How can you tell adventure from escapism?

I’m re-reading the book, Do What You Are, and, as an INFP know I need to find work that is meaningful and feels authentic. I struggle with the part of me that also feel a great need for adventure, travel, and spontaneity. This seems missing from a lot of the research I’m finding. Are some people just genuinely restless? How can you tell if the urge to live/travel elsewhere, make new friends and lovers in foreign places, is your authentic self coming out or a form of escapeism?

4 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    First, I love the book Do What You Are. For those who have not read it, it’s a way to find your Myers Briggs score and then find jobs that are consistent with the core needs of your personality. In this case, an INFP has to do work that has larger meaning in the world.

    The issue with leaving the country is that it prolongs the difficult process of finding a place for yourself in the world. You need to find a job, and you need to figure out how to meet a guy and have kids before your biological clock runs out.

    If you want new friends there are plenty of people in the US who will be exotic to you. Go to a rural town. Go to a housing project. Those people will be way more foreign to you than a college graduate raised in Paris.

    The draw to going to a foreign country instead of finding a job is similar to the draw of going on vacation: nothing counts. You can’t work in a foreign country because you don’t have a visa.

    You can’t find a serious boyfriend because you probably want to have kids, you probably want to raise them where you have family. Which means you probably don’t want to meet someone who loves their own country and doesn’t want to leave. So it’s just escapism.

    In your early twenties you have nothing in the US except the problem that you have to start adult life. So it’s enticing to leave. But if you leave, you never solve that problem. So you may as well stay.

    Also, there is honestly nothing more novel in life than transitioning from being a student to having to work to support yourself. If you acknowledge what a difficult time of life you are in, you would not seek out even more novelty. You have enough novelty for anyone. This is a very tough transition.


  2. channa
    channa says:

    I lived abroad with my husband for a year at age 27. We were the only married people I knew there but we met five different expat couples – four of the couples had met each other there. In the last five years they’ve all gotten married. So I think being an expat is a great way to meet a spouse, although it can be inconvenient to marry someone from another country – but hey your kids will be bilingual.

    I also think it can be great for your career. You can work if you get a visa for teaching or nonprofit work, or you can volunteer and live off savings or do digital freelance. Several people I know followed their time abroad with Ivy League or similar grad schools (including me), UN positions, Gates Foundation etc., or entrepreneurship. Others taught English abroad and decided to become credentialed teachers – it’s a great way to de-risk that decision. And if you have a skill that is rare in your destination you can vault much more quickly to the top – my cousin who is an orthopedist was directing a clinic in southeast asia before she turned 30; management and training experience that it would have taken her years to earn in the U.S.

    So having done it, I say live abroad no question. And especially if you need meaningful work — I honestly don’t believe it’s possible to know the meaning of life and the world and history if you’ve never lived in a 3rd world country.

  3. Lorelei
    Lorelei says:

    I agree with the commenter above. I’m 30 and have been living abroad since I was 26. I didn’t do it to run away, but instead, to follow my partner and to try something new. At first I was hitting a roadblock with my career, so I went home. Landed a job in my field within a month and a half of being home. Missed my partner. Decided to quit my job to come back to my partner, but this time decided to be serious about finding a career and enrolled into grad school in a nearby city so that I could have a network in a country that was foreign to me. It doesn’t have to be grad school, but I would recommend setting up some kind of network for yourself when you move abroad (a job, a club, an internship, etc…). Because I moved to a non-English speaking Western European country that values higher education, and I am career-minded, I chose the grad school route so that I could compete for jobs with the highly educated locals. In hindsight, this turned out to be a great idea because I was able to network and get my dream job.

    As someone who had the desire to live abroad and then did it, I think you should too. Even if you go away and it doesn’t work out, at least you’ve tried. But if you are scared that you are running away from real life, then don’t. Set yourself up properly while abroad. Assuming you will know no one when you arrive, look for viable networking opportunities; find out how to get a work visa; what are the in-demand skills of your desired country? Do all of this legwork before you go and know that you will have to constantly work at it while abroad if you want seriously want to set yourself up in another country. If you just want to go on vacation, then go on vacation. But that is different from living abroad.

    Good luck!

  4. Dave D
    Dave D says:

    I also agree with the two responders and very much disagree w/Penelope. The original poster does not relate their age but he/she obviously hasn’t settled on a career. Not sure where you pick up that he/she is female but your supposition that he/she will find more exotic-ness in a rural town vs. a grad in Paris is seriously flawed and uncovers a bias. First off, how far along in education is this person? A freshman? He/she may already have a job but feels drawn to do it, or something else, internationally. So your vacation analogy goes right out the window. In today’s world a stint elsewhere may be highly desired. Many people get a visa. Work overseas, even if temporarily or for short business trips. It may even be part of the job. And who said this person was in their twenties?

    Having an international bent is far different then the college age desire for gap year travel abroad. This is where novelty and escapism diverge from finding a vocation, perhaps in NGO’s, etc. Not sure which is what this person seeks but I think we should recognize the difference. I think Channa’s remarks are also relevant.

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