Before I got married I had a number of people asking me what my plans were for after the wedding. Would we be buying a house and settling down? Are we saving for a house? Do we have enough for a deposit? Will we stop travelling? How much longer do we plan on travelling for before we ‘grow up’? All these questions had the same underlying theme to them, that once we were married Matt and I would be settling down and our way of life would finish.
Settling. The word itself is unsettling. It makes me think of sediment, resting at the bottom of a pond. It makes me think of girls in movies who say they’re ‘just settling’ for a guy instead of waiting for the right guy. It makes me think of finalising things, like when you settle the bill at a restaurant. It also makes me think of morbid stuff because people always say you should ‘settle your affairs’ before you drop dead. Settle isn’t exactly a fun word, it’s actually quite a shitty one and not one I want to be associated with my life at all.
I’ve never liked the term ‘settle down’. It’s the absolute opposite of what I want to do with my life, but for a long time I felt trapped between two extremes. I knew I didn’t want to buy a house and be locked in, living in the suburbs for the rest of my life. I also knew that I didn’t want to be wandering the world forever with no home base. But when people are telling you that it’s time to settle down and you know you don’t want to, it feels like your only options are those two extremes. Suburban lockdown or roaming homeless wanderer. These are pigeonholes.
I knew in my heart I wanted something in between the two, but because I didn’t personally know anyone else who was living the way I wanted to, I couldn’t see any other options. It took a long time to feel my way to this point, Matt too. In our wedding vows, we promised each other to live a life that is our own, which is exactly what we’ve done. We have a home but we wander, we have jobs but we aren’t tied down. We have stability but we have flexibility and we have freedom and security too.
We refused to be pigeonholed and, instead, have created our own space in life and our own option that suits us perfectly. Nobody else needs to understand it.
Marriage doesn’t mean you tie yourself to another person, move into a house and stay there until you drop dead. It can, if you want it to, but marriage can mean whatever you want it to mean and you have the freedom to completely customise your entire life to suit your dreams, goals and what makes you happy. Life is flexible and can be shaped around your life purpose; whatever it is you were put here to share.
I feel wild. I love the word wild, it’s much better than settle. The thing is, you can be completely wild, free and unconfined and still be in a relationship with someone. You can still be all those things, have a home and still travel the world. There aren’t a select few life options to choose from, the options are, literally, infinite.
There’s never a point where Matt says I can’t do something or we can’t go somewhere or try something. There’s never a moment where one of us dismisses the others dreams or goals and we never hold one another back or restrict the other person. Without him, I would never have had the courage or confidence to do the things I’ve done so far, because we’re in this together, which is funny because he would tell you I’m incredibly confident and brave with making big changes. But all the things I’ve done are easy to do when you have your best friend there doing it with you.
I met a Parisian man today in a coffee shop in Guangzhou who told me he believes true freedom comes from being with the person you love. He explained it gives you the freedom to be boldly, honestly and unashamedly who you are. To relax into your life and share everything that is within you, with someone else. He was right.
Take a look at the people you allow into your life and really think about whether they add value or if they are holding you back. Surround yourself with people who make you feel most aligned with your heart and your true self. Find the people that make you feel comfortable and happy and have whatever relationship you like with them. Friend, lover, husband or wife or something else. It’s up to you.
While a lot of people didn’t understand what Matt and I saw our future being, we both knew what it would be. It’s hard to pinpoint what our life together is or will be because it’s more of a feeling than a set plan. But we both know we want to travel and have a home and be free and wild and do all of this together. There’s no restriction and no rules, no holding back or slashing dreams. There are no set plans of ‘this is exactly what our life will be,’ it’s much more transient and loose than that. It’s a commitment to be together and be happy. That’s it.
There’s no way for other people to measure whether or not I’m succeeding in life or if I’m happy because they don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ checklist. “Oh yes, she’s had a baby and owns a home, she MUST be happy. Take five, everyone, Phoebe is on track!” Nah-uh. My checklist is in my heart and I’m the only one who can determine whether or not I’m on the right path. Nobody has ever lived my life before, they could never do with my life what I will and I could never do what anyone else will with theirs. My life is perfectly individual and it is entirely mine.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to deciding what you want from your life. In fact, you don’t even really need to know at all. All you need to commit to is being the happiest person you can possibly be and making decisions that align with that goal. Whether that’s being married or not, buying a house or not, having children or not, it doesn’t matter how you get there, just as long as you are living a happy life each day.
Relationships don’t need to fall into strict categories and certainly don’t need to follow a set plan. If you want to be married and have babies and buy a house, then you should definitely do that. If you want to get married and not have babies and spend every cent you have on travel, then you should definitely do that too. If you want something in between or something entirely different, then go for it, it’s your right to have what you desire and nothing should hold you back.
Don’t feel pressured to fit into comfortable societal norms that you’ve seen before. Carve out your own life niche, your own space and your own story that is totally different and unique to anybody else. Forge your own path and claim it. Make it yours and only yours. There are no rules, your life and your love are unique to you and look exactly as they should for you.
Instead of going through life on auto-pilot, as I was for a long time, switch on and take control. Grab onto your life with both hands and steer it in the precise direction you want it to go. YOU are in complete control. Sometimes that means giving in to the things you can’t change and going with the flow, other times it means making decisions to change situations you can control. Either way, it’s all yours to define, create and change as you see fit. Your life is yours, so make it beautiful and enjoy every moment of it.
I wanted to share with you one of my favourite quotes of all time, it’s something that makes me happy every time I see it:
Need some travel tips? This probably won’t help..
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.