I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not great at setting conventional goals, nor am I willing to accept whatever opportunities are thrown my way. Yeah, sure, I’ve heard the old adage: opportunity sometimes only knocks once, but if it’s not the right opportunity, why on Earth would you answer? So there have been job opportunities I’ve let pass. Potential clients I’ve walked away from. Books people thought I should write that I’ve never started. Fads everyone else joined, and television programs everyone else watched to which I’ve paid no mind.
Life’s too short to do what someone else thinks you ought to be doing.
I’ve learned over the years that trying to shoehorn myself into what others think people should do simply doesn’t work. Which is why, in retrospect, goal-setting has been such a challenge for me. Because my whole life I’ve been under the impression that goals are the things that you should do. And I know now that anytime you use the word “should,” you’re assuming someone else’s value system…rather than embracing your own.
So no, reaching a certain income level has never been a goal. Nor has climbing the corporate ladder. Power? No thanks, doesn’t float my boat. A big, sprawling house in the ‘burbs? Not my thing. Five-star travel experiences? Well, they’d be nice to try, but to be honest I prefer the authenticity that comes with two stars. It’s taken me 45 years to get to the point of understanding this part of myself–the part that doesn’t fit within the standard model of American life–and embracing it.
It was mid last year when I realized I had a goal. A big one. Something that made my heart race. Something that got me excited about the future. Something that I knew I should do because it perfectly fit my value system. Something I can’t wait to accomplish, but more than that, something I’m thrilled to work toward.
I have a goal of traveling to 100 countries.
This isn’t just about checking countries off my list. I’m committed to deep travel: seeking out authentic, local experiences and getting to know real people. That’s where the good stuff is. I also plan to share the deeper discoveries of travel, the thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting insights, with you. So even if you don’t have a ticket to travel yourself, you do have a passport to deeper understanding. (And I’ll even let you smile for the photo!)
I’m doing all the things a person should do when goal setting. I’m assessing the pathway. I’m being pragmatic about how to tackle it, bit by juicy bit. I know I need to do what BackpackMr and I call “hard travel” first: countries where the infrastructure isn’t so great, where perhaps English isn’t well spoken, where travelers go but tourists rarely journey. Places where a certain degree of physical wellbeing and endurance are required to make one’s way. Of course, I’ll sprinkle in some easy travel too. As with all things in life, the journey toward this goal is just as important as the destination.
To date, I’ve visited 28 countries, 26 of them in the past 15 years. If I live to 70, I have 25 years to see 72 more. Doing the math, that means I’ll need to visit at least 2.8 new countries every year. There are 198 countries in the world today, so if I accomplish my goal, I will have set foot in half of the world’s nations. I also want to see all 50 U.S. states; to date, I’m at 43.
To accomplish this goal, I’ll also need to embrace a new philosophy of travel. Some people find a place they love and visit it year after year. Having a goal of traveling to 100 countries and all 50 states means loving a place while you’re there, and knowing it’s unlikely you’ll return. It means hanging in that hammock in Belize and saying goodbye to the cool breeze. It means breathing the cool air of Iceland knowing you may not breathe such crisp, clean air again. It means truly savoring every moment of travel, experiencing it deeply and living it mindfully. And then, letting it go.
Is it any wonder climbing the corporate ladder hasn’t been a priority? It hasn’t left room for what my soul knows to be my truth. I can’t help but wonder how many of us are blindly following the “shoulds” of this world–the deeply-engrained expectations others hold for our lives–when really, we must set the goals that are right for us and build a life that supports the experience we dream of having for this short, precious go-around.
So, I’m heading to Central and South America this autumn for some longer-term travel. I’ve been to Peru and El Salvador, but the rest is a blank slate. There is so much to see.
Who knew goal setting could be so exciting!
What places do you love in Central and South America?
What countries would you recommend for solo female travelers?
What goals will you set for yourself in answer to your soul’s truth?
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to her clients.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.