Travel, Life Trajectory & Limited Time
The vast majority of people follow a typical path through life.
From childhood into adulthood and finally old age, there is a certain life trajectory that has been etched into our ideas of how life should be lived. The linear transition from school, to uni, to job, to career and eventually to retirement has become a social norm that is entrenched in our culture.
This process can be difficult to avoid and swallows time. Travel as an escape might seem appealing, but becomes impossible in practice.
Of all obstacles to travel, this is one we create for ourselves.
If we let it, we get caught up in unfulfilling routines and tied to daily tasks of life. On this path, most people don’t have the space in their day to do the things that make them tick.
How long do you actually spend doing the things you love?
Try doing an audit of the free time you have in a day.
In the last 24 hours, consider how many hours you spent sleeping, getting ready, eating, commuting, at work, studying, exercising, on the computer, watching TV, shopping, on social media, speaking on the phone and so on. Tot it all up and subtract from the 24 hour day.
Not a lot of room to spare, right? Extrapolate to a week, a month, a year and so on. How much time do you have remaining to live?
Here's a great video to highlight the point:
Imagine the following scenario.
Say we’re 21 and have just finished university. We want to travel after the last 3 years of lectures and exams. However, we have to earn some money first so take a short-term job and work hard. This gets noticed by the manager and quickly leads to a promotion, which generates a higher income.
Say hello to greater stress and less time. So, to justify the sacrifice of time and feel better about the added stress, we spend the extra money. Our lifestyle adjusts accordingly. After some time, maybe we put down a deposit on our first property.
There's now a mortgage that needs paying and more pressure than ever to keep the high paying job. As time goes by, maybe we meet someone, fall in love and move in together.
Suddenly, we’re 5 years out of uni and those travel plans seem a distant memory.
Maybe another promotion and a few years into our relationship, income is at an all time high and marriage and kids enter the equation.
Time goes by and eventually you’re that person who wakes up at 40, wondering what the hell happened.
For some people this may well be a glorious prospect and a life well lived.
Indeed, this imagined route through life isn't necessarily bad. My point is only that it is ridiculously easy to get caught up in things. It is all too easy to be funnelled through life on the well-trodden path that society has beaten for us.
Spare time can become sparse in daily life. Time elapses at an immense rate and before we know it, the sand in our metaphorical egg-timer is rather depleted.
Travel plans are easily sidelined.
Follow a different path. Fill your life with the good stuff. Do what you love and give value to the world. Tragically, we all know how quickly life passes but don’t act accordingly.
Take ownership: endeavour not to allow your days to be average. The power to affect change in our life falls on our shoulders only- if you want your life to be amazing, only you can make it so.
If you’re stuck in a routine that isn’t providing a sense of purpose, isn’t enjoyable, isn’t positive, or doesn’t give anything of value to anyone, why are you still doing it? Don’t wait to make change.
Don’t expect that by some magic things will be better tomorrow. I'll say it again: life is short. Wring the absolute last drops out of it.
Travel is your best friend in this endeavour.
It breaks the routine and spell of everyday life. All of a sudden and with painful acuity, the opportunities and wonders of life become clear.
The immense disparity between travel and ‘everyday life’ forces you into awareness of the frequent senselessness of home and of time wasted. Importantly, I think it is the state of having time on your hands that enables travel to do this.
Life is often such a blur of activity that it prevents a clear sight of the problem- we just feel stretched, tired and out of sorts.
With travel, you effectively step outside of the arena and get chance to take stock. Rather than being controlled by constraints of time, time becomes something over which you take control.
Okay, this is getting deep, but here's some old wise-man advice: keep death close. You might die tomorrow. On days where I lack enthusiasm, or feel myself drifting through a stage of my life, this thought brings me inevitably to my senses- things get put into perspective.
Irvin Yalom writes that:
I’m certain that anyone given a year to live would make decisions differently, rethink their priorities and do more of what makes them truly happy.
If you want to travel, or do anything for that matter, why wait until then? All we have is now. Confronting death helps me prioritise things that are important to me. Travel is right at the top of the list.
Perhaps it is time to bite the bullet and seize the moment.
Life is short and time passes quickly if we let it. Forget what everyone else is doing. Break the cycle, make time for yourself and embrace everything life has to offer.
If you want to travel- do it.