Have you spent months daydreaming about eating gelato on charming little piazzas as pretty girls in sundresses whizz by on mopeds? Have you decorated your cubicle with snippets of Rome, hanging snaps of cobblestone streets next to pictures of your friends? Say you have the means and the time to go on a month long trip to Rome, Paris, Antwerp—wherever you currently have a secret Pinterest board dedicated to. What's stopping you?
I'm willing to bet it's guilt. But the thing is, guilt is a useless emotion. It does nothing but keep you firmly tucked into your comfort zone, making you side step your dreams in order to keep things tidy and, for the most part, stagnantly the same. But when does something worthwhile ever happen when you take the easy way out?
Below is a master course in the art of leaving for a big trip without feeling guilty—I pinky promise things will be up in the air for only a minute.
Guilt of Leaving Your Friends Behind
Last year when I announced I was leaving for six months to knock around Europe, my friends didn't exactly put enthusiasm behind their jazz hands. While I felt anxious ditching out on their birthdays, engagement parties, and general Saturday night shenanigans, I kept one thing clear in my mind: Most of my guilt was imagined. Will they miss me when they're getting fizzy cocktails on a Friday night? I bet. Will they go to the bathroom with mascara running down their cheeks because I'm not there to split quesadillas? No, they'll get on without me.
You can't stay just to make people comfortable. Sure, if you did they wouldn't have to go through the angst of missing you for a handful of months. But the trade off on that is that you won't get to experience something high on your bucket list. And 10 years down the line they won't remember that one summer where the lot of you did the same-old, same-old, but you'll always remember the trip you never took.
Guilt of Putting Your Career on Hold
Millennials feel a lot of nervousness when it comes to their careers, so throwing on a sun hat and running off to the south of France might feel a skosh irresponsible when it comes to life plans. But here's my advice to you: Do everything you can while you're still young, unattached, and with the least amount of responsibilities you'll ever have in your life.
The thing is, most people who want to put work on pause and go travel feel like they're in the position to do so. What's stopping them is other people's opinions on what they should do with their life. Forget what dad says, what your bosslady friends say, and what society as a whole has to say. It's your life and if you want to invest in travel and cultural experiences for the time being, then that's just as valid as a nine to five.
Your career will still be there when you come back. There will be other jobs, other opportunities, and other office shelves to put your coffee mug on. Go do it.
Guilt of Spending Money
We all have things we love that we spend money on—whether it be a shoe habit, a concert obsession, or a crocheting hobby. Yours happens to be travel, so invest in it like anyone else would. Don't feel anxiety over it.
But if your guilt comes from spending money because you don't have it, there's a (long-term) workaround for that, too. You have your own apartment, school debt, a monthly Netflix account, I get it—but going on a big trip doesn't mean you shove those obligations to the side and shimmy your way to the airport. Nix the guilt with ample preparation, or to put it bluntly, save like a mad woman until you feel comfy leaving everything behind. Brew your own coffee instead of stopping for your fifth Pumpkin Spice latte, buy a Brita instead of bottles, bow out of Saturday night drinks, cancel your cable bill, and try walking or biking to work. It might not be easy, but it'll help you save faster and put all your ducks in a row.
Guilt of Leaving an S.O. Behind
This is a tricky one because being head over heels in love makes you want to change things for the person that makes your heart somersault. But in the end, if the person truly wants you to be in their picture, they'll wait. They don't have to like it, but you shouldn't snip away dreams just to make someone stay by your side. I've met plenty of people who left their partners back in Holland, Spain, Ireland, whathaveyou, to go on four month stints through new time zones. Sometimes you have to be selfish and focus on your own happiness. If they're worth their salt, they'll understand and encourage you to go.
While letting go of guilt might be an exercise in its own right, in the end you'll be thankful you let it go. So make your peace with that worry and travel anyway—you'll quickly see you made the right choice!