When Their Dream is Not Your Dream

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

It was my last semester of graduate school, and I was sitting in on what was supposed to be a motivational seminar about working in the hospitality/tourism industry. I've listened to my fair share of inspiring speeches over the years, and was really looking forward to this one since it had to do with both my major and my personal interests.

But, as the seminar went on, I could feel my heart sinking.

The guy up on the stage was giving a speech full of personal tales and struggles. But his struggles all involved climbing up the corporate ladder in the hotel world.

The more I listened, the more I was sure that I wanted exactly the opposite of what this guy was talking about. I actually got angry that I had to keep sitting there, listening to him go on about success and money and all those other buzzwords that my parents and teachers and the American media have been bombarding my brain with since I was young enough to understand what they meant.

American Dream

You see, the “American Dream” is still alive and well in my home nation. The idea that you may not be born rich, but if you work hard enough your whole life, you might eventually, one day, become rich. It's why “climbing the corporate ladder” is still a thing. Everyone imagines that they will eventually end up at the top.

Nevermind that this “Dream” is totally unattainable for most people; the top rung of that ladder will be forever out of reach for the majority of Americas.

But we are culturally conditioned to keep reaching for it anyway.

Keep reaching

I was raised believing that I wouldn't be happy until I was “successful.” And I would never be successful until I made lots of money.

In America, happiness is equated with money. Not with family or personal accomplishment or a zeal for life. It's all about money.

I've always been aware of this. My dad pressured me starting in high school to “get a good job.” You know. Doctor. Lawyer. Pharmacist. Something that would make me a fat paycheck. Because I certainly would never be happy without a fat paycheck.

Money is happiness?

I eventually discovered, however, that the things that made me happy were not things that would ever make me rich.

I loved words. Reading them and stringing them together and sometimes pulling them apart again. I knew by the 10th grade that I wanted to be a writer.

This was a huge blow for my dad because how could I ever be happy (i.e. how could I ever become rich) as a writer?


Well, I'm here to tell you that I DID, in a roundabout way, become a writer. I don't write books or magazine features or even newspaper stories. But I do get to be my own boss and write about something I love each and every day.

I'm definitely not rich after following this dream. I have student loans and credit card debt and way too many destinations on my travel bucket list. My bank account has never become acquainted with large sums of money or hefty paychecks.

But you know what? I am SO happy.

I'm here as proof that your dream does not have to be “their” dream.

Amanda Williams, happy travel blogger

I meet people all the time, in all corners of the world, who went against the status quo to follow dreams different to the ones society expected them to want to follow. The former monk in Thailand who decided to become a tour guide and leave the monastery. The former doctor in Eastern Europe who fell in love with farming. The former corporate lawyer who would now rather eat soup on the streets of Vietnam than be in a courtroom. And the ever-growing group of “digital nomads” who eschew the idea of corporate jobs and cubicles in order to have the freedom to live and travel as they please.

It may seem impossible to follow a dream that everyone tells you is stupid or unattainable. It may be really terrifying to think about giving up the assumed stability that goes along with a corporate job and money in order to go after something you're truly passionate about.

But I beg you not to give up. The REAL unattainable dream is the one America tells us to chase — a dream that all 300 million of us are supposed to want at the same time. (Seriously, how did that ever make sense to me when I was younger??)

Dream your own dream

Your dream might not be their dream. But that's not a bad thing.

In fact, I think it's better to have a dream that's slightly different than everybody else's — because it makes it that much sweeter when it comes true.

Dream your own dream. And define your own happiness.


What's YOUR dream? And how are you following it?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

59 Comments on “When Their Dream is Not Your Dream

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Excellent post Amanda! I agree totally that one dream does not fit all. I conformed to the sterotypical ideals of life a long time ago, met a man, got married, bought a house and we contemplated kids. The next thing we did shocked everyone we know, we sold our house for a nice profit, put our belongings in storage and took off to live in London and travel for two years. We spent every last cent, had the time of our lives and have never looked back. My dream is simple, be true to myself, do what I want, when I want and don’t let anything get in my way. But most of all be happy!

      Sounds like a great dream to me!

    I was born and raised in Germany and I can totally relate to what you’ve written.
    After graduating from university (MA, so I was in my late 20s), I moved to Japan. It was suppposed to be a 1-year adventure, but I’ve been here for almost 7 years now.
    Back home people are asking me: “When will you find a ‘real’ job?”
    “When will you start a career? You’re already over 30!”

    I don’t care. I stayed because I liked it here. I stayed because I fell in love with this country and travelled to each and every corner. I was never much into travelling prior to moving to Japan. My interests have changed a lot and what made me happy back then, doesn’t make me happy now.

    The thing is … and I’m sure I’m not the only one … if you live your dream and you’ve done it for almost a decade, then your dream might be something else. So, I think it’s also important to have the courage and start from zero YET AGAIN.

    I’m at a very difficult point in my life right now, because I know I want a change, but I have no idea what to do, no dream I could try to achieve. So, I’ll just change a lot of things in my life, I’ll move again and just see what will happen.
    Yes, it might be risky to give up on everything once you’ve settled down somewhere, but if you feel you need a change, if you feel you’re not completely happy, I think it’s almost always worth it.
    Even if you fail, you might get out of it with a lot of great life experience.

    Thanks for this awesome post. ^__^

      You are so right – it’s totally possible for a dream to change or morph into something completely different over time. The dream you have at 20 probably won’t be the same one you have at 30! But there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as (like you said), you have the courage to start all over again.

    I do understand where it comes from – the whole American dream thing (it’s a Canadian thing too.) 🙂 It goes back generations to our families who had to live through the depression, etc. Money did mean happiness in many ways because it meant more food to eat, etc. And that gets passed down, and then again. But it’s up to the individual to break the cycle, and that is where we all are responsible for ourselves! Not everyone recognizes this though…

      I get where it comes from, too. My grandma grew up in those Depression and post-Depression years, and I know a lot of her frugality (that she learned from her parents) was passed down to my dad. But you’re so right – we have to be responsible for ourselves and our own dreams!

    I remember we had a similar conversation when you were in Poland and I still believe that what works for some people doesn’t have to be a dream of others. The most important thing is to realize what you want to do with your life, stop listening to others telling what you should do and just focus on achieving your goals. If it’s a corporate world rat race – it’s fine, if it’s travelling the world – it’s ok too! Not everyone has the same dreams and people need to realize that.
    I’ve heard so many time from my parents that I could have a better job that would give me a higher salary. But I don’t want to. I really enjoy my current job and it gives me the chance to travel the world too so I’m in a win-win situation. Fortunately my parents understood this too so I don’t need to listen to the same conversation anymore

      YES. Everyone’s dream SHOULD be slightly different.

      That’s great that your parents have more or less accepted your lifestyle now. Mine have too, for the most part. I think my dad is actually secretly really proud that I’ve more or less started my own business.

    This is a wonderful post. I can relate so much to this. It happens here in India also. Money and success mean happiness. It’s hard for people like us to convince the world around us that ‘success’ is not just about becoming a doctor and earning a lot of money. Success is personal happiness – it is achieving what you are made to achieve – it could be something as simple as mothering someone, writing a book (which is not simple), learning dance or music – it could be anything that’s your passion.

      I couldn’t agree more, Renuka. Success really needs to be defined differentlt – it’s not all about money!

    Yay for you! I’m currently on the same quest and while I’m not 100% sure travel writing is my dream job I know that travelling and writing about it is the best way to help shed some light on what it might be. Keep doing your thangggggggg!

      Thank you! I don’t think I’ll be doing this forever. Well, I’ll probably be traveling forever, but I may eventually settle into something that’s less of a time commitment. But, for now, this seems very right. And running this blog has opened so many other doors for me!

    Wonderful post and great insight!! I always wondered how we were all going to end up as CEOs… who was going to work for us if we’re all at the top? 🙂

      Haha, great point! Thanks for reading.

    Great post Amanda! My upbringing was never really focused in that way but from young age I had a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted, if that makes sense. While my family never pushed me towards a career job it was me who wanted it. I enjoyed the fact that I had better education than others in my family and very much aimed for a proper career (whatever that is). Now though, I find myself wondering why did I want a career exactly? I am not sure that I know. So I am slowly but surely exploring other options and I am loving the possibilities!

      I think a LOT of people have similar experiences to yours, Annika. But not all of them would be brave enough to explore those other possibilities… so kudos to you!

    Great post. It is such a weird idea that everyone should want the same thing when we are all individuals. Happiness is attained in different ways and you have to do what makes you happy. I don’t care about earning lots of money either, I am rich in experiences – just wish my Mother understood that!

      I love the “rich in experiences” phrase – that’s how I feel, too!

      But yeah, happiness is different for different people. I’ve met people in developing countries in other parts of the world who have very little money or material possessions. But there’s no arguing that they are HAPPY.

    Great post. I hear that stuff less as a New Zealander because the American Dream is … well American by NZ standards 🙂 and there is not quite the same push. But people still think I’m relatively crazy. When I did a visa run in Hong Kong everyone kept Face-booking me asking me if I was on my way home, or saying that I had to come visit them and show them my photos. It was kind of hard to tell everyone that I wasn’t coming home yet – not by a long shot.

      I think leaving home for an extended period of time is almost always viewed as kind of strange by friends and loved ones. And if you’re a perpetual traveler/blogger? Yeah, I think it’s always going to be weird to a lot of people!

    I just found your blog and absolutely love this post! I’ve been working for the last 3 years out of college climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. Within my company, I see a clear path to the top setup in front of me. However, it’s not my dream to attain it and get there. I know I’ll never be happy because when I look up at any other job within the company I see nothing that remotely interests me. So, this September I will be up and quitting my cozy cubicle life to move abroad and teach in Spain. I want to travel and see the world. It’s hard leaving behind that stable paycheck, but I’d rather leave begin a comfy paycheck than my dreams.

      Well I’m so glad you did find my blog through this post, Mike. You sound like you’re well on your way to inspiring others with your own story! I love hearing about people who figure out what will make them happy and then go after it.

    Love it! It’s all so true. Although right now I’m toying with the idea of the future and this looming home base I know that would make me happy, there is still so much of the world to see. The last way I want to spend my twenties is tied down to some job which a hate every day and gives me no free time to really enjoy my life and my passions. Being home has really brought both into the forefront of my mind and I’m still wondering how I’ll one day balance both.

    You rock, keep inspiring others Amanda!

      Finding the balance is SO HARD. But it sounds like you’re on the right track – keep at it!

    This is so true. But even leaving aside the ‘dream’ of getting to the top of the financial world, there’s a feeling that what we all ought to be reaching for is ‘stability’. Sure, it’s always good to keep a little spare cash in the bank, just in case of emergencies, but there’s a fine line between stability and monotony. Sometimes it can be good to rock your boat a little. Great post, Amanda!

      Too many people let that desire for stability keep them back from a lot, though! I hear people say all the time, “Oh, I’ll do this or that when I pay off my student loans” or “when I get a better job” or “when I move next year.” We humans are very good at justifying procrastination when it comes to chasing our dreams. 😉

      BUT, I totally get it. It’s scary to put yourself out there, knowing that you might fail! It’s much safer to just seek stability and hope it doesn’t turn into monotony.

    I can totally relate! We are both from Ohio so I can imagine we have similar upbringings. Most of the people I love back home are chasing that dream but I will say, some of them really want it and love their lives so to each their own.

      Oh, definitely. I know plenty of people who want the corporate job and house and 2.5 kids. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But we shouldn’t be forced into accepting that as our “dream” if it really isn’t!

    Dream.. I used to live it. Pretty nice acting and modeling career.. But that came crashing down for me after I was blackmailed all the money I earnt in Asia.

    A hard but great lesson for life. Might try it out again, but the internet world is something that I am quite heavily involved in as well. We shall see! Great post Amanda

      Sorry to hear about the end of that career, Ken. 🙁 But hopefully you are happy with what you’re doing now!

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On