One thing I really want to address is one of the issues which comes along with long-term traveling, an issue which at least I have struggled a lot with – the issue of sacrifices. While going for a short vacation won’t require you to make any greater sacrifices than maybe cutting back on Starbucks and eating out in order to save up some money, long-term traveling requires a much greater commitment. For many people, life on the road causes you to have to give up on the possibility of having a career, perhaps also the possibility of having a serious romantic relationship or possibly even children. It also means you will most likely be far away from your family and friends, leaving all contact with them up to fickle wifi connection while trying to communicate via Skype or FaceTime. These are all sacrifices which require you to really think the decision to travel long term thoroughly through.
For me, it always seemed as if I would have to choose between a secure life and traveling in the way I want to travel. Because of that, when I was made an offer to study Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Cambridge University a little over a year ago, I was terrified. Not because of the workload or the daunting experience of moving alone to another country, but because I felt I would be stuck in one place too long. For someone with a soul as restless as mine (and for someone who has actually only lived for a little over two decades) three years is a long time to be in one place. Especially since the thought of ever getting a career, a full-time job, is equally terrifying to me and it seems that a university degree will ultimately lead to just that. At least that’s what I’ve heard. So to me, the decision of whether or not to accept my offer at Cambridge became a choice between travel and a secure life.
In Riga, experiencing the type of joy only dessert can give you
Though these types of existential questions do pop up quite regularly in my head, I still need to remind myself what a privileged life I, and many of those reading this, are fortunate enough to lead. I live a very flexible life. Unlike some people who really do have to perform a certain type of work every day, assuming they want to eat that day, I actually have an endless amount of options to choose from when it comes to how I want to live my life. We all live in a global environment, most of us have friends from other countries, have traveled abroad, and have the oppurtunity to both study and work in different countries. Not only that, due to the excess of variety in terms of education and work it is possible to get both a university degree and work full time while traveling at the same time.
Volunteering at an English camp for children in northern Italy, one of many trips I went on while still in high school
When I was starting high school, I felt about the same way I did before deciding whether or not to start university. I was scared of being stuck, of being a full-time student, of the limitations that would be forced upon me. I did a lot of research while deciding which high school I wanted to attend, I forced my parents to drive me to schools both in nortern and southern Sweden, but it wasn’t until I found an online high school that I knew I had found my match. The high school I had found is the only high school of its sort in Sweden (and can be found here in case you’re Swedish and want to have a look) and the way it works is that you are given a deadline for when your work needs to be submitted, but you have no lectures, no schedule, no one telling you when you need to do what. As long as you submit you’re work on time, it is completely up to you how you want to manage your studies. This meant that there were days when I didn’t need to study at all, simply because I had studied enough the day before. It also meant that I had no limitations when it came to when and where I wanted to travel – as long as the place had wifi I had no obligation to stay in Sweden.
Having Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher in Vienna, another trip I took while still in high school
Though I absolutely loved this way of studying and the freedom it brought along with it, I still received a lot of hate for it. Some people somehow believed I would become a worse person because I didn’t interact with peers in a classroom (this is only half true, I did not spend any time in classrooms but I did however volunteer with people my age, slept on the couches of people my age, had language exchanges with people my age, explored new cities with people my age), but what bothered me the most were the people who thought I was somehow cheating my way through high school. I know that wasn’t the case (I graduated with a scholarship and the highest grades of anyone graduating that year, and also graduated in two and half years rather than the standard three years due to being able to study at a faster pace) so that didn’t particularly bother me, but the thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was how so many people my age seemed to think that I had been lucky getting the oppurtunity to study at a school like this. Like it was somehow an exclusive club, and that they had been forced against their will to study in a school which required them to attend six hours worth of lectures every day. The thing is, this school didn’t contact me. I never had to take any exams or do anything different than other students in order to get in. I simply seeked this school out, applied and got in. Just like all other students do. The thing is I actively chose the school I knew would fit my life the best. And that is also part of the reason why I chose to attend Cambridge – the terms here are only eight weeks, which leads to plenty of time for traveling in between term. I already have trips booked for Mexico, China and the Philippines this year. Making active choices in my life is something that I intend to keep doing, and the aim of this blog post is to make it clear that the majority of people in Western countries have the same possibilities. There are plenty of ways to both get an education and a career, while still traveling (or pursuing any other kind of hobby you may have). I realize that traveling is also an issue of money (which is something I will address in a later blog post), but here I try to focus on the issue of how to even find the time, or oppurtunities, to travel. And in this day and age there are literally thousands of possible ways for us to both get an education and a career while still traveling. Possibly even full-time, if you manage to get the type of job which will enable you to become a “digital nomad”.
At a Christmas market in Brussels during my final year of high school
As for the issue of relationships with friends, family and possible partners, modern technology makes everything much easier. I still talk to my friends and family every day. I also have a lot of great friends in the place where I’m living right now, which means I am not completely at the mercy of wifi in order to be social. However, it can definitely be difficult sometimes. There are moments when I really miss my friends back home, and moments when I wish I had someone here who knew me in a different context, not just as the foreign student but as the person I was back in Sweden. But the way I like to see it is that, yet again, I have made a choice. I have chosen to live this life, and like with any other choice there are consequences. I would eventually end up missing my friends even if I had stayed in Sweden my whole life, because unlike me they all want to have kids, which means that there will be a day when their top priority will have changed from their friends to their family. And as much as that thought scares me (which I am somewhat ashamed to admit), I have realized that it is impossible to put your life on hold for the sake of someone else. I want my friends to achieve everything they want in life, but I also want me to achieve everything I want in life. And at this stage in my life that requires me to not be as close to my friends as I would wish. But I believe that is something which happens in everyone’s lives. As we grow older we all start to do our own thing, and that is okay. I still love my friends immensely, just as I love travel, and I am so happy that I have been able to make choices in my life which have enabled me to have both.
With one of my best friends at Disneyland Paris
Do you have a job which enables you to travel? Do you ever feel “stuck”?