“Don’t Let Anyone Stop You.”

My fabulous family. Full of love...and too many opinions.

My fabulous family. Full of love…and too many opinions.

“You need to start your real life,” my aunt said.

“I have started my real life,” I replied indignantly from the passenger’s seat. “I’m living it.”

She gave a deep sigh and clutched the steering wheel.

This was not the reaction I’d expected from her when I announced that I was going to travel the world for a year. I had expected a reaction like this from my mother or from many of my eight uncles, but not from my mother’s only sister.

For most of my life, her and I had common ground. We were both teased mercilessly in elementary and middle school. We both struggled with our weight and our self-image. She had advised me through much of my youth and could relate to me even more than my mother could.  But this is where the line was drawn.

“I don’t want my life to be boring,” I said.

“Do you think my life is boring?” she asked.

I paused before I responded, arms crossed and staring at the road ahead, “Yes.”

But the truth is, I don’t think her life is boring.

My aunt is married to a man I am proud to call my uncle. She has two sons who would stay up all night playing board games with me if they were allowed to. She has summers off because she is a teacher and gets to spend her summer days cruising the bay on the family boat or on a quiet Fire Island beach. She has a beautiful house in a beautiful town a short train ride away from New York City.

Hers is the life I had convinced myself I wanted. That was before I gave in to the pull of long-term travel and decided to take a year off to travel through Southeast Asia and beyond.

I told my aunt about my travel plans early on because I thought she would be the most accepting.

My mother, although not entirely pleased with the situation, had said, “I have accepted the fact that you are not going to live a normal life.”

This was a much better reaction than I could have expected. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

“What is normal?” I asked. But my mother isn’t one for philosophical conversation. She is far too practical for that.

“You could come visit me,” I told her.

“Sure,” she  said.

I tried to picture my mother in Asia, eating fried cockroaches and peeing in squat toilets and riding a tuk tuk with me. The thought made me smile because it is so ludicrous. My mother will never visit Asia.

But at least she had been understanding.

My uncles had all been equally hesitantly accepting. Although only one seemed actually excited about the idea.

Even though having eight out of nine people’s stamp of approval is a pretty good ratio,  my aunt’s disapproval still weighs on my heart.

I have to remind myself that seeking the approval of others is what got me in this mess in the first place—stuck in an office, in a job, at a desk every day that makes me miserable. While I work I often cry in the storage closet at least twice a week and throw up from stress at about the same rate. I always told myself that I would never be trapped in a cubicle like my mother was. Yet, here I am.

One of my uncles always tells me “Well, Sweetheart, that’s real life.” If “real life” is being stuck in a cubicle for 10 hours a day just to pay rent and afford a much needed night out with friends (that I’m often too tired for anyway) then maybe “real life” is not for me.

But who says this is what real life has to be? Who created these rules? Work for 10 hours a day, two weeks vacation and then finally get a break at retirement. Maybe that is his real life, but I refuse to let it be mine.

My real life is waiting for me somewhere out in the world and I have to go find it. The problem is…I have no idea what I’m looking for. But if I knew what I was looking for, I guess it wouldn’t be such a risky adventure.

But still, I am anxious about my upcoming journey. I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. I wonder if I could be happy in a different cubicle, in a different town. I wonder if I could be content with “real life.”

It is only since having a text conversation with my ex-boyfriend-turned-friend that I have begun to feel fully confident in what I was doing.

Text

He has been no stranger to my life as the Escapologist. And although I don’t think he really understands my desperate need to travel, he is accepting of it.

“Don’t let anyone stop you,” he said.

So, I won’t.

12 thoughts on ““Don’t Let Anyone Stop You.”

  1. Stephen Jones

    Bravo! Never let anyone stop you from doing what you want (particularly if it’s long term travel :). I know my mother wouldn’t understand it, so I haven’t told her what my plans are. My sisters, and couple of my brother-in-laws, know about them, and they think it’s fantastic.
    “One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      I should have kept my mouth shut about my plans until the last minute. It would have saved my some heartache. The problem is that I’m too talkative and an oversharer.

      I love that quote!

  2. Marisol@TravelingSolemates

    Hi Kendra, thank you for sharing this beauttiful post. I have mentioned this several times to other travellers who were in the same predicament as you. This falls in the universal issue of conformist vs non-conformist. Travelers belong to non-conformist category. They have their own mind. They do what is best for them to grow and be happy regardless of the dictate of the society or family. They define their own “normal.” So Kudos for you for being your own person. I’m very proud of people who chase their passion. Hopefuly your Aunt will “get you” one day. I can’t wait to read your first from from Asia.

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      Thank you, Marisol! It turns out I’m too flighty to live a “normal” life. I’ve fallen into the trap of living the life that people want me to live for too long. I need to follow my gut now even though it is terrifying!

  3. Jo @ Migrating Bird

    I can really relate to this post. No one I know is excited for me when I head off on my travels, but they’ve always been accepting of it. However, now I’ve landed a fantastically well paying job now and they’re appalled that I’ll be giving it up sometime in the future to travel again. They seem to think that my plans to travel are just fleeting, and will disappear when a financially lucrative offer comes along. Just because I’ve found a well paid job, my desire to visit Iran or India should just disappear? I don’t get it. Real life is whatever you’re doing, it’s not some strictly defined path of forty years of prostituting yourself for wages, in the hope of a few years happy retirement.

    Your ex said it best: You do you. As long as you can look back on life in 20 years time and say “I am happy with my choices” then that’s all that matters.

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      Thank you, Jo. Well said!

      I’m at a job now where I’m making pretty good money and could potentially have a “career.” It’s amazing to me how many people work crazy hours and jobs they don’t enjoy. These are the same people that tell me “I wish I could travel.” But they always have an excuse why they just can’t.

  4. Kim Dayman

    Wow – so much this!
    I held off telling my mother for months about my trip. She’s always been critical of everything I do but I used my blog as an outlet to share and she stumbled upon it before I had a chance to tell her myself – opps! Now I’m dealing with similar “you think my life is so bad – you’d hate to be like me” attitude, which I don’t totally understand. Aren’t parents, and family members supposed to want better for you then they had themselves? Don’t they realize that what makes one person happy can spell misery for another? I’m hoping there is more to it then that like maybe she’s just worried about me and and it’s coming out all wrong but in the meantime every time I mention my trip she gets a little tick in her eye and feels the need to change the subject. I know she enjoys travelling as well so I’m hoping my journeys spur her on and she is inspired to see the world more herself 🙂

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      I think that my family just wants me to be stable financially – that’s what they mean by wanting me to have a good life. And financially stable for them is working in an office job, saving money for retirement. But, you’re right: what makes one person happy makes another miserable. Yes, I like to be financially stable, but working in an office is not something that has made me happy so far in life. Time to find something else!

  5. Amy

    We had similar reactions before we left for our trip and there are still some people I know who think we’re messing around by travelling and not getting on with ‘real life’. Thankfully most of our friends and family came around to the idea when they saw how much we were getting out of travel; they’re happy for us. Hopefully your Aunt will also be happy for you in time; I think you’re absolutely right though, you can’t live your life trying to make other people happy and you have to do what’s right for you. I’m glad you’re not going to let anyone stop you from travelling 🙂

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      Thank you! I find I am still too easily swayed by what other people think is best for me. Thankfully, I have a pretty awesome family that just wants me to be happy.

  6. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling

    Oh honey, I so get this! I hate the “that’s life” attitude. My sister is the same as your uncle – she works for 9 hours a day at a job she’s miserable at, on the 32nd floor of a city building despite the fact she suffers anxiety attacks every morning due to her disabling fear of elevators. Meanwhile, her baby girl is growing up while other people look after her because my sister and brother in law can’t afford to work less. She thinks this is normal. When in the course of human history did that kind of bullshit become normal????

    I’ve also dealt with the pain of a family member you dearly love disapproving. My grandmother travels a lot and was such an inspiration to me, so I sat down with her to interview her about not letting age stop her. All I got out of the interview was that she waited until she owned a home and had raised children before she travelled, and that she thought I should do the same thing and that I was being really foolish by spending all my money on travel (despite the fact the plan is for me to work while travelling!) I went into my bedroom and bawled my eyes out.

    It sucks to not have the support of one you love, especially if you thought they were the only person who really got you. But you can’t let that stop you. As your ex said, you have to do you. Your family is doing them. They’re not responsible for you, so it’s not their call. You are responsible for you, and you will make the right decisions according to what YOU need. Because crying in the storage room and throwing up twice a week is a big loud alarm bell going off, Kendra. It’s a signal that something is REALLY wrong. Maybe other people ignore their alarm bells when they go off, but that doesn’t mean you should.

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