The myth and truth of having it all, and 4 ways to get it

On a recent trip I to Seattle, a good friend and I contemplated the idea of “having it all.” We were on a gorgeous hike, enjoying each others' company, talking about the differences in how people view success. What does it mean to "have it all?" Money to travel? Vacation time saved up? An adventure mobile ready for you in your driveway, just waiting for that next spontaneous trip? Or would you rather purchase a home? A fancy sports car? While some (few) people can afford any and all of the above, most of us have to pick and choose which of these to work towards.

Ever since my first trip abroad I have made it a goal to prioritize experience over things. When my more homebody friends ask about my travels it is obvious that they too share this hunger but may not know how to make it a reality. Some people may believe they cannot go on adventures because they lack time, or perhaps confidence to get out and travel. For the most part, it seems the main roadblock is cash. Ironically, the times in my life when I was able to travel the most were the times I was money poor but rich in time. When I say I had little money I mean I was working 6-7 days a week for a couple dollars over minimum wage, or was in grad school, or wasn't making a dime while awaiting the start of my post-graduate fellowship. (This I called "funemployment," and no, I wasn't getting a check from the state.) While I had little money coming in and was living on a serious budget, I was able to pull it off because I made saving a priority. For the most part, I just played around in Santa Barbara. I also managed to take some bigger trips, including an amazing 9 day surf trip down to Baja California and a 6 week trip to Italy and Croatia. To many, this seemed like “having it all.” 

San Juanico (Scorpion Bay), Baja. Gorgeous waves all to ourselves...

Dolomites, Italy. 

The majority of people who voice their envy of my travels make far more money than I do and have the same amount of free time. Like them, I sit in a cubicle 40 hours a week occasionally staring at a wall calendar emblazoned with photos of beautiful places on my travel bucket list. Why do they feel unable to cross items off of theirs? We all get caught up in routines. As we make more money, we create more expenses. We may forget to prioritize that which actually brings us the most joy. The first step to listening to satisfying that wanderlust is to decide how important it is to you. I am clear in its importance in my life. I value experiences over things, am willing to make some sacrifices, and rather than dreaming about my desire to see the world, I take action. 

Here are four ways I set myself up to take action and create the mindset that I do, truly, have it all:

  1. Find time to do things that make me happy, every day. Sitting in a cubicle is not the stuff that excited me. Jumping in the ocean on a hot night and watching the sunset behind the Channel Islands does. If jumping in the ocean makes you insanely happy, put it in your calendar like anything else. I make sure to do something like this just about every day, to take full advantage of the place I live. Which brings me to the next point… 
  2. Make the decision to live in a beautiful place. While my rent is probably more than double the average, I have built in entertainment 365 days a year. Priceless. This does take some sacrifice and compromises when it comes to things like career and home ownership, and I know it isn't possible for everyone. As an alternative, live in a place that is a good launching pad for adventure (e.g. close to the mountains, ocean, a national park, a river, etc.). 
  3. Have an atypical attitude about success. To me, success is not about what I own but how I live my life. I live in a beautiful place, have healthy food on my table, have an amazing community of people, and manage to go on some pretty amazing adventures. When I am outside in Santa Barbara or on a trip with friends, how can I not feel like I have it all?
  4. Spending habits reflect priorities. I struggle with a budget just like everyone else. But, when something has to go, it will always be a thing, and hopefully never an experience. 

Having it all may be a grass is greener kinda thing. I may get to travel the world but I admit it is hard to purchase a plane ticket and not think I should be saving for a house. In the words of my very wise friend Anelise Salvo, "the grass is green where you water it." Nurture the areas of your life that bring you joy, then live in the now, appreciating the gifts that came from hard work and tough decisions. 

If you choose to water that wanderlust, come back next week. I'll give you some tools to master your budget and make room for a weekend adventure on a monthly basis, so be sure to check out the blog on February 5 or join the mailing list so you don’t miss it. 

What area of your life do you choose to water? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section!