Is a “normal” life really so terrible?

In my old "normal life" I got to do stuff like this, not too shabby

In my old “normal life” I got to do stuff like this, not too shabby

I’ve been reading a lot from people recently who are all going after their career dreams with a crazy amount of ambition and motivation. It’s inspiring to see people chasing after the thing they feel they are meant to do but it also got me thinking about the rest of us, the ones that have never had a passion like that. There seems to be an often voiced opinion in the travel community that if you have a “normal” job, own a home, car etc then there is something wrong with you. It’s thought of as a terrible waste of your life if you spend your working hours in an office and people who work in cubicles are seen as prisoners that need liberating. If someone is unhappy about their working life or longs for something else then of course do something about it, but for most people (me included) taking home a regular paycheck and working a steady job will be enough.


Where I'm probably going to spend my future working life - I'm completely ok with that

Where I’ll most like spend my future working life, after months of thinking about this I realise there is nothing wrong with a “normal” job

I had no idea what would become of me when travelling but for all of the many changes it has brought there are some fundamentals that have stayed exactly the same. Paul and I have realised that we are the type of people that still need to earn a salary, I am nowhere near brave enough to go through life without a regular income. We quit our jobs in our 30s to travel the world because taking a punt on being healthy, financially sound and able bodied by the time we retired wasn’t a good enough bet for me. Despite this we still worry about the future and how we will cope when we don’t have a steady income. Part of me wishes I was someone who didn’t need the security of having my own home and the knowledge that I have a pension for later years but no matter how much we’ve let go along the way we are still those people and that’s fine with me.


I miss this view on lazy Sunday afternoons

I miss this view on lazy Sunday afternoons

It’s a wonderful thing to know exactly what you want to do with your life and I applaud people who have that drive but for the vast majority of people you end up going to work for the primary reason of earning money. In my last job I knew people that were crazy passionate about the technology we were selling, I never felt that way but admired them for being so dedicated to the product. There were others that clearly hated every minute they were at work and looked forward to that one day per month when they got paid and where weekends were the holy grail. Then there were the people who I now aspire to be like, those who go to work and are good at what they do, feeling like they’ve actually achieved something for whomever they are working for. They’re also the people that run marathons, cycle to France for charity, climb mountains or explore the world and truly enjoy their lives outside of the 9-5. Our aim when we return home is to achieve a balance between the 9-5 and pursuing the interests we’ve found and developed during this break.


Travelling has been the greatest experience of my life but I couldn't live out of one of these forever

Travelling has been the greatest experience of my life but I couldn’t live out of one of these forever

We are looking forward to the feeling of home again. We miss our house and its comforts, our family and friends and the knowledge of familiarity. We know it’s going to be a tough transition but we honestly don’t think we could do the nomad thing for much longer, certainly not indefinitely. It’s no secret that I’d had a dream of travelling for many years but now we’ve actually done it I feel this great satisfaction with my life, it’s wonderful not be longing desperately for something. Travel is still our main joy in life and we’re already planning holidays for next year but I want to feel the immense compulsion to travel again, like I used to feel on holidays. I want to be excited by every new place I visit and I’m getting the feeling at the moment that I’m just a little too jaded with it all, we need a break to appreciate it again. I was sat reading my Kindle on a boat along an Amazonian river the other day and I spotted a holiday tourist running up and down the boat snapping photos, that used to be me and I’d like to get that feeling back.


My 30th birthday weekend, walking with friends. Nothing can replace the fun times we have with family and friends

My 30th birthday weekend, walking with friends. Nothing can replace the fun times we have with family and friends

I heard from someone recently who had just started their round the world trip and I’d just like to say that I genuinely hope your round the world adventure brings you some new meaning or direction to your life but if it doesn’t don’t stress about it, that’s ok too. Don’t get too caught up in it being some life defining experience, I was guilty of this before we set off and it took a while to learn to just enjoy it. I go home a completely changed person in so many ways but what I take away most from the experience is a whole lot of fun and really getting to understand this world we live in. That had nothing to do with whatever I will end up doing for work and whatever I do for work won’t change this lust I have for exploring the globe.


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Posted on by Maddie Posted in Thoughts

28 Responses to Is a “normal” life really so terrible?

  1. Lucy

    Love this – I’m a part-time traveller these days and although in the past I’ve done long-term trips these days I love having my own home base (cats and mortgage included) and mixing time with my family and friends with trips abroad. The contrast definitely works for me – being at home gives me time to get excited about my next trip. Hope you manage to find what works for you too.
    Lucy recently posted..Travel your way photo competitionMy Profile

    • Maddie

      Thanks Lucy 🙂 we’re really hoping to find a nice balance, we’re nervous about the return but I think it would be weird not to be. We’re just finding days flying by at the moment and I remember holidays where I’d pack the days to make the most of them, looking forward to getting that back.

  2. laura davidson

    As someone who has one of these normal life things I have been very envious of some of your experiences however as you know I am a true home bird and could never stay away for so long!
    On a completely selfish note I am so excited to get my friends back home, although I feel I know more about you and what your up to day to day now that I ever did when you where 90 minutes away!

    • Maddie

      I think for me I’m just really content with what we’ve done now and as I’ve spent my whole life wanting more it’s a great feeling. We miss you all and I miss things like my sofa and my kitchen and my wonderful bed. I”m excited for all the fun stuff we have planned before Christmas. It is so funny that we message and email almost every day now!

  3. Tara

    Great post. I felt the same way when we were about to return. We had taken the leap we wanted while we’re still young and healthy, but traveling for more than 14 months would have really burnt us out. It’s nice to be back now, among friends and family again. There’s nothing wrong with a 9-5 job, especially if it gives you the money and freedom to do what you want outside of work. Good luck with everything when you finish your trip. For now, enjoy the remaining time and experiences!
    Tara recently posted..Drinking Coffee Around the WorldMy Profile

    • Maddie

      Thanks Tara and so glad your trip was the perfect length for you, I hear about so many people that are desperate not to go home so I’m glad we don’t feel that way. Our trip was actually only supposed to be 13 and a bit months but we really weren’t ready to head back, funny how only a few more months has made all the difference.

  4. Charlie

    Very interesting post, Maddie. I feel it comes down to finding the right balance. Right now, I remember the thrill of travel and crave more, but I’m not sure I’d have the energy for a constant life on the road! I think it’s important to fully embrace your passions at least once – whether it’s travel or anything else – and after, find a way to balance that passion with a living you enjoy. Best of luck for when you return home and finding the right balance for you!
    Charlie recently posted..Massive Changes to our Travel Plans: one-way ticket, ultimate freedomMy Profile

    • Maddie

      That’s exactly how I feel Charlie, I’ve gone through my whole life wanting something more and now that I’ve had it I feel amazing. The balance will be key for us, we know we need to make so much more of our free time than we did before and if we do that I’m confident we can be happy.

  5. Sarah Somewhere

    Of course not! As long as it makes you happy! I think for us this journey has been less about travel than it has been a total life re-boot because we realised the trajectory our lives were headed in was not going to make us happy. We always said, ‘if we wanna come back, we will,’ and that still stands. I like to say ‘not all who wander are lost, but I was.’ I dont think for a second that everyone else was as confused and desperate as I was when I started my journey!! I just happened to find my normal on the other side of the world, in a very different lifestyle to which I had before. I wish you guys all the best with yours 🙂
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Unplugging (kinda) at Zamas TulumMy Profile

    • Maddie

      We were unhappy and unsatisfied at home before and I was also confused and desperate when we left but I naively thought my dream of travel would lead to other dreams. At some point during the trip I realised that my dream of travel was more than enough and not everyone is going to have a burning passion to follow something wholeheartedly and not everyone is made to be a shining star. It made me realise that my old life wasn’t so bad and appreciate what I had, there are changes we need to make to be happier but we know what they are now. Now you on the other hand are one of the people I admire that knows what they want and goes after it 100%!

  6. Jessica

    Interesting thoughts! I think it all comes down to self-awareness and figuring out what it is that you value most in life. For some people, it’s travel over everything else, but for other people it’s about finding a balance.
    Jessica recently posted..8 Things That Every Traveler Should Do in ThailandMy Profile

    • Maddie

      It’s more that I expected to find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life as a career and when the lightbulb moment didn’t happen I came to terms with the fact that I simply need a job to earn money. People with extreme passions tend to be more open to suffering for their art or joy, for me I spent a lot of my 20s scrimping and I really don’t want to go back to that. I want security and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Hopefully we’ll find this balance that we’re aiming for 🙂

  7. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Maddie, this is such a great post, and one I definitely understand. There is no ONE right way to travel or to live a life. I would hope that most long-term travelers recognize that just because they were dissatisfied with a corporate life that this doesn’t invalidate it for a huge cross-section of other people. I have actually remarked to Tony multiple times that the thing I love most about traveling is that it just gives me the time and freedom to do exactly as I please without being a slave to a job I don’t enjoy or getting caught up in all the trappings of our old life. I have also said that I don’t know if I’ll ever be the person who has ONE thing that I want to devote all my energy to—I have so many interests and passions that I can’t imagine giving myself over completely to any one of them without feeling like some part of me was dying. I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a job that you like just fine and that pays the bills and gives you the freedom to live your life the way you want. There’s still plenty of time to play outside of nine-to-five! 😀
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Our 2013 Capture the Colour EntriesMy Profile

    • Maddie

      Thanks Steph 🙂 Those things you love about travel are actually what I loved up until a certain point and then I started realising that my life at home was pretty good too. I will hopefully never become as obsessed with ‘stuff’ as I used to but I know for sure that I couldn’t indefinitely live in hostels and contend with dodgy public transport, I’m looking forward to my house! I empathise completely with devoting yourself to one thing, I have so many interests that I can’t imagine focusing on one without it becoming a chore and missing out on all the others. We just need to learn to play more outside the 9-5 like you say!

  8. laura davidson

    Moral of the story we should try to keep in touch just as much!! even if it is to hear about your kitchen and your sofa!!

  9. laura davidson

    ps is it terrible that i was like… who is that tubby short bloke next to lorna in the 30th photo? and then realised it was me!!! Oh the shame!

    • Maddie

      Oh bless you, in your defence it wasn’t a million years after you’d had a baby!

      • Maddie

        Agreed 🙂

  10. laura davidson

    you mean 2 years ago then!!!! I think i must had had lots of jumpers on!!! or if not lets just pretend! And i am next to lorna

    • Maddie

      Yeah, our 30th year was just after Iz came along, it was Feb and freezing so bound to be lots of jumpers & you are indeed stood next to Lorn 🙂

  11. Mr D

    Well here we are again on the lovely comments page. As a non traveller and a very good friend of deats and moon bear I am agreeing with Mrs d, I think people who travel like this obviously have it in them. I love our hols and experiences, but the life we have in the UK is pretty awesome, we both teach (never ever dull in a primary school). We get to spend time with our beautiful little poppet and simple things like making cakes, picking apples in the garden, chasing each other with thickly long grass is unbeatable. I personally work to live and not live to work, nothing comes in front of family and quality time together. Walking on chilly NE beaches with about chocolate at the end is priceless, finding dragons in castle ruins and bears in the woods is just a way and fantastic.

    I miss you guys an awful lot and it really got me the other day when I was drawing a plan of the house for measuring carpets, we were in the front bedroom and after we measured up, izzy pointed to the plan and just simply said “Maddy and Paul”.

    Your travels have inspired a lot of children in my school and truly made them see the power of modern social media and how ‘small’ it can make the world, they still talk about the JBJ gig, wooden elephants and stinky foot sweets. Yes I managed to get rid of the rest to the nutters who actually liked them!!!

    The video is now legendary in north Tyneside area and several parents have commented on how important it was to do things like that!!!

    Right mini me is calling I’ll have to go het her and get sorted, off for a cheeky 30miler on the bike! Bloody late start for ride too at 9am!!! Practically dinner time !!!

    That’s how I roll, peace out dudes !!! Hugs and man hugs xxx

    • Maddie

      Thanks for the comment dude 🙂 We miss you too and I love that Izzy thinks we have our own room at your place, so bloomin cute! On travel, I think it’s just about different priorities and for us travel is always the number one. But… we’re just ready to stop the long term side of things now, I’m happy to go back to holidays and I’ll also be happy to have a home and all the things you mention here. Love ya xxx

  12. Kellie

    Wow! I’m not surprised you miss that view on a lazy Sunday afternoon, its looks amazing!

    I don’t think a normal life is really that bad and at least you’ve had an awesome time figuring out that home comforts, family, friends and future holiday planning also make you happy.
    Kellie recently posted..The next challenge is…My Profile

    • Maddie

      Thanks Kellie, the garden is why we bought out house, it’s a little pocket of peace even though we’re just 10 mins from town. I feel really grateful that I’ve learned to appreciate everything I have, I’ve loved the time we’ve had but I’m ready to be a bit more comfortable again!

  13. Krista Beauvais

    Well put! We’re coming to the end of 15 months on the road.

    I thought this trip would make me want more – but it’s actually shown me that I’m so bloody grateful we didn’t sell our home to make this happen!

    We’ve had time on this trip to figure out what kind of life we WANT and we’re now going to put energy into making that happen so we have the balance we need – and don’t feel again that the only answer is to ‘chuck it all in and escape’ – or something like that.

    We’re travellers at heart. We’ve always been travelling and we always will be travelling – but we’ll be mostly travelling to the places we’ve discovered that we love so we can enjoy what they offer – but we’ll be doing less travel for the purposes of exploration; we already done heaps of that.

    I’d love if you’d be up for sharing a story on Wodara. Here’s the story Mike and Tara just shared (Tara tweeted an article from you which is how I’m reading this):

    Enjoy the journey!
    Krista Beauvais recently posted..How to Change your Life ( Step 1 of 5 )My Profile

    • Maddie

      Oh Krista I hear you loud and clear and feel exactly the same way! It’s a great opportunity to find out exactly what you want out of life and we’ve come to the same conclusions. We don’t want to be desperately escaping again, we just want to make a great life for ourselves instead. You enjoy the journey too 🙂

  14. Carmel

    Maddie, I have no idea if that person you mention at the end is me, but if it isn’t, it COULD be me.

    I was talking to my therapist just before we left (honestly, someone and something I really miss about “normal” life already!!) and I said, for the first time ever, “If I come home from this trip with a greater appreciation for what I have and what I can do, even if it’s ‘just’ working an office job supporting my future family so Shawn can stay home and take care of our future children, I’d be happy.” It’s not such a drastic change from what we were doing already, it’s just a change in attitude. She told me a story about a former client who was constantly agitated about his job and miserable, then one day came in and said he was finally happy. It was because he realized something important–he was working a job that supported his family and gave them enough in life. And isn’t that what we all really want?

    I saw this post come up and have been waiting patiently to catch up with all the other posts to indulge in this one and it was just as reassuring as I hoped it would be.

    For now, I’m going to go enjoy what I have NOW, which is another 10 or 11 months of travel.

    Carmel recently posted..GOBI DESERT TRIP, PART 2My Profile

    • Maddie

      I had a comment off a young guy starting out on his trip and he had such high expectations for a massive life change, it just got me thinking that it’s a lot of pressure to put on an experience that’s supposed to be fun. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for how I feel. I understand my life won’t be that different but my attitude has gone from constantly complaining that there must be something better out there to appreciating that there is nothing wrong with living a quiet, good life and providing for your family. You’re lucky, it took me nearly a year on the road to realise this!! You are at the most exciting part of long term travel, have an absolutely amazing time 🙂

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