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?