Living Outside the Box Part 2

As I traveled further in South America, I ran into more fascinating women willing to share their stories.  

swing thai


I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none which is one of the problems with enjoying travel because I get up and go whenever I feel like traveling and I don’t have time to really settle into a career.  Most of the jobs I’ve done as a traveler have been in hospitality, working at hostels and things like that.

Finances are definitely something on my mind, but it’s something that I thought about originally when I started traveling.  I just decided it was worth sacrificing.  I’d rather be happy than rich and traveling is what I enjoy doing.

The sacrifices that I think I’ve made is missing things at home.  I was traveling for my father’s 50th birthday, my mom’s 50th birthday, my mom’s 60th birthday.  I’ve missed lots of family stuff, friends having babies, missing my pets.  Just being away from people that I care about but hoping they’ll all still be there when I get back.

Seeing amazing things is what compels me to travel.  I want to do it while I’m young. The most amazing thing I think I’ve seen this time is Angel Falls in Venezuela.  They’ve all been geographical and animal.  I got to hold an anaconda and went on a boat trip in the Amazon.

I think there can be a backpacker culture.  I think there are different types of backpackers, whether you judge that on age or whether people just want to go and party or whether people want to see the sights.

Stereotypical backpacker culture I would define as probably early 20’s, want to see amazing places but also want to spend a lot of their time getting drunk.   I think everyone changes as they get older but I think backpackers generally speaking appreciate the geographical aspects of a new place rather than partying in a new city.

I think if you want the “American Dream”, fantastic, go for it.  I have a two sisters and a brother and that’s what 2 of them want and that is fantastic.  Everyone should do what  they want to do. That’s not for me or at least not yet.

Living outside the box means getting to do things I wouldn’t get to do if I lived in the box. The box is going to be there to back to, so I might as well be out exploring other things.

I don’t think traveling has hindered my personal relationships because I always make it really clear to anyone in my life about what I’ll be doing at that time and I don’t think that I could have anyone in my life who didn’t accept that or want to be a part of that. So if it did potentially have an adverse affect on any of my personal relationships then it probably wasn’t much of a relationship anyway.

I don’t have any real schedule.  If something motivates me to get up and go then I try to earn some money and go whether it’s 2 years between traveling or 6 months.  Actually for this trip it was my boyfriend who motivated me.  We had been traveling between England and Oz because he is English but he wanted to go to South America and I’d always had it in the back of my mind so he said let’s go and we’re here.

I think my family wasn’t over the moon when I started traveling ten years ago because they didn’t think I’d come home.  I didn’t think I’d come home, but I do keep going back and they know that I will.  They now accept that this is what I want to do.


Living Outside the Box

In 2006, I traveled to South America with a backpack and a video camera and collected stories of people who chose not to get sucked into the typical cycle of get a job, buy things, stack up bills, get trapped into a job in a cubicle to pay off the bills and eventually die.  It takes courage to eschew the expectations from family and society to lead a life outside the box.  Meet Valerie, who began living on the road in her middle years.




“I was made redundant from my job in 2003.  I spent 2004 traveling and had money left over at the end, worked some more and now I am traveling again.  I started in Rio.

On my last world travel I ended up in Peru and fell deeply and passionately in love but had to return to the UK for my nephew’s wedding.  When I made enough money to travel again I started in South America.

I am spending my misspent middle years traveling the world because I can afford to.  World travel has not really increased in price in the last 15 or so years and I now can afford to do what I always wanted to do when I was 20 which is to see the world.  Unfortunately, the options open to me then were hitchhiking the hippie trail to Afghanistan and India which I didn’t do but I’m now seeing all the places I’ve ever wanted to see.  I have a list in my head and I’m crossing them off one by one.  I just love traveling.  I am homeless and living out of a backpack and I love it.

When I was staying in Bariloche (Argentina), I met a 22 year old Israeli girl at the bus station.  We pretended I was her mother so she didn’t get hit on by boys in our dormitory.  Being of my age, I am the invisible woman.  I’ve noticed this in other countries as well.  This sort of matronly motherly figure – so I don’t get the the attention that somebody half my age would which is fine.

I wouldn’t be doing this if I had children because they’d want all my money to finance their own lifestyle.  I don’t think I ever had a maternal impulse in my body. I’m glad I don’t have children because I couldn’t be doing this if I did.

It’s so important to do this because there is more to life than working and let me get this right, I work to live rather than live to work.  I feel that the world is changing all the time and I want to see as much of it while I’m still able to get around under my own steam, not mind sleeping on the top bunk of a dorm and that kind of thing.  I want to see life in countries, meet other people, and not from the inside of a 5 star hotel, air con coach transport everywhere or from the deck of a cruise ship.

This is my third round the world trip.  The previous one was in 2004 when I got my first severance pay and before that in 1993, when I got made redundant from a previous job.  I spent five months traveling around the world.  I flew to New York and booked 4 days in a hostel in Harlem and I didn’t know what was going to happen until I got to Australia.  The night before I left, one my friend’s girlfriends said if you’re going to Boston, give my friends a ring. I rang the people in Boston, they said yes, come visit.   Much the same happened when I got to Aussie and I met up with friends that I knew from England and it was “Where are you going next? Give so and so a ring and you can stay with them.”

It wasn’t until I got to Bali that I was out there on my own and knowing no one and that’s when I really first felt homesick.  I burst into tears in the bath.  But you know, that’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.  After that, I picked up the art of meeting people and chatting with them and traveling with them as far as we were going together and then meeting someone else and traveling onto the next place.

My friends think I am incredibly adventurous and brave to travel on my own.  My opinion is it’s so much easier traveling on your own than traveling with someone else.  I don’t have to compromise and if I make a stupid decision, I can kick my own self and don’t have someone beating up on me saying “Why did you choose to get that bus that broke down in the middle of wherever.”  My mistakes are my own, I live with them.  They’re not necessarily mistakes.  They might lead me to meet somebody who I might travel with or tell me something to do or not to do.”

Confession #35 The Spoon in the Sink Syndrome


It’s time to grow up co-workers! Put on your big girl/boy/binary pants! If your colleague does something you don’t like, say it to his face, professionally and calmly.  Once you enter the workforce, it’s time to stop relying on other adults to handle your business.  Notice I didn’t just say adults – I said OTHER adults – which means you are an adult which means stop acting like a child.

I was working for an office as an on call receptionist.  My supervisor called to let me know a co-worker complained to his manager that I had too many bags near my computer and therefore the desk looked untidy.  Ok – let’s stop right here.  There are two scenarios for this situation.

  1. Co-worker walks over to my desk and says, “Typically, the front desk person puts her belongings under the desk.”  I reply, “Sure thing.”   No big deal. A helpful suggestion. Life goes on.

How this series of events played out in real life:

2.  Co-worker walks by my desk and sees a lunchbox and a cloth bag next to the     computer. Petulantly walks away and stews in thoughts of customers cringing at the site of my desk.  She then calls the area manager who oversees several offices to complain about said desk, taking time away from manager’s more pressing workload.  The office manager calls my supervisor to explain deplorable conditions at my work site.  My supervisor then calls me to apprise me of the situation.  I say I am sorry that happened and ask why didn’t the offended person just ask me to put my things under the desk.  I am told some people cannot deal with conflict.


Conflict?  Conflict is if after the co-worker tells me to put the bags under the desk, I flatly refuse or tell her to shove them up her ass.  That warrants a chat with the manager and my supervisor.  If someone’s idea of conflict is telling an on-call worker (who expects to be told what to do) to put a couple of bags under the desk, I suggest that person curl up in a little ball in the corner and start sucking his or her thumb.

Now, you may ask, why is this post called the Sink in the Spoon Syndrome.  In a previous post  (see link below), I expounded on a former co-worker who took a yogurt laden spoon I had used (and did plan to clean later) from the office kitchen sink and placed it on my desk with a sticky note that said “Clean me” and a smiley face.  I’m sure she thought her actions sent a powerful message on correct workplace etiquette.

If I were a manager and my report complained to me about an on-call receptionist’s desk, I would resent the several minutes he or she stole from my day.  Petty nonsense can be handled with two sentences as shown in scenario #1.  Instead, it squandered time from two managers.  This is the equivalent of a teacher at recess complaining to the principal about unruly behavior on the playground.   If the kids start smashing rocks into  each other’s heads, that is the equivalent to me telling the co-worker to ram the bags where the sun don’t shine.  Then you go to the principal.

Owning your mistakes is an essential part of behaving like an adult in an office and I am capable of that.  However, ratting on someone about a trivial faux pas is a daily part of elementary school age antics.    Prove you are a grown up who can pleasantly remind someone the expectations of the office.  Your manager will thank you for your maturity.