One morning, I’m waking up in the giant king-sized bed of a 600-pounds-a-night hotel room in London, with arguably the most optimum view over the city and a ridiculously excessive breakfast spread in front of me.
The next morning, I’m waking up on the lumpy mattress of my 10-pound-a-night hostel, in a stuffy room which I’m sharing with 16 other bodies.
My life is FULL of contrasts.
When people scroll through my Instagram feed or find out that I travel the world for a living, I often get a similar response.
“WOW! You are living the dream!”
The VERY last thing I want to do is sound conceited. But from the outside looking in, I guess I can see why people make this remark. Yet, something about this comment makes me uneasy.
Don’t get me wrong. Being a full-time travel blogger IS a dream come true for me. I feel so blessed to get to wake up every morning and do what I am passionate about. But I want to let you in on a little secret…
“Living the dream” isn’t always dreamy.
There, I said it. To me, the expression “living the dream” implies a constant state of happiness. The reality is that NONE of us can live on a continual high. That is why I feel the need to tell you that beyond the photos of me lying on a beach with a cocktail in my hand or picnicking beneath the Eiffel tower, there is a lot more to the story that isn’t being told.
Social media is a trap- it creates a game of comparison that we all find ourselves caught up in at one time or another. We stumble upon someone’s picture-perfect Instagram feed and believe that they live a glamorous, exciting life, ALL OF THE TIME. This causes us to think of our lives as less and downplay our own journey, even though we are comparing ourselves to a non-existent reality.
Instagram is the ultimate tool for meticulously curating a version of our lives- the version that we want the world to see. Our IG feeds do NOT paint the whole picture of our lives, or even a tiny slither of the picture for that matter. We forget that behind every photo, there is a normal human being- a human being who has just as many insecurities, and who goes through just as much pain and just as many bad days as the rest of us.
Somehow, I’ve managed to experience this phenomenon on both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, I’ve been caught up in the comparison game, where I’ve wasted my energy on social media, coveting the lives of other people, thinking if I had that person’s body, wardrobe, job or relationship that I would be happy.
On the other hand, I now find myself in the very strange position where people play the comparison game with me. Many people seem to have the perception that because I travel the world for a living, that I am “living the dream” and consequently, am always happy.
I can’t blame people for having this perception. If anything, I am the one to blame, for painting a seemingly picture-perfect life on Instagram. Of course, the reality behind the images is FAR from picture-perfect. Travelling, and life in general, is an unpredictable rollercoaster ride full of dramatic highs and lows. It is all too easy to forget this basic concept of life as we become engrossed in the world of social media where everyone’s lives appear sugar-coated.
Let me take a quick moment to highlight some of the moments of my life that aren’t as dreamy as they look through the Instagram filters:
- The loneliness that hits when I don’t get to see my family or friends for months on end or get to hang out in a community
- The reality of running my own business which is a 24/7 task, meaning I am never able to fully switch off and disconnect from work (even when everyone thinks I am on a constant “holiday”)
- Getting sick whilst travelling and having to navigate foreign doctors’ surgeries and hospitals when I just want to be in my own bed
- The difficulty of not having any sort of routine, making things like exercise and eating healthily a real struggle
- The time I spend every single day unpacking and repacking my beast of a suitcase and lugging it from place to place
Just to be clear- my aim of writing this post is not to whine about the not-so-glamorous parts of my job or to be ungrateful for the amazing journey that I’m blessed to be on. What I want to highlight is the fact that travelling full-time is NOT the key to happiness. Nor is having the seemingly “perfect” body, relationship, job or Instagram feed.
So, if it isn’t these things that bring us contentedness, then what ARE the keys to happiness? Of course for everyone it is going to look different, but let me share with you a few of my own.
My Five Keys to Happiness
- Quitting the comparison game- I’ve had to teach myself to stop yearning after the things I don’t have. Now, I try my hardest to focus on what I have been blessed with- Taking MY strengths, gifts and passions and working towards MY OWN goals.
- Focusing on the important- I now try to invest my energy on the things that I know will bring about LASTING contentment. Instead of getting caught up in the pursuit of money, fame or looks, I try to focus on the things that are not fleeting, such as meaningful relationships and experiences.
- Surrounding myself with great people- After so many years of travelling and not being in one place, I’ve really had to learn how to build solid friendships that stand the test of time and distance. I now surround myself with amazing people who inspire me, encourage me and help me thrive, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Be PRESENT in the moment– With the appendage of a smart phone at the tip of my fingers and the constant noise of social media in my ears, it so easy to get caught up in the online world and remove myself from the beauty of the moment in front of me. I now try to put my phone away during these moments, for example when I am hanging out with friends or watching an incredible sunset, and allow myself to be fully present.
- Living for something bigger than myself- For me, this is my faith. Having a relationship with God brings a greater sense of meaning to my life. I am able to live with the knowledge that there is more to my life than just travelling and taking pretty photos, and that my value doesn’t come from my likes or followers, but comes from God.
So, living “the dream” may not always be dreamy. But when you pursue a life that is filled with adventure, great people and a meaningful purpose, it’s still going to be a dream that you’ll never want to wake up from.
To conclude, this video by the lovely Petra from Restless Child really sums it all up: