The other day I was wondering what my life would have looked like now had I taken a different path right out of college. At the time, I thought about postponing my job search for a year to travel the world with nothing but my backpack and sandals.
I had visions of being like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie The Beach (the first half anyway) and wandering around Southeast Asia and beyond*. I probably would have ended up as one of those guys with blonde dreadlocks working odd jobs in farmer’s fields and cleaning hostels to try and scrape together enough money to fund my travels. This sounds pretty horrible to me now, but at the time this was my idea of a dream job.
See, the problem with “dream jobs” for most of us is is that they either have ultra-low pay, are highly unobtainable, or are some degree of both. Unless you have a world-class talent that can carry you to riches doing something you absolutely love to do, I suspect most of us are just average people doing rather ordinary things for a paycheck (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
I’ve had a couple friends who pursued their dream job and said “to heck with the money”. One essentially became a ski bum and would travel between resorts in North and South America as an instructor so he could ski every month of the year. Another dropped out of college and moved to Washington State to guide tours and climb mountains.
When I travel, I meet these types all over place. They are the ones with smiles that never seem to leave their faces. These folks earn enough to live on but I suspect not enough to be able to fuel a goal of financial independence.
A New Perspective
Mark Twain has been incorrectly credited with saying:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did to.”
This quote haunts me and I do everything I can to limit its truth in my life. Instead of lamenting all the things I wished I had done, why not turn this whole idea on its ear? Because my dream job list likely wouldn’t lead me to being financially independent, I first plan on accomplishing this in under 20 years which will leave me the remainder of my life to do as I please.
I used to believe “dream jobs” were reserved for the young (and usually monetarily challenged), lucky, extremely talented, or overly adventurous. And that working a dream job was a temporary thing until you eventually had to find a “real” job. But by changing up the order in which these are completed, it opens up all kinds of options – there is virtually no limit **.
I’ve found that when I start dreaming a little bit, it helps me keep on track and gives me the kick in the pants I need when I’m about to spend frivolously. It gives me that little inertia to keep me headed toward my goals and things that keep me fulfilled.
Just within the last couple of weeks, I’ve come up with the following dreams, some of which aren’t even jobs.
- Bike the Pacific Coast Highway
- Become a Peace Corp volunteer
- Be an apprentice luthier in the creation of guitars and ukuleles
- Teach elementary school children
Let’s face it, if you are driven enough to gain financial freedom before you need regular colonoscopy exams (recommended to start in your 50’s, by the way), you probably aren’t going to retire on a beach doing nothing but sipping Mai Tai’s.
Since you are reading this blog, I’m going to assume you have some inkling to retire “early” so let me ask…
When money is no longer a consideration, what is your dream job or activity?
* Not being one to let a dream go without passing, I ended up compromising. I got a “real” job but made sure it didn’t start for several months after graduation. This allowed me to travel to SE Asia where I spent time in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand (including Koh Phi Phi island where The Beach was filmed a few years later).
** Yes, one could argue that not all dream jobs are available to early retirees in their late 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. The only exceptions I can think of are:
- a professional athlete of a sport that requires perspiration
- a superhero (for the main reason that most of us wouldn’t look good in superhero spandex tights at our age)