Destiny is a Direction

Sharing is Caring!

Destiny: There are a lot of unanswered questions in my life right now.

My return to Canada has emphasized this with the barrage of “Where are you going next?” questions. I don’t begrudge anybody who asks this question (or anything similar); I’d do the same thing in their shoes.

And so I respond: “I’m not sure yet”.

Pause, pause. “How long are you here for?”

“I’m not sure. Probably through August.”

Pause, pause. Confusion. “And you really don’t know where you’re going next? What are you going to do?”

…and on it goes.

Some people get it. After my initial response, a wide grin emerges, and they congratulate me, saying how exciting it is not to know these things (usually followed by some comment about how nice youth and freedom is).

Other people keep digging. They can’t accept that I don’t have a plan, or at least an idea of what I’ll be doing. These conversations are a test of patience (since I’m not entirely comfortable with the amount of unknowns in my life right now and it’s a challenge for me that I don’t always like to have poked and prodded), but more constructively – it’s a little insight into our society’s view of life planning and design.

Destiny is not a final goal or end game, rather, it's a moving target. #Destiny #travelthoughts #TheProfessionalHobo #lifestyledesign

This post was originally published in 2011. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content, and includes a major update at the end.

Pre-Fab Life

There is a pre-made life design template that North Americans are born into; it includes growing up, getting an education, landing a good job, meeting and marrying somebody, buying a house, and having kids. Some people, after having completed this circuit of events, realize they don’t like their job/spouse/kids and turn everything upside down in the name of a mid-life crisis. We’ve come to accept the rash of 20-year marriage breakdowns and Porsche purchases as another step to this cycle of life.

But this pre-made life design template is rigidly antiquated, and many people are rejecting it for a more fulfilling lifestyle.

See also: How to Become a Digital Nomad

The Alternative

If we reject the pre-fab model we’ve been given, a host of questions arise about what we’re to do, and how, and where. And once we make a decision about that lifestyle and direction, it becomes us. We stand up for it because it’s different, and then we embody it as part of our identity – our destiny.

But what if that changes too?

Destiny Changing

When I was in the work force, I changed my career every couple of years. I’ve been a television producer/host, an assistant property manager, I’ve run administrative businesses, and I built up a successful financial planning practice (which I had for six years).

I usually found after a few years that my career choice wasn’t exactly what I hoped it would be, or that I craved a different form of stimulation.

But some people didn’t understand these frequent career changes. In their eyes, I started to look flaky for it. To this day, I still maintain that I was exploring options and looking for challenges. And in the end, many skills gleaned from each career helped me greatly in what I do now….these wildly different careers were actually complementary in the end.

Destiny as a Direction, not a Place

Destiny is a dangerous word, because it implies finality. “This is my destiny!” we claim from the highest mountaintop about the person we’re in love with, or the unique career opportunity we’ve been given, or even the crappy situation we’re in.

And even if the lover/career/etc. evolves into something we don’t like as much any more, we accept the hand we’ve been dealt with a shrug, simply acquiescing to “destiny” because, well, it’s destiny – you can’t change destiny, right?

What if Destiny was only a direction, not a fixed place?

Could destiny change? Can we allow destiny to be a series of checkpoints that guide us through life as opposed to being a final “destination”?

I have a friend who abhors the concept of fate. He believes that if there’s such a thing as fate and our lives our predetermined, then we really have no part in the choices we make. I too have trouble grasping the concept that we don’t have choice…rather, I think sometimes we have too many choices.

Passion is not Stationary

Passion can evolve. One year you might be passionate about singing; that could evolve from studying singing, to performing in musical theatre, to becoming an opera fan, to joining a band, and so on. Each modality of singing is very different, and although the initial passion for singing may not have changed, the form it takes certainly does.

Sometimes passion is even more erratic. Although I could draw some loose parallels between the passions I’ve nurtured in my life, it would be a stretch to do so. I’ve had varied passions, and I expect that those passions will evolve and change over time, and new ones will arise.

Gut Checks

It is with this understanding that Destiny is a direction instead of a fixed place, and that passion isn’t stationery, that I can accept the unanswered questions of my current situation – which range from romance to destination to lifestyle. And it’s perfectly okay if my lifestyle changes along with my “destiny”.

When pressed with questions about my future, I often reply that I’m waiting for a giant beacon of light to emerge from the sky accompanied by a great booming voice which will tell me what my next move is.

But it’s actually true to a point. That great booming voice is my own inner voice – the one that speaks to me when I do a gut check. The beacon of light is an opportunity; all sorts of opportunities come to us each day, but there is usually one that really sings; that really feels right.

By remaining centered, and doing regular gut checks, we can all navigate these times of uncertainty. Because no matter who you are or what you do, nothing is certain. Giving yourself permission to change your destiny can be the greatest gift of all.

2020 Update:

Shortly after publishing this article, my next step presented itself to me, and ended up being one of my greatest travel adventures: The Ultimate Train Challenge – 25,000kms of train travel in 30 days from Lisbon to Saigon.

From there I went to Grenada island in the Caribbean for a two-month house-sitting gig that evolved into setting up a home base on the island for two years.

After a life-changing accident and a house-sitting gig in Panama gone horribly wrong, I ended up in Peru where I embarked on a journey I never could have planned whereby I apprenticed with a shaman for two years before moving on to Ecuador and working with some other shamans for a while more.

I followed that up with a house-sitting gig in Japan.
Then a whole bunch of traipsing through Asia, highlights of which included experiencing both heaven and hell in India, then starving myself on the Thai island of Koh Phangan.

And of course, there’s more….but you get the idea.

Sharing is Caring!

Get the Inside Scoop
Receive a FREE 2-week e-course on Financially Sustainable Travel 
Featured Image

24 thoughts on “Destiny is a Direction”

  1. I can relate to the “what are you going to do next?” question. I’ve been living in Japan for about two years now but I’ll be returning in August. I’ve got some plans figured out, but I also have a lot of question marks. It’s definitely an exciting time =). Best of luck wherever you go next!

  2. Heaps of excellent and well-made points here Nora, but the most important for me is your last sentence – giving yourself permission to change your destiny. I was just writing an article about this very thing yesterday! I have talked to so many people who won’t go travelling (although they want to) because it’ll mess up their career (their idea of destiny) and I always try to say that the travel might (very likely will) change what they want their destiny to be!

  3. “Giving yourself permission to change your destiny can be the greatest gift of all.” – this graf best encapsulates of what I think is a great career advice. I don’t agree with some of the points raised here, but I respect the fact that you choose to live the way you wanted to live.

    And oh by the way, I’m very happy to know that you found your “Swedish squeeze” really good for you 🙂

  4. Hi Nora,

    STOP SCARING PEOPLE ! If there is one thing people can get very uncomfortable with is when they can’t stick their (home made) labels.

    And when there is no pigeon hole to put in on either you have to justify yourself till the cows come home but in this case there is no home and there you go again . On a good day I’ll try and feed their insecurity just to show who is the insecure one. On a bad day ..well you know !

    Hang in there,

  5. Nora,

    i was really surprised to read that someone out there shares some of the exact things that have been going through my head for some time. The thing about the pre-fab life where we are born into it with certain expectations. Expectations to get a good education, get a good job, marry, have kids and a family and die. It seems as if this is the cycle of life we are all living or “expected” to live.

    I would agree 100% that having the ability and flexibility to change your destiny would definitely be the greatest gift 🙂

    Great post !


  6. @Lori – When people ask what your plans are, try saying “Whatever will be, will be” and then nothing else. See how they react! 🙂

    @Amanda – That’s a great point about travel itself changing what people want their destiny to be. I hadn’t thought of it that way!

    @Prime – Hmm. I wish we could get together for coffee, because I’d love to know what points you don’t agree with; it could be a great discussion. I think it could be a great exploration of some of our cultural differences!

    @Dick – lol! We’re just stuck between a societal rock and a hard place, huh? 🙂

    @Andy – Our destiny can still encapsulate good jobs, having kids, and any part of the “pre-fab” model we choose! But I like the idea that we can choose how it all fits together a little bit more.

  7. A really, really good article, Nora. I still have an internal battle to reconcile my wish to do new things, learn new skills and take on new challenges, with the expectation that I’ll stick to a single career and plough on at it until retirement. Maybe I haven’t found the right career yet – or maybe my career path is to keep changing, adapting and learning new things. Explaining that to anyone else – especially my parents, who worry about these things even as I enter my 30s – is another matter! But we only get one chance at life, so we all need to be determined to spend our time here doing what we think is right.

  8. @Nich – Ah yes, there’s that generation gap again in explaining the concept of change to parents! I think it’s absurd that we should be expected to choose our life path at high-school age, then get an education in that field and stick to that career/job for the next 40-50 years. What do you know when you’re 17 years old about what you want out of life? I sure didn’t know a lot.

    Then again, if your career either has flexibility for growth or is satisfactory enough, maybe sticking at one job is just fine, and complementing it with extra-curricular activities that satisfy your soul is another way to do it. There’s lots of different ways to slice it.

  9. Great post Nora!

    I feel a lot of the same things you do. It can be frustrating on one level (“why can’t I just be passionate and stick to one thing?!”) but also has made my life incredibly worthwhile. I slowly figured out that the thing I am really passionate about is change. And once I figured that out, I had to convince myself that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    I mean, it’s true that society doesn’t really reward the ever changing personality. We are seen as flaky or unrealistic, or just “a young person” (which is such a passive aggressive insult, like you can’t be an adult and travel and do new things?!)

    We change, passions change, personalities, wants and needs change. We just need to all understand that and stop living the lives we started for ourselves many years ago, and start living the lives we want now.

  10. Nora – absolutely love this! Totally agree with Becky, the ever changing personality (or wandering spirit such as it were) is an under-appreciated group. And yet, we’re the group that people always want to live through vicariously. I don’t get to travel as much as you do (not even close), but 40 yrs on, I still have that burning desire to see and experience as much of the world as I can with four kiddos, which often means frequent trips to our local museums & festivals, and a lot of dreaming in the park. But I’m inspired, and I hope you enjoy some much need “downtime”. Adventure is just around the corner.

  11. Nora, Nora, Nora… It’s not Destiny that is a force that creates our direction, but Desire…

    Forgive me for disagreeing with you on this… We both experienced (or suffered) from the wanderlust, or restless heart syndrome… I have had a myriad of life careers (phone company frameman, filmmaker, actor, chauffeur limousine company owner, taxi company owner, realtor, over the road trucker, and now semi-retired) as well as locations to live, having lived in seven states (NY, Fl, Wa, Co, Nev, NJ, Az) so I arrogantly think I understand your statement…

    Although I am a mere 18 months older than you, I appreciate and respect your perspective and point of views… The Bronx and Chicago are not so far apart…

    HOWEVER, Destiny is not a direction, but a fate, and I believe it is our desire to seek out a direction that leads to our ultimate destiny… My Desires have always been to succeed and prosper at whatever project I was involved in, But my ultimate Destiny may be failure, as my wife frequently says.. :>

    You NEVER need anyone’s permission to change your Desires, but your Destiny is a reflection of those Desires. And if you ever find your direction bringing you down the NY Thruway, stop by at Exit 17 and mock me with all of your desire. That after all, is my destiny… After all, for those who know me, there is no explanation needed, and for those who don’t, no explanation possible…

    Respectfully yours, Keith

  12. OMG… I did forget to mention that I still think you are an amazing person, and that the life you are living is an incredible journey to your own personal Destiny…

    God bless you always… Keith

  13. @Becky – And maybe – just maybe – we ARE that proverbial “young person” who just can’t decide! (We might laugh at ourselves when we’re older). But I like how you’ve refocused your passions accordingly, understanding that your passion might simply be for change.

    @Susan – “Adventure is around the corner” – yes indeed! I feel it! Then again, adventure is right now! Toronto isn’t so much a period of downtime as you might think. I’m pretty busy with traveling – stay tuned to this site for some exciting upcoming posts and adventures!

    @Keith – How. Dare. You. You are not allowed to blatantly surf through my articles and attempt to disagree! Of all the nerve. You’re cut off. 🙂

    I like your substitution of the word “Desire” for “Destiny”. It sticks. But then it (re)categorizes “Destiny” as “Fate”, which implies the same degree of finality and lack of choice that is irksome.

    I guess it’s more of a commentary on the people who act through a feeling that something is their “Destiny” rather than taking ownership of their choices, for better or worse.

    “I believe it is our desire to seek out a direction that leads to our ultimate destiny… My Desires have always been to succeed and prosper at whatever project I was involved in, But my ultimate Destiny may be failure” – well said!

  14. OK, I had to Google ‘irksome’… ouch… I was trying to suggest that ‘choice’ has more to do with our own directions, as opposed to fate, even though I choose Hershey’s dark chocolate over others, much to my cardiologist’s dismay…

    But take no heed to the midnight rantings of a fat , old toothless man… Possibly it is failure that is my choice in life, I have had many opportunities to experience success, yet have never felt comfortable (safe?) with wearing those shoes…

    I think I have learned more about myself and life with my failures than with my successes, and I am comfortable with that, and grateful to God for that… I believe that suffering is the greatest teacher in life, and I am the teacher’s pet… No, that was not a product endorsement for Dilaudid…

    Destiny is fate… not just the name of a girl I used to date… but that’s another story of failure, so let’s not go there… But someday I might tell you about when Hope left me for Faith…

    However, I do take offense to your saying that I ‘blatantly surf through my articles’… I have been finding more joy in reading your postings than reading the 101st Airborne site, trying to understand what my son is going through in Paktika Province, and moreover, I enjoy your unique, perplexing perspectives on your experiences and views of this crazy mixed up world we live in…

    Just like Whitney said: even if you’re one in a million, there’s 6 million more just like you on Earth… I do believe you are more unique than even that… Had I known how impressively special you are, I wouldn’t have lied to Lorne about all those terrible stories about you… My bad…

    Please, I beg you, do not cut me off. My tissue box is already empty, and with the summer warmth, I am now waring short sleeve shirts…

    From sitting alone in a dark room, at the keyboard to life, Keith…

    P.S: I really do like the pix of you with the redder tint in your hair…

  15. @Keith – Alright…you’re not cut off… your little heart out! 🙂

    As for the redder tint….it was a recent temp dye job that was supposed to be purple, and ended up pink. It’s almost washed out now, soon to be replaced with a much more savoury deep red/purple. Fingers crossed.

  16. Well, my heart is under a bit of strain with six stents implanted in the past year alone, I’m and expecting a coronary bypass in a few months, but my soul is highly gladdened by your compassionate decision…

    Regarding the expected new coloring of your aura, I will have my Nitro tablets ready when I see the new you! Disregarding whatever your choice of color you use, it is that infectious smile of yours that is too endearing…


  17. What a great post, glad I found this blog. I may be coming up on some big changes so this is good stuff!


  18. Nora! ABout parents – and about the generation gap, and perceived destiny. I have now been over that crossroads from young adult to parent (and beyond) and what I have learned in part is that destiny in the final sum of all of your choices and also the choices of other people and events or conditions over which you may have some control or none at all; the result of these elements are usually taken to a conclusion and people will say, it was his destiny to ride that tram to his death last Friday, after all of his protestations that he was afraid of heights! Well, not really … it was a choice made against better judgement, a toss of the dice, and a misadventure but not destiny. It is simply ironic, viewed by others who are forced to make a judgement. John Kennedy’s destiny was not to be shot in Dallas it just happened because others made choices. I was a young adult in the sixties. Beatles, drugs, anti-war days, raging against the machine, and the Man, was normal for us – we looked at our parents and thought they knew exactly ZERO about life, our lives, in particular … why did they push us down a road toward mediocrity? A rubber stamped way of life? Education, Career, Marriage, Stability, Security, UGH! We wanted to matter, to have adventure, to explore inner consciousness … to live recklessly, and challenge Authority, and we did … then we became PARENTS because babies happen, and we might have found a line of work we enjoyed – oh, crap, we became doctors and layers and, damn it, cops! We met someone, we got married – and there is this little mini-me staring up at me with pure love in its eyes … so you go into protect and defend mode, you go into provider mode and you go into advice mode and what is that advice? The same shit you heard from your parents! This is all so general but you get the idea! In fact, life is very, very different from person to person in the same culture because we all have been influenced by our parents, by our environments, by our handicaps, and gifts, – life can be a bowl of cherries or a bowl of pits; attitude is everything. Action or the lack of it is everything. But I do not believe in Destiny, it is a false conclusion based on the observations of others. There is a saying here in Hawaii: If can, can, if can’t, can’t – and it could be taken to also mean if you believe you can, you can, if you believe you can’t, you can’t – so if you believe you can travel the world on a shoestring, you can find a way to do it – if you think you can’t do it, you won’t try! It’s not your destiny to travel the world or not to travel the world, it is your choice!

    • Thank you, David, for such well put food for thought! I agree with you entirely. Our lives are a sum of the choices we make – which are influenced by our cultures, environments, and our parents. And no matter the advice, our parents never want to do us wrong…we all do the best we can given the cards we’ve been dealt (and the choices we continue to make every day).
      Thank you!

  19. This is so well said. Perfectly timed as a reminder for me, as you reposted to FB yesterday. Going to be quoting you in an upcoming blog post…or two. 🙂 Thanks.

    • Thanks, Shandra! Sometimes I look back on some of my posts and I’m surprised by my own writing (did I really write that? wow!)! But it was a timely reminder for me too; and I’ll be slurping on a dose of my own medecine. 🙂

  20. I agree with everything in this post. People who believe in an immutable destiny drive me bananas! They’re fatalistic and often negative. Fortunately I don’t know many. Instead of “a destiny”, I see the future as a set of possibilities with different probabilities assigned to them (depending on your personality traits, experience, past choices, etc). Sort of like quantum mechanics! ha ha ha. You can choose to do anything, but it’s more likely that you’ll do some things rather than others based on who you are.

    I started getting off the “prefab life” pattern after the “getting a good job” phase, and after I started to travel! Skipped the marriage. Bought a small condo. And prioritized travel over career. The career part has now come to a natural end. What’s next? I’m thinking a semi-nomadic life and a blog. 🙂

Comments are closed.