Travel guilt

For some reason in Irish society travelling for long periods of time is often seen as a selfish act. It’s met with an attitude that the traveller is unable to commit to an occupation, a place, a lifestyle. That that person is somewhat lost in life and has no stability, no sense of the real world. I doubt this is a view held by Irish society alone but in my experience many of my friends from other parts of the world are told to keep travelling as long as they can. Their families and communities often tend to be more supportive of their nomadic way of life.

Ireland boasts the most amount of passport holders in the world yet when you travel abroad you often find that the Irish that have escaped the confines of their native homeland tend to then settle in the first place they land. They get full time jobs and build a home from home, often surrounded by other Irish natives. Immigrating rather than travelling, some stay for years then venture home, others stay forever.

However if you are like me, someone jumping between countries, cities and jobs, you are likely viewed as someone running away from commitment. You are often meet with the thought provoking question of what are your plans? What are you doing with your life?

Well, I’m travelling. This is my life. I’ll work dead end jobs for next to nothing in order to take in views from mountain tops and lie in the sun on beaches in far off places. And what’s wrong with that?

We humans have a tendency to believe that a life well lived is one that conforms to age old rituals of settling down, finding careers and starting families. That travelling is healthy for a while but not for forever. I know as much as my parents love me they don’t approve of my lifestyle. They think my heads in the clouds. Communication is hard, keeping touch is hard because as much as I miss them I can’t bring myself to go home or settle somewhere permanently. And I can see in their eyes and hear in their voices that I’m once again letting them down.

I am plagued with Irish guilt. The guilt that my family miss me. The guilt that the people I love are another year older, another year without me there to watch them growing old. To hear of their aches and pains and hatred for their nine to five while I live in a fantasy land in my head on the other side of the world. It’s always a case of, ‘when are you coming home?’, ‘why are you still out there anyway?’ The guilt rises like bile in your stomach and I’m forced to try and rewire my brain to consider the prospect of going home when my heart searches for travel. Where my soul searches for unfamiliar streets and secluded lands where life is light and fun and free. And once you’ve had a taste of that it’s hard to let it go.

Truth is I’m not running but I’m seeking, I’m looking for my place in the world but staying in one spot has never made any sense to me. And I keep on moving because I haven’t found somewhere where I’ve felt like I’ve needed to stay. Where I’ve found contentment or happiness more than my nomadic life grants me. I don’t yearn for my own house or a career more than I yearn for that feeling of when a plane touches ground, or for more than new sights, new smells, new sounds and new places. New prospects, new jobs, new skills and new friends. So I push that guilt from the forefront of my mind and I quell it in my heart for a time and I set off again trying to find my place in this world. But maybe I never will. Maybe it’s the journey that’s right for me.

Sorry Mum, I love you all but I won’t be home just yet.

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Why aren’t you career driven? What’s your future plan? 

As someone in their mid twenties still travelling, living in hostels and working jobs in hospitality, I get this a lot. Mostly from snotty nosed teenagers on gap years who have been handed everything in life. Damn millenials. 

When I was school I was career driven. It was bled into me that the only path worth taking was education. That as a smart-ish kid, university was my best option. That’s all well and good telling someone who is 16 that education is their pathway but when I was coming through a school where there were thirty girls in each class with 12 class in each year group; a fair few of us fell through the cracks when it came to getting genuine course advice and careers talks. 

I’m not blaming my teachers for my lack of success in the professional world but as someone who struggles to focus on the here and now, the freedom of picking from a huge range of subjects was overwhelming. And ultimately I made the wrong decision. 

As someone who went on to university and pretty much scored a nothing degree because it was where my interests lay, I have advice for the younger generation. 

University is not for everyone! University is for doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers. It’s for engineers and scientists. For accountants and physiotherapists. And if at the age of 16-18 you have your mind set on a profession such as that, then by all means go to University. 

But for other people, look at apprenticeships, trades, manual skills, because later on in life after you studied sociology or media you will look back and wish you had a profession like this. Why? Because they give you freedom. Just as much as doctors are in demand worldwide, well so are plumbers, so are electricians, chefs and beauticians. 

Don’t be sold into buying a degree that won’t get you places because your school and your government want to immerse you into thousands of pounds worth of debt before you even know what you want to do with your life. 

When I finished university it was the hieght of the econmic recession in Ireland and the UK. Even finding  bar work was hard, as someone with a degree it made life even harder. ‘You’re overqualified!’ Because when you find a profession you’ll leave our company. Which was true. 

Instead I saved and packed my bags and left. And when I arrived in other countries there were so many people my age who had graduated doing the same thing and feeling the same way. Cheated. Because in countries like Australia and America and Canada if you have a skill you have the opportunity to live in paradise. If you have a degree it makes life harder to get sponsorship around the world with next to no experience. 

And you can’t get experience unless you have experience. So test the water and reflect on what you want to do with your life and don’t buy into a future that was never meant for you.