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  • Gemma Fottles

Conform or breakaway: Should I choose a life of travel?

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

At 22 years old, life so far has been full of adventure, fun, new experiences, new friends from all over the world. Honestly? This part has been everything I’ve ever really wanted for myself. But as I return to my parent's house after a year of travel, the time has come to ponder what's next. Do I continue on the road of travel, or is it time to get serious?

Eat. Sleep. Travel. Repeat.

I love to travel. I love everything about it. I love the freedom, the adventure, the uncertainty, the planning, the organisation, the research. I love seeing how different people live life in places I had never even Everything, the bad and the good. Throughout University I worked part-time and managed to self-fund two different 2-month long backpacking trips to Australia and Central America. Since uprooting myself from the tiny bit of routine normality I was anchored to and finally graduated, I've spent the last year travelling to four different continents and 15 different countries as a travel reporter before spending the winter working in an Alpine Ski resort.

The last year has been amazing. It truly has. But now I'm back home at my parent's house after my ski season, and it has come to the awkward grey area between returning home and making the decision for what plans lay ahead in the future. The necessary limbo that comes between travel and fun and all of those idealistic fantasies becoming realities, well this is where I find myself currently. I’m back in my small, extremely substandard town just north of Nottingham, honestly hating being back and just trying to keep my temporarily very boring life from driving me to insanity.

Leaving the student life: am I ready for adulting?

These painful states of limbo are necessary at this point – at least, that's what I reason to myself through the state of unhappiness the past few weeks have left me in. I need money to pay off a rather excessive student overdraft and I need some space to figure out what's next. But when you don’t have your own house, have a degree in, fundamentally, reading books, and all of your friends seem to be getting on with their lives in fancy grad jobs or serious relationships, it leaves you with an abundance of spare time to ponder the lifestyle in which you may have chosen to lead.

The nomadic life is one that I have actively chosen. It’s not that I want it, I kind of feel like I need it. (Is that too cliche?) Four months backpacking did nothing to quell my hunger for travel, it only worked up an appetite. So really, settling down and ‘getting on my with my life’ in a conventional way, at least, just isn’t an option. At least not right now.

But in this plethora of free time I’ve suddenly found on my hands, I do start to question myself. Is this really how I’m going to live my life?

A life of travel is a beautiful life, but is it a sustainable one? Am I really not going to get a ‘proper’ job and get rid of this depressing overdraft and experience the security (or novelty as it seems at the minute) of having money in the near future? Am I going to, inevitably, sacrifice friendships and relationships to move around the world as and when I please? And that’s just the start.

As time slowly drags on, the questions become statements. Big, dramatic, scary statements… I’ll never have any friends! I’ll slowly but surely transform into that crazy old hippy woman who sits in a world of her own in the corner of a hostel! I’ll never get married! I’ll never have kids! I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE AND NO ONE WILL EVER BE ABLE TO RECOVER MY BODY BECAUSE WHO KNOWS WHERE THE HELL IT’S GOING TO BE??!

But then I chill the bloody hell out and realise that this job-house-husband-kids scenario isn’t a necessary part of life as a 22-year old girl. We’re all kind of told that that is the path we should take, the path of a secure and stable life and society. But how many people achieve all of these ‘necessities’ only to wake up at 45, 3 stone heavier, three times lazier, and full of 25 years worth of failed aspirations and discarded dreams?

Life is what you make it

It's so easy to compare your life to other people's. Everyone does it, no matter how successful they seem, how content they are... and so after spending my free time mulling over the life choices I make now which will inevitably influence the future direction of my life, I've decided that it's alright. It's alright to let traditional fall to the side, and it's alright to wait to be serious and settle down until I'm ready to. And do you know what? Anxiety around this is not only normal, but it's healthy.

Because I would not be happy if I was rich and successful, but empty of experience and filled with regret.

So, I've told myself. After my 4 months as a SPAR International travel reporter and my 6 months living it up on a ski season in the French Alps, I'm taking this time to figure out what's next. And that next is most likely going to be getting out of here all over again. A few months playing around in Amsterdam may be calling, another ski season may be calling. But I'm determined to roll all of these inspirational cliches into one big perspective filled picture: Money is, apparently, the root of all evil, an excessive amount will never do you any good. Real friends will always be there. Relationships will come and go until the right one comes along no matter where in the world you are. And you know what, maybe it's true. Maybe the only regrets you have in life are the chances you don't take. And I'm going to take it.

Lion taming in Zambia
Crazy lady in the park

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