The lies I’ve started to tell…
I’m in law. I work in retail. I work in a hotel. I’m an administrator. I work in a bar. I’m a data entry person.
These are the answers I’ve started to give when people ask (and they always ask) what I do. None of the answers are true, of course, not any more, although they are all jobs I’ve done.
I’m here on holiday. I’m just passing through. I’m visiting family. I’m visiting friends.
These are the answers I’ve started to give when people ask why I’ve landed in a particular place. Sometimes these answers represent the truth. But they never represent the whole truth.
It’s only recently that I realised I’ve started to lie about my life.
And my lies seems to be growing in frequency.
Things used to be simple. And I never used to lie.
What do you do?
I’m a lawyer.
There were never any follow-up questions. Easy.
Before travel, my life played out like a heart rate monitor – largely rhythmic with the occasional positive blips (holidays) and negative blips (working weekends). All things told, it was pretty good confirmation that I was alive. Just about.
These days my life exists at opposite extremes. Either I’m running on a complete high or I’m so low I’m not sure how to get up.
Living with these ultra highs and lows for the past five years I’ve discovered there’s no accepted social schema for talking about your life. Apart from those closest to me, I’ve found myself increasingly existing in a lonely social vacuum where I don’t feel comfortable shrieking out loud about how great my life is (ergo: bragging bitch) or complaining when things get tough (ungrateful cow).
Now, you might be thinking, cry me a river. Go ahead, think that if you will. It’s your brain to do with as you please. But this is part of my point.
Brushing over the good times…
Once upon a time, pre-travel, I used to rant and rave about my upcoming holidays. I’d gush about where I was going. I’d pull up pictures online sharing the beauty of the beaches or cities I was about to see. Even in my first year of travel I’d share picture after picture of my trip, and I’d make my friends and family sit through a painful stint of photo viewing. I would, of course, supply wine to help them pass the time – I’m not that bad a friend.
But when you travel full-time, your endless travel plans get old dead quick. These days, ask me about my trip plans and I’ll likely give you a couple of line précis: I’m off to New England. Then the Caribbean. Three months.
I get it, I wouldn’t want to hear a detailed run-down either. Especially not if I knew the Caribbean was bound to be followed by some other three to six month plan in some other part of the world.
It’s been well over a year since I shared any of those look at me, I’m at the beach kind of photos on my personal Facebook page and its been a bunch of years since I showed anyone my travel photos.
I also used to be a keen storyteller – I still am, but these days I temper my tales.
People don’t want to hear your stories when they all start with you up a mountain or under a waterfall or at a beach club in Cambodia/ Hawaii/ the Philippines / Brazil. Seriously, people don’t want to hear it. Don’t believe me? Read this article about A conversation with the annoying world traveller.
I don’t want to be that person – nobody wants to be that person – so these days I just tell a small percentage of the stories I’m dying to tell.
I’ve also learned not to be all ‘preachy’ (informative) about the things I’ve discovered along the way – about zoos and animal welfare, about the environment, about gratitude for the things that we have – like drinkable tap water; and the things we should work harder not to have – like food waste.
And then there are the tough days. It’s even harder to talk about those.
Not sharing the depths of the bad days either…
When I had a desk job that I rubbed along with but dreamed of escaping, people would sit for hours as I bitched about office life. Short deadlines, angry phone calls, files lost, paper cuts gained. I could wax lyrical about the bane of corporate life and my audience was captive (again, the wine supplied might have helped).
When you travel full-time, people simply don’t take your complaints seriously.
If I whine about 83% humidity in Cartagena I get an eye roll because all people see is the hot yellow sun sign and 28 degrees. What on earth is there to complain about 28 degree sunshine?
If I complain that I have 36 hours in transit on the way to Spain from Asia, all people hear is Spain – what possible downside could there be if sangria and tapas is at the end of the tunnel?
They’re good points. Kind of.
More than ever I’m a grateful person. At least once a day I take a moment out of life and count my blessing, of which there are many. And I’ve now got a lengthy list of those ‘positive life’ books under my reading belt (current favourite – Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness).
But I’ve not reached the point of full enlightenment yet and until then, things still get me down. In the same way things get everyone down.
I know it might seem ungrateful for me to have any negative thoughts about this wonderful lifestyle that I possess, but it’s not always easy. Missing flights is stressful. Getting food poisoning sucks and counting your budget to continue to afford what you do is an ongoing worry. Especially if you do have a knack for missing flights: expensive.
But you have an amazing life where you get to travel, people tell me as though I’d forgotten. They’re right, of course. I haven’t lost sight of the wonder of my life. It’s just that, unless you are the Dalai Lama, there are sucky days no matter what you do.
What if you told me that your excel spreadsheet crashed losing a day’s work away and I said, at least you have shoes and can afford to eat. What if you didn’t get the promotion and I told you to be grateful for the fact you have a job, and a home and haven’t been forced into prostitution or gang crime.
What it your toilet stopped flushing and I shrugged at you, First World Problems?
Of course, I’ve had the first world problems statement thrown at me before and more than once. I could write a whole article on why it’s not right to say it…but Matt Gemmel has already encapsulated all of my thoughts right here.
A while ago I told someone I was stressed and they asked, incredulous at my words, what I had to be stressed about. The truth is, quite a lot. Chasing down your dreams isn’t as easy as it might seem. And doing it while your tenant has threatened to squat in your house and not pay her rent while you’re several thousand miles away makes it all the more challenging.
I’m deeply conscious of sharing the bad side of my lifestyle as well as the good, especially with other travellers I meet who would love to do the same thing as I do a.k.a (in their imagination) sit on a beach while the money rolls in. But people don’t want to listen. They hear travel blogger and they tell me my life is amazing. 100% of the time.
They also tell me that I’m lucky.
I’m not lucky – I’ve worked damn hard all my life.
They think it’s going to be easy. I tell them that I regularly put in 50+ hours a week. Add travel planning and days lost on public transport (which is slower but cheaper than hiring a car or taking a taxi) and I can assure you there’s nothing easy about this life I’ve chosen to live.
But still people don’t want to hear it. There are downsides? Eye roll. All everyone seems to hear is travel the world and make a tonne of money. I don’t, by the way, make a tonne of money, but that’s another article.
The things I no longer say…
It’s not the fault of my friends or my family or the people I meet along the way. I’ve chosen to temper what I say. I don’t want to alienate myself from the people around me. I don’t want to unduly encourage other travellers into an industry in which its hard to succeed. And I certainly don’t want to endure any more eye rolls or dismissive statements when I confess that things don’t always go as well as other people expect. My life isn’t always shiny. There’s a whole heap of dull scrap metal hanging around that regularly drags me down.
I like that I’m an honest person. I pride myself on it. But, until I figure out a better way to handle discussions about what I do, where I go, and the good and bad that both happen while I’m there, the chances are that if you meet me along the way, I’ll shake your hand and tell you that I’m Jo, I’m a paralegal and I’m just passing through.
That I have a life that is amazing beyond imagination and can throw me into a fit of despair all in the same day will, at least for now, remain part of all those things I no longer say.
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