Can we all really follow our dreams?

I logged on to Facebook this morning and found this status by a friend:

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Some other friends responded back with it being the power of positive thinking and how it’s worth it in the end to follow your dream. Hanna came back with this:

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And she’s absolutely right. If every single one of us chucked it all and took off to travel the world, who would be left to keep things running?

I believe it really is possible to create a life that makes you happy and the world will keep going as well. You don’t need to be stuck in a job you hate and that makes you miserable. I don’t think anybody is saying to just go be irresponsible, but to change your life in such a way that it’s fulfilling to you.

The beauty of it all is that we are all so different. The things that make us fulfilled are all different and is exactly how the world will keep on going. Some people will make the choice to travel the world. Others will choose to stay in various jobs. Follow your dream in your own way.

The important thing to remember is that that fulfillment comes in many different ways. It’s all about MAKING CONSCIOUS CHOICES and knowing/understanding a) which choices we are making and b) why we are making them.

You might choose to stay in a job you don’t particularly like because you like the benefits of that job more than you dislike the job. That’s okay – as long as you understand that’s the choice you are making. If, at any point, you decide the benefits are no longer worth the price you are paying for that job, then it’s time to quit.

I was a school teacher for many years. I dedicated my life to my students and was a dang good teacher. I enjoyed my job in many ways; in others I hated it, but the benefits (a steady paycheck, satisfaction of a job well done) were worth the sacrifices I was making.

At some point, I realized that what was more valuable to me was time with my children. I was willing to cut my pay drastically in order to have that time. We are now living on about 1/4 what we used to make as teachers (and we all know teachers don’t make a ton of $$$, right?). Money is tight, but we’re okay with that because we’ve made the conscious choice to have more time together.

Every time we make a choice to do one thing, we make a parallel choice not to do something else. It’s all about knowing and understanding which choices we are making.

Not everyone will make the choice we’ve made. Some people will decide the rewards of remaining in their job are greater than the costs. They might make that decision because the paycheck is the greater reward, or the work itself might be their reward. In any case, the rewards of the job are greater than the rewards of whatever other life they might perceive.

I remember a conversation I had with my sister-in-law many years ago. She and her boyfriend had flown to Nepal and traveled for a while with us. We had a blast.

A few years later, we visited her in Denver where she had just had her hardwood floors redone. We were talking about travel and I asked her why she didn’t travel any more. “I really enjoyed my time in Nepal and I had a blast,” she told me. “That said, I’ve only got so much money and I think I would get more enjoyment from having nice floors than I would from travel.”

I have tremendous respect for her. She’s made her choice and she knows what she is choosing against. She reaffirmed that decision just last summer. “There are parts of my job that I don’t particularly enjoy, but I do like getting a paycheck each month.”

It’s all about making those decisions consciously – being aware of both what you are choosing FOR and AGAINST. There is nothing wrong with either choice – just know which choice you are making.

Many years ago, my sister made the decision to open a scrapbooking store. It was something she had wanted to do for ages, and finally made the decision to go for it. Her grand opening was on 9/11. Of course, after that, the economy started to go downhill and people didn’t have money for hobbies. She ended up losing the store and all of her retirement savings. At one point, they were on the verge of losing their home.

Even so, she told me she is glad she did it – if she didn’t she would always be wondering. And the message for her kids? She has taught her daughters that sometimes you just need to take the risk and do it – even if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to.

My friend, Hanna, who originally wrote the status, continued.

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And to that, I can only say that I am a huge believer that the universe will conspire to help us. When we most desperately need help, that’s when the universe steps in and provides what we need. We need to somehow put aside our fear of failure and trust in ourselves and the universe.

I get it – it’s easy for me to sit here in my comfy chair and say that. It’s easy for me to say that things will work out – I’m looking at things from the other side of the decision. I’ve made my choice, put myself out there, relied on the universe, and it all worked out.

I can say with certainty that I wasn’t always so confident in my trust. When we made the decision to quit our jobs, I wasn’t convinced it would all work out. When the economy crashed and the interest on our savings dried up to next to nothing, we considered calling off our journey and going back to work.

But we didn’t. We kept going, putting one foot in front of the other, and it’s always worked. Somehow.

Even now, five years after leaving my teaching job, I still have days when I think about going back to the classroom in order to have that paycheck coming in. There are times when I think about the reward/cost equation and seriously consider trading in time with my children for a steady paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I might actually do it someday.

It’s all about knowing that every time we make the decision to DO something, we make the decision NOT TO DO something else. Know what you’re choosing. Make the decision consciously. Then go make it happen.

 end of the world ushuaia sign end of the world ushuaia sign

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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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.

23 thoughts on “Can we all really follow our dreams?

  1. Very interesting post. It is something I have thought about quite a bit. Prior to leaving on my RTW trip I sent an email out to friends and posted on FB asking people to share stories about either fulfilling their dreams or what the dreams were that they were chasing. You know how many people responded? Two. For one, her dream was to be a mother and after a long struggle, she and her husband had just been able to adopt, so she fulfilled her dream. For the other, her dream was to make a living working for herself and she had bee doing so for the past couple years, so she was living her dream. What struck me about the responses was that first, neither had anything to do with travel. So many travel bloggers write about people needing to follow their dreams and they for some reason believe that has to be traveling around the world. For a lot of people, that just isn’t what they want to do – not because they’re afraid but it just doesn’t appeal to them. Other things, like creating a family or growing a business are more important. The other thing that struck me was the fact that most people did not respond. This made me wonder – did people not want to share their dreams semi-publicly? Or did they not have big dreams that they were chasing?

    I tend to believe it’s the latter. I think a lot of people are just perfectly content/happy to live their lives and letting things play out as they do. They have jobs that they’re okay with, they have friends and family around them and they have hobbies that they enjoy. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Sometimes I wish I could be like that – that I could just accept my day-to-day life and not constantly be feeling like I need to do something different.

    When I wrote on my blog about turning down a job that I once thought would be my dream job, one of my readers commented that we make too much of the idea of finding “work that makes us happy.” I think she’s right. What we do for a living should be a small part of our overall lives. I spent 8-9 hours a day at work. That leaves 15-16 hours a day to do other things. Sure, I need to sleep too, but that still leaves another 7-8 hours to spend with friends or family, pursue hobbies, etc. Sure, our work shouldn’t make us miserable, but it doesn’t need to be the source of our happiness either. And really, I would guess the vast majority of people are working in jobs that are not something they ever dreamed of doing, but they are jobs that they were able to get and they pay the bills. And they find their happiness elsewhere.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    I do think it’s important that we all chase our dreams – it’s just that our dreams don’t have to be travel related. I think it’s great that some people are truly happy and fulfilled through their work. Ideally, that’s where we all should be.

    Where it gets hard is when someone is miserable in his job, yet he’s too afraid of the unknown to do something about it. That’s where the problems come.

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  2. So well put! I couldn’t agree more. We have made some radical choices and decisions in our lives, with are kids, and recently with our transportation lifestyle. These are our choices and we own them. If you are unhappy you have the right to change it, in a way that works best for you. We are happy to answer questions when friends or family ask and give advice if wanted, but it is always up to the individual to decide what works for them. It’s hard seeing so many people struggling to find that passion, but I know how it feels to be in their shoes too.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    We all arrive at where we are through different pathways. Some people truly never consider the idea of doing something different until all of a sudden something happens and they say, “Wow. That’s an option?” I wish everybody could know exactly what choices they are making and be happy with those.

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  3. I so agree, and yet sometimes feel trapped by my disabilities. Yes, I’d like to be doing my old dreams – but am having to find new dreams that accommodate what I can actually do without killing myself, health-wise. I love this article.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    Absolutely! Our dreams change in time. A lot of time, they change because we have changed.

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  4. One thing that struck me as I read this is that the original poster seemed to assume that everyone that was running off to chase their drams wasn’t doing work. We’ve been traveling fulltime for a year and almost every family that we’ve met has been working while they travel. So a traveling life does not mean that you cannot be a productive, useful member of society.

    I don’t view work as a curse or something to be avoided (far from it actually) but I have had a career that I desperately wanted to get away from. It sucked up all my mental energy and left me far too little time for family and friends and outside interests. Those ARE important too and it’s been easier for us to find the right balance now that we’re self employed and traveling.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    Very true. There are many ways to earn an income. Some take more time and consume a greater part of your life than others. Some are more enjoyable, some aren’t. It’s up to each one of us to figure out how we’ll make it work.

    I have now been self-employed for five years and it’s still hard to deal with the uncertainty of that. I never know from month to month if enough money will come in. So far, it has, and we’ve been able to make it, but there have been times when it’s nerve-wracking. I can say very easily that going back to teaching would make things WAY more comfortable on the financial side of things. It would be GREAT to know I’ll have that paycheck deposited into my account every month, but the price I would have to pay for that security is too high at this point. I might change my mind next year.

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  5. I had a mentor who once rightly told me that every job has something that sucks about it, and it’s a question of how much you love the rest of what you do that makes you put up with it. In her case she was a senior PhD student who after a year or two decided to quit to teach school because she thought she didn’t like the job enough, but realized after a year academia was where she really wanted to be and returned to it. So that was her conclusion and I think it’s a good one- I’ve been writing my travel blog for, geez, 4 years now, but have never treated it as an income source instead of just a hobby because I don’t want to feel guilty while traveling that I need to work. Plus at the end, c’mon, it’s awesome to live in Amsterdam a few years as an astronomy PhD student. :)

    But yeah with regards to your sister, I think one of the reasons I often find many travel bloggers pretentious is because they act like it’s EVERYONE’S life goal to travel forever and self-support themselves and if you’re not pursuing that then you’re a poor sod with blinders over your eyes. I get that you have a certain market who’s going to read a travel blog in the first place and bloggers hang out with each other so it becomes a self-reinforcing thing, but as you’ve said some people are happier with hardwood floors and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as that’s what YOU want.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Yvette, I think it would incredibly awesome to be an astronomy PhD student in Amsterdam! I know there were many years when I simply could not fathom the idea that not everyone wanted to travel – it just didn’t seem possible; Now I’m older and wiser and recognize that, while we all have the same needs, we all have different wants and desires. that’s a good thing.

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  6. Very interesting. And a simple yet profound point: by choosing B, I’m choosing not to do A.

    My dad followed his dream of self-employment, but we all know health insurance isn’t the greatest in that realm. Without going into detail, as I was growing up, my mom’s had health problems wiped out my family’s finances. Two years ago, my parents separated.

    My parents could’ve taken better precautions, I know – but I understand where your friend Hanna is coming from. When you’re in the middle of a firestorm, all you want is to come out on the other side with your loved ones intact – survival becomes your focus.

    What I’ve learned from my parents’ situation is…pursuing our dreams can lead us to emotional and spiritual highs, and can enrich us far greater than had we stayed in our comfortable safe haven. But by choosing the less conventional path, we’re taking greater risks.

    Good read – thank you.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Laryssa, Absolutely, and each one of us has to decide what level of risk we are willing to take. It’s all about calibrating that risk/reward meter – and we’ll all calibrate differently.

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  7. This is a timely post. I recently applied for a new position where I work as a casual. It had the promise of more guaranteed hours, higher pay, and benefits. I would be able to afford taking holidays every other year as opposed to every five years, I could pay off the credit cards, and I’d have job security.

    Then I weighed it against the time I would losing with my family, the fact that I’m okay taking holidays less frequently, and we manage fine without benefits, and the increased stresss and responsibility I would be taking on, and it just wasn’t worth it to me. Yesterday I withdrew my application before the interview was even scheduled. Taking my need to de-stress my life and live the life I want even further, I let my boss know that my availability was also changing. I would no longer be available for the early morning hours because they put too much stress on me and my family arranging transportation and dealing with me (a cranky non-morning person) not wanting to be doing it. I rearranged my schedule so I could be available more days at work on the schedule that works for me, and I know I’ll get some time off every Dec/Jan which is the busy time at the salon we own (Christmas and taxes). :)

    “Even so, she told me she is glad she did it – if she didn’t she would always be wondering. And the message for her kids? She has taught her daughters that sometimes you just need to take the risk and do it – even if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to.”

    I love that quote. I’ve taken a number of high risks in life. MOST of them flopped, but one of them didn’t and now at 36 years old I’m living the benefits of the payoff. It was a HUGE risk walking away from two secure jobs and a condo in the city and moving to a rural gulf island to open our own hair salon & spa. HUGE. The population here is only 5000 year round and we weren’t sure there was enough business to sustain us. There is, and now we’re doing what we love and raising our son in an environment that we feel is best for him. :)

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  8. I think Yvette has a point. Not everyone wants to travel. I do and that’s the goal I pursue. But my husband (who I met while traveling) has decided he wants to stay home. So we are in the middle of trying to find the compromise that works for us. Everyone is different. And there are so many different combinations and permutations. But still, I still believe life is better lived without regrets, so if there’s something you want to do … do your best to do it! If it doesn’t work, at least you tried.

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  9. Great thoughts, Nancy. Thanks for addressing this topic, which people are bringing up to me all the time.

    The vision that Monica and I have for our family is one of location-independence. I’m really glad that’s not everyone’s dream. I’m glad there are people here in Lake Tahoe and all the places we visit who are happily living out their dreams and building community — and the types of places I want to visit and live.

    I also think that a lot of jobs that some people would consider “menial” are being fulfilled by people who ARE pursuing their dreams. The guy working as a janitor while he works on his novel. I’m sure he hopes to one day be a NYT Best Selling author and to quit his job as a janitor. When he does, maybe he’ll be replaced by some other person with some other dream. But until he successfully completes that novel, he’s happy to have his job as a janitor because that job funds his dream.

    You’re also right on when you talk about trade-offs. It’s really a question of what you value most. Do you want to travel or do you want hardwood floors? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s about having the conversation with yourself to ensure that they way you’re living your life actually lines up with what you value most.

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  10. @ Yvette: “I think one of the reasons I often find many travel bloggers pretentious is because they act like it’s EVERYONE’S life goal to travel forever and self-support themselves and if you’re not pursuing that then you’re a poor sod with blinders over your eyes.”

    Absolutely! Even those of us who love to travel can love coming home, too – without that being a cop-out!

    I also love hardwood floors. :)

    Love this post!

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  11. I think she has a very valid point. I think she is also missing the flip side, though, that many of us who are travelling are not receiving benefits. These are self funded capers, and usually come after many many years of saving, or working as we travel.

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  12. So well said Nancy. I received an email the other day from someone who said something similar to what your friend said about how not everyone can go traipsing off to travel. I’m still working on a response.

    I absolutely love traveling and if i had my way we would be more nomadic instead of more stationary like we are in France. but my husband wanted hardwood floors and to be in one place and the kids wanted to be in a school. So I wasn’t able to fulfill my dream 100 percent but i was able to create some version of it that satisfied all of us. I’m just glad that we found a compromise.

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  13. Hi. Great article. Thanks. What do you do, if you do not like your job and want to change it to your dream job – and accept it will decrese your income and you are willing to let go of “luxery” stuff (like a car and expensive vactions and travels) – BUT your wife/kids will “suffer” too? (no expensive vacartions and possible some time where money is very low).

    How selfish can one be within reason?

    In my case I have provided for my familiy (wife and 3 kids) for more than 10 years. I’m 40 and I want to start my own company. The money I will make in the beginnng will be less than today and it might even end up as a fiasco – but it might also be a big success and money will be better than before!

    My wife understand what I want, but she thinks it is too risky and I’m being too selfish.

    I would really hate it, if I do not take the change and live out my dream.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Mikael, Tough call. Very, very tough call. The answer really depends on each individual person/family – there’s no one right answer. From my experience, the kids will go along with whatever. Although they might be used to having more nice vacations and such, they will be just as happy camping in the woods. The spouse… well, that could be harder. Adults aren’t as flexible as kids.

    I wish you the best of luck with your decision. In the end, it will come down to the regret test – when you are old and gray and looking back upon your life, will you regret not trying?

    [Reply]

  14. Pingback: Dreams That Really Change the World | cgilesandjusticeforall

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