What Should I Do with My Life? Travel to Find Out
Each life is unique and we are here on Earth with a purpose as individual as our DNA. Dr. Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived four concentration camps and wrote one of the greatest tomes on human existence, Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote…
“Everyone has his own vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can he is life be repeated.” I believe in this concept. If you do too and have the question of what you should do with your life, I can recommend a way to help you answer it.
You can look at this recommendation two ways. It can be the meaning in your life or a way to find the meaning.
So when you ask, “What should I do with my life?” and one of the first words that erupts from your heart is TRAVEL, then you have to honor that. Exploration of the globe and its cultures is a meaningful goal.
If the answer is, “I don’t know; I want to travel to find out.” Then, that’s excellent as well, as pilgrimages are tried and true ways to set out and find your answer. Such a journey may feel daunting.
You may have so many if/then scenarios in your head. “Well if I travel the world, then I won’t have a career/house/life partner/family/new car.” Or, “If I go on a big trip, then I won’t have a career at this company.” Nonsense.
Things don’t really work in such an all or nothing manner. We make big choices all the time that negate one choice over another and our lives get better. So let’s shift our thinking a bit with this statement from Dr. Frankl.
“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately mean staking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for the individual.”
It’s really about asking not what life can do for you, but what you can do for life.
It’s also about realizing that your meaning is the sum of your life — your impact and legacy on the world. And your purpose is how you create that whole, the work that get you to that meaning. Traveling on a big trip is your purpose, and ultimately can be or reveal your meaning.
This post is about traveling in a meaningful way. It’s about traveling as a way to give back to the life you’ve been given, to honor moving towards meaning, and to act on your unique gift all in the name of answering your big question. travel to a framework described byDr. Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
“We can discover the meaning of life in three different ways:
By creating a work or doing a deed
By experiencing something or encountering someone; and
By the attitude we take toward in unavoidable suffering.”
He elaborates that the first one is accomplishment; the second one is by “experiencing something — such as goodness, truth, and beauty — by expressing nature and culture, or by expressing another human being in his very uniqueness — by loving him.”
The third is finding meaning when “confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed.” Travel is a method to discover the meaning of life because there are ample opportunities for all three methods on a big trip.
Your purpose in life may not be one thing or one trip. It may be many trips that culminate into a big ball of meaning. It’s your duty to take off when it feels right, without fear. Travel is why you’re here on Earth, that’s part of the meaning of your life.
I was living a life of denial and certainly not “right action” until I got the courage and fulfilled my purpose of travel. I traveled the world and now I teach others how to do so. You may feel a friction between your desire to travel the world and stay at home with a job or loved ones or a great apartment. Traveling now does not negate the other things you want. Your trip will not last forever.
Your purpose in life may change over time to one more stationary. It’s not all or nothing, it’s just that right now you feel like traveling. You may take one big trip and it may lead to another and another, like mine did. Or, you may go on your big trip and come home to a whole other path and with a clear purpose. Regardless of what happens, you asking the question of your life’s purpose demands that you take the first step.
For Dr. Frankl, his meaning in life was to teach others how to find theirs. He got to his meaning in deliberate action that happened over time, not in one big happening that lasted forever. For him, it was choosing to be with his parents in Austria instead of immigrating to America, it was survival in the camps, it was writing the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and it was inventing the Logotherapy discipline. None of the subsequent goals could have been played out if the previous one had not been fulfilled.
Your decision to travel is not bringing you to an end; it’s starting you on a path. Dr. Frankl’s life had such significant meaning to millions of people because he kept looking up and making the choice move forward on his unique path. Make the choice to travel on your big trip and you are just beginning.