What gives you life? What fleeting thought of freedom passes through your mind when you feel the weight of responsibility pulling you down?
What are you passionate about? What can you talk about for hours leaving everyone in your midst fascinated?
I want you to think about this carefully. No regrets, no guilt. Think about a passion that you have.
Write it down somewhere, maybe on a post-it or the back of an envelope, or, if you’re feeling brave, in the comments section below. If you can’t decide what it is yet, then keep reading. It will come to you.
Since blogging I have become an avid blog reader. It has opened up a world of passion. Not just my passions but other people’s. Listening to or reading about other people’s passions fires me up. There are people writing passionate blogs about their cats, about food, about money, about themselves, and I am captivated.
I find Gareth so fascinating when he regales me with hours of his confident and authoritative opinions on historical matters, from the Classical Romans and their hedonistic partying ways, to Nazi warfare on the Eastern front. Gareth has me so hooked. He’s never formally studied history; in fact he didn’t even like history at school so much. Yet, throughout his adolescence he read anything he could get his hands on that would enlighten him and develop his knowledge.
I think true passion is a perfect mix of love and commitment, and when those two things come together, that is where life will be.
What do you love? What can you commit to? That is your passion.
I am passionate about communication and education, which is why in the last year I have pursued a career as an English teacher and I’m now forging a career as a writer. Language inspires me. Words can create images in our minds and can transform how we think and see the world. Words can take you places. Words can change the world.
I am a passionate traveller. I always have been. By the age of 21 I’d lived in Morocco for 6 months, travelled in India with friends, visited Cuba twice, skied in Austria, and been to Spain, France, Germany, the USA and Canada (it helps that I was also born in Canada too!). I even spent a few days in the Western Sahara. Most of these trips I’d done by the time I was 18. For a girl who grew up in Anfield and Kirkby, this is quite an unusual travel resume.
It was the summer of 1991, I was 5 years old and my mum took me to Manchester Airport. I was going to see my dad that day, but he happened to live 3,000 miles away in Toronto. My mum hesitantly passed me to a gentle flight attendant (or Air Hostess as they were known then) who looked after me as I obliviously crossed the Atlantic Ocean and day dreamed about skipping over the fluffy white clouds. I didn’t know it then but that act of using my passport would light a fire inside me, a fire that would reach out into adult life. It opened up the world in my mind. Nowhere was inaccessible to me.
‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page’. St Augustine’s quote sums up why I love to travel. I want to see the world. That’s it. Travelling is something that I love and I am committed to travelling my whole life. It isn’t just a two-week break every 6 to 12 months to wind down; a time sandwiched between months of early morning dread and 9 to 5 drudgery. It is, as cliché as it sounds, about being a citizen of the world.
Some people don’t care for that kind of travelling. Some people are happy to get up Monday to Friday, go to work, come home and relax in front of the telly. Some people are happy to work their way up through the rat race to be a success. Some people are happy to dedicate every waking hour to the financial betterment of their family. They are all lifestyle choices and everyone is entitled to choose how they live their life. But some of us are dreamers. We don’t fit in with that world. We aren’t built for that kind of ambition. Oh, we are ambitious, but in different ways.
I was lucky enough to have been born with a natural travelling instinct. Somehow, I’ve always known that there is generally no need to book a hotel in advance. It’s easy to look for hotels on the ground when you arrive in a destination. I know that it’s important to learn a few basic phrases when you visit a non-English speaking country. Even just hello and thank you can make such a big difference to a travelling experience. Again, this is something I have always been aware of and without needing to be told, or at least I can’t remember being told.
Most people haven’t had the same opportunities as I have had in my life or the same mind-set that was formed in me from childhood. I wish I could tell you everything I know about how to be a traveller but I just don’t have the time today.
Very recently I read a great book recommended to me by the travel writer and fellow blogger Pamela Ho. This book will become a classic in the world of travel writing, trust me. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Travel by Rolf Potts is a book that has a real philosophical and spiritual approach to travel whilst also offering gems of advice on every page. Rolf Potts suggests a lifestyle of simplicity; let travel be the centre of your life; work is travel and travel becomes your work. He insists that you can fund your life on the road, be it by teaching English (If you can read this blog post then you’re on your way to building a skill set that can take you to any open country in the world), waiting tables, bartending, au paring, the list is endless. He also maintains that it’s important to pay your debts before you travel, even if it means waiting three years before you can began your world wandering; do your best to not have anything holding you back. Potts even offers advice to those who have mortgages and young families.
I myself learnt so much from reading Vagabonding. As a traveller I already knew about most of the tips Potts gave but I was touched by the spiritual and humanistic aspects of the book. One thing I struggle with, living in Vietnam, is the culture. I’m not talking about the music or beautiful architecture but the day-to-day behaviour of the locals and their mindsets. If I’m not too careful I can be terribly hurt by their matter-of-fact way of speaking. I find myself getting really pissed off with how people ride their bikes and how people are herded onto moving buses like cattle. When I sit with my Vietnamese friends for a meal and I can hear that smacking sound they make with their mouths when they eat their food, it kind of repulses me. Potts says this ‘The point of travel, then, is not to evaluate the rightness or wrongness of other cultures (after all, you could stay at home to do that) but to better understand them.’
Yesterday, a Vietnamese friend of mine said that she read an article for an English test she is taking soon, which mentioned that English people are not supposed to blow on their hot tea or make any noise with their spoon when they are stirring or put their elbows on the table when they are eating. I told her that I had never heard of the first two supposed social norms but yeah, putting your elbows on the table is seen as rude and lazy. She was fascinated.
If you are someone who is financially minded, maybe making money is a passion of yours, but you also want to be able to travel. Maybe you are a person who loves their job but still wants to see the world. Then a book like Vagabonding, although insightful, won’t change your life. You should, instead read a great book, a New York Times Bestseller in fact, which promotes minimal work with maximum output so that you have the time to do those things that you are passionate about. The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss is a book about lifestyle design. It is a revolutionary way of seeing the world and utilising today’s technology to give you more freedom of time and place.
Ferriss offers advice for people who want to escape an office environment, suggesting working remotely from home as a way to begin the process of attaining your freedom. With chapters on time management, planning for living out dreams (He calls this a ‘Dreamline’), cultivating a low-information diet and offering accessible ways to outsource personal and professional tasks, it is a must read for anyone who wants their cake and eat it. Although the book is written for an American audience it is still extremely motivational.
Before I embarked on this lifestyle I was an Intelligence Analyst for a top 40 UK law firm. Could I have implemented Ferriss’s advice in the workplace? Certain time management recommendations, such as checking emails once a week, would not have gone down too well with my manager. I also had a daily target of posting 8 hours of billable time, bearing in mind I was only contracted to work for 7 hours and 30 minutes a day. So a more hands-off approach to working would have resulted in a P45 in the post for sure. Nevertheless, there were people in my team who worked remotely from home and came to the office for the odd monthly meeting but this was usually due to them living too far away to commute daily.
25th September 2010, I was sat outside an Italian restaurant called Zeligs in Liverpool. I’d been in touch with this bloke and we’d gotten to know each other online over a couple of weeks. I had just failed miserably at eating a Spaghetti con Frutti di Mare because I was so nervous about this first date. I filled the emptiness in my stomach with a bottle of Corona instead and listened to this gorgeous man sat opposite me telling me about his time backpacking across Southeast Asia. ‘…and I want to go back to Vietnam and teach English’. I fell in love with Gareth there and then.
Leaving my job a year and a half later was easy. From November 2010 we’d initiated our plan of escape. I had a three month notice period so we saved and paid off our personal debts where we could and the plan was to hand in my notice when we were in a strong financial position to do so. With Gareth being self-employed he could leave his job whenever he wanted to. So, it would mean three months of planning and tying up loose ends.
I hadn’t read Vagabonding nor The 4-Hour Work Week before I left my job but for someone who is in the position I was in, and who wants a lifestyle of long-term travel, then I think reading these two books will help you to set in motion the course for finding that freedom you so dream about.
If travelling isn’t your passion then what is? When you have worked it out, decide if you are happy with the life you live today. If you’re happy, then you don’t have to change a thing, congratulations! Just try and find the time to live out your passion. If you’re not happy then you must make changes to your life. Start today. Make plans for a year or two from now. Following your passions and dreams will give you life. This is a non-negotiable. This is what you must do.