“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world–to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.”Ayn Rand
I now think in retrospection of the tremendous efforts I put in to get where I was, and the simple realization that this wasn’t where I wanted to be. That’s one of the hardest things to swallow – a thought that you were working so hard towards a goal you didn’t want to achieve.
There is an alternative, and this is the story of my journey to dreams.
I had this moment in 2011.
Sitting at my desk, in one of the biggest banks in the World, sipping on coffee.
Yeah, that’s the perk of the job, you can bring a cup to work and refill it every so often with a brown mixture of milk, sugar and energy kick. As a bundled package, with such an amazing perk I also received a steady flow of stress – a norm in the banking industry.
Predictable working hours, aspiring opportunities, official dress code, reasonable pay, all those things make people believe that this career is a good place to be.
Many people would love to be in the position I was back then, and I don’t blame them, I wanted to be there too.
It took a few years to get to this stage in life, when I thought I had everything figured out.
After failing my High School final exams, I didn’t have a chance applying for University. Money was also an issue, so I went to work. At the age of 19 I left Poland, went to live in UK and became a butcher (following in my father’s profession).
I didn’t speak much English, so I was grateful for this opportunity. While working there 2 years, I realized that this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I learned English, passed my exams and applied to University of Wolverhampton, where I got accepted and studied Accounting and Finance.
For the next 3 years I studied hard and worked hard to support myself (full-time university course and full-time jobs).
Upon graduation with a first-class degree, I applied for ACCA (professional accounting qualification) and received a £16,000 scholarship to do an MBA (Masters of Business Administration).
Everything was paid for and ready to go. If I were asked then where I saw myself in 5 years time, I had a definite answer. I had my career planned and was slowly but surely moving towards my targets.
Sitting behind my desk, at the job I had not dared to dream of just a few years back, a thought started to grow.
A thought about leaving everything behind and pursuing a life of a traveller. Learning from my best friend’s example – Agness – to change the environment and go far away from the world I knew and understood.
Being an accountant type, it didn’t start with a simple realisation “I want to travel”. It was more of a thought process that eventually led to that point. A kind of conversation in my head:
What are you working so hard for?
For money. It’s hard to deny the fact that waking up in the morning to go to work brings a lot of stress. It leaves me tired in the evening and is anything but a necessity to get money.
What will you do once you become rich?
Travel the world and see all those things I used to watch on Discovery Channel when I was younger, but this time being able to interact with all that surrounds me.
What stops you from traveling now?
I don’t know…
And then it dawned on me – I want to travel and there are no real obstacles stopping me. I’m healthy, still young, full of energy and open to the world of opportunities.
I don’t need to work in a suit.
At the same time, I didn’t have much money saved, but to hell with it, let’s rock.
So I bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam. After some preparations (buying useless jungle survival equipment) and finishing with all the unfinished things, I was left with around $400.
Nevertheless, I had a lot of new energy and passion in life, which helped me later survive on what I had and continue up to now.
The grass on the other side
Of course it wasn’t always green, but I wouldn’t swap my life now with anyone!
Ever since my departure at the end of 2011, I have lived my life to the fullest. I never before had the guts to leave everything behind and cycle a country (Vietnam, 2500 km, in June and July 2012) or pet a full grown tiger on my lap (October 2012) or even hitchhike a country (2011). Visit North Korea, anyone? (2017)
While on the road I have been a teacher, web designer, photographer and blogger, but I want to do more.
Ahead, there will be years of journeys through all continents and many moments of joy and struggle (“no struggle, no joy”). All of this is possible, thanks to one single decision – to do what I wanted to do, not what I was expected to do.
Ayn Rand, whom I quoted at the beginning of this page, couldn’t be closer to the truth. And I’ve never been closer to happiness than I am now.
That’s my story, and if you still would like to read more about me, Agness wrote her perspective on our 10 years of friendship for my birthday.