Live Life to the Fullest

Is it Really Possible to ‘Live Life to the Fullest’?

Derek Perspectives 107 Comments

Live Life to the Fullest

We were eating soup at a local restaurant in Bucharest when my new friend seated opposite me, upon learning that I had been traveling and living overseas since I was 22 years old, stated with great excitement, “So that means you’ve spent your entire adult life traveling!

After a short pause, I quietly responded, “I guess it does.

I had actually never thought about that fact before and as I sat there repeating it over and over again in my mind – “I’ve spent my entire adult life traveling” – I surprisingly started to feel a slight sense of sadness as opposed to the joy one might have expected.

Most people spend their entire adult life working and living in one place, unable or unwilling to make the necessary changes that would allow them to achieve their wildest dreams, their truest goals, whatever you want to call them. And by the end, life has passed by and the dreams still remain dreams, and all that such a person can say at that point is, “Oh well. I didn’t do what I really wanted to do during my time on this planet.

On the other hand, some people, and I suppose I fall into this category, somehow manage to flip that equation around. We manage to achieve many of our goals (travel goals in my case), to turn our dreams into reality, to find a way to actually do the things in life that we truly want to do during our adult years. As a result, it has always been my belief that, when the end comes, I will be able to sit there and smile widely one last time, perfectly content, and declare, “That’s right, I did it!

But here’s the shocker…as time goes on, I’m not too sure this will actually be the case. Despite the fact that I am able to travel and travel and travel, I must admit that I still experience some of those very same feelings of hopelessness that those who are not out there achieving their goals often deal with. What I’m saying is that I still don’t feel as if I’m living my life to the fullest at all.

Maybe it’s because the chances are quite low that one individual can actually achieve EVERYTHING they could possibly want to achieve in life, a fact that would lead to a never-ending feeling that we’re not living to our full potential. Maybe it’s because the more we do anything, the more we live one particular type of lifestyle, no matter what that lifestyle may be, the more we start to wonder what life would have been like had we done something different. It seems only natural that our brains would become curious about the decisions we didn’t make, and where those decisions might have led, again, regardless of our actual situation.

In reality, I’m quite happy, I’m more than ecstatic that I did choose this crazy traveling lifestyle and I certainly wouldn’t want to trade my experiences for any other path. I hesitate for not even one second in reaching those conclusions.

All I want to examine with this post is whether or not it is possible to actually live life to the fullest, the absolute fullest, after all? I tend to think that such an ideal is not possible and that we will always wonder ‘what if’ and always think about how our life could’ve been.

And perhaps this is a good thing to be aware of before setting out to achieve our travel goals, or any goals for that matter. I really believe that such a realization would help anyone make better choices in life, to remain flexible at all times, and to understand the need, and the importance, of making changes according to our ever-changing situations, interests, goals, etc.

For example, if we understand that ‘a life of travel’ cannot be the ‘be-all and end-all’, that there is no ‘be-all and end-all’, that none of our goals in life will lead to guaranteed, endless fulfillment, we will feel more comfortable making adjustments, whether simple or major. We won’t feel like we’re quitting on our goals or that we have failed in our attempt to live life to the fullest when we decide to move in a new direction. We should understand that our life is about making any and all decisions that seem best at any given time, about trying as many new things as we possibly can, about focusing on creating a unique and interesting overall story, not on the idea that there is only one perfect goal, or one lifestyle, to achieve. Otherwise, we just may be disappointed.

The night before I flew to India, just a couple of days ago, I was having a quick chat about life with a very close friend I’ve known for 18 years now. We talked about our own lifestyles and discussed the things that we’d achieved and the things that we each still want to accomplish over the coming years.

At the end of the talk, my friend started to shake his head, as if in disbelief. Then he said,

It’s crazy. I’m getting ready, like most people, to go to work tomorrow, to sit in my office for the next week, just like every other week. And you’re about to fly to India to lead a trip for twenty days, while trying to choose between Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Tanzania for your next destination after that, simply because that’s what you want to be doing.

I love that I have this freedom. I love that I can travel like this. I really do.

But as my friend dreams of this traveling lifestyle, I must admit that I sometimes dream of his. I’m not saying I want to work in an office and have a daily routine, I’m just saying that my brain won’t allow me to live without wondering what life would be like had I chosen to do something else. And since I don’t know the answer, and never will, that one thought prevents me from feeling 100% fully satisfied with the life that I did happen to choose so far.

Is it just me? Do you agree? Do you think most, or all, people wonder about what they could’ve done in life, no matter how they are actually living?

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Comments 107

  1. Thijs

    Hey oswaldo, i feel the same, so i started travelling really slow like every place is my home, i have some things i keep on doing during my travels like juggling, playing music, taking good care of my health above anything, helping people out in their garden, anything really like i would do at home, on my own pace. I travel with a goal, like im now in india to do more yoga and meditation, thennim going to new zealand for working on farms,… I dont even look around to ,visit, really something, it happens naturally, you meet somebody that invites you or by accident you arrive at a beautiful place. I see that just being open and relaxed creates space for the beauty coming to you. In the morning im curious whats gonna happen this day, and in the evening im always suprised. I feel very well which place is good for me at what time, and so i move slowely but shurely, a sustainable nomadic lifestyle. I love it.

  2. Meems

    I understand. Just don’t overthink it.m & remember – Life’s about the journey, not the destination. 🙂 you made the right choice for you. It wouldn’t have ever went any other way.

  3. thijs Elslander

    Hey Earl,

    The great question you proposed is worth thinking for anybody and in any situation. I’m a great worldwanderer myself, but i have also returned to my home to reach the dreams i had during my travels. Now i am in Belgium between great friends and doing great projects, exactly what i dreamt about to do as i said ‘when i come home…’ The biggest fun is to live towards something, to dream to realise and to enjoy afterwards aswell. whatever the dream is, As long you can see everything in it’s context and as long it all makes sence, everything will make you happy. I found out that you don’t have to be a worldtrotter to be the happiest fulfilled man in the world, you just have to know you are able to fullfill your dreams, so the dreams fullfill themselves and from there you will be satisfied alreaddy.

    Thank you for the great articles, good job and all the best in life!

    Thijs from Belgium

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  5. Manny

    I know what you mean mate.There is no such thing as ultimate happiness.I think our mind is created that way.That’s where Mindful awareness comes in.When we realise this is only moment we have then probably we appreciate our life experiences more.

  6. Spanish translator @LatinAbroad

    I think the underlying issue here, Earl, is that constant travelers don’t get to enjoy, CULTIVATE the type of relationships that people with “daily routines” get to — or is at least way, way harder. Even some relationships remain, they are perhaps less rewarding, due to the time spent abroad, which “takes away” from the bonding. Or something like that. (It’s 1 AM in America, pardon my clumsiness with words)

    but many of the points you raise are also true: there are always things we “wished” we did — we humans always want more!

    -Maria Alexandra

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Maria – That’s an interesting point. My theory is that for those who truly want to cultivate those relationships, they can find their own way of traveling long term, perhaps by traveling very slow and staying in each destination for longer periods of time. This is what I’ve been doing as of late and the main reason is to create more friendships and bonds with people I meet. But I understand what you’re saying for sure and it definitely isn’t for everybody this constant travel and the lack of being around your friends all the time.

      Hope you’re doing well!

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  8. Macca Sherifi

    I love your quote “I love that I have this freedom. I love that I can travel like this. I really do.” Travelling affects as all in different ways, but for the most it is such a positive experience. Whenever life gets stale, pick up your backpack and go. Just by hitting the road again you open your eyes up and have such a different perspective on life.

  9. Scott

    Earl, my favorite travel blogger who does not always talk about travel! Thank you I hope to meet you someday.

    I agree and this post could not come at a better time. I’m in Central America(Nicaragua now) traveling now for 6 weeks…going good. But, my mind is ok what are you going to do next for income when back in the states on the road. Too make a difference in your life and others(including nature,animals) loved loved your post on the Indian pet rescue! amazingly awesome.

    Check out this article by my great world traveler friend from my home Denver. Happiness factor Bhutan, Asia….

    Cheers/Thanks Earl!
    Scott W Poindexter

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Scott – Thanks for sharing that article about Bhutan and looking forward to meeting up somewhere as well!

  10. Jassen Bowman

    Great post. I’ve been a vagabond for six years as of next month. When I’m in one place for a few months (in the States), I hear the call of the road, and get twitchy. When I’m abroad, I get longings for a real, permanent place to call home. What I must always remind myself of is the fact that I chose this life, and I’m free to choose something else at any time.

  11. ioan_ro

    Asking questions about life is just like wanting to fully understand a book when you have read half of it. We need to read even the last phrase on the last page to understand it and even then we don`t get it. We never do 🙂 ..but we have a good reason to drink bottles of beer with friends and reflect about it.

  12. Meghan

    If we went all out each day, the highs wouldn’t stand out as nearly as well as they should. Everybody needs downtime. Trust yourself to know when it’s time to head out and live it up!

  13. Babeth Vink

    Great article, really makes you think. I think that if you don’t put your mind to the right mindset, you will never live life to the fullest. I am experiencing it too. I felt like I was living life to the fullest while I was backpacking in Australia, but there is always a voice in the back of my mind longing for other things too. Living life to the fullest can only be achieved when you accept what is I think.
    Thanks for giving me something to contemplate about. 🙂


  14. Suzanne Fluhr

    As I approach the big six-oh, I realize that life is a series of junctures and decisions. At different points we make decisions that foreclose or facilitate others. At times in my younger days, I felt plagued by doubts about some choices, but my mother was right. It all worked out.

  15. Tenzin

    I really liked your article it made me realize that wishing for a dream life is only gonna lead to disappointment. That it’s important to realize why my current life doesn’t make me happy and try to incorporate what I want from life rather then trying to abandon it for an idealized version in my head.

  16. Hammad Tariq

    Life is the name of balance. The more you want something, the more balance you will loose. You are living the life most people dream but you are right, we can’t get everything in life. Life is the name of experience and everybody wants it a different way. Question is: Are you getting on with life as you want? The feeling you are getting is one of dissatisfaction because you want to experience the monotonous 9 to 5 life as well, just to see how it feels. I have been in both places, I spent my life traveling and working for passion, later-on figuring out that I like traveling and I have a passion for technology but I don’t enjoy working for someone else. So, I combined both, finding a travel-tech company and now en-route of doing what is required. Of course, I will have to travel for it and of course I will have to innovate someways to bring business, which I also enjoy.

    End result of everything is how you enjoy it, how you feel at the end of the day. If you are happy, that’s maximum and fullest .. at least for me!

  17. Marie Zalbe

    Sometimes I think “What if my life would be like that?”, there are times that I really do reminiscence and dream of something. Nice post Earl, for me what important is as long as you love what you’re doing and you’re happy with that.

  18. paridhi jain

    Travelling is my first love….I m just 16 and I wanted to become a travel journalist but due to some reasons I have to change my dream …..I don’t know what to do….therefore I m following my parents advice and go for interior designing hopefully its the right choice I m making….

  19. Eva

    I feel that way too. As I’m getting ready to leave for my world adventures, I find myself missing the job or school that I once found unfulfilling and meaningless. Sometimes I don’t think it matters where I am or what I’m doing. This sounds so cheesy but if I’m with people I love, any place would be home sweet home. 🙂

  20. Kristin Addis

    Life is a trade off of the things you do and the things you wish you could do. It’s impossible to have it all. That said, if you end up mostly happy with your decisions and in most of the moments when you ask yourself, “am I doing exactly what I want to be doing?” the answer is “yes,” then you’re doing all that you can.

    For me, just like you, that means traveling long term as long and as far as possible, even if that meant I gave up a well-paying job and a routine at home.

  21. Osvaldo

    This post reminds me of the paradox I live constantly: When I travel I got tired eventually and I feel the need to go back home to find a routine, but when I’m at home I got depressed and sad, hence, I want to travel.

    Does somebody feel identified with what I just said? How do you deal with this feeling?

  22. Steve `Grumpy' Collins

    To each his own. I think that you are fortunate to be constantly travelling as that is what you want to do. And I am pleased that you have to freedom to wander at will, because some of my personal heroes are explorers, just like you are. I have a family and a home base so my trips are shorter but still frequent, which suite my situation. However, I do like the fact that I have a permanent place to call home, a good family life and a dog that is excited each time I walk through the door after another journey.

  23. Ben

    The path of the nomad is a path of discovering, but also a path of lonelyness.

    Travelling is still expensive.

    It is great to have friends on the other side of the globe, but while you can keep in contact virtually, you cannot share real moments together.

    The more choices we have, the more we think on how it could be the other choice we could made.

    I smile while thinking about it.

    But remote work has something great, freedom.

    You are free to travel and spend just few weeks or months in a place, but nobody forces you.

    So I if succed to gain a remote work lifestyle I think I will organize not in a truly nomad way.

    We comes from century of non-nomad life, it’s hard not to have a home somewhere.

    But where is home? where we’ve born? where ze’ve grew up?

    Or just where there are the ones who loves us?

    I don’t know yet. I still have to find the answer to this question.

    One thing I am sure about, even the fullest, adventurous live cannot replace the human need of love.

    This word whose men are scared to pronounce but still at the true heart of deep happiness.

    For me, I think I will prefer to maintain a semi-normal life, living most of the year on the place I’ll decide to be my home, and just travel for 4/5 months a year, or more, but hurring home wherever the “nostalgic alarms” rings in the soul.

    1. Max

      Dear Ben, I really agreed your post. I have spent most of the past years travelling or living in a place that is far from home. And what I understood, when your work can be done remotely, is that the best way to enjoy the world, friends, family, love and experiences is to spent just part of the year travelling, knowing new people and places, sharing stories, and then go back home to share more of your life with your closest friends and relatives. And then start again. Maybe this is even more nomad than continuos travelling: real nomad people have strong community ties. I have also chosen to spend some months in a foreign city where I can share professional experience as well, enjoying the local people and life. One part of the year at home, another traveling, the rest enjoying a new city: in this way I dont have the feeling that my closest people will feel and look too “distant” when I go back home after a long time, and I also appreciate a lot more my home “town” (being Rome it sounds easy, but trust me, not everyone there agrees).
      In a ultraconnected semi-virtual world, made of ephemeral products you can have when you want and touch-screen “social” lifestyle, the real wealth will be “physical” contacts and challenges. Freedom is nothing without close people you can share your life experiences with. So my answer is: home is where there are old friends enjoying your comeback and listening new travel stories…

        1. Isaac

          I love your line

          ‘One thing I am sure about, even the fullest, adventurous live cannot replace the human need of love.’

          I am going to quote you on that. Also, great response to the article. Thanks for your thoughts!

  24. Bob in Houston

    I believe fully that you are right on track. We all find something to be missing no matter what path we take. I believe it is the search and the quest for union with God. We all have the desire and are trying to figure out what it is and then how to get there.

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  26. Scott Brock

    I love the idea of having a internet business that allows you to money and have the flexibility to travel or not to travel. Having a choice is the greatest freedom.

  27. The Guy

    Hi Earl, that is a good reflective post. You’ve found something which you love and that guides and motivates you.

    I dare say if you live your life to the ultimate fullest, what is there left to achieve. We need to keep finding new factors and reasons to drive us to new things.

    Safe travels.

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