“Passion” is a buzzword in the travel community. Follow your dreams, embrace your passion, do what you love — that’s how the collective war cry usually goes.
This is understandable. After all, we’re talking about a group of people who turns travel into a way of life, when most of the population considers it a frivolous pursuit.
But when it comes to work, should you also do what you love?
This article prompted me to do some thinking. I find it hard to come up with a definitive answer to the question, but I’m leaning toward a ‘no’ and here’s why.
#1. The money doesn’t always follow
The Do What You Love movement is essentially a protest against the way the job market works.
The job market is all about supply and demand. If you work in a high-demand profession, you can command a higher pay. So if working is a way to make a living, then the logical thing to do would be to choose a highly paid profession, regardless of how you feel about it.
Doing What You Love means ignoring market forces and knowingly choosing low-paying professions instead, if necessary.
Of course higher-paying professions can be Lovable too, but I imagine a doctor or an engineer wouldn’t have to invoke the Do What You Love mantra to choose their vocations. (I once interviewed a maxillofacial surgeon who enjoys his work and admits that the money isn’t bad too.)
And of course it’s possible to make it big Doing What You Love and earn a lot of money — that’s part of the attraction — but rarely happens. Just think of the number of wannabe-actor waiters in LA, for example.
But if Doing What You Love by nature means being underpaid and overworked, then wouldn’t those working conditions make the work unenjoyable? Wouldn’t it just become another bad job — or worse: a bad job with bad pay?
#2. The thing you enjoy as an activity may not work out so well as a profession.
I’ve always loved writing, so I used to think that Doing What I Love meant writing for a living.
But I tried that and it totally sucked out any enjoyment I used to derive from it. I would hate having to write for 40 hours a week according to the demands of editors and clients every single day of the working week, while dealing with office politics and deadlines.
As I learn over the years, above all else, what I love is being able to do things on my terms, even if it means forgoing regular paychecks and job security — whatever “job security” means in this day and age.
#3. Work shouldn’t be the all-encompassing source of joy in your life anyway.
You are probably a multifaceted person with more than one interest in life. And even if the subject of the work is not something you’re particularly passionate about, you can enjoy various aspects of the work.
You can be a perfectly happy receptionist because you enjoy the human interaction, for example. At 5 p.m., you can truly leave your work at the office and go home to your comfortable apartment. And you have some money in your savings account to travel on vacation days. Or you can even save enough money to take a one-year sabbatical.
(Check out my interview with Amanda, who alternates between working and traveling.)
For many travelers, work is often just a way to enable or prolong travel — not a path to fulfillment. And that’s perfectly fine. Your work doesn’t have to be your passion; it can just be the thing that enables you to follow your true passion.
As Penelope Trunk wrote: “I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex…But I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about ‘what do I love most?’ Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself?”
I realize this post kinda goes against my Steve Jobs post. I feel a little contradicted and this post is like a brain dump to help me sort out my thoughts on this complex subject. I’d love to hear what you have to say. Do you love what you do? Is it important for you that you do what you love? Or is work just a means to an end?