In case of large, weighty decisions I like to mull over my options and methodically make the best decision. The process usually involves much internet surfing (if applicable), soul searching and sound-boarding. These so-called sound-boards are human beings, each having their own specialties and unique perspectives and I pick the one or two or seven who I know will have some kind of wise counsel or personal experience with similar situations.
As a child I came to understand early on that in pursuing my dreams my Mother’s advice would always be super-cautious (and possibly lean toward the restraining side of encouragement) and my Father’s advice would always be go-get-’em, guns-blazing enthusiasm. When I hit my teens, Mom grew yet more cautious and Dad’s enthusiasm waned a bit, but he was still uber-supportive. And when I decided to start traveling I hit a complete and utter role reversal. When I told the parental units about my desire to go to Europe with a Youth Ensemble choir at the age of (barely) 18, my Mom was ALL for it. And to my surprise, my Dad was… not quite.
Two + years later, when I made the decision to work on Cruise ships during the summers between college semesters I encountered the same surprising thing from my parents: Mom was gung-ho. But Dad was nearly downright negative. And he wasn’t the only one. “You’re going to do WHAT?” I would hear when I’d announce my plans for summer occupation. Some people were really excited for me. Some were downright hostile. To them I’d reply: “Why not? I’m young, I’m single and I want to see the world. I can’t think of a better way to do that and save for college at the same time.”
One of my best friends is an American living in Scotland. I met her the first summer I worked on ships. She’s from a small town in West Virginia. The summer we worked together at sea was the first time she’d ever left the country. In fact, her flight to Florida to meet our ship was her very first flight, ever. Her world changed forever when she made the single bravest decision of her life to date: to take the job and explore the unknown. She recently told me about an experience she’d had in Scotland while chatting with friends. Two of them, married to each other expressed that they were currently in process of trying to move overseas and travel with their small children. My American friend was ecstatic for them. But she was horrified when the couple were immediately attacked by their parents (also present) and accused of being selfish and awful people, trying to break up “the family” and take the grand kids too far away!
More recently I’ve had several phone conversations with my Father, mentioning my plans to move to Rome. The first time I mentioned it to him, his response was very reserved. When I brought it up again in our last conversation, his response was very nearly disdainful.
“You’re still thinking about doing that?” He asked, voice full of incredulity.
I’m not sure what it is about travel that brings out such strong responses from the people around us. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that the person who will be traveling is putting themselves at risk of accident or injury out there in the great unknown. Perhaps it’s a fear of change; travel changes people in fundamental, nearly indescribable ways. For better or worse, travel has changed my life in ways that I can’t begin to explain. But I’m different. And I’m supposed to be.
So here’s the wisdom I’ve garnered from these experiences: Learn who your sounding boards are, and what to expect from them. Sure, sometimes they’ll surprise you (like the first role-reversal from my parents). Sometimes they won’t. Listen and gather the advice you need. And then follow your gut and chase your dreams. Because what everyone else thinks is ultimately of little consequence. Your life is not theirs to live. And life is simply too short to do anything else but truly live.