CORPORATE RUNAWAY. WORLD WANDERER. COFFEE DRINKER.

Letter to a younger me

January 26, 2011 | Advice, Featured, Travel | 67 Comments
Then and now

Dear 22 year old Dave,

Hi there.

You probably don’t recognise me from all the way back there in the last century.  I know I look a bit different –  several less pounds and several more wrinkles, I’m sure – but trust me, I’m you.  An older, hopefully wiser and certainly much happier you.  I know you’re busy getting ready for your first overseas trip as an adult – it’s only a few days until you leave, right?

If you’ve got a few minutes, though, I thought you might like to hear what we’ve figured out together over the last thirteen years.  Who knows, you might even find it interesting.


 

Try being yourself for a change

First things first, mate.  If you don’t listen to anything else I’ve got to say, at least hear me out on this one.  Please stop trying to be someone you’re not.  I know it’s hard when your self-esteem is in the gutter and it seems like everyone else around you is smarter, better looking and have got their shit together, but do it anyway.  They aren’t and they don’t.  They’re putting on just as much of an act as you are - and it’s just as fake as yours.

The funny thing is that the popularity contest that was your school years doesn’t mean a thing once you hit the real world anyway.  Out there, you stand and fall based on who you really are, not who you pretend to be – and actually, you’re a pretty great person underneath all the bullshit.

You’ll figure this out on your own eventually, but it’s gonna take a while.  It’d be really nice for you and those around you if you realised it a whole lot sooner.

 

Stop caring so much about what other people think of you

There’s a lot of people in the world who take a perverse delight in bringing you down.  You’re never going to satisfy them no matter what you do – so don’t bother trying to impress them.  All that effort is going to wear you down, depress the hell out of you and won’t make one bit of difference to the end result.  Pick a few mates and family members whose opinions you respect and listen to what they’ve got to say – but even then, don’t treat it as gospel.

Be happy with who you are, back yourself to make the right decisions, and things will turn out just fine in the long run.  They already have.  Other people will either respect you for your choices or they won’t, but at the end of the day it’s not them that needs to be happy with every single decision that you make.  It’s you.

 

You really don’t need to plan so much

Yeah, I know that everyone keeps telling you that you need to be making plans.  Life plans, career plans, travel plans, whatever.  I’m here to tell you that you don’t.  A vague sense of direction will serve you better than a detailed plan every time.  Have a sense of where you’d like to go and some rough ideas of how you might get there, and then let life’s mysteries take you where they will.  It took us a long time to work this out, but our life has been so much more rewarding since then.

Burn those long lists of destinations and career goals, ten year savings plans and whatever other crap you’ve got lying around in your top drawer that seemed so important when you were writing it.  You won’t stick to them in the long run anyway, and all they’ll do is stop you from seizing the randomly brilliant opportunities that turn up along the way.

 

Cheer up

Stop being so damn miserable.  Honestly.  You’ve got nothing to really be sad about, so why are you walking around looking like you’re chewing on lemons all the time?  Life’s pretty damn awesome when you choose to view it that way.  Once you eventually do start doing that, you’ll wonder why the hell it took you so long to figure it out.

Laugh with people, not at them.  Accept them for who they are and stop being so bloody judgemental.  Be fun to be around – people will actually want to spend time with you then.  Don’t take things so damn personally all the time, as not everyone is out to offend you.

Oh, and smile.  Now there’s a crazy ass idea.

 

Being immature

Maturity isn’t always a virtue

People have been telling you how mature you are for years.  They’re going to keep doing it for quite a few years more, too.  Teachers and parents would like you to think that’s a virtue and I know that you’ve managed to convince yourself of that now as well.  Hey, guess what?  Fast forward to 2011 and we’ll hear people telling us that we’re immature instead.  Why?  Because we eventually figured out that maturity can easily be a euphemism for boring if we’re not careful.

There’s a time for maturity, perhaps, but there’s also time to be immature … crazy … unpredictable … and just living like tomorrow is never going to come.  The best bit is that there’s no age limit on doing this either – so when you do eventually get sick of being mature, the world will still be there waiting.  Trust me, I know.

 

You don’t know it all, and you never will

Uh-huh, I know, you’ve had people telling you that you were smart your whole life.  You were one of the brainy kids at school and coasted through, getting good grades in the classes you cared about (and getting kicked out of the classes you didn’t).  You did much the same at university too, and somewhere along the way you developed this arrogant streak that made you think you knew everything about everything.

You don’t.  My god, you really, really don’t.

Now that you’re finished your formal education, your learning has only just begun.  What’s more, you’re going to learn about stuff that actually matters – the rest of the world, and your insignificant place in it.  The fact is that the more you know, the more you realise there is to learn.

It’s going to be a rude awakening, but when you do figure it out you’re going to be a much more enjoyable person to be around.  Being an insufferable git is unlikely to get you laid.  Just so you know.

 

Running

Get off your ass and start exercising

You never used to be a fat kid, so why do people now start calling Greenpeace when you take your shirt off at the beach?  Save the bloody whales indeed.  It’s not that hard to figure out really – a steady diet of beer, McDonalds and pies for a few years coupled with a total aversion to working up a sweat.  Sure you try to laugh it off and pretend that you don’t give a shit, but you do.  Of course you do.  You can’t lie to me – I’m you, remember?

So stop being such a lazy bastard, buy some running shoes and get off the sofa.  Stop playing online games all night drinking 2 litres of Coke to stay awake, and go for a run instead.  It’s gonna hurt.  It’s gonna hurt like hell.  And it’s gonna keep hurting for quite a while too.

Trust me, though, the weight falling off you is going to be a great motivator – and it’ll do some pretty amazing things for your self-esteem too.  Those hot girls that don’t even make eye contact when you see them now?  Yeah, that’ll change.  Once you’ve been running for a while you actually won’t want to stop.  One day you’ll even run a half marathon.

I’m sure you don’t believe me now … but you should.

That’s all of the advice I’ve got for now, mate.  There’s a whole lot of other stuff that you need to learn too, but don’t worry – you’ll work it out.  Life’s good like that.  You should probably get back to that packing.  You’re taking too much stuff, by the way, but that’s ok.  You’ll figure that out eventually as well.

Enjoy your travels.  I have a feeling you’re going to.

Love,
35 year old Dave.

Taking it slow: Public transport in South East Asia
The Friday Photo #41 – Now that's what I call a hole

67 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sunee

    January 26, 2011

    Ah, the wisdom of hindsight :) All very good points and I must say, you do look happier in the second photo.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      I was on a yacht in the Greek Islands so there would have been something very wrong with me if I wasn't happy there ... but that feeling is an everyday thing now, not just a one week a year thing at best like it used to be.

  2. Reply

    The Dropout

    January 26, 2011

    Geez, that could be a letter to me. Thanks for the great advice, Dave

  3. Reply

    Valerie

    January 26, 2011

    This is fantastic :-) Really enjoyed it. Look forward to the 35-year-old Dave looking into his crystal ball and pre-empting what 48 year old Dave will tell 35-year old Dave. :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Probably to wear more sunscreen and drink less beer ;-)

  4. Reply

    Nic

    January 26, 2011

    I can't decide whether this would have been really easy to write or incredibly hard - whichever it was, it is a fantastic piece letter. Go the 35 year old Dave :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Thanks Nic! The benefit of several years of perspective hey? It wasn't the easiest post to write...

  5. Reply

    Sam

    January 26, 2011

    Man, that freaks me out. I'm a 23 year old guy leaving on my trip... All that seems to apply eerily well to myself, except maybe your last point! Still, great post Dave.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Glad you enjoyed it Sam, thanks for stopping by!

  6. Reply

    will claxton

    January 26, 2011

    The cheer up bit especially relates to me!

    SMILE!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      It was one of the hardest things to initially force myself to start doing ... and now it happens by default! :)

  7. Reply

    Bubba G

    January 26, 2011

    Drifting,
    I love time travel stories, and this was a great one. Including the past, present and future me, there's also the ideal v. actual me. Inspired by your post, I think I'll arrange a skype conference call soon amongst the Me's. ;-)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      That would be a seriously frightening conference call.

  8. Reply

    Arina

    January 27, 2011

    Heheh... I'm 20 right now.. and I feel so smart. I wonder what kind of advice I'll give to myself in 20 years...

  9. Reply

    Liv

    January 27, 2011

    Hi Dave - Great post. I'm not even 30 yet (but have been travelling since I was 17) and I already feel like I could write to my younger self about all the stuff I know now that I didn't then! I wonder what I will tell myself in another 10 years!

  10. Reply

    kevin winter

    January 27, 2011

    To my 22 year old self, I would say the same things, especially the exercise. I would also add:

    1. Wear sunscreen. Always.
    2. Everyone else is just as messed up as you are. It just shows more in some people.

    The best advice I'm ever seen or heard is from Mark Twain:

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

    Safe Travels!

    kevin
    trabbatical.com

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Heh, 'wear sunscreen'. I think there might be a song in that ...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

      I actually make a point of listening to that song at least once a month - some very wise words in there.

      And funny that you mention that Mark Twain quote - it's the one I use as the 'Company Overview' on my Facebook fan page!

  11. Reply

    Cristine

    January 27, 2011

    I especially like the "Maturity isn't always a virtue" statement. I keep trying to be one but it just makes me unhappy. And, I keep remembering how adults are portrayed in "The Little Prince" and I don't want to be like them at all! :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Yeah maturity is totally over-rated, especially when you're young. And by young, I mean anyone under 120 years old.

  12. Reply

    Sally

    January 27, 2011

    Wow. I would have totally told my 22-year-old self all this stuff, too -- but I probably would have punched her in the head more (trust me, she deserved it.)

    • Reply

      Sally

      January 27, 2011

      Oh, and, I would have told myself to FLOSS. A lot.

      • Reply

        Dave

        January 27, 2011

        Oh, did I forget to mention that this letter to myself would need to be delivered with a couple (of dozen) smacks around the head to go with it?

  13. Reply

    Great little article Dave. 22 y/o me could have used the advice too. On the other hand, 22 y/o me probably wouldn't care much because he thought he knew (almost) everything.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Sounds like you and I had quite a bit in common back then as well, mate! ;-)

  14. Reply

    Poi

    January 27, 2011

    But I'm 23 and I actually do know everything.....

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Hahaha. Oh well in that case, nothing to worry about mate. :)

  15. Reply

    Ali

    January 28, 2011

    I love this! I can totally relate. Sucks we can't *actually* go back & tell our younger selves these things. Better to figure it out late than never at all.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 29, 2011

      Yeah it'd sure be nice to have the chance for an afternoon at the pub with your younger self one day...

  16. Reply

    Chris - The Aussie Nomad

    January 31, 2011

    Great post mate, sounded like you were talking to 22 year old me to be honest.

    • Reply

      Dave

      February 9, 2011

      Thanks mate - it's funny how often those same themes seem to come up I reckon...

  17. Reply

    rebecca

    February 9, 2011

    love it!!! ps: just discovered your blog and its fantastic!
    Go Dave!!!

    • Reply

      Dave

      February 9, 2011

      Aww thanks Rebecca, I really appreciate that! :-D

  18. Reply

    Abby

    February 13, 2011

    Loved this! It really got me thinking... I wonder what I would say to the 22-year-old me! I love, too, that you're healthier now. That's so great!

    • Reply

      Dave

      February 14, 2011

      Thanks Abby! And thanks for the lovely comment on Chris' blog yesterday too! :-)

  19. Reply

    John

    April 15, 2011

    Dave,

    I am 24, just quitting my job, and 1.5 months out from my first time traveling. I plan to be gone for roughly a year, but cannot seem to come up with an agenda. All I know is that I need to go.

    I wanted to thank you for the terribly honest post. I have hunted through loads of travel blogs and write ups, and this is the first to truly connect with me. I don't know if I should cry or smile. What I do know, is thank you for, in your own way, taking time to share with me as well. In a short bit, you took a lot of my angst and let me know it was ok. There is nothing quite like feeling validated when you don't expect it. So thank you, and I anticipate what my letter to myself 10 years down the road will look like.

    Cheers,
    John

    • Reply

      Dave

      April 16, 2011

      And thank you to you as well, John, for taking the time to comment! I'm absolutely thrilled that this post connected with you - it wasn't an easy one to write but it was one that I needed to post. The journey from who I used to be to who I am today was infinitely more difficult than any overnight bus ride or long haul plane ride, but like all hard journeys, the destination was all the more sweet because of it.

      Enjoy your travels - I have a feeling they may just be the start of the rest of your life...

  20. Reply

    Stephanie

    April 20, 2011

    Really enjoyed this post. The biggest thing for me was realizing that the popularity contest of school means nothing in the real world. Good thing for me!

    Nobody cares if you were the star basketball player or warmed the bench. Nobody cares if you were homecoming queen or king. You will make friends who like you for who you are, and you won't worry about counting them.

  21. Reply

    Nomadic Chick

    August 5, 2011

    Dave, laughed out loud at this, nodded my head in tacit agreement! You've written this for EVERYONE. It's amazing how we change from age 22 to 35, worlds of difference and wisdom.

    Yet, even at 35 many people STILL care too much what others think of them or have no clue how to be themselves.

    Even I slip sometimes at my creaky age.

    Having met you in person, I saw nothing of that awkward 22 year old. You exuded peaceful confidence. I hope we meet somewhere else in this wide world!

    And hot chicks, you better start hitting this. :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 5, 2011

      Awww, thanks Jeannie! What a lovely thing to say!

      I hope we meet up somewhere else in the world as well ... I have a feeling we probably will!

      And thanks too for the shout-out to hot chicks..... ;-)

  22. Reply

    Dararat tinnok

    August 13, 2011

    Wow!!! Awesome and good on you Dave.
    You're such a wise man.
    Da

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 13, 2011

      Thanks Da - really pleased you enjoyed it!

  23. Reply

    Cassie

    September 28, 2011

    As a current 22 year-old who's been laid off, living with mom and starting school (again), it seems tough. Thank you for this post! Yes, while some points are obvoius, they're also easily forgotten and lovely to relearn. I cannot wait to "have my shit together", but will I ever? We shall soon find out! Thanks, again.

  24. Reply

    Carmen Cole (nee Gare)

    October 26, 2011

    Wow, I read your piece about Dr. B and felt it was very touching. My Dad has been looking after him the last while and he too was amazed at just how much that man knew.
    After reading more I just needed to tell you that your letter to yourself was great. You're a great writer and I couldn't stop reading til the end. I too travelled alot and presently live in Canada. It changes a person. For the better I think.
    Take care whereever you are.

    • Reply

      Dave

      November 15, 2011

      Wow, thanks Carmen! And I think you're very right - travelling *does* change us, almost always for the better. The sooner we do it the more impact it has on our life as well...

  25. Reply

    Patricia GW

    November 15, 2011

    Wow, this feels like a letter to myself... only I'm currently 22 and going through all these things! I was really touched by how pin-pointed your directions were to the things that are bothering me right now in my life. I'm going to take this advice, and strive to be a better person a hell of a lot faster.

    • Reply

      Dave

      December 1, 2011

      Thanks Patricia! Don't rush it though - just quietly work through the things that aren't working for you, you'll get there in the end :)

  26. Reply

    Akila

    December 1, 2011

    Love this post Dave! Love it! This could be partly my letter to myself . . . especially That I don't know it all and never will. So very true. One of my favorite posts of yours.

    • Reply

      Dave

      December 1, 2011

      Thanks Akila, I really appreciate that :)

  27. Reply

    Emma

    March 27, 2012

    Hi Dave,

    I can only reiterate what everyone else has said about this post, it's so honest. Well done for getting into running - something my 22 year old self would never have dreamed of doing, and my 28 year old self makes a habit of. I found your website looking for a review of the MacPack and wasn't expecting to find some great life advice at the same time!

    Thanks!

    • Reply

      Dave

      March 27, 2012

      Thanks Emma, and really pleased you liked it. :)

  28. Reply

    Emily Brocklebank

    June 9, 2012

    thanks for your letter i have used it as guidelines of what the older me would say to me now. i would love to travel and hope i do. i have my first holiday abroad this year at 22 and hopefully its the start of a whole new way of learning for me =)

  29. Reply

    Karl

    June 13, 2012

    This letter has made me go out for a run twice already and iv even forced a smile on my face, thanks :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      June 14, 2012

      One word: awesome. :)

  30. Reply

    Kusavianto Wardhana

    July 12, 2012

    Excellent letter
    This letter is really good for me now. I'll be 22 soon, and planning a long trip around south east asia next year
    Can't wait for it
    Can you please share your route when you went around SE Asia?
    That will be great

    • Reply

      Dave

      July 12, 2012

      Sure, no problem. My route (for that trip) was the lower half of Vietnam, then into Cambodia and headed north as far as Luang Prabang in Laos before crossing over into Thailand and going south again as far as Phuket. I then spent a week in Palawan (Philippines) and two or three weeks in a few difference places in Malaysia.

      All in all, that trip took around 5 months.

  31. Reply

    kaitlyn

    July 19, 2012

    love this, its very funny and to the point. and that photo of you looking all crazy way to funny! :P its cool to see you looking back like this. turing 20 mysef this week. it makes me think what i might be thinking in 10 years or so. so i think its very good you made this post because it makes people like me want to make big changes now and to do what ever will make our dreams come true. :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      July 19, 2012

      And making sure our dreams come true really is the most important thing that any of us can ever do for ourselves...

  32. Reply

    Blain

    August 2, 2012

    Wow this really spoke to me. Im 19 years old, just got back from my first solo trip to Europe this summer. I think I am the younger you! Letter sounds like it was written to me, has made me reconsider some things. Thanks for the great post!

  33. Reply

    Andy

    October 13, 2013

    Excellent article Dave! I guess the unfortunate thing about life is that we can never see the future of any of our decisions and hind-sight is always 20/20. Being reflective and honest about your past is a trait that few are open to doing.

    • Reply

      Dave

      October 13, 2013

      Thanks Andy! And yep, it's always easier to just move on aimlessly than reflect on the past and use that to attempt a better future...

  34. Reply

    Jason

    December 14, 2013

    Loved the article Dave, and can totally relate being roughly the same again and traveling for the last 15+ years as well. Just found the blog, look forward to checking out more.

  35. Reply

    Tim

    January 17, 2014

    I just stumbled across your site here today, searching for travel writing, but I came across this and I love it! It's all so true! These, with a couple of additions, really needed to be spelled out to me until about a year ago and since then my life has just been so much better. Now I'm in need of different lessons (as you say, you don't know it all, and you never will). It takes a courage to write something as personal as this, and thank you so much for sharing! :D

    Now to read some of your travel stuff :)

  36. Reply

    Martijn

    December 10, 2014

    Woow, this is soo great! I came here by googling the Baz Luhrman song and I like this article a lot. The idea of writing yourself a letter is fantastic. I'm 24 years old now and can identify myself with some of the struggles pointed out, haha.
    You got yourself one extra fan of your blog ;)!


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