Travel bloggers love writing about what made them leave their career and starting a life of travel that eventually led to opening up their blog - which in turn became their business and main income. Most posts posts of this king are written by someone who used to live in countries such as Canada, the US, Australia, the UK. Countries where, provided you are a decent human being with an ounce of brain, you do get some sort of paid job after college. You may more or less struggle, you may more or less be successful, you may make more or less money. But never to the extent people struggle in other countries.
But I am Italian, and while I can relate to these stories to a certain extent since I do know the reality of the job market in countries such as the US or the UK where I have lived for years, I can say that Italians in general can hardly relate to that. Italians don’t even graduate before they are 24 or 25 - by which age, some successful travel bloggers have already left their “career” to start traveling. After graduating, Italians get into a vicious cycle of unpaid internships, temporary job contracts, lowly paid labour that doesn’t justify the years of studying at university. Career isn’t an issue for Italians. To most Italians, working is a mere question of survival.
After I finally got my PhD and published my first book, I won a 3 years research fellowship that allowed me to get back to my hometown and work at my old university - a much welcome change after having been far from home for ten years. I thought things would get settled and I would find my path, eventually. There I was, doing what everyone else was doing: getting a job, being a proper grown up. I was doing what was expected of me. I was doing things right.
Yet, I itched to explore the world. Since I had traveled to Argentina, I had been dreaming of visiting more of South and Central America, to follow the same route that Ernesto Guevara described in his book, The Motorcycle Diaries. But I didn’t want to give up on my job. Not yet at least. After all, that very job paid my bills and it was the only way I had to save some money to feed my travel addiction. I didn’t know any better way to feed my wanderlust.
Each year I would travel for a little bit longer, needing to escape the reality of my work life which was far worse than I could have ever predicted. It soon dawned on me that having studied and been trained overseas, I was a pariah in my home country. It became quickly clear that my 3 years contract wouldn’t open any door, because I was never really allowed to cross that door. I had decided, well before the contract would expire, that I would not look for a renewal. There was no way that I would fight to continue working in a place which was making me depressed.
What I was left with after my contract expired were a bunch of even more temporary jobs. A one month contract in the North of Italy. A 6 months contract in a God forsaken city in the South of Italy. The pay was so low that I calculated it would barely cover the expenses I would have in order to get there to work.
That was it. I had no more time to waste, no more energies to devote. Yes: like most of the very few Italians who have embraced a life of travel, I have not really abandoned a successful career to start traveling. I started traveling because I had no job to go back to that was worthy of that name. I left because the idea of signing yet another short term contract that gave me no stability – and practically no money - was making me even more depressed than I already was. I knew that I had to go, that I was done keeping a more or less traditional form of occupation, just because that’s what most people do. I left because I was tired of doing things right, and wanted to actually do what felt right.
When I announced that I was planning to travel for at least 6 months, nobody was really surprised. It was no secret that traveling was my dream. It was all I could talk about. My parents and my sister welcomed my idea. I had been so miserable for the last 3 years that they wanted to see me doing something that made me really happy, whatever that was. More than that, my mother – way ahead of time compared to me, actually – kept suggesting that I should open up a blog and try to work online.
Most of my friends on the other hand didn’t really show much of an interest for what I was doing. They wowed at the occasional photo I would send, expressed envy for the experiences I would have yet didn’t really understand how I could conceive the idea of spending my savings on travel and getting out of the traditional job market – especially when Italy was facing such a bad financial crisis.
After traveling across Central and South America for over a year, I thought I may actually – for once in my life – listen to my mom’s advice. So I started a blog, where I write about my adventures and misadventures, I go on a regular rant and share a few tips.
A little over a year later, I am nowhere near as established as the big bloggers, but I am happy. I don’t have a settled life, and I don’t really care for it. My parents have stayed as supportive and encouraging as they have always been (and seeing a smile on my face and my daily enthusiasm for what I do is priceless for them). My friends still don’t get what I do – and why would they, after all? They think traveling means, at most, going on a 2 weeks holiday. They still wonder when I will finally settle; they keep sharing ads of jobs I am not interested in, for which I keep thanking them for the kind thought; and it never even crosses their mind that they could actually ask me for travel advice.
I am not bothered. Just as they are doing what they think is best for themselves, I focus on doing what feels right to me.