Should I drop everything and move into a van?

Is it worth leaving your job, and your partner, for a life that might make you happier?

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Dear Angus and Becky,

I just listened to your episode of The Nature Fix about sucking it up to take care of your family, and it inspired me to reach out to you.

I'm in my late 20's, never been married, but been in serious relationships essentially back to back since I was 17. I moved to Colorado a few years ago after one of the relationships ended, because it was what I wanted to do. I've always worked in corporate America, but I've always been active, enjoyed doing things outside, and wanted to have fun as much as possible.

Since moving to Colorado, I've gotten into skiing and climbing in a big way. I've been exposed to a world of outdoor recreation as a lifestyle and profession I didn't know existed when I was making choices about my future. I had always assumed I'd go to college (which I did), get an office job (which I did), have a family, and be happy. I've been on this road a few years, and the happiness is nowhere to be found. Instead, I dream of either throwing off the burden of society, selling all of my possessions and living in a van … or wishing I had spent my college years learning the skills necessary to become an AMGA mountain guide.

I sit in my cube, wishing my career revolved around being active, staying fit, and planning fun trips or outings. Doesn't even have to be crazy; I really enjoy taking new people out to climb for the first time. Having been an athlete from age six through college, my self-worth is definitely tied to body image and being good at physical activity. At this point, I feel lucky to have zero student loan debt, and am in no hurry to take on any in an attempt to switch careers, especially to one that is very competitive, low paying, has a low "retirement" age, and that I'm not convinced I'd enjoy.

Further complicating matters is having a somewhat serious partner. I've already expressed to this person that I don't particularly want to get married and more than likely don't want to have kids. These are for selfish but important reasons. I know I feel my best when I have time to myself to work out, get outside and climb and ski, and don't have many obligations financially. Children are expensive, both monetarily and time-wise, and I don't think I'd be happy giving up my activities to go to soccer games and ballet classes.

I know it's tough for my partner to hear about me wanting to move into a van and live a nomadic life, because that doesn't jive with her path. Part of the reason I don't want to get married is because I'm not entirely sure which direction my life will head. Maybe I will work up the courage to become a mountain guide and spend half the year in South America. That doesn't lend itself very well to being married and raising a family. It's also easy to say that I'm making a choice by staying in this relationship, and that's true, but at the same time, it's very difficult to walk away from someone who cares about you and supports you.

At the end of the day, it comes and goes in waves. There are days when I'm glad I get to leave the office at five, go to the gym, come home and take a real shower. Other days, it's all I can do to fight the urge to send a text saying, "I bought a van, and I'm hitting the road. You can stay or come, but I'm leaving." I just don't want to wake up one day, feeling like I missed an opportunity to live my life in a way that makes me the most happy, bogged down with commitments, unable to make a big change without significantly altering other people's' lives.

I think the crux of my struggle is: how can I identify with confidence what is going to make me the most happy in the long term? Does that work? I feel like that's what my mental theoreticals always come back to. Would I be happier foregoing ever having financial or personal stability and having adventures all the time, or would I be happier being financially and personally stable and adventure less often?

— Where Am I Going

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