When I read “The Alchemist”, I was in my early twenties with “a whole life ahead of me”. I read about a young boy looking for his treasure and following his dreams. I had my own treasure and adventure I wanted to follow: travel and see the world. The world of responsibility was starting to settle in as well though and I had to start worrying about my “career path”. I was lucky to take a 2-month trip to Europe followed by a month to the east coast of USA and 1.5 months in Mexico. Right after though I started my masters program and the worry about the “next step” crept in. Luckily I met Sara during my studies and after I graduated we embarked on a 2.5-month trip to South America. My treasure was becoming a reality without the limitation that a career provides.
I guess being a perpetual student has its advantages. I started working after the trip in an office job that taught me many things and provided me the needed cash to pay off my debts and start saving for the future. After 2 years, I continued to study for even more higher education. Since our last trip to South America, we’ve only been able to do one-week vacations here and there. I was getting restless and had almost forgotten about my initial treasure.
Sara and I started thinking about “the future”, investing, saving, etc. Why should we go travel, we should focus on our career, our financial stability, starting a family, etc. A year traveling abroad is dangerous, a waste of time, a delay on your career progression, etc.
These are fears that existed and probably still do a bit. But yesterday I had a realization. While at L’Alhambra, Sara asked me: “Do you think we should have stayed in SF with jobs and saved so we could invest in our retirement?”
At first I said, maybe. But then I asked, what would we do when we retire and have a solid retirement with a steady flow of income? The answer: travel and continue learning [take music, dance classes]. Almost exactly what we’re doing right now. So in a way, we’re retired for the next 10 months. It won’t be sustainable until we die, but it’s a mini-retirement that allows us to fulfill my treasure from my early twenties: to travel and see the world.
I learned many things from that book and one of them was that you need to take life slow in order to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us but also never forget about the important things one must do. The only reason I think I’ve been able to travel and take the mini-retirements I’ve taken is because I’ve been responsible with having scholarships or jobs that allow me to save/invest. At the same time, I’ve been lucky to not get so involved with a career and the so-called “rat race” that is needed to “succeed”. Some companies/industries think that a gap year is detrimental and will set you back, but I’ve learned that if a company has that philosophy, then it is probably one I don’t want to work for.
If you really think about it though, traveling is not even that expensive. Sara and I are visiting over 20 countries in 10 months with $30,000; that’s the price of a medium sized car, which many Americans buy … I rather buy a $10k car and travel for 7 months or even better if you live in SF, don’t buy a car!