Crystal clear water and warm, sandy beaches.
Snow blanketed mountains and toasty lodge resorts.
Loud, bright lit cities and incessant, bustling activity.
What do these places have in common? They are all part of a geographical string of places known as vacationland. You’ve probably heard of them.
But, it’s hard to look at places like these as somewhere people actually get to live. After your time in vacationland, you go home. Back to your steady job, your comfortable house in the suburbs, your structured routine. Because you’re trying to be a productive member of society.
And there they still are – our fellow 20 somethings. Climbing mountains, basking in the sun, sipping nummy libations from what became your favorite coffee shop in the whole wide world in a matter of 2 days. Indefinitely, they stay.
How do you live comfortably in your twenties? Pshhh, not that way.
You shake your head at them, and rightfully so! You can’t be a productive member of society living in vacationland! You grumble, offended, slightly because “life can’t be all fun and games, kid”…and slightly because you’re jealous.
You’ve crunched the numbers. Living in vacationland is unstable, unsafe. The “25 places to go before you die” article doubles as the “25 most expensive places to live.” The cost of living in top vacation spots is gouging, sometimes 30% higher than the national average (Source).
And without a substantial job, that’s dangerous. You’ve got bills to pay, a life to build for yourself. So you judge them for their selfish, rookie mistakes.
And yet, with all the financial instability, there is a barista behind the counter at the ski lodge, unsustainably making less than $20,000 a year. And smiling! …even as she blends that stupid, complicated free-trade, organic, rice milk only iced mocha frappacino, trying not to look at the line of screaming kids and impatient tourists in front of her.
So what gives?
I visited with a local 20 something in Durango, Colorado the other day who is working as a river guide and finishing his degree in tourism and hospitality (“one of the 8 college degrees with the worst return on investment” Source).
Why on earth?
“My dad always said to surround yourself with the people you want to be like. And you know what, I want to be mellow and happy. Tourists, they are always excited and happy to be doing whatever you’re doing.”
Remember when you were 6 years old and screamed (much to your parents’ dismay…how did you get a hold of the microphone?) at career day that you were going to be an astronaut because stars are super cool. And then junior year of college came and that desk job sounded a lot more obtainable and fiscally responsible than gallivanting off into space.
You went to school and studied in a field you hated. Why? Because somewhere between 6 years old and 19, society taught you that in order to be comfortable, you need to make money to pay for school, to sit at a desk, to earn a decent salary, to find a partner, to feed your kids, to send them to school, to hopefully, maybe, someday retire in vacationland. And that sounded eh, pretty good.
But are you happy?
How easily can we lose sight of what we want in this world because it’s just too hard, seems too risky or is against the social norm.
Our barista and our river guide, they shot the bird at societal norms to chase the things that make them happy. And you can’t judge them for that.
Granted, you probably feel a little more fulfilled at your desk right now than you would serving coffee to ungrateful tourists. But that is their journey and this one is yours.
Our barista? She’s serving tea but studying global politics on the side, with big dreams of expanding the Free Trade Movement for the products she loves.
Our river guide? He’s educating hundreds and hundreds of tourists about respecting the water he loves, with big dreams of protecting Earth’s resources.
And you’re behind a desk. Dreaming of something. Stars, perhaps? Probably living a little bit more comfortably than our other two friends. I just hope that doesn’t stop you from the world changing plans 6-year-old you had.
Because when it is all said and done, your life is going to be a story on a page. And what do you really want it to read?