Don’t Follow the Dream. Follow Yours

Hello my dear reader, can you believe 2014 is already over? I sure can’t!!! It was only one year ago when I chose this path of constant travel and I haven’t looked back ever since.

Back in 2013 I had a personal crisis as I was trying to find the answer to this question: What is the key to a successful life?

These days, everybody seems to have an opinion about what you should do. You should climb the corporate ladder, you should finish your Masters’ degree, you should find the right girl, you should start your family, you should save for the future, you should buy a house, you should buy a car, you should buy insurance, you should follow the dream.

To them, I ask: What dream?

Ever since we were born, society has molded us into believing that we can do whatever we set our minds and hearts to…as long as it fits their set criteria for a conventional life. Yes, Timmy, you can be the best photographer in the world if you work hard enough. No, Timmy, you cannot be a war photographer in the Middle-East, remember that family always comes first! Do you see the big contradiction?

I would like to believe that the last few decades have changed the way in which success is measured and yet, the previous generations will always try to mold you into having a conventional life. If it worked for them, it shall work for you, right? I don’t doubt their good intentions and yet, telling someone exactly what they should do in order to be successful is one of the worst things that can be said.

Society, friends and family will always tell you to follow THE dream. It gets worse when you’re an adult and your childhood friends start to get married, raise children and of course, attain enormous debts and responsibilities. Topics of conversation soon shift to interrogations about “When you will settle down?”, “What’s your savings plan?” and my favorite: “How can you afford to travel that much?”.

The snarky in me is always tempted to ask them if they’re really happy with their jobs or if they just do them to pay the (ever-increasing) debts. But trust me, you should never ask what can be clearly seen. Instead of fitting the mold, how about following your dream?

What to do and see in Sri Lanka

The Wonders of Nature in Sri Lanka

The importance of following your dream

The problem with following other people’s dreams is that it limits you in terms of what you want to accomplish. And yes, I totally understand why people would decide to follow the dream instead of following theirs: It’s easy and convenient.

A stable job means you’ll always have the monetary means to survive, material items bought by borrowing money from the bank means that you’ll have the status that society deems to be worthy in order to climb up the ladder, savings are a guarantee that you won’t have to struggle that much should a tragedy arise. The dream they follow is not one of passion, it is one of convenience. And it works.

But ask yourself: What if money didn’t matter? What if society’s opinion didn’t matter? What would you like to do then? Did you become a Wall-Street trader because you love finances or did you do it because of the money? Are you really following your heart’s passion? Weren’t you the same idealistic kid who wanted to help people by becoming a non-profit lawyer? What happened in-between?

I get it, there’s a huge pressure looming over you. You’re stressed out because of all of your commitments and responsibilities but trust me, you don’t have to be.

Sunset at Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sunset at Dubrovnik, Croatia

The key to living a stress-free life

When I was studying abroad in France, I was a complete enigma to French and foreign students alike: “How in hell does Raphael manages to travel and party all the time and still get some of the best grades?”. Some started to invent stories about bribery and cheat-sheets since my answer didn’t satisfy their curiosity at all: “There’s no secret, I just found out that the less I worry about something, the better I get at it”.

To this day, I’m sure that they still don’t believe how I got a perfect score in a finance exam without long hours of study. In fact, my lack of sleep on the day of the exam was due to a hangover from a friend’s birthday party! How crazy is that?

I believe that this mantra applies to all stages of life. Enjoy what you do and never worry about the results. If you’re happy doing what you love, life will provide for a way. It might sound hippy but hey, it has really worked out for me and I’m sure it’ll work out for you too. Believe in yourself and most importantly, believe in what you do.

Take the leap and follow your dream today

I know a lot of people who would love to travel but they’re stuck (or at least, they believe they are) in their daily jobs: “I wish I could spend three months in Europe but I only have 2 weeks of vacation time and I cannot just quit my job” “But…you told me you hated your job” “Yes, but it pays the bills…”

To that, my best suggestion is for you to follow your dream. Do you dream about stability or adventure? Do you dream about cubicles or wanderlust? Do you dream about suits or trekking? And no, don’t get my wrong: It is possible to have a dream that includes both stability and travel, my point is that you’ll be happier if you follow your OWN destiny instead of adjusting it to other people’s expectations.

Knowing your dream is half the battle, now it’s time to follow it. Are you ready to take the leap with me? :)

The Clavadistas of Acapulco, Mexico

The Clavadistas of Acapulco, Mexico

66 Responses

  1. gallivantinggraduate

    What an inspirational piece of writing! Thank you for sharing.

  2. A. Mittal

    Great article..People are stuck in dreams and reality and even if you want to live you dreams there are people who will always stop you from doing so.

  3. karenleahansen

    Totally agree! I’m thirty-six and it has taken me awhile to learn to step away from other people’s expectations and to follow my heart. I’m happier now that I’ve ever been in my life.

  4. Alba Marie

    So glad I’m not the only one out there trying to resist falling prey to “being normal” with a “stable job that pays the bills” and following all those societal expectations down to the letter. So far, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished (30 countries visited and counting…). Happy travelling!

  5. Esther

    Thanx for the story! Indeed, there is so much pressure from everyone to do what society expects you to do. Me and my husband have never really done what everyone else did. I guess when we bought an appartment and got married everyone got their hopes up again: see, they áre normal. Little did they know that we don’t want children and rent out our appartment whenever we can to go traveling. So there’s us: black sheep once again. It took us a while to be honest, especially me, to get over ‘what society thinks’ and just do what makes you happy. You need to be brave to do this.

    • wisemonkeysabroad

      Wow – Esther! Reading your response is like reading into our own lives. We are in exactly the same boat and it took us a really long time to admit to people that we weren’t having kids because its this whole attitude that you “get married, buy a home, have kids… ” So refreshing to meet someone else who is like us :-)

  6. Molly S

    Love this – and it’s come at the perfect time as well, when I’m starting to think about taking the plunge and planning for long-term travel! Thanks for such an inspiring article :).

  7. Rachel

    Really good inspirational post and so true! Why spend your life living someone else’s dream?

    I don’t live a conventional life anymore – I quit my London job as an ecologist and went freelance. Now I have the freedom to choose what I want to do and where I want to go. And it’s not a job anymore, it’s my life, my passion. And I think that is the difference between hating and loving your job, you do it because you want to do it rather than you HAVE to do it.

  8. Michele

    Wise wise advice. Everyone’s dream is different and as parents, friends, colleagues we need to respect that and encourage everyone to live the life they love.

      • Montrez Fowler

        I really enjoyed this article had gave me much inspiration. My ex and I were once homeless due to getting kicked out my fathers house scrambling to find a place to live. Had my first apartment lost my job to help my mom move out my fathers house, got evicted fighting through a tough battle of Hell with my mom & dads divorce. After moving in with my mother things got worser my life got scarred shitted on never got the support i wanted to go after my dreams, hardship felt like living with the Exorcist. My ex and i got engaged moved out my moms to be later married traveling to Tacoma WA from Williamsburg VA a big step in life. After living with my girls parents relationship started to turn dry fade away. Wonderful relationship but then her father put his hands on me while rushing me out the bathroom ruined our relationship, i pack my belongings and left leaving her for good broke down crying for my life. Living the single life now good paying job 40 hours with excellent benefits and going after my dreams today fighting the good fight. Breaking up with my ex left me homeless for the 2nd time sleeping in my car. Getting my priorities in line to get a new apartment. No matter how hard life is getting for me things are gonna work out for me, i just know it will. My family has always talked down on me telling me i should be doing what my older brother is doing, like go in the military make mom and rest of the family happy. Older brother is jealous of me i’m blessed to still have tons of music equipment as a music producer and he resists to walk in my shoes because he never followed his dreams. Entire family thinks they can make it in life easy, it just doesn’t work that way. My failures have taught me a valuable lesson stronger man to become that talented person i am today with a gift, i’m now following my dreams don’t want to make excuses by joining the military ill suffer if i do what everybody wants me to do instead of me doing what i want in life. Single no kids need to enjoy my life while i can continue to follow my passion in music.

  9. basketslife

    Awesome Post! So many people think we are nuts but I think better to be nuts then disapponted later when its to late to change it! Love this Post thank you for sharing and so true! Everyone should follow their dream whatever that may be!

  10. Laura

    I loved this piece – and it was so timely! We need to learn to follow our own dreams no matter what that otters says we should be doing!

  11. davidpcole

    Excellent points all around. It can take some coaxing for people to come out of their shells, but I have never met anyone who has regretted doing so.

  12. justinpluslauren

    I think for a lot of people, the “dream” = “the American dream” where you have to have kids, buy a house, buy a car, work long hours until you’re 65, and then you’re too old to travel around and enjoy it. Or some people work their entire lives until they are too sick to work. Personally, I do work a full time job and dream to travel more – but I am not dead set on buying a house or having kids yet, I don’t mind living in an apartment and using all of my extra money towards travel. I like working freelance right now so I can book off whatever time I’d like from work. I think we should all follow our dreams even if they don’t fit the mold of the American Dream.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      The first draft of this article was titled “Don’t follow the American dream” but then I realized that it’s an universal dream now. A few decades ago, people in other countries were happy with being employed in unconventional professions that brought them happiness (snake charmers, anyone?) and now, sadly, it’s all about the money.

  13. Kristin FrancisKristin

    Great piece! I love the photo illustrations too– especially pushing the stress away! I think one of the problems is most people have no idea what their own dreams even are.

  14. theegetawaygal

    Great piece and very insightful! I’m glad to know you are following your dreams and have found what works for you. Life is about balance, and it seems you’ve figured that out. Visiting form Sunday Traveler!

  15. TraVeler Planner

    I couldn’t agree more Raphael!!! Your message is very clear and I deeply share it. It´s a pitty that many people believe that the Dream is their dream …. Maybe it’s too frightening to realize that all you have worked for is not what you really want…It’s a challenge to discover who you really are. Heii you on the other side of the screen; get out of your comfort zone and let you be yourself!!

  16. Gabor Kovacs

    This is probably one of your posts that I liked the most. It’s genuine, inspirational! I would really love to read you once in Spanish, probably I would like these articles even more in the language that comes from your heart.

  17. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy

    Love this and it’s all so true! I also find the less I worry about things, the better I seem to do. The stress and worrying just make us perform worse. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

  18. Charlie

    I agree! Of course, it is so difficult to push society’s expectations, and more pertinently, family’s expectations, out of your head and do your own thing though. I still struggle with always being asked when is the travel going to end and the office job going to begin? Never, I hope =/ but that’s not what my family wants to hear…

  19. Karen Warren

    It’s great to see you living out your dreams. So many people say ‘I’ll do it some day’, without realising that ‘some day’ may never come.

  20. City Sea Country

    If everyone would follow their dreams the world would be a better place that´s what I´m sure about. If someone says: I can´t follow my dream because… normally it means: I don´t want to…

  21. Charles McCool

    Nice piece, Raphael. But it takes so much work to sit down and think about what I really want. :D IT is so easy just to copy others dreams, like travel the world, live in another country, make six figures every month. Well, those are standard dreams, I suppose. Happy 2015.

  22. Enrique

    Thanks for sharing with us your insights. Truly inspiring, it is exactly what I need to booze my motivation this year. have a great year of travels!

  23. mka

    A very nice post, but I do need to be critical, since I find it slightly hypocrite: first you give the impression that the “bad, oppressed people” think that the normal dream with families/cars/houses works for everyone even though it doesn’t. Then you say yourself that “It might sound hippy but hey, it has really worked out for me and I’m sure it’ll work out for you too.”

    You see my point? =)

    We should all truly pursue our dreams like you said, and there is no point to value any lifestyle more than others. I love to travel and explore, and I’m not living the conventional life, but to me traveling constantly and not having a proper, stable home sounds like hell on earth. I enjoy my work (currently in Levi, Finland btw, hope you enjoyed your visit in Saamen kammi ;) so I also think it’s not very open-minded to think, that work is always boring, binding and restraining. You just need to choose wisely.

    For some people or situations it’s also good to choose the boring, well-paying job, which enables you to have a stress-free life outside the nine-to-five schedule.

    Also I don’t think taking loans is as bad as you make it sound like. I’m saving up money that I can one day build my dream home, which will probably cost a ridiculous amount of money. Although I aspire to travel a lot, I’m also very home oriented and I want my home to be perfect.

    Sorry for my long post, but just wanted to remind you and others not to be so close-minded when adoring the open-minded lifestyle ;)

  24. Raghav Iyer

    Dreams were once scary for me and I should admit that I wasn’t that adventurous to take them in my hands, stand against people to follow them. You’re eight family does come in the way and the commitments may line up but it all depends on how we meticulously handle things so that our dreams are guarded to be accomplished but not at the cost of others’.

  25. JB & Renee

    “There’s no secret, I just found out that the less I worry about something, the better I get at it”.

    I need to remember this. I’m a worrywart by nature so I can’t help but have anxiety about the future. My instinct is to save save save now then do everything you want later, but when is it enough right? My wife chides me about it all the time. She tells me I need to live in the moment, and she’s absolutely right. I’m getting better though.

    We’re close to making that leap and articles like this help give me the push I need. Thanks for sharing. :)

  26. Dave

    This is great. I couldn’t agree more. One of the challenging things I find with following your dreams is that other people cannot understand it. They always want you to fit into their world, not yourself to fit into your own world. My wife and I aim to follow our own dreams and create our own experiences based on what we want and to try to have a worry free life. Loved the article. Hope that we can cross paths someday.

  27. Julia

    Very touchable article! Thanks for it!
    And let’s follow this: All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them!
    I can wish you: Believe and dream! And make your dreams come true :)