Thoughts On Living Authentically and Writing Your Own Rules
Hi, I'm Sarah. It's been so long that you might have forgotten me, so I figured I should introduce myself again just to be safe.
August and September were busy months, but I don't feel like you've missed a lot.
I've just been working, doing some travel, attending a wedding and... oh yeah!
BUYING MY FIRST HOUSE.
In addition to revisiting my stress behaviors (which primarily consist of champagne and chocolate), this house-buying process has forced me to revisit some beliefs.
So I wanted to share some thoughts on identity.
And doing what makes sense for you, even when it doesn't make sense to anyone else.
Full-time credit analyst, homeowner... and travel blogger?
I'll be honest... I haven't just been too busy to blog over the past two months.
I've actually been working on this post for weeks, but it is quite frankly one of the hardest things I've ever written.
I think the primary reason I’ve had trouble writing this post is that there isn’t a natural way for a travel blogger to introduce the fact that they now have a mortgage with their name on it. Especially when that blogger already has a full-time job in finance that is far from location independent and not particularly travel friendly.
If I was reading this post, my first question would be: “Can this girl even call herself a travel blogger anymore?”
Yet another problem with this post is that I don’t know the answer to that question.
What is a travel blogger anyway?
If we were to define the term "travel blogger" based on the traits of the world’s most famous bloggers in this genre, then I wouldn’t fit that definition. I don’t make money from my blog or an online business. I don’t travel full time, and I've never traveled full time in the past. I do spend the majority of my time working for someone else, in a 9 to 5 desk job. As of now, I also have a mortgage.
According to some travel blogs and books I’ve read, these traits make me something between a follower and a sellout.
According to others, I might just be wasting my life living inauthentically.
(Overall, very positive.)
When Competing Identities Conflict
As is likely clear from this post, I read a lot of travel blogs. I also read a lot of books by location independent authors who’ve “cracked the code” and want to share their advice on how to "free yourself" from "9 to 5 drudgery" and "live your most authentic life”.
Here’s the thing:
I understand that, to some extent, this title and subtitle language on books and blogs and courses and videos is for marketing purposes. After all, solutions to problems - like how to escape a full-time job that you don’t like - help sell content.
That being said, language is important.
Language has the power to make people feel included and understood, but it also has the power to alienate people.
I’ll be the first to point out that despite title and subtitle wording to the contrary, many traveling bloggers and authors and business owners work hard to present the lessons that they've learned from traveling in such a way that they are applicable and accessible to people who are not and never want to be full-time travelers (and even to people who - dare I say it? - actually like their full-time jobs).
However, there are also some traveling bloggers and authors and business owners out there that could not care less if their content excludes people with more traditional obligations (like full-time jobs and mortgages). Their “calling" is to “push people outside their comfort zones”, “disrupt norms” and “redefine cultures”. I mean, I get it. Most people who “disrupt norms” step on some toes, and if you are making some “corporate drone” who is “wasting their life working for the man” feel alienated because they made life choices that are actually right for them, then who cares.
Well... I do.
Because I'm one of those "corporate drones," I guess.
But also because I don’t think that alienating people to sell a full-time travel brand is necessary.
Shouldn’t travel, of all things, be inclusive? A unifier? Something that brings people from a variety of backgrounds closer together, not something that pushes them farther apart?
I for one think it should.
I Write About Travel Because I Love to Travel
And I want to share that love with other people. I want to address common fears and concerns people have about traveling, so that more people who want to travel actually do. I also want to encourage people to travel, because in my opinion, the world needs more people who know more about the world... and about themselves.
And you can learn a lot about both by traveling.
On Living Authentically
Living authentically means finding your place in the world, and living in it.
I'll be the first to admit that the whole "finding your place in the world" portion of that definition is easier said than done. And while you can conduct research and interviews and read articles and books from anywhere in the world, sometimes you literally have to go FIND YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD in order to find your place in the world.
After 10 years spent traipsing the globe, I accidentally found my place in the world in a tiny ranch-style 1950's house in Nashville, Tennessee (a city I always thought I'd be leaving the first chance I got... but one that seems to have a pretty stubborn hold on me after all).
Funny how things work out.
Living Authentically Means Writing Your Own Rules (and May Occasionally Involve Pink Tile)
I’ve been working full time and renting in Nashville since graduating from college in 2013. Since my little boomtown remains the hottest real estate market in the U.S., with many local buyers losing to out of town investors paying cash in your average real estate purchase attempt, I didn’t think there was much to be done about my ever-increasing rent payment. So when a 1950s fixer upper in an area that we’ll call ‘adjacent to an area that is adjacent to an area that is up-and-coming' became available, it made sense for me to purchase that house (Pepto-Bismol Pink tile in the one bathroom and all.)
So I did.
Do What Makes Sense For You (Even When It Forces You Outside Your Comfort Zone)
While I might be breaking all the travel blogging rules, I still have a lot of things in common with your average traveler. For one, the permanence of owning something like a piece of real estate scares the hell out of me. Up until this point, the part of me that is terrified of settling down in one place was appeased by the fact that even though I worked full time I could pay the fee to break the lease on my rental and jet around the world at a moment’s notice (...ok maybe at a month’s notice).
Ironically, buying this house has given me something in common with full-time travel bloggers after all: one of the primary reasons I love to read stories about people who run their own online businesses and travel the world with no permanent home base is that at some point they took a BIG step outside their comfort zones.
And I just took a big step outside of mine.
Embrace your inner walking contradiction
While I’ll be the first to admit that writing about travel and about the process of renovating and decorating a house while working a full-time job in finance may not intuitively go together, about the best that I can offer by way of explanation is that
I don't intuitively go together either.
I’m from a town of less than 3,000 people in the rural South, and I’ve been to 18 countries.
I spend most of the day doing heavily quantitative work, and most of my free time traveling, writing and taking pictures.
I’m currently working on blog posts, but this afternoon I’ll be removing some very stubborn pink floor tile (joy).
Sometimes, doing what makes sense for you won’t make sense to anyone but you.
The best advice I can offer at this point?
Do it anyway.