There are few times over the last year when I’ve questioned what I’m doing. Travelling has always been the big love in my life so, after a few last minute doubts, packing my bags and heading off into the sunshine seemed like the natural thing to do. And, having had the trip of a lifetime, I’ve never regretted my nine months away for a second. But lately I met up with some old university friends and we had one of those catch up conversations about what everyone’s done in the ten years since we graduated and suddenly I got The Fear. After spending six years working in journalism I was used to being the one earning the least out of my friends and it never really bothered me. But now that I’m currently “between jobs”, which I think is the polite way of putting it, I suddenly realised how far apart we now are in terms of lifestyle.
For the first time in a long time I questioned the decisions I’ve made. For a few days I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head about what life would have been like if I’d chosen a different career, followed a different path in life or just not packed my bags at all. It’s a dangerous path to go down and the ‘what ifs?’ can quickly pile up if you think about them for too long.
What if I’d never left my home town? Would I be married with 2.4 children?
What if I’d got onto a graduate scheme after university? Would I have a fabulous City job and be able to afford to wear designer shoes?
What if I hadn’t spent my life savings on a round-the-world trip? Would I still be sat in my office, moaning about the things I couldn’t change…?
And it took a while, but then I realised that it’s ok. Because, of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of the above lifestyles and believe me, I would love a pair of designer shoes.
But I also thought about what life would be like if I hadn’t gone away. What if I had never done my 30b430 trip? I would never have come face to face with 400 dolphins in the wild in New Zealand or eaten breakfast watching the sun rise over the Torres del Paine in Chile or fallen in love with a baby called Noah in a Chinese orphanage. I wouldn’t have spent a day getting soaked at the Songkran Festival with my sister in Thailand, laughed so much that I actually cried with my friends on a long-haul train in China or spent a week at a school for deaf children learning more about human kindness than I ever thought possible.
So even though it seems clear that I’ll never be earning millions and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever own the shoes I’ve lusted over for years, I’ve come to realise that there isn’t really another option for me. Because this is who I am, this is what I love, so this is the way it has to be.