People have asked me what I want to be when I grow up since I was old enough to talk.
First it was a dog.
When biology came into the picture I opted for dog trainer or vet. Actress, singer, and model all made an appearance, until reality hit (in the form of my older brother). Other answers have been (in no particular order) politician, president, founder of a not-for-profit organization, employee at a not-for-profit organization, author, travel blogger, nurse, surgeon, journalist, waitress, pilot, flight attendant, yoga teacher, masseuse, life coach… the list is endless.
I always thought I had to have an answer. I had to have an end goal that I was working towards. Of course I did, that's what everyone I met ever taught me. For years I honestly thought everything I did in life served one purpose: to build a foundation to grow my future job upon.
Then I started traveling. I met people who work odd jobs in whatever country they happen to be in just to save up enough cash to move on to the next country. I met people who spend summers fighting fires so they can spend winters seeing the world. I met people who lived life day to day and didn't worry so much about what their future looked like.
I met people who didn't know what they wanted to be when they grew up. They only knew what they wanted to be in that moment.
And that's when I realized I never really knew what I wanted to be. People often say when we were young we knew what we wanted to be, until society and expectations got in the way. But just last year I found a list I made in 2nd grade about my career goals and the list was just as long and diverse.
I thought my identity and my happiness depended on what I accomplished in life. But the more I travel the more I realize happiness doesn't come from where you are or what you do. It comes from listening to that little voice that always knows exactly what it wants.
When I first decided to travel solo, no one knew how I was going to afford it. I didn't even know. But I knew I wanted to go, so I kept working and somehow the money gathered and suddenly I was in Africa, happier than I ever knew I could be.
I've always wanted to write a book, and always tried to force myself to do it, but I never got very far. Two weeks ago I heard that voice say, "do it. You're ready." And I'm already 40,000 words in and loving every minute of the process.
When I decided to go to grad school, I didn't know if I would ever use to education for a future career. I still don't know. I also don't know how I'm going to afford tuition or what I am going to do when I graduate, but I know I want to go. I know I need to go.
That's how travel has taught me to live my life. The best travels don't come from knowing every step you are going to take from the moment you land until the moment you leave. The best travel experiences come when you just go and figure out what the hell you're doing once you get there.
John Lennon once said, "When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."
I have no idea what I will "be" when I grow up. I don't even know if I will ever "settle down" and follow one career. But I've stopped thinking that's such a bad thing. I've stopped worrying that it'll make me a good-for-nothing, sit on my parent's couch for the rest of my life, unsuccessful low-life. It took me a long time to break out of that belief, but the more I traveled the more I realized that when you don't worry so much about the future, you leave a lot of space for the present to grow into something amazing.
I don't know what job(s) I will work for the next 40+ years. But I do know I will continue to pursue happiness. I don't know what I will "be" in 10 years. I've stopped asking. Instead, I've been practicing asking myself what I want to be right now. In this moment. And I'm starting to be okay with the fact that the answer is going to change every time I ask.