A couple of years ago, I came across an article (whose title I’ve paraphrased into the title of this column) written on a website called The Financial Diet. It was entitled Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time. In it, author Chelsea Fagan challenges the multitude of articles and Tumblr posts that call for millennials to prioritize experience and beauty and forget about financial stability, urging them to ‘not worry about money’ and to ‘drop everything and follow your dreams’. Fagan disenchants the image of fresh grads backpacking through Europe by explaining that while travel itself can be an extremely worthwhile experience, the sad reality is that it is a luxury, one that not everybody has the ability or privilege to enjoy.
This article springs to mind two years after I first encounter it on social media, as I finish my third-to-the-last term of my double degree in Economics and Accountancy. I first shared the article upon reading it because beyond agreeing with its general points, I also believed that too many people bought into the romantic idea of dropping everything to pursue their passion, or else to see the beauty of the world, without forming any kind of plan in the process. I had a rather cynical viewpoint in response.
I remember how upon meeting some of my orgmates for the first time, when asked why I wanted to pursue a double major in two stereotypically boring business-y subjects, I responded that I felt like it would make the most money. This was true, and of course, while there were other reasons for me choosing this degree—I enjoyed the flexibility, I found economics mildly interesting in high school—I honestly did believe that it would offer me the most financial support.
Of course, when I gave that answer, it was almost immediately met with surprise—if not outright disagreement—from those I was talking to. Weren’t there more important things than money, they asked me? Didn’t I have passions I wanted to pursue? Was material comfort really all that important?
For myself, however, earning financial stability, or in denser terms, getting rich, is about more than just material comfort. It’s quality education for your children. It’s being able to treat your kids to vacations abroad during the summer. It’s being able to afford medical treatment for your parents. These are the privileges that I, and majority of the Lasallian community, have been able to enjoy growing up, and they are the same luxuries I want to provide my future family. I’m willing to take a degree and pursue a career that I’m not crazy about, motivated not out of passion, but out of wanting to provide for those around me, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Of course, I realize that I’m making it sound like taking a non-conventional degree automatically means that you won’t be able to provide for those around you, and that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m contesting is the generic mindset that I believe too many of my generation have, that blindly following your interests without worrying about being practical is feasible, when in many cases and situations, it isn’t.
Too often, movies will tell you that pursuing a degree that you are not passionate about will lead to nothing but sadness. The same movies will urge you to follow your greatest passion—“Make your passion your profession and work becomes play,” one famous quote goes.
But while these movies have a point and I don’t disagree with them, I can’t say I entirely agree with them, either. I would never advise someone to pursue something that they don’t want to—there’s nothing to be gained from forcing someone into a life they don’t want, beyond needless mental strain, pressure, and unhappiness. In the same vein, I’m not telling people not to follow their dreams. Even if someone’s passion lies in a less conventional field, they should be given every kind of support to reach their goal. However, I do believe a compromise exists between following a dream and staying practical, and a person should be able to do one without completely foregoing the other.
Dropping everything to travel might be bad advice, but that’s not to say that people shouldn’t travel. People shouldn’t be hindered from following their dreams, from chasing meaningful experiences, and from growing and learning in non-traditional ways. However, while following your dreams, have a back-up plan. Chase meaningful experiences, but don’t forego stability or independence. Grow and learn in both traditional and non-traditional ways.
Travel, but worry about money.