I can remember the moment I told my dad I was going to travel indefinitely by myself. My sister and I had just gotten back from a three month stint in New Zealand and I was completely overcome with wanderlust. I believe his initial reaction was a chuckle meets “I’ll believe it when I see it.” After all, I was an airy 19 year old kid with a hundred dreams, whims and total lack of street smarts. Surely there was no way, it was just today’s impulsive idea.
Wrong. Three jobs, 70+ hours a week and banking all my money I was ready to jump on a plane and head straight to Thailand. That’s when the joke started to gather concern, and not just from my dad. The very thought of me travelling seemed to trouble a lot of people who were under the impression I was casting my future away for an extended “vacation.” I initially met a tremendous amount of resistance in my decision to go.
I can understand that parents will carry this innate worry and concern for their child, they have aspirations for theirs kids and want them to make something of themselves one day. And while thats all fine and dandy, you have to listen to you child’s own dreams and trust that you raised them to be independent, safe and self-suffienct.
When I look back into all the things I was interested in studying back in high school it’s almost comical. Politics, law school, bachelor of art… and while they have their own draws they aren’t nearly close to who I am and what I would be happy doing. I just thought that’s what I had to do. No, I wanted to see the world, hike mountains, swim in the ocean, get completely lost in the world and find my way somehow. I wanted to go somewhere that I couldn’t speak the language and fumble about learning and meeting different people outside of my hometown bubble. And from all this getting lost and found and freedom, I figured I’d have a better idea of the life I wanted to build after seeing the world then I would at a uni course I didn’t care about at 19.
It became apparent to me that if I hadn’t followed my heart, I would have fallen into a trap of misery and routine that grates against who I am. My already unmanageable anxiety would have only gotten worse and I would be years down a path I never wanted to be on. The road is constantly throwing new landscapes, people, languages, festivals and food at you. It’s stimulating and exciting. You’re always trying new things and find yourself on spontaneous trips all over the place. It felt like freedom in it’s finest form. I learned how to be a smart solo traveller, how to follow my gut and build independence and confidence. The road life taught be everything on how to be a better person.
Almost three and a half years later I’m sitting in a coffee shop back in my hometown. Not much has changed here except the fields they’ve turned to complex housing and the rapidly disappearing land for franchises, big homes and roads. I lived my dream abroad, hiked the mountains, swam in the ocean, drove motors through the countryside and got wander-fully lost in the world. Travelling healed my heart, the outdoors replaced my anxiety with peace, and the people I met made me realize how much good there is in a world where it looks like there’s nothing but suffering and anger.
And while the end all question of “what to do with my life” still eludes me, I know what’s most important to live happily, and thats kind of the point of life right? I am beyond excited to start studying and shaping the ideas and goals I have into a reality. And for those goals? They aren’t even close to what I’d imagined I would be doing in my teen years. Nothing has to be rushed or pushed into place, it’s okay to let life take its course, we (hopefully) have many years ahead of us and theres no right or wrong way to live them.
So I am here appealing to the parents of wanderlust driven children and telling you why you need to let them leave. You guided them through their younger years and now it’s let them take off on their own, no matter what direction that is.