I’ve made the decision to leave NYC to volunteer on a farm in Costa Rica.
I’ll be spending the next month learning how to grow my own organic food in the gorgeous South Pacific region of Costa Rica. There will be no cable, no cell service and no wifi. And I can’t wait.
I haven’t told too many people about this decision because a lot of the time, I’m met with judgment. I get questions like, “Shouldn’t you be focusing on your career right now?” and “You’re really going to travel alone?!”
This is a hard post for me to write because I know it will be met with a lot of judgment. But I also know that the reasons I’m choosing to travel while unemployed are words that will resonate with many and might even inspire someone to live life a little more aligned with who they are.
This is going to be a long one, so to make this simple, here are three reasons why I’ve decided to travel instead of find another job.
1. I’ve witnessed regret in a lot of older adults and I actually listened to what they had to say.
I have a distinct memory from when I was twelve years old: I was volunteering in a nursing home with my mom when we met an elderly bed-ridden man. He asked me how old I was and I told him. I remember his eyes piercing through mine when he responded, “You still have time.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adult say, “What I wouldn’t give to be seventeen again,” or “I wish I could go back to that age and do it all over.” Millennials are constantly exposed to the narrative of midlife crisis–of adults who put their dreams on hold to live a life unaligned with what they truly wanted–and some of us actually paid attention.
WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) has been on my bucket list since I was fifteen. Now I’m twenty-three. I grew up surrounded by older adults and if I learned a single thing from them, it’s that youth is precious. Now is the time to take chances. I have the rest of my life to make money.
2. We are all handed down the same cookie-cutter roadmap to life and it’s a terrible, terrible lie.
The roadmap looks something like this: Go to school for 17+ years, work a 9 to 5, get married, buy a house, have some kids, grow old, move south, and croak. For some people, this is enough to live a fruitful and meaningful life. But this is the roadmap all of us are taught, both directly from our parents and implicitly through our capitalist culture, starting at around age 3 when we’re asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I was always so immersed in a story line of office jobs and mortgages that it seemed there were no other ways to live life–that your employment defines who you are. That the things you own reflect your own value. So many of us think that we have to be a slave to the system for forty years before we’re allowed to enjoy our lives.
But I do not intend to live a life half-lived and I was not put on this earth to pay bills and die.
3. Your dreams deserve your attention.
Working at a corporate sales job, I endured the epitome of a toxic work environment, all for the sake of my next big paycheck. Everyone did. Almost every person I got close with at this job had big dreams–to start their own business, to work in sports entertainment, to be a successful musician.
I think a lot of us started the job with the intention to use the money to accelerate our dreams. But eventually a lot of us, myself included, stopped actively working on our goals because we got drunk on living the highlife of expensive trips, fancy dinners, and insane parties. We got swept off our feet by the power money gives you in our type of society. And so our dreams were forced to wait.
If anything, that job taught me that your dreams deserve your attention and they deserve it now. Not after you get that promotion and not after you buy that house. The truth is, there is no “right” way to do life. There is no checklist of milestones we have to achieve before we’re allowed to be happy.
Think of life like language–the only reason a word means something is because of the meaning we assign it. Otherwise, words are just sounds. In the same way, the meaning of our life is the meaning we decide to give it.
For me, that ultimately means moving somewhere warm and starting a co-op– a small, self-sustainable, intentional community of like minded people who live off the land. My decision to leave NYC for Costa Rica is the very first step to learning the skills I need to build the life I want. It’s to stomp out any lingering doubt and to prove to myself that I’m capable of making my dreams a reality.