Last week in the Pico Bonito forest reserve of Honduras, I met Juan and Roberto of the indigenous Garifuna community. I was fascinated by their affection for the dense rainforest and the diverse life it harbored, but even more by their culture, an integral part of which involves celebrating death as a new beginning. When one of their own dies, there is no mourning at the funeral; instead the community gets together to play the upbeat Punta music, dance and make merry – One last celebration!
When I heard this, my mind immediately darted back to Shawshank Redemption: It comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.
And so it is with travel.
There are no secrets
A few years ago, a (dream) trip to Central America seemed really far fetched for me, as it might for you as you read this. But on a remote island in the Caribbean where I sit writing this, surrounded by the pristine blue Atlantic Ocean, I realize that I didn’t have to become a millionaire to get here; what got me here was an appetite for risk, working smart and hard, and a bit of luck. And if I can do it, you can too.
It took me a while to become financially independent on the road, but before that, I juggled my wanderlust with a full time job, saved up all my annual leave and the majority of my paycheck, waited for long weekends, kept a keen eye out for flight deals, and took every chance to experience far-flung parts of Southeast Asia.
What’s stopping you?
Don’t let someone else pick your path
I recently read a book on the forks we face in our lives, and how most of us wonder if we had chosen a different path. There are many things that society tries to impose on us, but it’s up to you to figure out what you truly enjoy or believe in, and have the courage to build your life around it. You’ll have plenty of time to live ‘seriously’, save for a house and settle down, but before you get there, atleast know that’s the path you really want to take.
Don’t just see; experience it
It’s been about 4 years since I quit my corporate job for a nomadic life, and my expectations of where I stay have risen exponentially, while my budget hasn’t. Years of travel research has made me realize that you don’t have to be rich to stay in spectacular places; you only have to be friends with google. On my recent trip to Guatemala, I stayed in a bohemian solar-powered studio with an incredible view of Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes beyond, that made my friends think I must have spent a fortune. It cost me INR 1500 ($25) a night on Airbnb.
On your next trip, think about ditching a drab hotel room or even a hostel that only facilitates interaction with other travellers. Do your research to find experiential places, interact with locals to discover hidden gems, volunteer your time and skills, give your taste buds a chance to appreciate the local cuisine, and you’ll come back with a deeper appreciation of what the world has to offer.
It’s not too late
It doesn’t matter if you are 40-something or still in college; don’t hold off on your dream. Save or borrow money. Get your family’s support or make an excuse. Take time off and GO. Stretch your comfort zone a little, test your boundaries, open up your mind, read, write, photograph, think, catch up with yourself. Chances are, you won’t come back the same person, and even if you do, your old life will be waiting just as you left it.
When I quit my steady job in Singapore, I used a (random) fellowship as an excuse to move back to India; I was 99% sure that it wouldn’t work out (it didn’t), but it was somewhat reassuring for my family that I had something concrete in mind (I didn’t). I gave it up in under a week, but didn’t tell anyone till I had figured things out a little more.
Point is, do what you have to do to inch towards the life you’ve always dreamed of.
It doesn’t have to be travel
I know that as a travel blogger, I’m forever urging you to give the road a chance to change and fulfill you. But you can very well apply my way of thinking to anything that you feel passionate about.
Write, cook, climb mountains, run a bar, but don’t let anyone tell you,
This is just shitty pipedreams.
It comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.
What’s stopping you from living the life you want?
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I’m the founder of this award-winning travel blog about offbeat and sustainable travel, and author of the bestselling travel memoir, The Shooting Star.
In 2011, I quit my full-time job, and gradually gave up my home, sold most of my possessions, stored some in the boot of a friend’s car and embraced a nomadic life.
Connect with me on Instagram to hear more about my adventures and personal journey.