On the wall right inside my front door hangs a map of the world, stuck by a great number of little pins. The red pins represent ME, places I’ve visited. The black pins represent my husband. The white pins are places we’ve been together.
Here is a close-up of Europe on this map:
Lots of red pins, huh? I visited every place with a red pin within a five-year time span, between ages 22 and 27. I didn’t have a salaried job, I didn’t have paid vacation. Most of the time, I didn’t have anybody who wanted to travel with me. I had an extremely tight budget during those years. Consider, too, that I started my business when I was 24 and was working completely for myself before my 26th birthday. No safety nets there, let me tell you. So how was I able to travel to all those European countries? (Eighteen of them, nineteen if you count the one I’ve added since that time.)
Priorities, plain and simple. One of my highest priorities in life was to travel around Europe, and therefore I did what I had to do to make it happen.
This is probably not the last time you’re going to hear me using that word, either. I have this theory about life, that it’s all about priorities. Sure, people start off with different advantages and disadvantages, I’m not denying that. And some things are literally impossible to accomplish, or at least have such a very low probability of happening that it’s almost the same thing. For instance, I am just plain too old to enter certain professions that depend on youth or a certain current level of physical fitness (unfortunate but true fact: sometimes healing takes a really long time).
But not as many things are impossible as we think. And once we begin to contemplate the realm of the possible, everything shuffles down to priorities. My priority was to travel in Europe, so I structured my life accordingly. I had a very strict budget, passing up on buying stuff I really wanted like clothes and dinners out so that I could save money for travel. I passed up regular salaried jobs for a number of reasons, but not the least among those reasons was my desire to have what I considered a reasonable amount of vacation time to allocate to travel. I learned how to be self sufficient and more outgoing so I could travel by myself. I took some risks.
As we get older, we often gain certain obligations: spouses, children, aging parents. But even with these connections, which have their times of joy and their times of heartache, ultimately my life is my own. I’m the one who’s going to look back on my lifetime with happiness or regret; I’m the one who’s going to have to live with the choices I’ve made, whether they were good or unfortunate. Maybe, as a consequence of other choices I’ve made, I’ll have to wait and have a longer-term plan to achieve certain of my life goals. But it’s still all about priorities.
I’m not writing this post to make you feel bad if you haven’t travelled. Maybe you don’t even want to travel, and that’s a perfectly fair choice. What I want to tell you is that if you really want something, whether it’s to travel or to be an artist or to achieve happiness in your own special way, think about a way to make it happen. Strive, try, and be happy in the freedom of your choices. And if in the process, you realize your priorities are different than you originally thought, rest easy, reset, and try again. That’s the last great things about priorities: they can change.