Can only the wealthy live their dream?

“Fact is, you must either inherit funds, or have had the opportunity to earn or win funds some way, somehow. Either way, it’s money that’s freedom. If you don’t have it, like it or not, one can dream all one wants to, but no dream will come true.

Beautiful white sand beachSomeone left this comment on my blog a while ago basically saying only the wealthy can afford to live their dreams. That got me thinking a bit.

Is it that really true that only the wealthy can pursue their passion?

To an extent, I agree with the commenter. Having a certain amount of money certainly helps one live their dream. It helps to have enough money to pay for travel or the start-up costs of a new business. Having a backup cushion of money in the bank gives a certain amount of peace of mind in case of an emergency.

“All dreams require at least some money, because without it there is no education, food, etc…,” said Anne Dirkse, who works in the television business and has managed to figure out how to mix her passions of travel, bicycling, food, and photography, “but people who think they need 100K a year to travel the world are off kilter. There is a fine line; you do have to have significant resources to dream and do, but not the sort we take for granted in the US.

AJ Reardon, who decided as an adult to pursue her passion of dance, said, “If you have a dream and you really care about it, you’ll do whatever it takes to pursue it.”

Does not having large amounts of money preclude living your dream?

cycling through indigenous market in Peru

Cycling through indigenous market in Peru

I had written a blog post exploring why some people live their dreams while others don’t. We all have dreams – yet only some of us ever act upon them. The others allow them to remain tucked away in the inner recesses of their brains and never let them out to see the light of day.

I came to the conclusion that it comes down to priorities. We’ll make time/effort/money for those things we hold nearest and dearest to our heart. Fear is also high on the list – fear of the unknown can hold people back and fear of regrets can encourage others to live their dreams.

The aforementioned commenter disagreed with me – he felt it was money that held people back. Unless you inherit a fortune or somehow win the lottery, you’ll never be able to live your dream.

I will agree with him for some people. If you live in Ethiopia or North Korea, there is little chance that you would ever be able to save the amount of money one would need to live their dream. Even if they could, by some miracle, save half of their earnings, half of next-to-nothing is still a very small amount. They are trapped in a cycle of existence and it’s a huge challenge to break out of it.

But for those of us who won the birth lottery and live in the developed world? Most of us CAN live our dreams – if we make it a priority.

Rebeca Groover has faced a certain amount of hardship while getting ready to travel the world with her husband and four kids. “I’m not saying that everyone can do it,” she said, “but for most, I think that if there’s a will, they’ll find a way.”

Justin Mussler, an American who is currently preparing to leave his job and take off with his family on an open-ended adventure added, “Money does grow on trees, but I think most people are too scared, lazy, or grown up to climb trees. You MAKE your dreams come true.  When it feels like we don’t have a choice, we just haven’t looked hard enough. The key to it all is that people just don’t WANT the dream enough. Anyone with a choice can follow a dream, with or without cash. Sure it might be longer road for some, but as long as you have a choice you have a chance.”

colorful people in cuzco peruI think Mr. Mussler is on to something. For those of us living in the developed world, we can make our dreams happen. It won’t be easy. It won’t fall in our lap. We won’t suddenly wake up one morning and find that the planets have aligned just perfectly and the money is in our bank account and the time is waiting to be spent.

“I think for some people, if they are in certain circumstances and they don’t know anyone personally who has done what they dream of doing, it can be tough to persevere for years to fulfill that dream,” said Katie Aune, a former attorney who dreamed about pursuing her true passion and is currently in Russia living it. “I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to pursue my passion if I hadn’t met people who had actually done the same thing – they made it seem like it was actually possible.”

“Working towards a dream is a thousand little steps in one direction over time,” added Kim who, along with her husband, is in the process of selling her stuff, quitting her job, and clawing her way out of her cubicle to travel the world. “It might take years or decades to save for it and it might not look the way you imagined it to look, but you can get there. Attitude is everything.”

It’s up to us to make it happen.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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44 Responses to Can only the wealthy live their dream?

  1. Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Lots of great points here. Another way to look at it, to start dreaming those wild dreams, is to realize that without making a radical life change you can live out a smaller dream — cycle with your family for a week; volunteer for a meaningful organization in your community once a week; buy a cargo bike and ride to your local farmers’ market. Start small and see what happens. Before you know it you may be thinking about money, time and dreams differently. And enjoying yourself more in the process.

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

      I don’t think most people initially dream of biking around the world or some other huge dream; they start off small and, as their skill and confidence increases they can make bigger dreams. The important thing is to dream and do.

  2. Cila December 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Money is a tool. But so is creativity, imagination, willingness to work, ambition and drive. We get to pick our tools, and how to use them. If you don’t have a hammer, grab a screwdriver and make do! Success comes when you’re willing to make the effort….

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

      I love that – if you don’t have a hammer, grab a screwdriver and make it work! That’s beautiful!

  3. Lisa Wood December 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    So very true – its a matter of thinking about it, getting ready for it, and making it happen! Dream big and you will soon see the results 🙂


  4. Justin December 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    I can totally understand why people believe that money makes dreams come true, I have often felt this way, but it is simply not true.

    Are all rich people happy? No. So that means that it is not money that makes a person happy.

    Are poor people doomed to a life of poverty and suffering? No. Surely you have heard stories of people who have nothing and created something.

    The bottom line is that doing anything great is hard. That is what makes it great! It’s not easy, but to say one needs money to achieve a dream is not true. We all know thousands of stories of people who achieved a dream with nothing. NOTHING!

    Get to work. Make it happen.

    I’ll tell you this. When I made $4 an hour and had nothing to lose, it was a lot easy to fulfill a dream. What does that say about money?

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

      Walking away from a high-earning job is a very, very difficult thing to do. In our society, we’ve been trained to believe that more money = better. I wish we focused on happiness instead.

  5. Toast December 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    We frequently encounter the sentiment expressed by your commenter. For most, lack of funds is a crutch, sophistry to justify the failure to take strong action. Those of us who live(d) big adventures make big sacrifices first. Ironically, to live big you often have to deliberately choose to live small and simple. Remove from your life the “Stuff” which owns you and all the financial obligations associated with that stuff, and suddenly you’ll find the financial wherewithal to pick up and go.

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

      I think that many people, deep down inside, don’t really want to do what they say they want to so they make excuses. The financial excuse is very convenient.

  6. Jaime and Mera December 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Dictated by Mom for Jaime (15) of s/v Don Quixote: “He just has no clue. I’m betting living on a bike traveling as your family did costs a h* of a lot less than anything this guy has ever done. He just doesn’t get it. You and Dad didn’t win the lottery. You just worked hard, saved money and then we left and spent that.” Mera adds, “He might not have done the math.”

  7. Marci Baun December 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    For those in developed countries, there is no question we can live out our dreams. We have opportunities that many in the world do not. Whether we take advantage of them or not is another matter. To say that money is the be all end all is a cop out.

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

      @Marci Baun,
      Totally a cop out. If there is a will, there is a way. The whole process may take many years, but that’s OK – we value the things we’ve worked the hardest for.

  8. Amanda December 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Great post! I think I have to agree that money doesn’t HAVE to be a huge barrier for those of us who were lucky enough to be born and raised in the developed world. I have plenty of people assuming that I must be rich (or have rich parents) because of all the traveling I do. But that could not be further from the truth — I’m currently a grad student living technically below poverty level. I have simply chosen to make travel a priority in my life, and the rest kind of just follows from there. I am certainly not wealthy right now, but I’m still following my travel dreams.

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

      I’m a firm believer that we make time and money for the things that are highest on our list of priorities – whatever those things are. If a new car is number one on the list, that’s what we get. If a trip to Europe is up there, then that’s what we get.

  9. Jeremy December 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    I think people who think you need to inherit money to live your dreams don’t have a dream strong enough to make the plans to achieve it.

    I paid for all of my trips by myself at age 22 (3 weeks in Europe), 23 (3 weeks in the Middle East), and 24 (5 months in Asia) respectively – all while on a grad students stipend. I decided to live at home with my family and do nothing else than to save and make those things happen, and it worked.

    What you have to change in your life to make your dreams happen is up to you. If you dont want to make those changes, well… dream harder.

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

      This is awesome – “…don’t have a dream strong enough to make the plans to achieve it.”

      That’s so very true. People have these vague dreams of things they might, possibly like to do someday, but they haven’t committed themselves to making it happen.

      • Jeremy December 16, 2011 at 10:10 am #

        I think that is the case with most people. Until your dream consumes every ounce of you (or near it), you won’t have much motivation to want to do it. Anything less than that is a hobby.

  10. rob December 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    It’s all about priorities. People occasionally observe that they “wish they could travel” when their priorities revolve around buying crap. I had someone wistfully observe that they wished they had the money to travel like I do. I pointed out that my last ticket to Europe cost less than the sales tax on the new car they just bought to replace the new car they bought a few years before. I feel like you can buy stuff or you can buy experiences. And the more experiences you’re buying the less stuff you need!

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      Oh man – don’t I know it! So many people don’t even realize how much they are spending on “stuff” – they just buy it because… well, nobody really knows why. Yes, a certain amount of stuff adds value to your life, but if people were making conscious decisions they could afford to travel.

      • rob December 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

        @Nancy, Many years ago I bought the 1984 edition of “Europe through the back door” where Rick Steves observes “A friend marvels at my ability to come up with money for travel as we sit on $2000 worth of living room furniture”. That sentence has stuck with me over the last 26 years and made me compulsively reject the purchase of expensive furniture.. I know people who are just getting by, say they want to travel, and then look at me like I’m from another planet when I observe that they don’t actually have to buy each other or their large extended families christmas gifts. They pee away the price of a ticket every year on what they perceive as being “obligations”. And then wish they could travel.

        Oh well. The more people who stay home the better it is for me when I travel. I think I was *the* American tourist on Istria this October, and it was excellent!

        • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

          A friend of mine told me she spent $35K on her living room furniture. 35 THOUSAND DOLLARS on the living room?? Holy batshit! We could travel as a family for 18 months on that! It all comes down to priorities…

        • rob December 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

          @Nancy, $35K? Wow. wow. And at the end of it you’ve just got furniture you’ve got to clean. Bleh.

          • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

            Exactly! It’s nice furniture, but still…

  11. Erin December 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    I agree that for most people in the developed world it is possible to save enough to travel without being rich. We earned below average salaries in the UK but managed to save enough to travel the world. The first time it took us 2 years to save for a year of travel. The second time it only took 9 months as we were used to being frugal. It’s just about cutting down your spending and prioritizing travel if that’s what you want -stop buying stuff is a good place to start!

    • rob December 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

      @Erin, 9 months is pretty impressive. Actually 2 years is pretty impressive.

    • Nancy December 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

      I think people spend money without even realizing they’re doing it. Once you’ve lived without all the stuff you know you don’t need it so it’s easier to not buy it.

      • rob December 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

        @Nancy, I think it’s also that if you long-term travel you become accustomed to needing not much more than is in your backpack. When you’re “at home” there is all the space that is begging to be filled.

        I have a house & yard that I own, and the majority of the stuff in the garage is stuff I own to service the house. Inside I have 1500 square feet of pretty empty that is getting emptier!

        I think the “lots of time traveling” movement and the “minimalism & tiny house” movement are variations on a theme.

  12. dtravelsround December 15, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    This is a really thoughtful post. I think, that for many people in first-world countries, they let fear dictate their dreams, however they use the excuse of not being rich. I’m not rich.When I got back from my trip, I didn’t have money, or a job. Now, I have both. I am not rich. I work part-time. But, my dream is so strong, that it fuels the rest of my life. Each day, I add a little bit of money I save, or money I earn from side jobs, to go into an account ear-marked for long-term travel. Not being rich just means you can’t necessarily pick up and go right now, it doesn’t mean you can never pick up and go. It just takes a little more discipline. But, anyone who sets their heart to living their dreams can do just that.

    • Nancy December 15, 2011 at 12:24 am #

      A little more discipline and perhaps a little more time, but it’s totally doable. Unless, of course, your dream is to travel to the moon. Then it takes money. A LOT of money.

  13. Bret @ Green Global Travel December 15, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Money certainly helps, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The biggest obstacle to travel, in my opinion, isn’t lack of money but overwhelming responsibility.

    • Nancy December 15, 2011 at 10:36 am #

      @Bret @ Green Global Travel,
      The overwhelming responsibility in taking care of elderly parents or other situations along that line is tough to get around. We all have to make choices and sometimes the choices are not easy at all.

  14. Courtney December 16, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    I think that only the courageous can live their dream. How many of us, as you said, realize our dreams only to keep them locked up-thus continuing along an uninspired path. It’s hard to trust yourself enough to just go for it; there are so many distractions and what-ifs that can hold you back. What’s helped me overcome those doubts while planning my own journey is to fiercely hold on to that feeling of absolute certainty that I’d rather assume the risks that accompany adventure than spend my life dreaming about life in front of a screen. Have courage when venturing into the existence that you were meant for!

  15. Erica December 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to save the money we did and work my butt off to be able to go on this trip but that is what we did – WORK, even in the cushy US, we worked towards our dreams because that is what we wanted.

    It took us over 4 years to pay off all of our debt by working 50 hour weeks and I’m so glad we did. And we were working in customer service – not known for the high paying aspect of it. 😛

    • Nancy December 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

      It is work to make your dream come true. Work to save the money, work to get things planned out, work to make it happen.

  16. AlexBerger December 18, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Those who want to succeed can always find a way. Those who want an excuse not to, will similarly always find one.

    • Nancy December 18, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      What a wonderful way to look at it! We will always find a way to do what we want – whether that’s to do something or find an excuse.

  17. Eric @ Trans-Americas Journey December 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    I would suggest it’s often easier to fulfill your dreams if you are not wealthy. Wealth often comes with a host of commitments, obligations and responsibilities which can make it harder to follow your dream. that said, being destitute has it’s obstacles. A happy medium somewhere in between, maybe that’s ideal.

    • Nancy December 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

      @Eric @ Trans-Americas Journey,
      I so agree! The wealthy so often seem to be consumed by their money and it’s hard to leave that behind. I think the middle class probably has it easiest in that regard.

  18. Alexa Meisler February 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Agreed. When there’s a will there’s way. Your dreams will always be there and it’s always up to the person whether they are going to act on these dreams.

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