“You are living the dream”, I am often told. And yes, most days I totally agree. Having the luxury of time on my side, and the freedom to go wherever the wind takes me. I wake up without ever setting an alarm and get up to do the things I love. Which is exploring the sunny corners of the world, connecting with new people and experiencing different cultures. All year round!
My seemingly ‘Instagram perfect’ life hasn’t always been like this though, nor is it flawless now. It can be such a lonely feeling when you are going through a dark period, when in fact, so many of us experience the same thing. If everyone could be a little more transparent about the hardship they faced and how they’ve overcome this, that would be so encouraging. Hence I want to share my story. You’re not alone and you can get out of this downward spiral. I mean, if I can do it, anyone can!
Once upon a time, about three years ago, a once happy girl turned miserable, bitter and sad. Miserable because I was pretending that my well-paid job, which gave me status and bought me lots of stuff, made me happy. Bitter, because I felt unfulfilled and out of control of my own life. And sad, because I had lost the love of my life. Society’s pressure and a predefined image of how to be successful got the better of me and I couldn’t deal with the rat race any longer.
So I made a dramatic move and gave up my house, my job, my circle of friends and a stable income to move to Uruguay. Well, at least that was my intention. I’d never been there before nor did I speak any Spanish, but something had to give. “Aren’t you scared to give up everything”, people asked me. Yes, I was scared to give up my financial stability, but I was even more scared of the person I would turn into if I stayed. Thinking back at my office days, I had felt so incredibly imprisoned by those four walls. I couldn’t wait to break out of them. Even if that meant giving up a (false) sense of security, the paycheck, the stuff and the status. I’d lost a lot of sleep over it. Carefully weighing up the options, not sure which one to pick. In the end, I didn’t go with any of the options I had listed. Funny enough though, all the puzzle pieces started coming together as soon as I gave my notice. Financials got sorted out, phone calls started coming in from people wanting to work with me on a freelance basis and even airline tickets were reduced at the time I wanted to travel!
Essentially by giving everything a big finger, an incredible period of self-discovery started. The idea to settle in Uruguay soon gave way for something much more exciting. I had all the freedom in the world to go wherever I wanted, right? So why stick with Uruguay? In the next ten months that followed I went a bit crazy and visited 25 countries, after which I needed some rest to catch my breath. Most of my second year of my nomadic existence therefore I ‘settled’ in a few places in South East Asia. It’s been a time full of amazing experiences, meeting people from all walks of life, seeing the world and understanding it’s not money, status or a particular type of stability that makes me happy. It’s freedom. Though I would never deny the importance of an income, it doesn’t mean this has to come from a place which wears you down.
Feeling rich has nothing to do with money, and everything with time.
For the longest time I wanted to be successful. Don’t we all? However, my understanding of success was based on today’s society’s definition. And this idea imprisoned me. Sure, I held a good job and could buy nice things. It paid for the mortgage of the house for instance. Ironically I hardly ever spent time in it, since I was always at work making money to pay it off. Same goes for the car I had, which only served me to get me to work and back.
Of course, just like everyone, I need money to live. But letting go of that false sense security as well as that predefined idea of success were the catalyst for growth, change and a series of life-changing events. Now that I no longer stress over paying bills, being late or living up to society’s expectations, you can’t really wipe the smile off my face these days. People even say I look younger. Slowly, the happy girl that I knew was hiding inside somewhere, came out again.
Until a dark cloud came drifting over, swallowing that blissful feeling of that dream I was living. What happened? Turns out perpetual travel is not the simple answer to being happy either. I wish!
One needs purpose in life.
During the first year of my travels, I was so high on life that there was not even room in my mind to question what I was doing. Moving into the second year of my nomadic existence however I started feeling rather lethargic. Imagine this: it’s the start of January and I am sitting in the sand on a beach of a tiny Thai island. Beautiful turquoise water, white sand, the sun warming my skin. Yet I am feeling incredibly sorry for myself and very lonely, unable to connect with the happy, boozy, young holidaying backpackers around me. “Is this really all there is to life?” I wondered, and questioned my hopes and dreams. Sure, from the outside being on an eternal holiday sounds great, but it turned out to be rather shallow and ultimately didn’t give me the fulfillment I was looking for. Meanwhile I was also beating myself up for even feeling this way. Wasn’t I exactly where I wanted to be, on some tropical island? I mean, could be worse! What followed was a period of serious soul searching, fueled by conversations with people I had met throughout my travels, as well as a couple of painful heartbreaks, both personally and professionally.
Though this is not a fairy tale, there is a happy ending. Life has its ups and downs, even when you’re living your dream. Ironically, those ‘hard times’ gave me the kick I needed to understand how I can be useful to humanity. I discovered this is what truly makes me happy, gives me energy and fuels my existence. I am a huge believer in creating and transferring positive vibes and the ultimate sign I was back on track was given by someone telling me recently: “Jenny, when I am around you, I am a better person”. Amazing! This gave me renewed energy to start working on a project that enables people to travel the world without giving up their jobs. Ultimately, I’d love for everyone to have to opportunity to experience what I’ve experienced (even if it is just for a couple of weeks). Putting yourself in a totally different environment for a while and connecting with that big world out there might just be the thing people need to see all the possibilities out there. It’s done wonders for me.
Essentially by ‘giving up everything’, I gained so much. Whatever this means for you, be it giving up something you dislike, or doing more of what you love and makes you happy, please try! Trust me when I say that you can take that pay cut, travel by yourself, or do that one specific thing you’re scared of doing. It doesn’t have to be forever. It doesn’t have to be something big. I am not saying be reckless, but also don’t be too afraid either. Being free is a state of mind. Simply take that leap and get empowered. Life’s too short to be stuck in a rut. If I can do it, so can you!