Is your current job the one you were dreaming of as a kid? OK, I’ll be honest: my earliest dream was becoming a movie star that had a secret double life as a dolphin trainer (yikes). But as I grew a bit older, into my adolescent mind, I always said I wanted to travel for a living. I would do anything. That’s what I wrote on this blog as a teenager 10 years ago. I wanted to be like the presenters and documentary makers I saw on TV, exploring the world and showing everyone how beautiful and fascinating our blue planet is. And truthfully, I still want to be that person. But am I that person? Am I even on the road to becoming that person?
If I had to be completely honest, I would say I’ve only been able to make that dream come true for about 25% (and it doesn’t quite pay the bills just yet). I’ve made my first steps and I’m proud of that. But I have such a long way to go. When I started travel blogging professionally about four years ago, I just figured I should soak up all the experiences I possibly could. See everything there is to see and just go along with whatever crossed my path.
What is the ‘right’ kind of travel?
But after about a year I realised travelling for the sake of … travel, just hopping from one place to the next, leaves you feeling empty. What’s the point of constantly switching out one place for another without building any kind of connection? This kind of travel, I felt, was nothing more than a type of consumption. It’s a superficial kind of movement, without any real investment, just floating by and only leaving crumbs behind. It doesn’t contribute anything of real importance to the places you travel to. In fact, this type of travel can even be damaging when a city or town is already overcrowded with the typical type of tourists.
That was also the moment, or rather the period in my life, when I realised it wasn’t really about travel in the first place. It’s easy to distract yourself by counting countries and collecting passport stamps. Just forget about your bucket list for just a minute. You’ll soon notice you can’t really ‘collect’ the world like a puzzle of souvenirs, you will have lost that challenge before you even began. The world wasn’t built as an adventure game, divided into neat little chapters and heroic missions to complete. It’s not a playground. The world is a messy place and that’s something we all have to respect.
But that’s also the thing: you have to try things out to know what you want to do in life. The best lessons are those that teach you exactly what you don’t want to do in life. Those are the ‘mistakes’ that help you know where to go.
Choosing stories before travel
What’s most important are the stories you encounter around the world. At least that’s what matters most to me, personally. It’s the moments and conversations with places and people that make you see life a little bit differently. It’s the random yet friendly strangers that never left your mind, like the family on the train to Vienna that asked me to play a game of cards with them. It’s the friends you’ve made along the way, like the remarkable souls that still inspire me every day. So before I am a traveller, I am a storyteller. That is my top priority. That’s the philosophy I want to live by.
It’s not about your suitcase, it’s about the shared stories we create. What actually matters are the moments with places and conversations with people that make you look at life a little bit differently.
Through stories we understand our world and through stories we communicate and evolve our ideas about life. That’s why I started working on my open storytelling platform Globonaut back then. I wanted to re-align with what I truly cared about, with why I really felt this desire to travel and explore in the first place. I wanted there to be a space on the internet for the kind of unforced curiosity we all felt inside as a child. A safe place to share the stories that matter, big and small. A place where we can learn how to connect through stories.
When should you give up on your childhood dream?
I definitely think that, sometimes, it’s a good thing to give up on a childhood dream. Sometimes, you’ve outgrown that dream. You’ve become a different and, hopefully, better person. Those dolphins deserve to swim freely in the wild and leave those ridiculous tricks behind. But I haven’t lost my curiosity for the ocean and my love for animals. It can be good thing to give up on a dream, so you can make room for new imagination. Though I still believe you’ve got to hold one to at least one of them. You’ve got to have at least one dream still growing inside your mind, like a plant you water once in a while, alive and well. So, for now, I won’t give up my childhood, or teenhood dream just yet. I promise I’ll get there, at least for about 95%.