Part of the fun of living at a hostel is in meeting all sorts of people with a variety of backgrounds and stories to tell. And it’s amazing to discover how many people are out there who are going through (or have gone through) similar life changes in life as Kelly & I did.
This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
-names have been changed to protect identities-
Joe is about 40 years old and from England. He led an entire life doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. He went to school, had a great job, owned a nice house, and invested wisely. Trouble is, he hated his job, had no love for his house, and was so uninspired by his life that he couldn’t even bring himself to spend his hard-earned money on anything that might make him happier. He fell into a life of getting up, going to work, coming home, and watching the tube until he could go to bed and repeat the same routine the following day.
After some deliberation, he saw no reason to continue on this road, as it was only further pushing him into a state of apathy and downright depression. So the house was sold, the job quit, and an eight-month vacation embarked upon.
I met Joe at the 6 month mark of his vacation. He had been pretty much around the world, and was on his way back to the Philippines, where he found he was truly happy. I asked him if he has to return to England after his eight-months are up. Not only was the answer “no”, but he was actually thinking about buying a small place in the Philippines to run as a hostel. He loved the true hospitality and friendliness of the locals, knew other ex-pats who were operating hostels, and had a sparkle in his eye when he spoke of it.
I saw him off on his way back there, and I hope to visit his establishment soon.
Suzanne is from Australia, and like so many Australian travelers I’ve met, she has a taste and knack for adventure. After finishing school, there was no way she was going to rope herself into a career right away without seeing what the world has to offer. So round-the-world she is traveling, on what is becoming widely known as a “gap year”.
Through courageous solo female travel in hostels, she has made fast friends with many people, which is paving the way to stay in their homes when she travels through their neck of the woods. She is cheerful, bright, and seems to be searching for something….and not quite sure what it is yet. (I guess all travelers are searching for something, aren’t they?!)
Her life is exciting, because she is open-minded to life changes and whatever gets thrown her way. With her education and career path she could live almost anywhere in the world, and is open to just such an opportunity.
I can’t wait to see where she lands. I know it will be on her feet. Just don’t know where yet.
Walter is a fellow Canadian embarking on his 50’s. You wouldn’t know it to talk to him though; he is young at heart, and can meld beautifully into a dorm full of 20-somethings without blinking an eye. But there’s something that just isn’t clicking in his life.
He has a treasure chest of experience and skills behind him, and is traveling in search of big changes. What those changes look like are still unknown to him, but he is daily actively opening his mind to the possibilities. He is inspired by our life and is standing at the edge of the chasm of selling everything and taking the plunge into sustainable travel, just dipping a toe in the water right now to get a feel for the temperature.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned home to sell his house and wrap up his affairs so he can chase down a dream that both excites and scares the hell out of him. He feels more alive now than he ever has.
And I know some people who just don’t get it. They think they do, but they don’t. All I get from these people are words of judgment and encouragement to do what they think we should do.
They see our tales of adventure and misadventure thus far as mostly misadventure (maybe I have portrayed it that way in this blog, I don’t know), and don’t see the humour and fun in it all. I tend to think misadventure makes for some of the best stories!
But mostly they don’t understand the concept of sustainable travel, and instead I get flack for not being “retired” to their own definition of retirement…which is not having to work at all, and sitting back on investments and a rich pension to settle into a life of regular vacations and relaxation.
Sorry – I’m only 31 years old, and I’m not rich. I never wanted to work like a dog seven days a week to earn enough money so I could eventually stop altogether. I tried, and ultimately that was what led to my burning out; it wasn’t sustainable for me.
So now, I work part-time in exchange for accommodations, write to make extra cash, and use both to experience the world as a whole. This is sustainable travel. I don’t have to clock in, and I can do it from almost anywhere in the world. To some, this defines retirement. At least to me right now, it does. It’s not ideal – trust me it has its ups and downs – but then again, rarely does something meet absolutely all our idealistic expectations.
Although our experiences in Hawaii have been varied, I know that when we leave here we will have seen the whole enchilada for all it’s worth. We tapped into the rhythm of the island, met people we would never have met as tourists, went places we never would have gone if just passing through, and spent an entire six months of winter in Hawaii. This blog is not littered with tales of daily adventure, climbing every mountain, and flitting from one attraction to another. To some this may be disappointing, and contradicts some people’s definitions of “travel” and “retirement”.
So if you feel I have misrepresented my situation on this blog, please forgive me. I’d love your feedback and suggestions.
One of the beautiful things I’ve learned in my time here (as I sit at an outdoor café overlooking the ocean just before sunset), is that everybody’s dreams are different. And they change with life. Joe’s dreams initially were to meld into the societal norms, but his dreams started to change and he’s now chasing after new ones. He’ll find what he wants in the Philippines I have no doubt. It may not be good for him forever, but nothing is forever.
Suzanne is looking at a blank page in designing her life and is living the dream, painting in large strokes and seeing what colours look good to her. What she chooses for the next 10 years of her life won’t be a life choice. It will simply be a start.
And Walter already understands that nothing is written in stone. He is in the process of reinventing himself yet again, a difficult and cathartic journey. He also knows that no decision he makes now is forever either.
None of these people are doing anything rash or irresponsible either, including us. We are not poor, even though we pick up loose change on the streets. We have money set aside and invested for “retirement” when we can’t (or choose not to) earn money any longer in our elder years, we have money set aside for “settling down” and setting up a home if and when we choose to do so, and we have money aside for traveling now and for the next few years between odd jobs and work-trade arrangements.
Joe, Suzanne, and Walter are traveling to mould their lives and destinies into what they want them to be. Each of their stories is very different, and each of them brings around the world with them a whole different set of values, backgrounds, and financial situations.
If you are reading this blog and you just don’t get it yourself, I appreciate that, and would love to hear from you in the comments section. (Supporters and those who empathize, please don’t stay quiet either)! I don’t expect to be on the road for the rest of my life (although who knows!), and I expect the nature of our travel will change many times over.
To me, life is about the journey through change, not the prize at the end of the road.