I have gotten a lot of feedback on Facebook and here about my current adventure. Ever since I decided I wanted to walk away from my corporate 9-5 job and live on a tropical island, I have had people telling me all kinds of things.
You’re so lucky.
I wish I could have your life.
Your adventures are amazing, I’ll never be able to do that.
I’m jealous of you.
In no way to I want to discredit how fucking awesome my life is. It’s crazy, it has its ups and downs, but it is pretty amazing and I fully recognize that.
I think that a lot of people saying these things to me are forgetting some things when they look wistfully at my endless pictures of beautiful beaches or partying on megayachts.
I made a concious decision to take my life in this direction, but I think my fellow expat/travel bloggers and friends will agree that this type of lifestyle includes some sacrifices that people don’t think about. Not to mention, I worked REALLY REALLY hard to get to where I am right now!
Let me tell you what it means to have my life:
I’m going to have to work until I die. I’ll probably never be able to retire comfortably. I have exactly $750 in my retirement savings, and I might have to dip into that to get a new computer since mine is dying. I barely make enough to sustain myself as a dive instructor, and what little I have left over goes to savings (which is also mostly non-existent) or new gear. On the other hand, had I busted my ass at my two full time jobs and sold lots of stuff and NOT moved to Roatan, I would have had nearly $15,000 at my disposal. Think about that.
I’ll probably never be able to buy a house or a car, or any other major purchases. See the point above. I have no savings. I don’t have a ‘real job’ any more, according to the tax man and credit agencies, so for as long as I do this I won’t have any employment references that count in the real world. I have no partner with a stable source of income/employment either… I’m on my own and what I have isn’t good enough for things like that.
I can’t have real relationships. I’m in places where people are super transient, so nearly everyone I meet leaves. And (apparently) I leave the country at the drop of the hat. I’d be a terrible partner right now; my life is extremely unstable…I don’t want someone to be dragged along on something they don’t want to do, and I don’t want to follow anyone else’s agenda right now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely. I’m jealous of my friends who have boyfriends/girlfriends and husbands/wives as built-in partners in crime for everything. I eat at amazing restaurants, explore new places, and spend time on some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world… but I usually do it alone, and that sucks sometimes. I’m fiercely independent, but I’m not a robot.
I never get taken seriously by employers. I think in the future this might be the closest I get to regretting something in life. I leave jobs after short time periods to do something new, and that looks bad on my resume. I’m nearly 28 years old and my resume looks like a high school kid’s. This will likely not fare well upon my eventual return to the real world.
I’m away from my friends and family for months and months on end. Yeah, of course I’m making new friends and having fun with them. Yeah, I Skype people at home like nobody’s business. But I miss my mom. I miss my best friend. I miss seeing my coworkers every day. It’s not the same.
I don’t have any of the perks of ‘real’ jobs. I don’t have health insurance, a discount transit pass, an RRSP matching plan, paid vacation days, or weekends off. I also make $25/day! I don’t have any disposable income to buy things I want. I used to take these things for granted at my jobs.
I rarely get to have the comforts of home. I can’t get a lot of the foods I used to eat at home. There’s no cafes in Roatan that can make a decent coffee. I have slow, unreliable internet and ridiculously expensive water and electricity bills. I have to pay someone to do my laundry and I usually get a few things “lost” every time they do it. I can’t afford to use my air conditioning. I only have about 10 shirts and four pairs of shorts to my name. I never get any time alone. I haven’t been to a movie theater or a concert in six months. My only choices to go out to eat are rotisserie chicken or sandwiches. And for some reason, hair detangler doesn’t exist in Roatan.
I get eaten alive constantly in Roatan. This is something I don’t talk about often on here, because to other people it might seem trivial. But I am uncomfortable nearly 100% of the time when I’m in Roatan. (Just try to imagine being uncomfortable 24/7!) I get absolutely massacred by the sandflies and mosquitos there, both of which I’m allergic to. My legs normally look like I’ve been run over by a motorcycle, and I’m constantly getting infected bites. Nothing heals because I’m in the water 3 times a day, and I often have literally hundreds of open sores all over my body from these bites. It’s NOT cute, and it feels awful. I’m itchy all the time, and it drives me ballistic. I have insane scars on my legs, arms and chest from the last 5 months and the two times I visited Roatan before I moved there. People are always asking me what happened to me, telling me what to put on them, and just generally meaning well but being annoying and intrusive about it. There’s nothing I can do about it, and I get bit all the time. It’s just part of life here for me, but it really blows.
I hope people can see that I’m not complaining with these things. I love my life and I’m grateful for everything that comes my way. I can see how people would like to do what I do – that’s why I did it! But before feelings of jealousy creep up on you, ask yourself – do you have retirement savings, or any savings at all for that matter? Do you have a house or a car? Do you have a significant other to enjoy life with? Do you have a real job? Does your job have benefits? Do you make more than $25 a day? Do you have a real grocery store to go to? Do you know what it’s like to not have your body covered in unsightly scars, and not be constantly itchy and infected? Do you get to see your friends and family? Can you go out for sushi, clothes shopping, get a proper latte, go to the movies or eat at McDonalds? If you answered yes to any of these, you’ve got it on me.
Know that these things COUNT, they’re important and I miss having them. Don’t think that I have everything – I have lots of amazing things that you might not have, but chances are you have quite a few things that I don’t too! I have to sacrifice more than you might know to have this type of life.
Just found your blog, and this list pretty much sums many of the challenges I face too. I live in Guatemala and apart from always having had pretty well paying jobs while living abroad, the distance from family, uncertainty of it all, etc. is a bit of a drawback. BUT I left the cubicle three years ago and will (fingers crossed!) never go back! Our lives are great, and unusual, and ever changing, and a lot of positive things. I find balance by going back "home" a few months per year to get the best of the other world.
Thanks for stopping by Pauline! It's always nice to know other people do face the same challenges. I love hearing about people like you who have made it work for so long – it's an inspiration for me! I think your plan of going back for a bit each year is a good idea I'll take into practice.
Thanks Sarah! I know you know what I'm talkin about 🙂
Savvy Scot says
You are becoming quite profound Rika! Great post… it has certainly made me think 🙂
Thanks so much!! What a great compliment 🙂
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says
Awesome post!!! The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side.
Thank you Andi!! I read the quote "The grass is always greener on the other side, so water your own damn grass!" on Pinterest last year, and it's stuck with me ever since!
Awesome honest post! I'm pretty sure all of those cons apply to my nomadic lifestyle too, yet people often say how envious they are of me. I enjoy my life to be sure, but there are pros and cons to every lifestyle – it's about your priorities. If new experiences are important to you, then you sacrifice some security, and visa versa.
Exactly, it's all about what your priorities are! I'm willing to trade some security for the lifestyle I have now…although when I'm 75 and working as a greeter at Wal-Mart because I can't afford to retire, I may think differently 😉
Yep, I can related to a lot of that! Always being away from friend and family stands out the most. It's crazy how life moves on while you're gone!
You have my sympathy over the bug bites. That sounds awful! Maybe wrap yourself in a giant mosquito net at all times?! 😉
Yeah, it's easy to forget that even though you're not there, life keeps happening!
Thanks for the sympathy 🙂 it's pretty bad and I try not to get too worked up about it because there's nothing I can do about it, but it's a really shitty part of life there. Especially since there are people they don't bite at all!
Dusty Soles says
This is such a great post and so true. People throw around the words 'I'm so Jealous' without thinking of the realities. The majority of people could do what you've done, but there are lots of draw backs.
Glad I'm not the only one who'll be working till she's 80 🙂
Absolutely! That instant jealous feeling seems to fly out of people's mouths and they don't think about what it really means to do what I do. It's a fun life, but I still have a lot of things missing.
Yep, the working till we're 80 club seems to be growing by the day 🙂