As travellers, as nomads, as those who should shout YES from the rooftops and seize every opportunity that comes our way, the power of saying ‘No’ can seem like the opposite of what we should be believing in.
We all know that by saying yes more, it’s highly likely that we’ll discover those adventures that may be waiting around the corner… yes, I’ll go on that trip alone. Yes, I’ll adjust my route to travel with new friends. Yes, I’ll stay up to watch dawn. Yes, I’ll jump out of that plane… all these yes‘s can help transform your travels from ‘a holiday’ into blindingly great memories that’ll last a lifetime. But when you’re at home and back in a routine with a full-time job, paying bills and rent, and being immersed in the same city day-in day-out, the power of saying no comes into play.
I recently handed in my notice at my work. I had fought tooth and nail to get this position that (on paper) looked like the perfect job for me. The vigorous interview process had landed me a role in the travel industry – a job that ticked all the boxes: Lovely staff, cool office, working in travel, good pay, doing something I had been doing for a few years…. ‘yes yes yes!’ I said when they offered me the position. Oh it was the dream! But fast forward nearly 6 months, and I was miserable, confused and down-right lost.
Looking at all the reasons that should have made this the perfect job had me bewildered as to why I wasn’t happy: Is it my millennial nature? Am I running when things get tough? Am I escaping reality and using travel as an excuse? And then the self-doubt and insecurities arose: Am I not good enough? Am I stupid? Is the work too hard? Will I ever find the job for me? Am I spoilt in today’s society, and will I always be chasing an unattainable level of satisfaction?
Yep, those questions are killers. Not knowing what you should be doing and why you’re where you are now can send you into a tailspin, and for me, my anxiety levels shot through the roof and I felt adrift with no direction in life. My life had been trundling in a direction that I’d realised wasn’t right, and it was time to try and get hold of the reins again.
When handing in my notice, my heart was in my mouth. The guilt, the disappointment, the nerves – it was broiling around in my body, and all I wanted to do was pack a bag and just disappear (god damn my millennial nature). But I was exceptionally lucky to be surrounded by such support who totally accepted and respected my decision. They said I was brave to make this decision, although a little voice in my head was telling me I was being stupid. They said I had to do what was right by me, while I was thinking that maybe I was just being too damn picky. They said ‘When you know it’s not right for you, you should act on it. And it’s just a job – you can’t let it dictate your life, you need to discover what you like and what you don’t like. It’s ALL a learning curve’. I finally thought, ‘Yes, I know I have made the right decision’. Even though my head is trying to rain all over my parade with its rational thinking, my heart is happy I said No.
The power of saying ‘No’ needed to be exercised. To realise what I did not want to be doing in every day life was just as important as saying ‘yes’ when travelling. Who can blame you if you say ‘No, this is not for me’, ‘no, this isn’t what I want to be doing’, or ‘no, I am not enjoying it’. There’s only one person responsible for your life (FYI it’s you), so there’s no-one who can guilt you into following a path that isn’t making you happy. How will you ever know if you’re going in the right direction if you don’t listen to your gut and follow what your heart is saying? You may venture down some mysterious paths that lead to nowhere, but taking a meander in life is well worth it. Even if your detour doesn’t work out, that learning process will taste better than the regret of never knowing what could have been.
Take a step back, look at it all, and start saying no to the things that aren’t doing you any justice. You don’t deserve to be living a half-life that isn’t living up to what it says on the tin. Take a moment before the soul-crushing breaking point arrives, and don’t forget that you alone control how you live your life. And when you hit this diversion in your path, spend some time out of everything you know and are used to, to get some perspective and figure things out. Now is the perfect time to indulge in some travels, do a bit of yoga, eat well and soak up the sun and company of old or new friends.
I’m slowly edging to the mouth of my mysterious path; I’m feeling more in control of my life and I’m getting excited again to say yes. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I sure am looking forward to a break, some travels, and thinking about myself for a few months. Selfish? Nope…. necessary.
All photographs by Sophie Saint