When you want to do something unusual, at least something unusual amongst your group of friends, it can be a little intimidating. There is no one to ask for help or advice, and your friends may not know how to support you because they can’t understand why you want to do this thing. (World travel? What’s wrong with living here?)
- I don’t understand why you’d ever take your clothes off in public.
- Tattoos are only for bikers and drug addicts.
- Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?
- Isn’t it a little late in life to become an athlete?
- Why would you give up everything you own to travel the world?
You feel like you’re in it all alone, and for that very reason you often drop your more unusual dreams after a half-hearted effort.
It’s not your friends’ fault. It’s human nature to avoid change and stick with the safety of numbers. We do what everyone else does because that’s what kept our caveman ancestors safe. The one who struck it out on his own was likely to be eaten by a tiger. It’s an evolutionary safety switch to crave conformity.
Today you don’t have to worry about tiger attacks on a daily basis, but you do still have to contend with creating the life you really want when you don’t always have the immediate support of your tribe.
Gaining support for your dreams
The solution? Add a new group of friends to your life, ones who are already planning or doing the very thing you want to do. You don’t have to jump the hurdles of explanation with these people and can get on with the business of living. They get you even if they don’t know you all that well, and they are excited about what you are doing because they are doing it, too.
The bonus to this plan is your regular friends, the ones who didn’t quite know how to support you at first, will see your growing confidence and progress toward your goal and come rallying to support you. (They really just don’t want to see you get hurt or make a mistake, which is why they are reluctant at the start to support you.)
When we first decided to make this big life change, quitting our jobs and selling everything we owned to travel the world, we didn’t know anyone else who had done it. It was a bit of a mystery at first, so we did a lot of research on the Internet. There were lots of young people traveling, but we couldn’t find a lot of information on 40-ish couples doing the same thing.
Were we crazy to think we could do this?
Then we began discovering blogs by curious adults like us who did all kinds of unconventional things to live a life of travel and adventure. Twitter was full of long-term travelers, and we gradually became virtual followers and friends of many of these people.
We absorbed their wisdom and advice as we took steps to make our own dream happen.
Building a community
A few months before our departure date, we heard about an event called Meet, Plan, Go, where aspiring career breakers could meet and learn more about the specifics of long-term travel. We quickly contacted the organizers and asked if we could be the hosts in Seattle. We remembered how hard it was for us to start planning our own trip in 2008 when we didn’t know anyone who had done it, and we wanted to give back now that we were so close to our own departure.
We began seriously looking for panelists for the event, a keynote speaker, and sponsors. We were pleasantly surprised to find a sizable group of long-term travelers right there in Seattle. All this time we were scouring the Internet for information and there were live people in our own city who had already lived the dream we wanted!
(This is what happens when you make assumptions. The lesson: Don’t make assumptions.)
The most surprising thing to us was the diversity in people who had traveled long-term. There were single people, families, couples, and even groups of friends. They came from a range of economic backgrounds and education levels, and their ages ranged from college to retirement. It was inspiring to see them all in one room, chatting it up with each other and with the 150 other people who came to learn more.
This dream of traveling around the world was no longer weird or unusual. Every single person in the room had either done it or planned to do it in the near future. There was no explaining why, just a series of conversations about how and when. It was magical.
We were surprised at how much we learned ourselves, even after 2 years of planning and being just 2 weeks from departure. Keynote speaker Lee Lefever told us of his trip across Russia by train and how it played a part in starting the business he now has, and that stayed with us. As you know, just 2 years after this we took the same magical journey.
This is what it is like when you band together with people who share your dream. You learn from them so you can accomplish your goal, no matter how strange it sounds to your regular friends, and then you can return to share your expertise with those who are a few years behind you.