When I was a teenager, I was an exchange student in Australia — and it changed the trajectory of my life.
Former AFS student here! I was so saddened when one of my college students in Georgia couldn't come to London on our five-week trip because her parents had threatened to stop paying for her education. If teens can go overseas, they should. If not, then I firmly believe that all teens should have a trusted adult in their lives who isn't a parent--an aunt, a family friend, even a teacher--who models another way of seeing the world. And I'm a parent. And we all screw up, every last one of us. Which is why we need help. :)
I love this post! It made me reflect on my own upbringing and the fact that I was encouraged to spread my wings and fly...but not too far. Because of that, I’ve done the opposite for my own kids--encouraging them to dream big, throw caution to the wind, and to live the lives they were meant to live!
Thank you for sharing this, Michael. I really enjoyed it and will definitely read again and again.
Wow, this is such a great read and just made me smile so hard. Congrats, Michael, on all of it! Those Australian adults who encouraged you deserve medals, too. Or at least a free VB.
Such an inspiring, kick-ass post, Michael! As you know my kids are still young -- 7 and 3.5 -- and we try really hard to find the balance between pragmatism and limitlessness.
My number one goal as a parent -- despite knowing I'm making tons of mistakes and passing down all sorts of inherited trauma and unhelpful behaviors -- is to raise independent kids. I already tell them they can do whatever they want, and be whoever they want, and that life is an adventure and they should go for it.
Of course, that almost certainly means they'll get jobs in banking and houses in the suburbs. :-)
SO good, Michael. Thanks for sharing this story. I love how living the life of your dreams cracks open a sliver in a door to allow others to see what things might be like if they, too, followed their inner compass.
I watched my artist parents struggle financially and decided to do engineering school even though I didn't give a rats ass about it. Now I'm back in the artistic realm and living closer to my parent's freewheeling, creative existence. Funny how we can come back around or ricochet far, far away from where we started and end up happy either way depending on the circumstances.
Also, the pictures...aren't old, embarrassing photos of ourselves the best? I hope you still have that suit! You'd have to get it tailored though.
As a former business major, I’m glad this is the path you took. 💞
Wonderful story! I was fortunate to have parents who loved to travel, and while they didn’t take me on their international trips, I saw plenty of the U.S. with them as a kid. The kids who did year long exchange programs fascinated me -- i think I had some fear around being *too* adventurous! 😂
Our son is a senior in high school and he’s a very gifted writer, producer, and storyteller. I’ve been gently encouraging him to consider film school or something adventurous like that, and to my surprise he’s being practical with his education saying, “I can teach myself writing and storytelling. I want to go to school for something I can fall back on in case it doesn’t work out.” 😳
I mean. I’m so confused by this. I want to yell GO BE RECKLESS FOR AWHILE OKAY?
Good morning! I just love this piece. There are so many threads of my own life that run through it, that it was comforting and unnerving at the same time.
I, too, spent a year away from home- when I was in college. That opportunity opened me to so many life-changing experiences. I never was able to adequately thank my parents for providing me with it. I’ll remain forever sad about that.
One example of those experiences was coming out. I was able to come out without any of the fear of family or close friends. “ finding out.” And I felt pretty good about the process, even though this was in the 1970s and there were not many support systems in the community for young gay men. We had to make our own, and that was part of the fun living during that time!!!
And yes, that year would inspire me to become a lifelong lover of travel. My only regret is that I did not learn two or three foreign languages along the way. Now, my German is so rusty I can only get me to the train station!!!
Thanks for such a great article. ❤️❤️
What an incredible thing to have met people like that at that particular point in your life! I’m so glad to read this.
As always, you made me stop and think - and reflect on whether as a parent I repeated my parents’ mistakes and dumped my preconceptions about what would make my kids happy on them. I think I might have tried at times … but now as the very proud parent of one fairly conventional adult, and another who identifies a non-binary self-proclaimed “weirdo nerd” - both happily in careers I would never have chosen for them - I’m really glad I didn’t succeed. They were uniquely well-equipped to decide for themselves, but nonetheless I wish they’d had a Phil and Shân of their own !
Such a great read, Michael - wow!
Phil's line "You just have to decide what you want and then do that" has hit me right in the chest, because I've always struggled with both the "decide" and the "do". I'm pleased to report though that 40+ Rebecca is rather more confident than teenage Rebecca, and is much better at getting stuck in.
Thank you for such a thought-provoking post.
Hi Michael, you have no idea how much you inspired me reading this post. It warmed my heart and felt like someone understood me with the struggle of choosing your career between being 'practical', conventional, or what you truly want. Such an amazing post. I am an immigrant and felt like my roots tied me to what I truly wanted to be just because it was the only and familiar way. I've never read something where I've felt so heard and seen. Thank you so so much.
I love this! Cheers to travel, stepping outside of the ordinary, and to those incredible Australian hosts.
Ah, such good timing to read this. I have 3 teenage boys all wanting to ‘live outside of the matrix’ and it’s scary - as a parent you do want the best for them. I’ve asked them all to finish their education as a back up/plan B and then they’re free to pursue their goals. It’s a fine balance and I really want them to have that freedom and yet be ‘safe’. I know I need to let go a little more, so they can truly spread their wings!
Thank you for this piece. I always have known that it is best to do what you feel is best for yourself when you can. Sometimes you can't and that's okay, but looking ahead and working for the future you want is the thing. I was lucky that my mom, who always said she'd like to see me wear a suit to work, didn't push that view, and supported my sailing and beach lifestyle. I'm 57, still sailing and loving life most days. Following your instincts even when young, is surely the right path. I really appreciate you and Brent sharing a part of your lives with us.
Thanks for sharing this story. I wish I had met an unconventional set of parents like your Australian parents. It took me 64 years (when I retired) to give up my conventional life and although I am still US bound, I moved from a Chicago suburb to Sedona AZ, a completely different place and way of life. If I didn't have dogs, I would be traveling more. Am even considering renting out my home and traveling across the USA and Canada with my two dogs for a year or two. My friends just stand there and stare at me when I mention doing this. Maybe you have given me the courage to do so now!