This is my personal blog and a space that I try to make sense of my wandering life. Depending on the day it could be a helpful resource for the country I'm in, or a self-help guide. We'll just have to see ;)
I looked around the room at Green Drinks, a local meet up for environmentally minded business folk. As I mingled, name scratched in permanent marker on the white sticker clinging to my nicer-than-usual clothing, I suddenly realized that this was my life. No one was telling me what to do or where to be, and there were no (apparent) consequences for laying in bed all day. But alas, there I was, sipping on a local brew and mingling with entrepreneurs and business people, many of whom were at least a decade older than me. While others were starting conversations with resume-worthy past titles and experiences I relied heavily on the only thing I had: travel stories. It garnered its fair share of attention; it turns out that exotic places like Patagonia and “an organic farm on the side of a volcano” can turn as many heads as trigger words like “manager” or “head of operations.” To me, this was a breakthrough.
On graduation day I mourned the fact that my days of globe-trotting, which seemed to have just begun, were coming to an abrupt end. That the piece of paper I was holding was a declaration of domesticity, of accepting a job where I would simply stare at a framed picture of a far away place, working to earn a few vacation days to get there. I considered myself lucky, privileged to have been able to pursue my degrees and study abroad when so many others hadn’t. I had lived the majority of my college years in other countries and suddenly it seemed, it was all for nothing. As I walked across the stage it was obvious that my part-time titles as “nanny” and “cupcake decorator” weren’t doing much for me. I felt cheated and a little betrayed that my elders hadn’t given me fair warning. That they hadn’t told me that my “cheap” travel was actually going to haunt me in the form of student loans, or that while I had been learning to play polo or going weeks without a shower, my peers were amassing valuable skills. They were doing internships and despite the reality that their “administrative experience” consisted of getting coffee for someone higher up the ladder, their resumes still boasted real world titles. It sounded terrible to me, but in that moment – holding an expensive piece of paper, surrounded by everyone who loved me and wanted nothing more than to know what “the next step” would be – I almost wished I had preferred a briefcase to a backpack.
Now, I’m thankful I didn’t. Holding my own at Green Drinks and using my travel resume (reserving my actual resume for self-deprecating jokes – Hey! I probably made that tiramisu you ate on your last business meeting!) was proof that just because I had lived thousands of miles away or had a little more fun that typically encouraged, didn’t mean I wasn’t valuable. In fact, during the meeting, people’s feedback made me realize that travel might have actually given me more of a resume booster than I once thought. Sure, I wasn’t in an office, but you can bet that missing my bus home and sleeping in a sketchy bus station resulted in an intense attention to detail that I would apply to more than just bus tickets. Or that spontaneous weekend trips meant learning to juggle work and social life, and learning to telling the difference in the two. Protests, poor map-reading skills and hour long grocery lines taught me flexibility and patience. Traveling solo meant meeting new people and learning to network. Being the minority in a culture, whether it be for my skin color, gender, or language taught me more about racism and tolerance than any textbook could have and being exposed to extremes of both good and evil made the world a little more real. All of these things, it turns out, made me a decent potential employee. And more importantly, they helped make me a better person.
For me, travel has never been an option. And when I say travel, I don’t mean vacations. I mean living in other places, other cultures and absorbing everything that comes with that; from new sights and smells to pushing my own limits. These aren’t exclusive to far off places, but it is easier to live this way when it’s the only option. Travel, for me, is a way to make myself live how I eventually want to regardless of location. It’s how I’ve learned to ignore the “you can’t have too much fun” trap, that clear and open communication should be the only option, and that all people really are the same when you get down to it. But what I learned that night at Green Drinks wasn’t exclusive to travel. It was that, no matter your calling, as long as you are active and as long as you are doing something, you will always have a “resume.” I learned that pursuing what made me happy – despite it being the less responsible, or less traditional path – actually made me more valuable than if I had done what I thought I should have, despite lack of passion for it. Now, sitting on an air mattress staring at my backpack and piles of laundry, I’m gearing up for a job as the Marketing Manager for Outward Bound Costa Rica. I’m realizing that this adventure is a combination of what I once imagined as two extremes: the backpack vs. the briefcase. I’m realizing that sometimes, things really do come full circle.