Saturday, March 1, 2014

Life's Endless Possibilities

Ever since coming to Thailand, I've been hearing and reading about people and families that travel all over the world full-time. Well, I got to meet one of these families today! Talking with them blew my mind, and helped me to see again that life is full of possibilities.

[Side story: How we came to meet them is a testament to how amazing modern technology can be in bringing the world together. During this family's preparation to travel and homeschool their children, they happened upon my friend's website about homeschooling in Thailand and contacted her, which led to their meeting one another. Then, because they are currently traveling in Bangkok, my friend invited their two children to her son's birthday party, which is where we met! That is a cool "how we met" story, isn't it?]

Growing up as a child of immigrant parents, the goals in life were always: get a good education, get a good job that brings in good income, get married, and buy a house and settle down. And even then, I couldn't just go into any field I wanted. So even though I was quite skilled and talented at playing the violin as a kid (winning competitions, getting written about in the papers a couple of times, and being told by my violin teacher that I could become a professional violin player if I continued to play the way I did), doing that as a living was never an option. When I switched my major from engineering to something else in college, my parents had a huge fit and nearly disowned me.

I think, once upon a time, I did believe that life was full of potential and promise. But over time, as I got a job, settled down, and became bogged down by the details of daily life, I lost the ability to see the possibilities and to think outside the box. Then I went to law school, bought a house, had a baby, and life seemed to become all about working, parenting, making money, and saving money. We work, raise children, and send them to school, hoping they'll do well in school, go to college, and get a good job (whatever that is)...and the cycle starts all over again with the next generation.

Then I came to Thailand and learned about people that pretty much travel for a living. But it still seemed like such a pipe dream. Meeting and talking with this traveling family today made it concrete and real. It showed me that life really is what you make of it and made me see how narrowly we had come to define our own lives. 

The couple, originally from the U.K., started traveling full-time with their two children, ages 9 and 6, only a few months ago. The man is our age, and the woman is a bit older, in her mid-40s. They had been living and working in Spain the last five years. For the last three years, they worked to build an online business that can be done from anywhere in the world and generate enough income to live on. They sold everything they owned, took their children out of school, and got on the road. They're currently working their way through Asia and eventually will end up in Australia, where they have a cousin they will visit.

I was amazed by their mindset and how different their views and ideas about life are from those I grew up with and our way of life. For one, I really admire their outside-the-box type of thinking about the concept of working. Between the two of them, they don't have one college degree, but through hard work, perseverance, and creativity, they have owned several businesses, make a good living, have survived and bounced back from the recession in Spain (which caused most of their income to dry up completely), and live a full and rich life on their terms.

They had originally planned to begin traveling full-time when their kids were older. But then, one of their parents was diagnosed with dementia at age 66, and made them realize that they need to live the life they want while they can. I really commend them for actually working to make their dreams come true, instead of just sitting around and talking about it for years and years before doing something about it, like some people (Us! Haha!). I also find it admirable that they don't let their fears of the unknown stop them from taking risks and living out their dreams.
It also was reassuring to see someone our age (and older) doing what they're doing. There have been so many times when my husband and I worried about saving enough money for the future, or wondered whether we made the right decision coming here -- because doing what we're doing now means having to re-establish many aspects of our lives once we return to the U.S. While I'm sure the retirement system in the U.K. is very different from the American one, talking to this couple today made me realize that there is much, much more to life than saving money and retirement, that what we are getting to do right now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we should enjoy ourselves more and worry less, and that things will work out. We are both educated professionals with many skills to offer, and we can always find a way to make a living and support our family (given how many careers I've gone through, I should've realized this sooner!).

Talking with this couple also made me realize that there are many, many different ways to get an education. Although the kids in this family excelled in a formal school setting while in Spain, their parents still chose to take them out of this setting to embark on this journey and homeschool them instead. The parents don't seem too worried about the kids falling behind and seem confident in their abilities to provide a good education. And the education these kids are getting is hands-on and priceless; they're learning about life and the world in ways that they will never get to do in a classroom. These parents are teaching their children how to take risks and achieve their dreams. While I still, and always will, want my son to receive a more formal education, seeing this family's way of educating their children made me realize that my son will do fine educationally and academically, no matter where we are.

Meeting this family also made me realize that, by doing what we're doing, we're teaching our little boy that life is full of possibilities, that he is in charge of his life, and that he has the power to dictate the direction of his life and to change it. I'm especially glad his views on how life is to be lived won't be as limiting as mine were growing up.

I'm generally not a risk-taker and tend to worry excessively about everything, but this family really allowed me to see firsthand that life can be lived out in so many different ways. I know that sounds crazy given what we're doing ourselves, but we've adapted to this life over time and it no longer feels so out-of-the-ordinary. Meeting this family today was such a freeing experience.

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