“You’re either on board, or you’re not,” my boss often says.
Why don’t people who are unhappy just… leave? Some people stay where they are, in limbo, in purgatory—unfulfilled and unproductive. I’m referring to those people who hate something about their lives, be it their job, their relationship, their home, their whatever… but they don’t do anything about it. You know, those people who don’t even try to fix the thing they don’t like. They exist to complain.
|Unlike these sloths, who hang around looking cute all day and being all ZEN.|
|Here’s a gratuitous sloth photo. You’re welcome.|
Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe in speaking up and effecting change. Not allowing yourself to be mistreated—by your job, your spouse, your family, your friends, or your society. But I also believe in walking away.
I don’t regret my marriage. The fact that I stayed in a dysfunctional relationship says some good things about my character. It says I’m willing to put in the hard work for things that matter. It says I’m loyal, dedicated.
I do regret staying so long after things turned bad. That says a few less-flattering things about myself. It says I don’t know when to throw in the hat and walk away. It says I don’t value myself enough.
Rather, I didn’t. Past tense.
At some point, you have to honor yourself and just move on.
|Endings can be beautiful.|
I did not learn this lesson, truly learn it, until I started traveling full-time. I never quite got the knack of walking away from unhealthy people or situations until I walked away from everything.
Yes, you should work at it, compromise, fight for what matters. But also be okay with the eventuality of going down new paths.
Leave that bad relationship in the rearview mirror.
|Don’t look back.|
Leave those friends who aren’t really friends.
|Close the door behind you.|
Leave that job that makes you miserable.
|Even if it seems like there is no path ahead of you.|
Leave that place where you never felt at home.
|New destinations await you.|
When your entire life is about travel, you learn to say goodbye. Not only are you always moving on to the next new thing, your friends are, too. Many amazing people I love live all across the globe.
I’m in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, for a short stint. At this very moment, among all the people who are nearest and dearest to me, the closest one geographically is about 540 miles (870 kilometers) away. The farthest is 8,700 miles (14,000 kilometers) away. A good group of loved ones sits at 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers) away.
|There isn’t even a way to use one of these to get to many of my dearest loved ones from here.|
I’m in a city where, while I’m making some friends, I don’t know a single person well. And not a single person knows me well. I’m more than cool with that. And I’m prepping the people I do meet for the fact that I will—not might, but WILL—say goodbye. Soon.
The single biggest change that long-term travel has wrought in me is that I react to negativity with positivity.
Traveling, you have to.
Let’s say you’re walking in the countryside. New place. No car. No phone. Miles from shelter. A sudden squall rises.
You have two choices. Get mad, or dance in the rain. I’ve learned to dance in the rain. In fact, I sing rock ballads in the rain at the top of my lungs.
|I honestly believe in the adage that tells us to bloom where we are planted.|
I used to be dragged down by unpleasantness. My ex was a very unpleasant guy sometimes, and I would spiral into his unhappiness, and the vicious cycle would be almost impossible to break. At work, I would let the shroud of ugly meetings hang over my head when I went home. With friends, I would get sucked into convoluted feelings of wrongness over who was excluding whom. Even a crappy meal had the power to ruin my day.
Looking around my workplace, I noticed a few unhappy people. They try to appeal to my outsider perspective to get me “on their side.” But really, their grumpiness looks like petulance. It’s a big turn-off. “Why are you still here?” I think about asking. “You’re clearly not on board with this place, so why hang around?” When they frown, I perk up. When they act like the job is just too heavy to carry on, I get more energetic. I’ve already written about how I’ve become aggressively peaceful. This tendency has only increased after an additional twenty months of travel since I wrote that.
Travel has electrified me with enthusiasm.
|Like really. Jumping for joy.|
When something doesn’t work, I get off board. I leave. I recently had a relationship with someone that could have gone somewhere special, but it didn’t. So rather than wait around another 10 years to make sure, I ended it, as kindly and respectfully as I knew how. In other words, I got off board. The job I was in wasn’t the best fit. I gave 4 months’ notice and moved on. I got off board. The city I lived in wasn’t suiting my needs. So I relocated. I got off board. The book I was writing wasn’t the one. So I started writing a different book. I got off board.
I don’t sit around and wait for the world to cater to me. I go out and find the world that I want to be in.
|It’s NEVER the end of the line, unless you accept that it is.|
I don’t know where I’ll be forever. Goodness, I don’t know where I’ll be next month. I do know I’ll keep saying goodbye and saying hello until I’m on board with where I am. And I know that as long as I see everything as changeable and fixable, I’ll be able to be on board with pretty much anything.
It’s hard to empathize with people who are perfectly content with discontentment. Even though I WAS that person for so long.
I still make a lot of mistakes. Every new place I go, I’m a slightly different person and I make some old mistakes before I get my sea legs.
But I’m on board with my life. And everything in it. And when I’m not, I get off board.