“Live Your Dreams” is Bullshit, If That’s Where It Ends

People tend to get annoyed when the subject of living your dreams comes up and I say that it’s bullshit. Clearly, I believe in dreaming big and going for it—as the last year and a half of my own life shows—but I don’t think that anything’s possible. There are always limitations, some of them changeable and some of them not. Like maybe you want to be an opera singer but you’re always slightly off-pitch no matter how much you practice—I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re not going to achieve that particular dream. Which isn’t to say you can’t sing every day of your life and love it, but opera isn’t in your future. (Pop songs, maybe; I hear this Bob Dylan guy does well for himself.) Wanting something badly enough isn’t going to erase certain obstacles.

So there are inherent obstacles and then there are situational ones. These are the ones that make me angry, when travel blogs say, “You can do this, too! Drop everything and travel the world, it’s only your fear holding you back!” Sometimes, sure, it’s fear of the unknown and with a little push, you could really get out there and do it. But far more often, it’s a whole host of factors. If you have young kids, if you make $8 an hour, if you’re a care giver for an ill parent, if you’re paying off loads of student debt; these are perfectly legitimate reasons for saying, “I wish I could travel for a year, but I don’t think I can.” I know I’ve touched on this theme before, so pardon me for grinding this ax again, but it makes me so angry when privileged people act like people with no money just don’t want something enough to make it happen, be it travel or a secure job or a college education. It can be done, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort, assistance, and luck.

This is what I mean when I say “live your dreams” is a bullshit philosophy. I do not mean you shouldn’t dream and scheme and do things, and I do not mean we should all accept an outdated belief in sticking to one’s station in life, I just mean don’t devalue what you have while pining for some vague future event, and don’t act like dreams come for free. When it comes to encouraging other people to dream big, do what you can to offer practical support too. Don’t simply say to kids, “you can do whatever you want, just stay in school”; help them with their homework, vote for politicians who put money into public schools and free lunches, support after-school programs, help kids navigate the nightmare that is a FAFSA application when they’re applying to colleges, etc. So maybe I can get behind a philosophy of, “let’s help each other live our dreams.”

When it comes to long-term travel, if you start at a certain socioeconomic level, you can get started pretty easily and keep going for a decent amount of time. Still, money does run out eventually, so you have to either limit what you do/budget yourself or find alternatives. For myself, I’ve mostly stuck to a budget and accepted that this means I’ll see certain things and not others; recently, I realized that I could shell out $1200 for a bare-bones visit to the Galapagos Islands, or I could use that same money to get down to Iguazu Falls and the wine country of Argentina for three weeks. It was a tough decision, but I chose the falls over the islands, and I hope I’ll be back someday to see the islands. In the meantime, I’m going to try some alternatives as well, like volunteer gigs on workaway.com, in order to stretch the money more.

I’m living my dream and I still need to make adjustments. Of course I’d love to have unlimited funds and do whatever I like, but just because that’s not the case doesn’t mean I’m not having a wonderful time. It’s just that even dreams have realities.

9 thoughts on ““Live Your Dreams” is Bullshit, If That’s Where It Ends

  1. Say it like it is, Girl! I appreciate your reality take on cute slogans that are meant to inspire but can also infuriate. I do hope that you are having a rip-roaring time wherever you are right now. I know that you know that those decisions to do one adventure over another still come under the Aren’t We So Lucky To Be Able To Do Any Of This At All. Enjoy!

    X O Irene

  2. Great post Lisa. That’s typically the term I use when people say that phrase. It’s not that dreams aren’t attainable ever, it’s just that we still must be realistic about things. I’m quite the realist, after all. And, I support your decision about the falls. My mom saw them once upon a time, and I grew up staring at a giant photo of them in our living room. I bet seeing them in person will be even better. 😉

  3. My pet peeve is ‘live every day as if it’s your last’. That is total BS.

    “There are always limitations, some of them changeable and some of them not.” I agree. For a lot of people who think they could not afford to travel long term, a few adjustments (in terms of attitude, how they travel and how they live now) will set them on the right path. But in some circumstances it’s just not going to happen.

    I read a lot of personal finance blogs as well as travel blogs and I’m really growing to hate the bootstrapping philosophy. Hate the posts about whether people are poor by choice and people who over simplify and downplay the importance of privilege, luck, circumstance, because it’s not black and white.

  4. Pingback: How to Live Your Dreams in 2015 | Stowaway

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