Josh being a tool in Vienna on 2012.

Let’s Get Started

Hello friends and other amazing people,

It feels good to finally write again. To have a blank Word Doc open on my computer, waiting for me to fill it with words. For fun, anyway.

Since finishing our book, I’ve written a lot, but almost never due to inspiration. I have written way too many feature stories and profiles for my journalism classes, blurbs about nuclear policy for work, and countless tweets for the BackpackProse Twitter account, but I’ve struggled to find the inspiration to write something extensive that’s, well, worth reading. Sure, I could write the 50th blogpost of the last hour on the “Top 10 Places to Visit in Europe” or whatever, but when you’re as busy as I am with all of the aforementioned projects, that’s not exactly an enticing way to spend your afternoon.

However, I’m glad to say that I’ve finally been inspired. Not only to write, but to start this blog. I want to share the next chapter of my life, and perhaps more importantly, how I’m going to get there. So, here is some background on how I found such inspiration.

I’ve lived in Boston for three years now, and I’ve basically considered this a transition chapter in the greater book that is my life. I’ve been learning, getting some decent work experience, making connections, and figuring out what I want (I’ve also been traveling some, but another time, friends). I have definitely enjoyed living on the East Coast, but Boston isn’t exactly somewhere I want to be forever. The reasons for that, well, could span a whole other blog post (damn I have a bunch of blog posts to write). Suffice it to say that it’s not my cup of tea. But, living in Boston has been incredibly, unbelievably beneficial for my bigger goals in life, and I often wonder what my future prospects would be if I lived anywhere else.

For those of you that have read my book (if you have read my book, tweet me right now so I can set up a time to buy you a drink and let you complain to me about how much you disagree with my TV show preferences, and why you are reading this blogpost, aren’t you sick of me yet?), you probably remember how I said I got a job at kind of, well, the best University in Boston (though, it actually might be the world).

Well, drumroll please….that institution is none other than the big H – Harvard University. And Harvard has a super generous employee discount when it comes to taking classes – $40. That’s right. Over the last two and a half years, I have been taking courses toward a Masters Degree in Journalism from Harvard for only $40 a pop. I only have a couple of requirements left, and I’ll be ready to put this degree to work. Especially since I have zero debt to show for it, I’m pretty excited to see where this credential takes me.

Harvard has also provided other benefits. Outside school, there’s also my job, where I’ve met tons of people who have worked in White House administrations. If I were to Google them right now, I’d find pictures of them hanging out with Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. One time I saw Rachel Maddow holding a report I helped with on her show. I walk past former U.S. Senators and even former Heads of State in the halls on a day-to-day basis.

Yes, it’s crazy and sometimes when I’m sitting in a meeting with these folks, I find myself only able to wonder how I ended up at that table, far from the town of Tipton, Iowa, where I grew up, just hoping to maybe end up with a job as an office manager in Chicago or something. The most beneficial part of all this, of course, is the fact that some of these important people are super helpful, and have told me how they are happy to help me find a job somewhere awesome, whenever I’m ready to move on from Harvard.

Long story short, my time at Harvard has given me so many opportunities, that for awhile, I had no idea what to do with all of it. I knew I wanted a Masters degree, but I didn’t know why, other than how could I not do that for basically free, when I love school and wanted to do that eventually anyway? I cycled through quite a few different goals—for awhile, I wanted to work in the media. I have a co-worker who used to work at CNN I was hoping I could maybe find some kind of connection from. I also thought about staying in Higher Ed forever—moving up the ranks at Harvard, for example. But eventually I realized that Harvard is really just a means to an end, for a plethora of reasons I’d rather save for another post.

But at the end of the day (and by end of the day, I mean after three years of living in Boston), I realized that all I want to do, for reals, is travel. That’s literally all I want to do. I don’t care what I do or how much money I make. I want to see the world. I want to see every beautiful old town in Europe and every gorgeous beach in Thailand and I want to go to South Africa and hike through all the national parks in Costa Rica. The rest of it? It’s just window dressing.

Part of this realization was thanks to Jess. One day we were texting back and forth about something stupid like I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant and she pointed out how I’m never happy where I live. In my defense, I’ve only lived in two places really, and I know exactly why I wasn’t content in either. But I think she’s onto something. She knows me well, and she knows that I’m restless. I’m a wanderer. Thanks to that conversation and some other reflections, I decided that I should embrace that facet of my personality. Why not just wander?

Well, it’s not quite that easy. First of all, perhaps one of the most important impacts that working at Harvard has had on my general outlook on life is that I finally understand why people say “Travel while you’re young!” It’s because they get attached to the convenience and security of the middle class lifestyle that is afforded by having a full-time job, an apartment, health insurance, etc.

Now, I don’t need the apartment. As a wanderer, I’m perfectly content bouncing around. But the rest, I do need. Harvard, to put it lightly, is rich as shit, so I of course have every benefit imaginable under the sun. I have ridiculously comprehensive health insurance, really generous life insurance, a 401k that I don’t have to contribute to, and I make a living wage. I like all of that. I’m not ready to give it up.

And ya know what? I don’t think I have to.

Hence, the inspiration for this blog post. I started tweeting for BackpackProse a couple of months ago, and all I ever see anymore from travel blogs are headlines like this:

  • “You CAN quit your job to travel!”
  • “Why quitting your job to travel won’t ruin your career.”
  • “How I took a year off from work to travel.”
  • “How I explain to employers all the gaps in my CV”
  • “How to become a full-time travel blogger!!!”

Ya know what I say to articles like that? Fuck that shit. In the words of Amy Poehler, “Good for you, not for me.” PS have you read her book yet? If not, go to Target and get that shit!!!

Anyway, to those naïve probably twenty-three year olds who wrote those blog entries, I’m super happy that you have the means to drop your whole life and travel forever. I truly only wish you the best of luck with that. But for the vast majority of people out there, it’s terrible advice to dole out like candy. People have commitments. People have responsibilities. People also have, I don’t know, disabilities. There are so many reasons why it’s seriously stupid to up and leave your whole life behind because you’re bored or what not, and here are the most important ones, in a nutshell (for Americans, anyway):

  • We live a country with no social safety net. Necessities like health insurance and security during retirement are entirely dependent upon work. This really, really, fucking sucks. It makes me SO sad to know that we live in a country where not having a job more or less means you don’t deserve quality health care or income after 60, but that’s the truth. America sucks. What are you supposed to do if you’re having stomach pains while backpacking through India, and it turns out you have Stomach Cancer? Good luck managing your $5,000 deductible on the P.O.S. (piece of shit, not point of service) health insurance plan you picked up when you quit your job.
  • Looking for work sucks, and there, oh yeah, how many? ZERO jobs out there. Have you ever been unemployed? Unemployment is literally one of the most defeating, demeaning experiences one can go through. I’m sure your year off in Brazil will be great, but I sincerely hope you don’t mind the six months of rejection you will face upon returning home having to make up bullshit answers about why you quit your last job and whether you’re a flight risk. Oh you were a sales manager? Hope you don’t mind starting over as a receptionist.
  • This one is not a universal truth, but another theme I’ve found in the travel blogosphere has been this mantra about “Whenever I’m unhappy, I travel.” This is NOT a sound attitude! Running away from your problems will not solve them, and neither will shelling out a few grand on a summer in Italy.
  • Most people suck at writing and have no business trying to make a living as travel blogger or author or journalist or whatever. You may as well try to become a model. This is a totally legit goal for some people, but stop pretending like just anyone can do it.
  • Finally, what I just can’t move past, what I always come back to, is why does it have to be all or nothing? Why does the world have to be divided into fulfilled, broke, nomads and soulless, corporate drones? In today’s globalized, millenified world, I don’t accept that.

DISCLAIMER. Don’t get me wrong. I know that everyone’s situation is different. If you’ve been making $90k for the last five years and are burnt out from your crazy ass 60-hour a week job and you just want to travel, I get it. Go for it, you deserve it. Did your boyfriend just die, and you want to pull an Eat Pray Love? More power to you. But most people are not in these situations, and also don’t have the luxury of these every even being remote possibilities. END OF DISCLAIMER.

I’m lucky enough to be an upwardly mobile young member of the middle class, and that’s an incredible privilege. I’m not about to throw it away because I’m bored. So many people out there would give anything to make more than $8/hr. I did pay $40k for my college degree after all.

And so, since I have been given every opportunity through my job at Harvard to live the life I envision for myself, I am going to make the most of it. Today, I embark on a new goal. I’ve realized what I want out of my life. I’m almost done with my masters degree, and over the next year or two or whatever, my goal is to prove that one CAN travel as well as take care of their self financially. I believe you can have it all. You can spend your summer in Provence and your winter in Aruba, but also be a Project Manager. Just wait, I’ll prove it.

How will I do that exactly? I have some ideas, but nothing’s set in stone. Maybe I’ll land a job abroad. Maybe I’ll finagle a job where I can work remotely and therefore travel. Maybe I’ll become self-employed. I’m flexible, and I’m also working on broadening my skillset so that, no matter what I decide to do, I’ll be set up for success.

In other words, the possibilities are endless, but whatever the outcome, I’ll be sharing my journey on this blog. More soon,

– Josh A.m

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