So What the Hell Are You Waiting For?

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“I wish”

Two of my least favourite words in the English language.

I wish I had more money.

I wish I could lose weight.

I wish I had a better job … or house … or car … or partner … or life.

I wish I could travel the world.

Guess what? Fairy godmothers and magic wands don’t exist. Wishing only works in children’s books. Back here on planet Earth, it’s not going to get you one step closer to achieving your goals. Sorry to burst your bubble. If you want something to change — if you really, truly, honestly want it — stop wishing. Start making it happen.

The reason those two words are so common is they suggest somehow we can have whatever we want in life, without making any sacrifices to get it. If we wish hard enough, we’ll lose twenty pounds while sitting on the sofa eating Doritos. If we squeeze our eyes shut really, really tightly, when we open them there’ll be a brand new Mercedes in the driveway.

If we cross all our fingers and toes when we walk to the mailbox tomorrow, there’ll be a round-the-world ticket just sitting there with our name on it. Wishing means we can avoid taking responsibility for changing the things we don’t like in our lives. as if somehow, by magic, they’ll just improve by themselves.

They won’t.

Life isn’t always easy or fair. Just ask a starving child in Dafur, or the homeless guy on the street outside your office. If you’re reading this article, though, I suspect you don’t fall into either of those categories.There’s a pretty good chance you have the capability, capacity and opportunity to do whatever the hell you want to if you set your mind to it, make sacrifices and work your butt off for a while to get there.

Yes, I know it’s nowhere near as attractive a proposition as waiting for a fairy godmother to show up, but guess what? Unlike the fairy godmother, it actually works.

“Nothing worth having comes for free”

Personally, travel is my thing. It has been for nearly fifteen years, and could well be for the next fifteen too. It inspires me, motivates me, educates and excites me like nothing else I know. A while ago I realised extended travel was something that I loved and wanted to keep doing.

I also realised if I was going to make this happen, it wasn’t going to come without sacrifices.  Sacrifices in terms of relationships, sacrifices in terms of ‘fitting in’ with the rest of my friends and family, sacrifices in terms of money, jobs, career and material possessions.

To be able to afford to keep doing this, I can’t buy many things I might want. I don’t own a house. My car is nearly ten years old, and everything else I own is currently in either a shed or my backpack. Sure, I might like that shiny new gadget or cool pair of jeans, but when it’s a choice between them or a couple of weeks in a guesthouse in Laos, there’s a decision to be made.

I can’t have both. It’s about priorities, and the jeans and gadgets just end up staying on the shelf.

Relationships have suffered, failed or never got off the ground because of this dream. My career has undoubtedly taken a backwards step as my life priorities have changed. I don’t have a retirement plan, my savings are rapidly plummeting towards non-existent, and my ability to lead a supposedly normal life is following close behind. I wouldn’t change a minute of it, but the point is nothing worth having comes for free. There’s always a sacrifice.

If you want your dreams to come true, you’re going to need to make some sacrifices too. You won’t enjoy it. I don’t enjoy it. Nobody likes being denied something they want. The secret is to want something else in the future so damn badly, you can deal with not having some other things right now.

You just need to figure out what it is you actually want. We can all wish for a million different things, but what really ignites your passions? Take some time, think about it, maybe change your mind a few times. Don’t rush it. This shit matters.

If you could just do one thing for the next ten years and be ridiculously happy doing it, what would it be? If a single material object would truly bring you unbridled joy every time you looked at it for the rest of your life, what is it?

Ok, got it figured it out yet? Great. Now how are you going to get it? What’s standing between you and achieving this goal, this vision, this wonderful aspiration? What do you need to change in order to follow your dreams?

“So what the hell are you waiting for?”

If the problem is money, the answer is simple. Spend less than you earn. Downsize your life. Sell your crap, and don’t buy more crap to replace it with. Ask for a raise. Work some overtime. Get a better job. Get a second job. Get a third one. You did say you were working towards your dream of a lifetime, right?

If the issue is other people, then only you know what the answer is. Can you convince them to join you on this journey? Is there a way to share your dreams with them? If so, fantastic. If not, you have a decision to make. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Most things truly worth doing never will be.

Fear is a big one. Fear of quitting the job that brings in a steady paycheck, even though it hasn’t satisfied you in years. Fear of what the people in your life who don’t understand (yes, that’s most of them) will have to say. Fear of trading in a life of mundane simplicity for something a lot less predictable. Fear, in other words, of the unknown.

We’ve been conditioned since childhood that fear is a bad thing., that being afraid is something to avoid at all costs. It isn’t. If you’re at least a little scared of what life has in store for you around the corner, you’re doing something right. That’s when you know you’re alive, when you’re truly exploring the boundless potential of your time on this planet. When the fear disappears, it’s time to start getting worried.

For a lot of us, though, the problem is simply inertia. We’ve spent so long doing what other people tell us to, we’ve forgotten we ever had any dreams of our own. Go to school. Go to university. Get a good job. Get married. Have kids. Buy a house. Work for forty years to pay it off. Retire and wait for the inevitable. Wherever you are along that continuum, the solution starts right here, right now.

You only get one shot at this life. That bears repeating. You only get one shot at this life. Every numb day that passes you by is another day you will never, ever get back. Get off the treadmill. Stop wishing things would magically get better. Nobody cares about your dreams more than you. If you aren’t motivated enough to make the necessary changes in your life to achieve those dreams, I can guarantee nobody else will do it for you.
So what the hell are you waiting for?

Stop wishing.

Start doing.


See you on the other side.
Photo via Daniel Andres Forero

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  1. So inspiring!! This really hits a note with me today.. I’ve started working again towards saving my money for a big trip…. but like, REALLY working towards saving. These days I try not to spend a cent if I can avoid it..

    and you’re right.. a lot of times what has held me (and prob many of us) back, are other people. Relationships that may be too fragile to take on the road, or the difficulties of planning and saving for two people.

    But once you get out there, it’s soo sooo worth it. Thanks for this!

  2. Good article–I think, in the end, many people are not as driven by their ‘dream’ as they say they are, they don’t actually want it badly enough to do anything about it…

    I’m reminded of my favourite Chinese proverb, which translates to, “A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in.”

  3. Wow great post!!! This is what I told myself when I realized I wanted to go on a RTW trip. Its me and ME only that can make it happen. I have made so many changes and am on track to BREAKAWAY in 9 months!

    I wish more people would realize this.

  4. Nice article… everyone wants everything straight away without having to do any work for it. No wonder the weight loss supplement industry is worth billions of dollars!

    We wrote a similar article on our blog about forgetting what other people want you to do and chasing your own dreams. I think if we can inspire one person then it’s all worth it!

  5. We all need a good kick sometimes to remind us that we’re in control of our own lives. I agree about the sacrifices, I weigh every purchase against my passion for travel. Glad you wrote this 🙂

  6. Such a fantastic read. It really is true–you make sacrifices no matter what, whether it’s money, relationships, a job, your social circle, etc. For whatever I’ve missed or given up by moving abroad, I’ve gained double. Weigh your options, and if the cons seem like things you can live without, start making changes to your life.

  7. I’m not so sure it’s about being “fearless”, it’s about knowing your fears and embracing your fears. We are afraid of fear, so we try not to go near it. But there’s no growth in that.

    Nice post.

  8. The saddest words in the English language “if only” read that somewhere.. so true eh? Love your writing Dave. See you in Chiang Mai real soon! I know you are inspiring MANY ! 🙂

  9. i couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote! People tell me how they envy my lifestyle, and wish they could do the same, but that they wouldn’t be as lucky as I am. Bogus. It has nothing to do with luck. It’s damn hard work and a lot of uncertainty but, like you said, I have only this one life and I want to make it work for me. I realized too that the daily grind makes a lot of people numb. They even don’t know what they really want, their dreams are gone. It’s easier to just go on with life.

  10. I followed my dreams when I left Canada ten years ago to combine work and travel. Priorities had to shift, but that was okay. I don’t regret what I’ve done. What would have been a shame is if I hadn’t followed that dream.

  11. Great post and very inspiring. I think really finding out what it is that you want is sometimes difficult. I’d like the best of both worlds, to be able to travel a good portion of the time without having to give everything up. I love traveling, but I honestly have no interest in becoming a full time vagabonder. I don’t need the huge house and nice car and fancy stuff, but I do like having a house and a car and some stuff. The key right now for us is trying to make our dream of still having a life at home with more than the 2 weeks of vacation a year. We think about it daily, we strive for it, and we will figure out a way to make it happen. It may take 1, 3, maybe even 10 years, but it WILL happen because we’ll make it happen.

    Posts like these fire me up to stop sitting on my ass and make it happen. Very well written!

  12. Great writing! I start my RTW trip tomorrow, am off to kiwiland first! Have just handed back my appartment today! Great to know I’m somehow not alone in this even if my friends and especially the ex-workcolleagues think I’m a raging lunatic!

    Cheers Dave!

  13. Great words, I think you could have ended this post on the paragraph starting with “Life isn’t always fair” and it would have still made a great post. I must admit I use those words occasionally, but you’re right, there is no magic wand.

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  15. This is it stud. My biggest pet peeve of all time. The “I wish”-ers. You really hit this one right on the head of the nail. Life is what you make of it. One of my favorite quotes of all time came from an article that Nomadic Matt wrote in a blog post “Everyone Says I’m Running Away” http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/everyone-say-im-running-away/ and it goes like this… “the real secret is that you get what you want when you do what you want. Life is what you make it out to be. Life is yours to create.” And I think you just built upon this perfectly. There is no secret to what we do, we just do what makes us happy, only we make those kinds of decisions on a daily basis. Thanks Dave. I needed this today 🙂

  16. What can I say – I’m so humbled by everyone’s lovely comments! Thank you so much, one and all – I’m just happy that people have found something to take away from this post, as it’s something I really believe. Stop wishing, start doing, live the life you dream of.


  17. Great post Dave,but then Kiwis are great at thinking outside the box.I guess it’s a mindset Kiwis develop being right down the bottom of the world and always looking out, and having to travel great distances to get anywhere.
    Sometime we’re going to have to discuss how to address our fears. You touched upon them but how do we understand fear for what it is, and how do we get past being afraid?

    1. Hey Jim, thanks for your comment – just rescued it from the over zealous spam filter! 😉

      You’re right about discussing how to address our fears – there’s probably another post in there, I suspect. It’s easy to be a little glib about the issue, but getting to the bottom of it and coming up with some decent answers requires a lot more thought!

  18. Nice call to action! I hear this all the time from friends. Sadly some people do fall into the whole money issue when it comes to making things happen. While I am not loaded by any means, I think travel is worth the risk. I am never like, oh I shouldn’t have bought that plane ticket. I completely agree when it comes to fear. I feel as though most people think I’m a Looney Tune for traveling and writing as my job. Sure there are days I am afraid of what is next, but like you said, there should always be that element of fear. It’s a good thing.

    1. Very very true, rather spend the money traveling then waste it on things you cant even remember you bought a month later

  19. One of the post I’ve ever read. Very inspiring! If you want something so bad, you will do everything and won’t care how much it will cost you. Thanks!

  20. no doubt, the words are quite inspiring as well as motivating but dear, most of the times, the circumstances are not in our favor; we do only those things that our environment ask to do us. Or better to say force us to do so.
    ask to a beggar – was his goal to be a beggar? or likewise, you survey of such kind or accost various people and get the reply. Everyone has some dreams, most of them try to get but their circumstances and their of course luck do not favor. Consequently, they bow down in front of their obstinate, hostile, and ridiculous circumstances and accept the life the way they have been given by their environment.

  21. So you know what you want to do but its too drastic of a change to do right now? Start small. If you have a goal give yourself sometime to prepare for that goal. For example, if you want to go to gradschool. Start prepping your resume two years in advance instead of just applying. Do community service, get an internship related in that field, learn another language. Same with travel. Start small, save money, then make that big move. The final goal should be the last step on a long checklist.

  22. hi dave! chanced upon your blog when doing my research for a SEA backpacking that i want to do by the end of this year.(im from the philippines. 🙂 )

    this article is one of the best follow-your-dreams articles ive read in a long time. you don’t just discuss the “sparkle” of travelling but the reality of it. more power to you! 🙂

  23. Ive been reading posts such as this to inspire myself to take the plunge. I want to see the world, and experience all it has to offer but im so fucking scared. I tell myself all of these things that youve written on a daily basis. Its good to know that other people have the same struggles, im not alone in that aspect. I think the scariest part is traveling alone. ANyway, thanks for this sight, its helpful in a lot of ways…hopefully ill be in Thailand soon 😉

  24. Amazing post, so simple and yet so true. Thank you so much for writing this, your words have seriously pushed me towards a decision I’ve been putting off for far too long now. Exactly what I needed to hear now, thank you!

  25. Love this! I’ve been flirting with the idea of getting away again for the last couple of years but have wasted so much money on stuff I either didn’t need or no longer have. The motivation had just about gone but I’ve given myself a wee kick up the arse recently and reading this has given me another one!

    Thanks mate!

      1. It’s taken a while but about an hour ago I booked a flight to Bangkok!

        Just wanted to say thanks again because had I not come across this post I’d probably still be waiting for a lottery win or fairy godmother to take care of it!!

  26. Er, well there has just been a recession. I’m in 21k of studying debts, there were no jobs so I was unemployed for 4 years, now I have a job I enjoy but it earns me 12k a year. My savings? 0p. Try going travelling on that! I appreciate the sentiments of this post but you have to be realistic. Anyway, I enjoy my life within its restrictions. Ta muchly.

  27. Back home after 2 years travelling, off again in a month, but was starting to doubt because of all these people around that plans EVERYTHING for their future…

    I thought I was too much of a dreamer, naive and irrational… then I read this article : My feet are feeling itchy again !

    Thank you.

  28. Dave, what type of work do you do that enables you to travel non-stop? i read about your post that you saved 15,000 but other than that….where does the money come from?

    thank you for being so inspiring !!!!

  29. Indeed, one of the biggest problems many people face, whether it’s with their first business venture or just heading out the door for the first time, is fear…which keeps them from doing anything, paralyzed.

    Everyone needs a swift kick in the butt to get going and once they do, you can’t stop 🙂

    Great post!

  30. Again, Dave put in simple and concise phrases what many of us are constantly thinking about. I take with me two unbelievably accurate phrases.
    The first one is that you don’t know you’re alive until you live on the edge. Yes! Get out of your comfort zone, feel that you’re borderline crazy…that will make you realize how powerful your minds are and how far you can take them.
    The second one is that wishing is like skipping responsibility and accountability. He is right, stop wishing because you are wasting time. Do something about it.

    Thanks again Dave!