So I had started this blog over the summer but obviously didn’t get around to writing my first post until today. In the meantime I spent a few months traveling across the United States, checking in on friends and relatives I had neglected to visit over the years and re-discovering the diversity of  landscape, cities, and people of this country. I wouldn’t have predicted at the beginning of this year that I be traveling to places like Minnesota and Wisconsin, but I found those visits to be about as enjoyable as any I’d had in Italy or Malaysia.

Then about a week and a half after I came home, I suffered a little bike accident that sent me to the ER and left me unable to eat properly for at least a week. I’m slowly recovering, but it’s going to be a lengthy (and expensive) process.

Which brings me to this past weekend. I attended the wedding of a second cousin, the latest in a series of family weddings over the past few years. I’ve watched as my cousins have gone to college, graduated, launched careers, buy houses, and get married. Society would expect me to have done the same, or at least be on my way to doing so. But it’s now been over 5 years since I finished school, and a steady career is nowhere in sight, and neither are marriage or homebuying prospects. I’ve put them on hold to pursue international travel, which should have come years after the getting married and buying a house part (presumably I would have had kids somewhere in there as well, just as a couple of my cousins have already done).

My parents had a hard time accepting this for a while, but have since made peace with and now support it, and have helped me out when they need to, even if I probably don’t deserve it. They’ve allowed me to live at home rent-free, drive their cars, eat their food, and are helping me out with the hefty medical bills that will be coming my way. I’ve always taken all of this for granted. I’m definitely more grateful for it now.

So back to the rest of my family. I’ve had some relatives express their disapproval over me for the last five years about my lifestyle, about how I should be working a prestigious job by now and not think about having fun anymore. “Look at ____,” they’ll say, “she’s your age and teaching school and bought a house already. You need to take a cue from her.”

I have wondered about that. I had actually considered giving up my travel habit and staying at my last job because it seemed that I had happened upon an opportunity that I didn’t think of as a throwaway gig. Maybe finally I’d settle into that 9-to-5, 52 weeks a year routine that everyone else seems to have.

Ultimately, I gave it up so I could go to South America.  I’d dreamed about doing that trip for years and had spent a good chunk of my downtime at work staring at photos of Buenos Aires and Valparaiso. But what if I had stayed at that job? Would I be any happier or more secure? I realized that my position wouldn’t have been made permanent for at least another year and a half, meaning I’d be working for a measley pay rate that probably still wouldn’t allow me to get my own place or move in with a friend. And I’d still be incredibly envious of those with the freedom to travel months at a time, while I was stuck behind a desk for most of the year, having to settle for traveling vicariously through them. I could only wonder what Chilean ceviche tasted like, admire Colorado’s landscape from photos, and wait for my always faraway cousins to visit me.

So was it worth giving up that job to eat fish, ice cream, and cupcakes, hike some mountains, admire some lakes, and explore some of the greatest cities in the world? Well it definitely beats transferring phone calls, ordering supplies and cleaning the breakroom. And I can check a few more places off my list. Was it worth flying over the handlebar of my bike and smashing my face into the ground for? Probably not so much, but that could have happened even if I was still working.

That’s my take on it. Of course, not everyone can travel like I do. As Christine Garvin once wrote on Brave New Traveler, we need people like my cousins in the world who work and raise their children. I’m glad that Brandon, Chris, Allie, and Katie (my little nephews and nieces) exist and that their parents and aunts and uncles are contributing their skills to society. Everyone moves at their own pace in life, and hopefully we’ll all end up where we need to be.