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On Making The Next Move

When someone goes out of their way to say something mean, you should probably listen.

Wade on beach
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QUEENS, New York- “You used to be ambitious. You used to do things,” my wife went off on me one night a couple of months ago.

I have to admit that I found myself in one of those rare moments where I didn’t know how to respond. She knows that me “being ambitious” and “doing things” means going on my journalistic voyages, and going on my journalistic voyages means leaving her and the kids, which she doesn’t like very much. Was she actually complaining about me being home most of the time and doing all the housework?

But I had to respond with something, so eventually sputtered out something about how I’m sacrificed my career to support her in her schooling and work or something like that.

“Your career!?!” she scoffed while rolling her eyes. “You don’t have a career. You’re a house husband.”

Boom.

I never thought I’d be called one of those. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with me but I decided to let it sink in fora moment. Am I a house husband?

I bank $60k a year, so, technically, I don’t think I am. However, I have found ways to increase my income while spending very little time actually working … so maybe she was on to something???

A few weeks later she busted out with the same tune:

“You haven’t done shit in years!”

While I feel as if she was technically incorrect — I think starting up a well-rated, rapidly ascending national cable news show, creating a film company, making productive investments, editing a book published by a major publisher, editing and publishing a book from a well-known doctor, making videos for major brands, ghost writing articles in the name of CEOs for major financial publications (hilarious shit), teeing up my first full-length feature narrative film, and earning significantly more money than I ever had before counts as doing shit — but I knew she had a point.

“You used to hustle, you used to try to be something,” she stomped it in a couple of nights ago.

This isn’t going to go away…

But I am confused.

When I was “ambitious,” when I was hustling, I worked all the time — almost literally, I worked all the time. 10 hours was a light day; 12 to 15 was more like it. I was passionate about what I did to the point of being obsessed. I wanted to be the best in my profession — journalism — and would wake up early in the morning and just plow. I would travel to places nobody else wanted to go and get unique stories in unconventional ways. And I was rewarded for this. My stories would regularly make the first page of major news publications and I made a name for myself in my niche. The wheels were spinning faster every year, momentum was growing, and then eventually I had what I wanted: to travel the world working on cool projects, giving talks, and having other people pay for it. I liked the attention, I liked being respected as an expert, I liked writing stories that would get over a million views, I like my work being cited in lawsuits, I liked doing all the interviews, I liked meeting all the people, I liked going on TV. It was fun, I felt like a somebody, and I earned the pride that comes from obtaining a position in life.

But this kind of passion comes with a price. I was gone most of the time, and when I was home I was hunched over a laptop or video editing suite … basically far, far away. It wasn’t cool. I missed a lot of my children growing up. I missed a lot of time with my wife … and it was clear that our marriage wouldn’t endure much more of this.

Then 2020 happened:

I realized about six months into the pandemic — after the career that I spent over a decade building went kaput — that the only thing you really have are the people that you spend your life with. The only meaningful investment is in those around you — investments that you make with time, effort, and thoughtfulness. Everything else is shallowly ephemeral. Jobs, projects, and money come and go, and once they go nobody gives a shit anymore. Nobody cares about what you did or what you had, our past deeds, successes, and accomplishments are meaningless when measured up against how good you make the people around you feel.

Nobody but you cares about your victories.

Relationships are the true work of life.

While the global reaction to the “pandemic” was horrid, destructive, and nonsensical — it just didn’t work and we had data before we started that said it wouldn’t work — it was probably the best thing for me … and, in an odd way, was exactly what I wanted.

After spending a month in an NYC apartment with my family, just hanging out, enjoying each other, and doing nothing … something inside me changed. I eventually realized that I had no need to sit at a laptop all day, that I had no reason to be checking my phone all the time, that there wasn’t even a need to check my email for days. I quit my job as a journalist — I wasn’t going to be one of those jackasses writing the news from their bedroom. It was almost a relief that the end came not from my fucking something up — which is very easy to do in my profession — but from something outside of my control.

Oddly, I felt free. I had no idea how wrapped up in my work I’d become, how afraid I was of failing, how much of the rest of my life I was missing. I probably never felt better … and like a dog that slips his collar, there was no way I wanted to go back.

I like my family. I like New York City and what I’m doing here. I like being able to get high quality food and go to the gym. I think about going back to the way I was living — chained to my devices, deadlines, interview schedules, site tours, hotels, flights, bad food, drinking way too much, being away from my kids … and I shudder. I feel free and loose and happy. I don’t want to put the collar back on.

But I know I have to.

I would like to think that I would be fine “doing nothing” indefinitely. I know what it’s like to do something and I know how empty it really is. But I think it may be a little too premature for this. I guess I’m proud of what I did but I know I didn’t complete the job. I feel like an athlete that plays a year or two as a backup for a pro team before being cut and giving up. Sure, you played pro but nobody knows who the fuck you are and you didn’t accomplish what you originally envisioned. You moved the goal posts closer to you and called it good enough.There are some things that I wanted to do that I’ve done. But there are others that I haven’t. There are a few failures that I haven’t covered up with victories. I want to be done but I don’t feel done yet.

“The kids are older now and they don’t need as much. You can go,” my wife said tonight.

I recently received an email from a major publication that I once wrote for. They want me to come back. I’ve been putting off my response …


 

When someone goes out of their way to say something mean, you should listen. It is rare when mean statements are not saturated in truth. That’s what makes them mean. Part of being a good husband / wife / partner / friend is going out of your way to tell the truth — even if it’s mean. This is just part of the work of caring about somebody. If you don’t do it you are not being supportive and understanding, you are being lazy and negligent.

My wife went out of her way on three separate occasions to be mean to me. I thought about giving up. I thought about just working normal jobs operating cameras and editing. They both pay well. But when I look back at the end of the road I’m not sure if I would be satisfied with this. I probably wouldn’t be satisfied if I kept going like I was, obsessed with my work, always away from my family. But I believe I may not be satisfied if I packed it all in now. I still have a good ten to fifteen years left in me before I can rightfully cap off my work and proclaim “This is what I did.”

Maybe my wife knows this.

Filed under: Family, Travel Philosophy, Work

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3654 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

10 comments… add one

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  • Rob November 17, 2022, 2:42 pm

    I suspect that in the end you’re going to do what you want. With all the changes over the last few years “that” may not be as clear as it was but you’ll find it.
    Sharing this with us is a step in that direction…

    Good luck!

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    • VBJ November 17, 2022, 4:09 pm

      Thank you. Yes, I will get back at it. I don’t really have much of a choice at this point. It was clear that even though my wife complained about me traveling and being obsessed with my work there was something about it that she respected. She simply isn’t going to respect someone who sits in their underwear all day no matter how much money they make 🤣

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  • Stuck In Melbourne November 17, 2022, 7:36 pm

    Wow, what a post. I’ve always appreciated the honesty in your writing, but this one is right up there 🙂

    It’s about identity, not only who you are, but also how you see yourself. Making a good living to support your family with a safe, predictable job is all well and good, but it’s safe and predictable, and if you’ve spent a large part of your life living on the edge, it’s always going to be somewhat unsatisfying.

    OTOH, you can’t have everything and so you have to decide what’s more important. I wish there was an answer – I’ve gone through the same process myself, and I didn’t find one. Grass always gonna be greener somewhere else… :-/

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    • VBJ November 18, 2022, 10:52 pm

      Thank you!

      That is true: you can’t have everything. At least not at one time anyway. I kind of think of life as a sequence of phases. Go all out in each phase and the grand sum of everything can appear as if you had everything … or at least everything you wanted. But the grass is always greener … which I think is good. At the very least it keeps you moving 😉

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  • Richard November 18, 2022, 7:45 am

    I’ve been following you and your website(on and off) since I was 15 years old. I’m 34 now! I can’t for the life of me see how you’ve done nothing. Sure things slowed down because of covid but if you make as much as you say you make without busting yourself into the grave I think that’s a huge win. Who wouldn’t be proud of that?

    Because of you and other sources I’m following a similar path and I thank you for giving me the awareness I needed.

    How hard do we as men have to work to prove to the people around us that we are worthy? I do agree that there are some truths to someones “meanness” but there are better ways to communicate then being outright insulting.

    Here’s to many more articles and accolades for you my virtual traveling friend! Love from Canada! 🇨🇦🍁

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    • VBJ November 18, 2022, 11:02 pm

      That’s incredible! I guess it has been that long. I began this blog 17 years ago … I moved it to vagabondjourney.com 15 years ago. Wow. Thank you for following for so long!

      “Because of you and other sources I’m following a similar path and I thank you for giving me the awareness I needed.”

      You’re very welcome. Would love to hear more about this.

      “How hard do we as men have to work to prove to the people around us that we are worthy?”

      Haha yes, for real. It’s kind of like grasping at puffs of condensed air on a cold day. Once you do what you think you should to be deemed worthy the goal posts move … or, in some cases, go to the exact opposite place you were trying to get away from. At the end of the day we all just need to do what will make ourselves happy as the desires of other people are usually fleeting.

      “Here’s to many more articles and accolades for you my virtual traveling friend! Love from Canada! 🇨🇦🍁”

      Thank you!

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  • Trevor Warman November 18, 2022, 12:12 pm

    Love your honesty.

    Another thing you have done was to help me, even if you don’t know you did.

    Tell wifey that. Jiji

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    • VBJ November 18, 2022, 11:03 pm

      Thanks man! Aww, you’re making me all blushy over here.

      I will let her know.

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  • Georgiy Romanov November 20, 2022, 4:29 pm

    Hey Wade! You never cease to amaze me! Thank you for the article. I remember dreaming of repeating your career until 2020. However, when the pandemic happened and now there is a war, my dream has changed a lot. I returned to my roots: to photography. For 2 years I created a business in photography. And now feel what you felt during your travels. I’m full of life, full of energy and my dreams become reality. However, my desire to travel has not gone away. I still want to drive along the New Silk Road, still want come to New York and have a beer with my favorite author. Creative people should support each other. This is what I have learned.

    With best regards, your friend.

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    • VBJ November 21, 2022, 10:12 am

      Thank you, Georgiy, Reading comments like this makes me smile. I’m happy to hear that your photography business is going well and that you’ve successfully transitioned to doing something that you enjoy in the face of a pandemic and war. That’s takes a lot of resolve and determination. Hopefully the world will get back to normal again at some point and you will be able to travel freely again. It would be excellent to meet you someday. That beer is waiting for you in New York.

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