A Finnish tabloid newspaper published a story about Susanna, who went travelling to Indonesia. Initially the trip was supposed to be a sabbatical, lasting for about a year, but the sun, the sea, the small island of Gili Trawangan, the stray cats and the relaxed reggae bar stole Susanna’s heart. After much contemplation she decided not to return back home. That meant leaving behind the life as she knew it. She had a good job in an IT-company. She had just bought a brand new flat. She didn’t have any family or friends in Indonesia, so she decided to stay all on her own.
The story received a lot of attention. The comments box was filled with varying respionses. Many were positive. A lot of readers were inspired by Susanna’s story, and voiced their own dreams of moving abroad, away from the cold and the dark Finnish climate. Most readers were naturally curious to know how Susanna funded her adventure. Many were bitter and cynical. “Life is hard you know”. “It’s all fun and games while you’re on holiday”. “Not everyone can just leave it all and lose themselves on a tropical island”. “She must have wone the lottery”. “The salaries in IT are nothing like mine”. And so on. All the critics expected Susanna to be somehow privileged to be able to make such a choice. However the truth is quite the opposite.
Susanna’s response to the curious questions was very simple. She had prioritised everything in her life in favour of travelling. Everything. When her single aim was to spend as much time abroad as possible, she made sure that her priorities in other areas were set accordingly. And that meant that she gave up a lot of other things.
Susanna writes a blog about her life in Indonesia called ”Moottoritiellä on Puuma” or Cougar on the Motorway (sorry only in Finnish). Susanna is a friend of a friend, so her blog posts started to appear on my Facebook feed a few years ago. Her style is super funny, and her story very interesting, so I’ve been following the twists and turns of her adventures for a long time now and here’s the thing. The decision to stay in Indonesia didn’t come easily. It didn’t happen overnight and it certainly was not funded with a lottery ticket. Susanna’s efforts to save money were nothing short of crazy. She sold every single thing in her house that she owned. She saved change from each shopping trip. She worked overtime, and changed every day of holiday into money that she could. She quit smoking. She added water to shampoos and dishwasher liquid to make them last longer.
She really prioritised everything in favour of her travels and it was certainly not easy.
Travelling is a good example of a dream, that a lot of people have, but do nothing to turn into a reality. Other good dreams are writing a book, getting really fit or starting a business. When other tell about their successes, it’s easy to be jealous. It would be nice to have the same, but there are always good excuses. I don’t have time. I don’t have the money. I can’t follow a strict fitness regime. I don’t have a peaceful place for writing. I don’t have a good business idea.
You can’t have everything, but you can have what you prioritise. And that means giving up on other things. If you dream of getting fit, you need to workout whenever you can, whether it was 5 o’clock in the morning or during your lunch hours. If you dream of writing a book, you need to sit down and type, even if it was a page a week. And stop complaining that you don’t have the time or the money. Most dreams cost way less than you’d think (yes, even travelling), and most of them you can start with no money at all (start a blog, go running, bootstrap your business). On average people watch 3 hours of tv every day. If you used even just half of this time on working on your dream, you’d be seeing results very quickly.
So then the real question is: do you dream it like you mean it? Do you take your dreams seriously and are you willing to do what it takes to make them happen? For many of us the truth may be that in fact, we want more of the everyday things than our dreams. We prefer to live bit more luxuriously every day than get out of debt. We want the new flat-screen TV for Christmas much more than we want a sabbatical sometime in the future. We want to indulge now, rather than see the results of our fitness regime in a year’s time. Our dreams demand a commitment that few of us are willing to make.