A glimpse from a traveler in her late 30s
Gertrude Stein casually referred to the golden era of artists and writers that came of age right after WWI as the “lost generation”. It defined those struggling for a sense of identity and purpose after the shifting social and economic structures brought about by the war and gave us great literary gems like Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Eliot and Steinbeck.
Fast forward a century and you see a similar pattern of social and economic change today and not surprisingly…people still struggling to find meaning somewhere in the middle.
And by now you’re thinking…what the F does this have to do with traveling?
Well, everything actually.
Generations that travel
As a woman who’s traveled a large chunk of our big blue marble, I’ve come to realize something. People adopting a lifestyle of travel in their 20s has become common place. They feel like they have time to settle down, get “real jobs” and rejoin the “real world’ as functioning, proper citizens who drive the well-oiled machine of the status quo. All in due time, but for now: Carpe diem.
Something else I realized in my travels is that senior citizens have also embraced the road as their home. Finding new adventures in new countries with their children safely engrossed with their own lives and finding a new found freedom from societal expectations and limitless opportunities through hard earned retirement income.
My come to Jesus moment
Then there’s my generation. The one that fell through the cracks.
I’m 37 and I’ve been traveling since my early 30s, shortly after moving to a small Caribbean island on a whim. I had a mental breakdown in my late 20s that was fueled in part by my increasingly troubled marriage and a series of daily routines that left me feeling like the walking dead. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy? I had a nice husband, a decent job, a cool condo in a trendy urban setting, a gorgeous and expensive designer breed dog.
I had all the right crap…now where is my happiness? Why didn’t I feel fulfilled?
The problem was I’d been in such a hurry to dive head first into the well masked drudgery of adulthood (school, jobs, marriage, bills, etc.) I never spent any time in my 20s exploring the world or getting to know the most important person on earth I’ll ever have a relationship with: Myself.
My new authentic life
So fast forward a few years and I’m in the Caribbean running a business, traveling and exploring to my heart’s content when I start getting calls and emails from friends my age looking for guidance on how to “take the plunge” and embrace the life of a Tolkien-esque wanderer.
I’d always figured I was a fluke, but as it turns out, there are a TON of people in their 30s and 40s that fall into the gaping cracks of what society is willing to accept as a travel nomad. If you’re doing it in your 20s, well you’re just young. You’ll come around. If you’re retired and you’re on the road, well then good for you, you earned it!
The lost Generation
However, if you’re a part of this new Lost Generation (30s and 40s) and leave your life behind and hit the road….
What the F is wrong with you?! (The response I often got).
What about your house? Your career? What about your friends and family? What will they think?!
You get the idea.
But it’s precisely this age gap that the greatest lack of purpose and fulfillment seems to plague. It rots away marriages, homes and working relationships. It leaves people depressed and feeling alone even when surrounded by their peers.
Be yourself, no one else can
I want to say this to any who aspire to live a different kind of life. One filled with travel, new places, adventure and whatever gives you purpose:
You are not alone.
It can be done. It’s being done right now by people who felt stuck once, just like you.
It’s not just singles or couples without kids. I’ve met many couples that have young children and live abroad, either traveling and homeschooling on the road or as expats with their kids enrolled in regular school.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to do this. There are jobs everywhere and the more creative you are with your revenue streams; the easier it will be to make money.
*For Americans* Healthcare exists in other countries. Better healthcare in some cases and in many cases, more affordable. It’s a complete myth that you can only get quality healthcare in America. I’m living proof (and an American).
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Is this life for you?
I should clarify that I’m not implying EVERYONE in this age bracket I’m describing feels lost, I have many friends and family that are living regular lives and are quite content.
However if you are a fellow new Lost Generation wanderer like me, then I encourage you to embrace whatever travel passion drives you and see where it leads. The namesake of the 1920s produced some of the best artists in modern history. It’s only through continued exploration of the human spirit and what inspires us that will lead to our own star being hung in the sky for future generations to follow.
There will always be doubters. There will always be people telling you big life changes are a bad idea. And then there will be the rest of us…urging you to dive into uncharted waters and start swimming.
It’s your life, so make it count. You got this.
Until next time, keep wandering.
(a.k.a. The Traveling Amazon)