Then and now

Letter to a Younger Me

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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 big overseas trip — 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, 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 What Other People Think of You

There are 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, remember? 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 everyone keeps saying you need to be making plans. Life plans, career plans, travel plans, whatever. I’m here to let you know 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, seemingly so important when you wrote it. You won’t stick to them in the long run anyway, and all they’ll do is stop you from seizing the random 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 judgmental. 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 you’ve managed to convince yourself of that now as well.

Hey, guess what?  Fast forward to the present day, and we’ll hear people telling us we’re immature instead. Why? Because we eventually figured out 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 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 saying you were smart your whole life. You were one of the brainy kids at school, coasting 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, making you think you knew everything about everything.

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

Now you’ve finished your formal education, the 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 more you know, the more you find 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.

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 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 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 two 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 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.

35 year old Dave.

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    1. 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.

  1. 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. 🙂

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 😉

  5. 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!

  6. 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.)

      1. 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?

  7. 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!


  8. 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! 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.


    1. 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…

  12. 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.

  13. Pingback: Found Awesomeness | 06.04.11 « the architect of adventure
  14. 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. 🙂

    1. 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….. 😉

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

    1. 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…

  17. 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.

    1. 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 🙂

  18. 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.

  19. 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!


  20. 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 =)

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

  22. 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

    1. 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.

  23. love this, its very funny and to the point. and that photo of you looking all crazy way to funny! 😛 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. 🙂

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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! 😀

    Now to read some of your travel stuff 🙂

  28. 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 ;)!