I am twenty five years old. I have lived on four continents. I have studied in Europe, taught in Asia, and bummed around in Oceania. I’ve ridden an elephant, stood on the Great Wall of China, swam around the Great Barrier Reef, rafted down the Grand Canyon, gone zip-lining over waterfalls, and walked through the ruins of Pompeii. I’ve been one of the few English speakers at a circus in Tuscany, I’ve learned martial arts at a temple in Korea, and I’ve drank alcohol made from pine needles in a ceremony in Greece.
I am not married. I do not have children. I have never had a real job. I am a vagabond.
I remember being 18 years old and talking late at night to my high school boyfriend on a cordless phone, smashed under the covers so my parents wouldn’t wake up and tell me to stop talking and go to bed. We talked about what we would do after high school. I wanted to go to Italy, perhaps study there. Anything to get out of our town that I hated just to hate it. My teen angst all channeled at this small place keeping me hostage. He talked about touring the world with his band. Common dreams and hopes for high school kids, but this conversation always stuck in my mind because when I traveled to Italy two years later, I was proud that I had actually done it.
Since that trip to Italy in 2007, I haven’t lived at home for more than a year and a half straight. I’m constantly leaving, constantly planning my next “home”, and constantly dreaming of elsewhere. Many people are jealous of my lifestyle and all the places I’ve been so blessed to see and others inevitably ask me, “when are you going to start your life?” As if the last five years didn’t count and I am a child playing pretend. Stop playing and go home. Grow up. Get a job, find a man, have his child, and become normal. This is the expected life.
Many of my friends on Facebook are getting married and having children. This is their joy and their challenge. I’m trying to learn Spanish and teach children the English language. That is my joy and my challenge. These are both fulfilling, important lives and there is no need to say one is better than the other. They are both suited for certain kinds of people at certain points in their lives. Some travel when young and then marry when old. Others marry young and take their first trip abroad in their 60’s. Some of us may never travel and some of us will never marry. We all have different paths to take and yet, I still get questions about what I’m going to do with my future.
“When you’re done playing around in Europe, what are you going to do with your life?”
I’ve not decided if I am done with the vagabond lifestyle yet. I may do another year of teaching or I may head back to California. There are jobs that interest me at home, in which I think I could be good at, and I would like to have an apartment that I can actually decorate and call my own for more than 12 months. This doesn’t mean that I will be starting a “real life” and that everything before I settled down was nothing; like I was just some girl gallavanting around the world. Since that trip to Italy, I’ve had stereotypes shattered and my own ignorance thrown in my face. I’ve grown from my mistakes and learned to forgive myself when I make new ones. I’ve lost people I loved and from that, realized to take no one in my life for granted. To take the time out of my busy life for my family, who has given me more than I will ever deserve. I’ve learned there can be no love with selfishness and dishonesty and that loving yourself is the most important thing of all. My students in Korea and Spain taught me that life is only as serious as we make it and that there is a whole lot of fun to be had. Best of all, I know for sure that life is beautiful around the world.
I’ve lived an unexpected life.
I can’t wait for the rest of it.