Most people live the 99% of their lives without asking themselves what they want.
They go to school and are told what to learn. They go to college and are told what credits they can pick between. They start a job and are told what their responsibilities are.
For some, summer breaks in school bring the possibility of freedom of choice, but for most it simply means being in an authoritarian structured home, having chores and a job to do.
On the conventional life path, the moment to try and find consistent daily satisfaction comes when you are 65 or 70 when you have retired completely.
For me, I lived the first 21 years of my life hardly ever asking myself the question, “what do I want?”
I did what I thought I ought to be doing.
Quiting everything to go on a 6 month backpacking trip was the first time I consistently woke up day after day with the only responsibility being to find a way to enjoy myself that day.
This didn’t mean living an irresponsible life. I had saved up the money I needed to travel and chose how to spend it. I had constraints. But for those 6 months on the road, day to day, my main goal was personal satisfaction.
It sounds like a pretty simple goal on the surface, but it takes a long time to figure out what will make you happy and fulfilled in the long-term especially after 17 years of schooling. To find a balance between things that make you happy today and things that you will be proud of doing a week, a month, or three months from now requires self-control and finesse.
Knowing what you want and acting in a way that will lead to you getting it, is a skill that takes time to learn. And it is a skill that most children and adults spend almost no time practicing. Instead, we practice acting and avoiding upseting authority figures.
Traveling to “find yourself” is often mocked and disparaged. And if you are hoping for a moment of divine intervention simply by jumping on a flight to Bogota, you are in for a surprise. But investing a period of time and comparatively small amount of savings early in life in figuring out what makes you happy can be an incredibly good investment. Even if the only lesson you learn is that relaxation and a life of leisure do not give you fulfillment. That traveling in and of itself is not going to make you happy, and that you need to find a challenge for yourself to test your abilities, to help you grow, and to give you purpose.