Living an unconventional life takes courage.
For the first 35 years of my life, I lived a conventional life.
The type of life that our parents or our society expect us to live.
Not really questioning what I should do with my life, just following the path set out in front of me.
I excelled in high school, went straight to college, and then went directly to graduate school – earning a Masters in counseling psychology.
After working for a bit, I went back to grad school and got a second Masters degree, this one in public policy.
At that point, I was 29 years old, and still had my whole life in front of me.
Better yet, I found a job working for the U.S. Government doing research on food and nutrition programs.
I was set for life: great salary, great benefits, and a job that I basically couldn’t be fired from.
I had achieved the American Dream, so to speak.
But it didn’t take me long to find out that the safe, traditional path wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
And that it definitely wasn’t for me!
The daily grind, going to the office day after day after tedious day.
Sitting in a cubicle, starting at a computer all day long.
Going to pointless meetings, writing memos that no one would ever read or care about.
Nothing I did mattered, nothing I did made a difference.
I felt like a part of me was dying, like my soul was shrinking.
Three years into the job, I decided that I needed to do something radically different with my life.
Another three years passed before I actually worked up the courage to take the leap.
I quit my job, jumping off into the unknown without having any definite plans for what was next in my life.
I knew that my family and friends thought I was crazy, giving up a comfortable, secure job.
But in my heart, I couldn’t go on living the way I was. My soul was dying, piece by piece.
It’s been over 10 years since I took that leap.
I’d love to tell you that everything worked out perfectly after I quit that job.
But that would be a lie.
The truth is that my life has taken a lot of unexpected twists and turns since quitting that soul-sucking job.
I’ve gone down lots of blind alleys, taken lots of paths that didn’t work out how I wanted or expected.
But I’ve also done a lot of things that I wouldn’t have done had I stayed where I was at.
Here’s just a sample:
- Lived in a yoga center in Pennsylvania and a spiritual retreat center in Wisconsin
- Studied meditation in Thailand
- Traveled through Central America, South America, and Eastern Europe
- Volunteered with street children in Mexico and children with cancer in the Philippines
- Relocated to Bogota, Colombia and started a life coaching business
And I’ve also learned a lot. A lot about what it takes to pursue your dreams and to live an unconventional life.
So regardless of where you are in your life’s journey – whether you’re already living an unconventional life or whether it’s something you’re contemplating for the future – I wanted to share some lessons that I’ve learned over the past 10+ years.
Find Your People
No matter what path you take in life, you need to surround yourself with people who inspire you and who are taking a similar path.
That’s even more true for those of us who are living an unconventional life.
The people who support you don’t need to be part of your daily life. If they are, that’s wonderful.
But they don’t have to be.
Just knowing that there are others out there who are living an unconventional life can be a great source of inspiration for those moments when doubt starts to creep in.
You don’t even have to personally know the people who support you.
You can draw inspiration from people you know virtually, people in books or movies, or people who lived a long time ago.
The important thing is knowing that you’re not alone, that there are others out there just like you.
Others who have left the conventional life path, and are living an unconventional life.
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Breaking away from the conventional life and living an unconventional life won’t solve all of your problems.
Whatever negative energy you have in your life, whatever unresolved issues you’re carrying with you, will come right along for the ride.
If you assume that breaking away and living an unconventional life is going to be pure bliss, I can guarantee you’re going to be disappointed. Greatly disappointed.
You’ll still experience the same old issues, just in brand new environments.
Work on yourself, no matter where you are.
Don't Be Afraid To Temporarily Return
Based on what I wrote above, you might think that once I quit my job with the U.S. government, I never looked back.
You’d be wrong.
Twice I’ve returned to similar work, even going back to the same office that I first quit 10 years ago.
You might think that’s odd.
You’re probably thinking: “Why would you go back to something you hated?”
Here’s the thing. When you step off the normal life path that most people follow, you don’t always know what you’re getting yourself into.
There are very few road markers to help you find your way.
Which means that sometimes you might get a bit lost in your journey.
And need to make a strategic retreat for a while, back to the comfort and security of familiar people and experiences.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with returning to the conventional life in order to recharge and reorient yourself.
Just make sure you stay committed to your longer term goal of following your authentic path.
Age Doesn't Matter
When I was 35, I lived for a while at a yoga center and later at a meditation center.
In my late 30’s, I backpacked through Mexico and Thailand and then lived in the Philippines for several months.
In my early 40’s, I backpacked through Central America, South America, and Eastern Europe.
In my mid-40s, I relocated to Bogota, Colombia (where I live now!) and started my life coaching business.
Those aren’t things that people typically do at those ages.
But so what? It’s your life and you’ll only be here once.
You’re never too old (or young) to do what resonates deeply with you.
Take some chances and don’t worry what other people think!
Stay In Touch With Those Who Love And Support You
Just because you’ve decided to pursue living an unconventional life, doesn’t mean you have to completely cut ties with your former life, with people who are living a conventional life.
As an example, my parents and my older sister have lived their entire lives in the same small city in Ohio.
The choices I’ve made over the past 10 years are radically different from how they’ve chosen to lead their lives.
And yet I know that they wholeheartedly support me and love me and will always be there for me when I need them.
When you start living an unconventional life, you may need to let go of some relationships.
But don’t make the mistake of assuming that there’s nothing worthwhile from your former life.
Chances are there are plenty of relationships that you can bring into your new life.
Don't Wait To Have All The Answers Before You Leap.
When I decided to quit my soul-sucking job and start living an unconventional life, I had no idea what I was doing.
Or where I was headed.
Instead I took a leap into the unknown.
But I also waited three years to take that leap.
Because I kept trying to find “the answer” before I leapt.
But life rarely works out so neatly.
And sometimes you find the answers along the journey.
So don’t be afraid to take a leap without knowing all of the answers.
Otherwise, you might be waiting for a long, long time.
And leaping into the unknown might be EXACTLY what you need in order to find the answers.
Keep Looking Until You Find Your Path.
My best advice for you is don’t give up.
If you feel you’re called to lead an unconventional life, then keep looking until you find a path that strikes a chord with your heart.
You may need to try several times until you find something that fits.
And while it’s important to find people who inspire you, you also need to find your own path.
Don’t mistake the path of other people for your own path.
You have your own unique path.
Find it, embrace it, live it.