When I was younger “the American dream” meant having a professional job that paid quite nicely, having a big family, living in a large house with a huge yard, a car for me and my wife each and then 1 for each child when they were old enough to drive, and a summer home in the mountains. I used to want a home at the beach as well, but living in California I saw too many stories of where those homes were almost or completely destroyed so I decided the mountains would be a better idea. Although I also had my moment, and still do, when I wanted to be like the guy on the US TV show Quincy, M.E., who lived on a sailboat. Guess I’ve always had an adventurous lean, just didn’t realize it until I was an adult. Part of my dream included owning my own successful company. I even subscribed to the magazine Inc. when I was 16 and started my first “business,” Busy Bee Landscaping, when I was 13.
I realize part of my dream’s inspiration were my well-to-do friends when I was growing up, especially during my high school years. I was so envious of their new and trendy clothes, their brand new cars. As a foster kid I wasn’t allowed to drive, so I was just plain jealous they could drive! I couldn’t spend the night at someone’s house either which really sucked. My “mother” (LONG story but she’s usually referred to as “the egg donor” in my home) made sure she had plenty of new clothes, but me not so much. I was always embarrassed of getting free lunch at school, especially because I knew my mother was lying about income to get that. Ok, this story is going in a whole ‘nother direction that I anticipated. Back to the original topic!
During my early adult years I can’t say I pursued the American dream all that earnestly. Sure, I got a college education, but I also picked some areas of study that are not known for high incomes. And being a regular minister in a church just wasn’t for me, in spite of the fact that a pastor friend drove a Porsche and lived in a HUGE house on a hill that I admired greatly. I did, for a while, end up with a home in a nice suburban area, but it was still nowhere close to “the dream.”
After a divorce and changing my career in my late 30s, I got into running, and then ultra running & snowshoeing, and then endurance cycling, and adopted during that time. I had changed my dream up a bit. I was doing a job I LOVED, but it definitely wasn’t going to earn me the kind of money I would need to live my childhood-inspired life. Then again I had come to terms with that.
Then life kind of kicked me in the butt. HARD! At that point my only dream was to make it through all of it without losing whatever remnant of sanity I still retained. Then, as you probably already know, I began looking at my lifestyle VERY differently, and this new journey took shape. As we’ve been on the road, almost 5 months now!, the “American dream” has taken on a completely different flavor for me.
Some people took my desire to leave the States and raise Tigger in other countries to mean I hated the USA. Not at all! Am I 100% fond of 100% of its culture? Noooooooo, but I don’t dislike my native country. I just wanted . . . more for my life and for my child. Not more in the sense of more stuff, more things, a giant flatscreen TV, but more living. I wanted my son to feel part of the big world not just the microcosm of the one he was born in. I wanted to be a bigger part of his life, and I couldn’t do that doing the typical 40-hour week thing. I also wanted to be able to chase more of my own modern dreams and turn them into realities. If I could afford to live like I am now working the few hours I do, would I have stayed in the US? No. I want Tigger to grow up a global citizen, to not only have a love for his own country but for others as well, to see the beauty that resides in so many people, and to get away from “normal” life.
So to me the American dream has greatly metamorphosed. It is now more about the true freedom we currently enjoy to just up and go somewhere else new, to spend most of our day together, to teach and learn from each other, to have experiences few people in this world have had, ultimately to get more living into our life. But now it isn’t a dream. It’s our life.
What is your version of “the American dream” and does it still exist for you?
Some other traveling family bloggers are writing about this same topic. Please check out their posts as well: