Thursday, September 9, 2010

Three life-changing things I've learned in the past 30 days (Part 1)

I've been doing a lot reading recently. A lot of reading, thinking, reflecting, stewing, dreaming. Here is the first of three life-changing things I've learned in the past 30 days:

1. You don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

This idea comes straight (literally, verbatim) from Chris Guillebeau, whose blog (and now book), The Art of Non-Conformity, is a wake-up call, a revolution and a tall glass of awesomeness all in one.

Chris — a UW grad! — is 125 countries deep into his five-year quest to visit all the countries in the world. He has never had a "real job," but has worked successfully as an entrepreneur in everything from importing coffee to blogging to writing "unconventional guides," which he sells on his Web site.

The point is that Chris's life is the opposite of what I've always thought my life would and should be. I grew up thinking that I needed to work hard in school (I did) so I could get a scholarship to go to college (I did) so I could graduate (I did) and get a good job (I did) so I could make good money (I am) to live happily (am I?).

I've always believed that travelling was never in the cards for me. My family couldn't afford vacations, so why would I expect to be able to roam the world?

In college, I considered the idea of studying abroad for maybe a moment — I wouldn't let myself entertain the idea any further and get my hopes up. I never thought it would be possible for me to take a year off after graduation to backpack through Europe or road trip across the U.S., like many of my peers did. In fact, I considered it irresponsible for kids to travel after graduation, as if they were attempting to avoid the "real world."

But what world is more real than this big, bad Earth of ours? The real world is not confined to a high-rise. Real life is not lived in a cubicle.

Chris's unconventional approach to work and travel has made me realize that I don't need to live my life the way I expected to. The things I've thought were "never in the cards" for me are now up for grabs. I've freed myself from things that were holding me hostage (debt, self-doubt) and I'm dealing my own cards now. Why not shuffle the deck a bit?

Besides, look what came in the mail today:

My very first passport. I can has adventures!

I'm not quitting my job. I like my job! But realizing that I have all the freedom in the world to go wherever I want is quite a revolution for me. I'm ready and able to visit places I've only dreamt about (and seen on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations) before. And paid time off is a beautiful thing.

But I may be like Chris someday and buck the 8-to-5 workday. Skip town. See the world because I can, and should. For now, I'll just be plotting little adventures because I can, and should. And because I wasted the first 23-and-a-half years of my life never believing I could.

Three life-changing things I've learned in the past 30 days (Part 2) will be about achieving happiness and wealth. I totally figured out how to do it! OK, not really, but kind of. Stay tuned.

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