How Traveling Gave Me Courage to Reject the White Picket Fence

June 1, 2016
south korea travel
How Traveling Gave Me Courage to Reject the White Picket Fence

To settle means ‘to adopt a more steady or secure style of life’. In North America it seems to mean the lifestyle that has already been carved out for us, the ‘right’ way to live.

Let me rephrase this. Or, let me try to. Growing up, I struggled to understand why we were living the lives we did. Why did we ‘choose’ to spend our existence confined to what society deems as acceptable? I wanted more from life than to simply push myself through school, find a husband, buy a house, have kids and live happily ever after. I felt the desire to leave my hometown and to see what the world had to offer- to explore, to learn, and to carve out my own path.

I wondered, does the chase to achieve these societal goals and pillars of success ultimately force us to settle?

I don’t have the answer, but I do have an opinion (of course). I truly believe that the pressures we face to appear successful and to capture the ideal life—secure life—cause us to fall short. We settle into the cities we were born into and the societal ideals constructed for us. We lose the courage to take control and ownership of what we want from life.

Or perhaps we aren’t sure what it is that we want because we are so constricted by the idea of the American dream: the white picket fence. Setting forth on a journey to discover personal fulfillment looks different for everyone. Travel, allowed me to focus inward and to find out what I wanted. I choose to fight against the comfort that comes from settling and set forth on my own journey to finding personal success. But, it didn’t come easily, and I am still learning.

I settled and took a job based on the fact that it appeared successful. I made a decent salary and was on my way to achieving the white picket fence.

I’ve been in long-term relationships, but what has been a common thread in all of these is that I felt trapped. I felt as if I had to make them work or face failure. I didn’t want the outside world to think I was unsuccessful in love, nor did I want to feel this way.

But, I knew these relationships were never right for me. My heart kept telling me there was supposed to me more to love and relationships. Just as my heart has always told me that life is meant to be more than the white picket fence.

I have always known what it is that I am looking for, but it took courage and determination to put those dreams into effect, and to defy expectations. My first taste of what I craved came when I decided to work on a cruise-ship and met people who shared my sentiments. When I moved home, I tried to replace my strong feelings of desire with one-week vacations, but they were only a distraction.

I settled and took a job based on the fact that it appeared successful. I made a decent salary and was on my way to achieving the white picket fence. But, my heart kept telling me that this wasn’t it. So, I decided to take an opportunity to teach abroad. Within six weeks I moved to South Korea where I began my journey. It was one of the most rewarding things I could have done for myself.

I was told I would’t find a ‘real’ career when I returned home, but I’m not searching for a career that forces me to settle into an office job and work the 9-5 day in and day out. I took a risk, and my risk paid off. Finally, I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do.

We aren’t taught to chase magic, or dreams that seem outlandish.  We are taught to look successful. To post about our lives online, to appear to be the best.

I had one aspect of my life in order and then I entered into one of the most trying relationships of my adult life. I knew in my heart this wasn’t true love. But, again I felt the need to appear happy—to make it work.

Why would I settle for the kind of treatment that I wouldn’t wish on anyone else? Somehow, I still felt that if I didn’t have a partner then something was wrong. I had to realise that this was all bullshit. That there is no set way to live your life. The outward appearance of success is meaningless when you are unhappy.

We aren’t taught to chase magic, or dreams that seem outlandish.  We are taught to look successful. To post about our lives online, and to appear to be the best. To have the best boyfriend, to have the best job, to have the best car, to have the best apartment and, ultimately, to have the best life.

The moment I decided to focus on being true to my heart and soul was the moment that happiness began to come back into my life. I started to understand my passions, and how to use them to achieve my own version of fulfillment.

I learned how to stand up for myself in my relationships, and how to not settle for just anyone.  I learned what I need and want in my own life. Travel inspired me to look within myself and it gave me the courage to ask more from life.

The White Picket Fence is nothing more than a black and white Pleasantville, and it’s time to bring colour into your life- explore the world, travel solo, travel for work and most importantly, spend time getting to know yourself. And, be brave enough to accept what your heart tells you. 

 

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About Leah Woolridge

Leah WoolridgeMy name is Leah Woolridge- McPherson. I started my travels a bit later in life, during my first year of University, but I have tried to make up for lost time :). I am hoping to inspire others to travel and to find interesting ways to do it. You don’t have to make loads of money to travel- you just need to be a little bit creative. In the past I have worked on a Cruise-ship and I taught English in South Korea. I am currently living in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I like to lie and say I live in Toronto, but I am in the suburbs! I am currently working for an organization called Me to We. Me to We is a social enterprise that was designed to keep the charity Free The Children sustainable. I support and travel with a motivational speaker named Spencer West.

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