, it has helped me to focus on what I want as well as give me the opportunity to be creative. It has given me a focus for travelling and taking photographs, and I’ve learned so much. It has been an uphill struggle because I started with absolutely no knowledge of websites, blogging, social media etc. At first, I didn’t think I could do it. I wasn’t a writer or a photographer, so I had to deal with all those issues before I took the plunge and started. I set up everything myself. It wasn’t easy, but certainly worth it. The second thing was, I wished I had learned how to teach English before leaving for my travels. So, on my return, I became a certified EFL teacher, which has turned out to be my main income source over the past few years.
Since my jaunt around the world, I decided to pursue my dream life rather than settle in life. It’s been a difficult journey in many ways – emotionally and financially – and continues to be. Pursuing the life of your dreams and not settling isn’t an easy option. Well, it hasn’t been in my case. I think people often make it sound easy when it isn’t. In fact, it’s been anything but in my case. My life would have been so much easier if I had stayed in my comfort zone and followed the path of least resistance. The thing is, I wouldn’t have been happy nor fulfilled. Things aren’t perfect and even though I get stressed, frustrated, and lose heart at times, I pick myself up and carry on. However hard things seem to be at times, I’m doing things I have always wanted to do and never thought I would. I’m living life, and actively participating in it rather than reacting to things that happen in my life, and letting opportunities pass me by. I’m learning and experiencing so much on a daily basis. I haven’t chosen an easy path, but I know I’m finally on the right one.
I often feel like a struggling actor or artist who is doing what she loves, making ends, and actively looking for that one opportunity that will give her her big break. I trust it will come. I just hope that day isn’t far away.
Don’t settle. Live the dream. It’s your life and if we only get one bash at it, you may as well make it a good one. There are going to be testing times along the way, but don’t give up or lose heart. I’m saying that for my benefit as much as for yours.
Have your say
Have you been or are you in a similar position to the one I was in or am in right now? Is there something you have always wanted to do, but never have? Are you actively working on living your dream life? If you have any hints, tips, or advice you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.