How Working Abroad Shattered the Biggest, Scariest Myths about Adulthood

Enter: Kelly Dunning

I’ll be honest; a few years ago I really didn’t want to grow up.

Before I left Canada to go on a working holiday in New Zealand when I was 22, I really struggled with transitioning into adulthood. I was not looking forward to becoming an “adult” as everything that I had heard about it really didn’t sound that great.

Luckily, my amazing experiences around the world made me realize that I had been lied to. Guess what? Adulthood is not as bad as everyone wants to make it seem. All of those big scary myths about what will happen to you when you face the “real world” are just not true. At least, they don’t have to be if you don’t want them to be.

I got a New Zealand visa and worked there for six months, which is where I met my English boyfriend. Instead of going back home, I followed him to England and spent 14 months living and working in his home town in Lancashire. During that time I built up an online income as a freelance writer and now we are “digital nomads”, working while we constantly travel the world, including Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

“Your Only Chance to Travel Is When You Are Young”

When I told older people that I was going on a working holiday to New Zealand, they all said the same thing to me, “Oh that’s great. Do it while you are young because when you get older and settle down you won’t be able to.”

I couldn’t help but be a little bit shocked by this statement. Are you telling me that there is only a small time window in my life when I am allowed to do the thing that I love the most and if I ever have a family I will be deprived of it forever? Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

After nearly two years of traveling the world and meeting travelers of all ages, I realized that the truth is not that you “won’t be able to” travel when you get older, it’s simply that most people choose not to.

If you are past your 30s and you start having kids, it’s fine to want to focus your energy on your family life and your career. However, recognize that this doesn’t mean you still can’t travel the world if you want to. Where people get it wrong is when they confuse priorities with restrictions. You are in one place because you choose to be, but not because you have to be.

Instead of buying that second car you could spend the same amount backpacking around Southeast Asia for a few months with your kids. Just Google “family travel blog” and you will find hundreds of examples of families who are traveling the world together. Not only are they enjoying their passion, but the children are having priceless learning experiences in different cultures around the world that they could never have in a classroom.

I’m not dreading getting old and settling down anymore, because I know that I will always make travel a priority in my life. I will just have to be creative and figure out different ways to do it which work best for my family.

"You Should Have a Plan for the Future"

Why is there this myth that adults have to have their life planned out in five year increments from now until retirement? Why is there so much pressure on young people to know where they will be 5 years from now?

What I learned from working abroad is that having a plan for the future is actually impossible, because you never know what is going to happen. I thought that I was going to go on a working holiday in New Zealand for six months and then return to Canada. I had no idea that I would fall in love with an English guy, move to England for a year on a UK work permit, become a freelance writer and end up working online while traveling the world. How in the world would I have planned for that?

In fact, I think having too strict of a plan for your life makes you like a horse with blinders on, missing out on all of the paths that you could take along the way. I’ve learned not to worry too much about a plan and simply do what makes the most sense to me at the time.

"Having Your Dream Career is Unrealistic"

Hey adults, why do we tell children that they can follow their dream and do anything they want with their lives, while in the same breath complaining about the fact that we have to go back to the job we hate on Monday? Why do we create this myth for ourselves that our dream lifestyle is unattainable and we have to settle for something less?

After my working abroad adventure I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life, and the answer was to make a living as a writer and travel the world. Right now I am writing to you from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after having been a full time freelance writer for over a year and a half while backpacking across Europe, Canada, the USA and Southeast Asia. It is my dream job and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Why do I so rarely meet other people who can describe what they are doing as their “dream job”?

Yes, it is hard, I won’t deny that. To design your ideal lifestyle takes guts, imagination, commitment and hard work. I slogged away at crappy low paying writing gigs in the evenings and weekends alongside my full time “day job” while working abroad in England in order to set myself up for the 4 hour days on tropical beaches that I have now.

But I think that the disappointment of committing for the rest of my life to a job that didn’t fulfill me would have been much worse. I don’t think that’s growing up, I think that’s giving up.

The years I spent working abroad helped me to shatter the big myths that were making me so scared to grow up. I realized that adulthood doesn’t have to be anything other than what I want it to be. I’m not going to give up and swallow these myths, but rather continue to design the life I choose.

To me, that’s what growing up is all about.

Kelly Dunning is a writer for Global Visas, the world’s leading authority on immigration and working visas. Contact them to learn more about obtaining the right visa to work abroad in another country.

4 notes


  1. Kelly Dunning submitted this to enteradulthood

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