In the end, the answer comes down to priorities. We will make time and money for the things that are highest on our priority list.How does one go about making the decision to drop out of everything that’s expected to go ride bicycles around the world? How is it possible for two middle-aged school teachers to take off for a year or four? Why do some people live their dreams and others don’t?
I love to read and can curl up in bed and read until the wee hours of the night. But I haven’t hardly read at all for the past few years. Yes, I could make excuses and say I’m too busy or my boys demand all my time. But the reality is that it isn’t high enough on my list. I choose to do my beadwork or surf the internet rather than read a good book.
The same is true about traveling the world. We will find a way to do what’s important to us. If new floors in our house is more important than a family vacation, we get new floors. If a new couch is higher on the priority list than bicycles, we get the couch. And if taking an extended family vacation is of the utmost importance, that’s exactly what we’ll get.
John and I made the decision that we would happily furnish our house with furniture from yard sales or thrift stores in order to save money. We bought a used car and shared it rather than being a two-car family. We added another sweater rather than turning up the heat when we were cold. We cooked meals at home rather than eating at restaurants.
But really – that’s the easy part of the “how.”
The harder part is the internal part – figuring out how to go against what everybody expects us to do in order to do what makes us happy. Our society has raised us so that we should want the standard American Dream. We are expected to want a big house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. We should be happy with a couple of brand new SUVs in the driveway. A big screen TV in the living room should take us to new levels of contentment.
And yet not all of us want that.
I’ve struggled with figuring out what it is that sets some of us apart from others. What is it about those of us who make the leap? Why did some of us actually jump from dreaming to doing? What pushes some of us to pursue our passions and live our dreams while others live their whole lives allowing those passions to reside in some untapped part of their brain?
Do I have the answers? Absolutely not. I have accepted that, for some of us, the dream becomes more important and we decide to make it happen. For some, it’s the death of a parent or a bitter divorce or some other life-altering event that pushes them over the edge. For others, it’s a slow, gradual process of coming to the realization that life is too short for regrets.
Whatever path we choose to get there, the end destination is the same.
Life is more fulfilling when we opt to live it on our own terms. When we decide to chase butterflies and follow rainbows, we know we’ll have no regrets when we’re sitting in that rocker when we’re old and gray. We won’t sit there saying, “I wish I woulda…”
Take charge of your life. Step over that line from being a dreamer to being a doer. Pursue your passions and live your dreams – wherever they may take you. Is it scary? You bet! But it’ll be the most rewarding decision of your life.
In my search for answers, I’ve asked other traveling families for their thoughts on what prevents some people from living their dreams. Here’s what they said:
Theodora Sutcliffe (Escape Artistes)
I think it’s about fear. There’s an immense amount of fear to conquer when it comes to leaving behind the things we’ve worked so hard for – jobs, houses, routines – and take that step into the unknown. Sometimes you also have to cope with the criticisms of others, and their fears for you.
I think what sorts out the people who follow their dreams from the ones who don’t is the ability to see the fear of the status quo and staying put, put it alongside the fear of change. Everyone feels fear. But only some see the fear on both sides, and I think it’s that what helps us conquer it.
It’s a lot easier to stay with the status quo than to take the leap into an unknown future – and that’s why most dreams remain exactly that, dreams. Some of our dreams are meant to stay just that – dreams. And others we can easily transform into reality. Longterm travel, unlike winning Wimbledon or starring in a Hollywood blockbuster, is a dream that anyone can follow. So follow it.
Marilia Di Cesare (Tripping Mom)
Everyone doing what we are doing has fears too, but we feel the fear and do it anyway. With time, we get used to the fact that the fear can be just a transitory phase before the change and the amazing experiences. After a while we are like, “And to think I thought about not doing it.” I wrote about that idea a while ago. I also enjoyed this great article and video about fear.
Powell Berger (Family Vagabonding)
I totally agree on the fear issue, and would add to that intimidation. The daily routine of traditional stress is well known and documented; what we’re doing challenges that, and thus makes folks question themselves. I often think that what those folks miss is that we, too, have great role models from whom to learn and be inspired. We aren’t out there on our own; we have a tremendous support system when we look for it. It’s just not necessarily down the street.
Amy Page (Livin on the Road)
I follow my dreams because of fear. Fear that I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want. When I turn 30, my birthday present will be to start a lifelong trial of taking daily heart medicine. With that daily reminder of how short life is, why would I sit around not living life in the time I have?
Lainie Liberti (Raising Miro on the Road of Life)
It’s about overcoming fears and trusting your inner voice. I did a podcast about a man who listened to his inspiration, followed his vision, put his life on hold and decided to walk to Brazil from LA. Those of us who have made it happen have trusted that inner voice.
I think for us, it has been seeing others living similar dreams and knowing we can do it, too. For example, I started following Soul Travelers 3 some time ago and often thought, “Wow, that’s neat, but we have five kids, not just one. We could never do that.” Then I found Jennifer Miller’s Edventure Project blog and saw they had four kids and realized if they could do it with four, we can do it with five. The big family could have been an excuse. We’re choosing not to let it be.
Another thing has to do with personality. I would bet that most of us don’t really care too much about what others think. People who are wrapped up in their own culture, worried about their kids being “cool” or having the latest cars/clothing/techno-gadgets, etc. aren’t usually willing to do without, even if it means living a life with more meaning and happiness.
Having the support of an online community of travelers has been a HUGE blessing to help us get over some of the fears we’ve had. Once we meet others on a similar path, dreams become reality and within reach
Justin Mussler (The Great Family Escape)
Actually I think the “following the dream” thing has a lot to do with family and tradition. America and Canada being such new countries have such a variety of cultures represented. My family is so Irish/Italian, you kind of have to stay local and close to family. That’s just what people do. Sure that is fading now with new generations, but I do think some people can’t get past that.
I remember in China few had ever left the province because who would take care of the elderly. Many stifle dreams because of caring, guilt and respect for others. There seems to be a lot of history of “doing what you’re supposed to do” in America. Sometimes following your dreams is just too much of a sacrifice for people.
PS: I would love to hear your thoughts on what sets the doers apart from the dreamers. What is it that pushes some of us beyond our comfort zone and allows us to live our dreams while others never do? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Here’s another post I wrote about our traveling lifestyle – the result of luck or wise choices?