One of my adult students said the other day that she wants to raise her kids to be like me. To not be connected to any particular country, but to live across them all. I told her good luck, therefore, in moving to Australia (which she’s currently attempting to do), as it’s one of a handful of countries which have barely any visa restrictions. Whereas my Russian friends have to apply for visas even to visit a Schengen country (and register when they get there!), I can just walk on in, no visa required. It’s freaking amazing. For me. But awful for my Russians.
After my student said that, I told my opinion to the class: that a lot of the time, for maybe even most people, I think travelling is more important than education. Education is, of course, incredibly important, and I won’t deny having a pile of qualifications including two degrees, but I feel I’ve learned a lot more useful skills through my constant travelling than I have through memorising the answers to fairly arbitrary exams.
In the course of travelling for the past nearly-ten years, I have lived in many cities in three countries, I have made friends all over the world, and I have worked in a range of industries. I’ve been a waitress, hotel receptionist, sailing instructor, ‘beach attendant’ (what a job title, right?), coach, English teacher, project manager, charity fundraiser, website designer, content writer, policy writer, travel agent, bar girl, babysitter, and a seeming million other things. I’ve lived on tropical islands, in cities old and new, in towns, in mountains, and by the coast. I’ve become independent, adaptable, stubborn (hey, I didn’t say all of it was good!), and perhaps most importantly completely know both myself and my capabilities. I’ve experienced several different cultures, and have friends from more. Moreover, I have no regrets.
When I was 18 and starting this journey, I justified it by saying that I didn’t ever want to get to 50 and say “I wish I’d…”. I did my foundation degree in half-time by studying a lot in my spare time, and my actual degree (and following diplomas) by correspondence, so that I could do them all while travelling. I didn’t have to give up education to travel, whereas if I’d chosen physically going to university, I would have had to give up this ridiculous life of travel that I lead. I want to see the world, I want to put myself into situations where I have to use all of me to get myself through and out of them. I want to get into cars with strangers, and sail across oceans, and be all the me’s I ever could have possibly been! It’s only through lucky chance that I was born when and where I was, and I want to know who I’d be if I’d be born British. Or Russian. Or Latino, or anything else at all. I want to be all of those people, to experience life as fully as I can. I don’t want to be some small person who’s more robot than alive, who’s gone straight from school to uni, straight from uni to a career, from single to married to children, without knowing who else I could have been. I want to be the biggest person I can possibly be :).
A lot of people say to me that they wish they could swap lives with me, and live like I do. I always say that there’s nothing stopping them (except for the swapping part – that’s not happening!). You’ve got to leap before you can land, after all. And the pond’s big enough for all of us :). (From a strictly non-environmental standpoint, of course. Sigh.)