It’s not about the things we love, it’s about the reasons why we love them.
My story is similar to that of many other people. I grew up believing that the steps to success were to work hard, graduate from a “good” college, and get a “good” job, at which point I would be happy. And so I did. I moved to Washington DC when I was 18 years old, full of hopes and dreams of someday working for the government and traveling the world.
DC was a great place to go to school, especially if you were studying International Relations, as I was. I spent three years in college reading everything I could get my hands on about security policy, insurgency theory, and the Middle East.
However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t really interested in any of the jobs that came along with my chosen field of study. Working in the policy community in Washington DC extended far beyond just getting to nerd out about things that I was passionate about. Yes, there’s a lot of super nerdy research involved, but in order to be successful in your field, you have to live and breathe your area of expertise. While I may have been capable of success, the DC workaholic culture would have killed me.
It goes far beyond the pervasive expectation that you will show up early, stay late, and answer every work email immediately, regardless of the time of day (looking at you, boss who called me at 6am and three times while I was in an hour-long yoga class because I didn’t immediately respond to his email).
I fundamentally take issue with the American cultural norm that we live to work and our value to society is based on how much output we produce. But the factor that really set my decision to leave was the people I had to interact with on a daily basis. DC is a city of of politics, connections, and ulterior motives. You can be brilliant in your field but if you don’t know the right people or run in the necessary circles, you won’t get anywhere. Everyone in Washington has an agenda, and nothing is real.
It’s the polar opposite of life on the open road. The anonymity of being in a city where you know no one means that you can be completely authentic. When no one knows you and you cross paths with people for just a few short days before moving along, you have no reason to bullshit. And life without bullshit is beautiful.
For so long, I struggled with trying to wrap my mind around the monotony of the 9-to-5 office job where you show up, see the same people, deal with the same office politics and drama, and sit in the same uncomfortable chair day in and day out. Had I loved my job and the people I worked with, it may have taken me longer to come to this conclusion, but there was something missing from my life.
Washington is a town of people with agendas. Out of all the people I met in the year leading up to my decision to leave DC, there were maybe a handful of people I could actually see myself wanting to be friends with because they seemed genuine. Of these few – several of them, I met while I was traveling, and the rest I met while they were visiting DC. Not one of them was from the town I had adopted as my home.
I decided I didn’t want to be around people who treat connections like currency and always have some ladder to climb. The city I had come to love began to feel more and more foreign as the days went by. As a college student, it was easier to feel as if I belonged here. Once I transitioned into the adult world and realized that I no longer fit here, the decision to leave was easy.
I’m not sure where this path is going to lead, but I know that it’s the right one for where I am right now.
Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)
P.S. – If you’d like to keep track of my daily adventures, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @bubu_backpacks.