A Finnish tabloid newspaper published a story about Susanna, who decided to take a sabbatical and go travelling to Indonesia. Initially, the trip was supposed to last for about a year, but the sun, the sea and the small island of Gili Trawangan stole her heart. She decided not to return back home. That meant leaving behind the life as she knew it. She had a job in an IT-company. She had just bought a brand new flat. She didn’t have any family or friends in Indonesia, but she decided to stay.
The story received a lot of attention in Finland. The newspaper’s comments box was filled with varying responses. Many were positive. Some readers were inspired by Susanna’s story and voiced their own dreams of moving abroad, away from the cold and dark Finnish climate. Many readers were bitter and cynical.
“It’s good for some, but life is hard you know”
“Not everyone can just leave it all and lose themselves on a tropical island”
“She must have won the lottery”
“The salaries in IT are nothing like mine”
And so on. Most readers were naturally curious to know how Susanna had funded her adventure. The critics expected Susanna to be somehow privileged to be able to make such a choice. However, the truth is quite the opposite.
Susanna’s response was very simple. She had prioritised everything in her life in favor of travelling.
When her single aim was to spend as much time abroad as possible, she made sure that her priorities in other areas were set accordingly. And that meant that she gave almost everything else.
Susanna writes a blog about her life in Indonesia called ”Moottoritiellä on Puuma” or “Cougar on the Highway” (sorry only in Finnish). Susanna is a Facebook friend of mine, so her blog posts started to appear on my feed a few years ago. Her style is super funny, and her story very interesting, so I’ve been following the twists and turns of her adventures for a long time now and here’s the thing.
The decision to stay in Indonesia didn’t come easily. It didn’t happen overnight and it certainly was not funded with a lottery ticket. Susanna’s efforts to save money were nothing short of crazy.
She sold every single thing in her house that she owned. She saved change from each shopping trip. She worked overtime. She quit smoking. She added water to shampoos and dishwasher liquid to make them last longer.
She really prioritised everything in favor of her travels and it was certainly not easy.
Travelling is a good example of a dream, that you may have, but do nothing about. Or maybe you dream of writing a book or getting really fit or starting a business. But why haven’t those dreams come true yet?
I don’t have time. I don’t have the money. I can’t follow a strict fitness regime. I don’t have a peaceful place for writing. I don’t have a good business idea.
You can’t have everything, but you can have what you prioritise. And that may mean giving up some things in your life that get in the way of your dream. If you dream of getting fit, you need to workout whenever you can. If you dream of writing a book, you need to sit down and type, even if it was a page a week. If you dream of starting a business, you need to stop planning and start doing.
Money is rarely the biggest obstacle. Most dreams cost way less than you’d think (including travelling), and most of them can be started with no money at all (start a blog, go running, bootstrap your business).
No time? On average people watch 3 hours of tv every day. If you used even just half of this time on working on your dream, you’d be seeing results very quickly.
So then the real question is: Do you take your dreams seriously and are you willing to prioritise them?
The truth may be that in fact, we want more of the everyday things. We prefer to live a bit more luxuriously every day than to get out of debt. We want the new flat-screen TV for Christmas much more than we want a sabbatical sometime in the future. We want to indulge now, rather than see the results of our fitness regime in a year’s time.
Or is the real reason for procrastination our lack of confidence? Dreaming is safe. Doing means taking risks. Taking the leap. Getting uncomfortable. Exposing ourselves. Scary, but so worth it!
Back to Susanna. She has now lived in Indonesia for over five years. She gets by doing odd jobs and looking after the huge population of stray cats on the island. Her lifestyle is even more basic and frugal than it was when she was preparing to leave. But she says that she’s never been happier because she is at home.
What if she’d never had the courage to leave? What if she’d never had the courage to stay? She would never have found the place that she truly feels is her home, doing work that she feels is truly meaningful.
Wouldn’t that be even scarier?
Originally published at jessifrey.com, a personal development blog for driven creative people.