Lauren of Lateral Movements – not following social norms

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Indiana native Lauren Fitzpatrick never got a proper job. Instead, she got working holiday visas for Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, and Korea. She has held over 30 jobs, including carny, English teacher and movie extra. Lauren blogs about travel and working abroad at Lateral Movements, and you can follow her on facebook or twitter @LateralMovement
Today she shares her story with Leaving Cairo.
In 2003, I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Communication & Culture, and no idea how to use it.

 So I went to Ireland.

Galway
Galway

In Ireland, there was no pressure to get a ‘real’ job, because I was automatically doing something worthwhile – I was travelling. I worked as a coffee shop waitress in Galway for three months and basically extended my university lifestyle, spending most of my time not worrying about my future and getting to know the local pubs.
I reasoned that this was okay, because, like my conventionally responsible friends, I too had a five-year plan:
2003 – 2004: Working holiday in Ireland and Britain
2004 – 2005: Working holiday in Australia
2005 – 2006: Working holiday in New Zealand
Shoot: technically it was a three-year plan, but that was better than no plan at all. I figured that by the time I got to the end of the third year, something spectacular would have happened, uniting me with my destiny.

Which is what happened. Sort of.

By the end of my wildly successful three-year plan, I had added 18 new jobs to my resume, including: coffee shop waitress, gym membership sales, personal assistant, bar waitress, fruit picker, hostel cleaner, bungee trampoline operator, carny, hostel receptionist, office assistant, reporter, subject recruiter, drug trial recruiter, and support officer. My resume was nearly as cluttered as my passport, and I was definitely no closer to a career.
While that hadn’t bothered me initially, I was starting to stress. I was 25. My friends were moving forward, and I was all over the shop, taking on weird jobs like it was – well, my job. I had accrued irresponsible credit card debt, plus had no real plan and nothing to show but intangible travel experiences. To others, I appeared flighty, and I couldn’t stand it.

That summer, I took a job teaching reading classes in Florida. The funny thing is that I didn’t really enjoy the work, but I enjoyed saying that I was a teacher. I was so tired of hearing the question, “What do you do?” and not having an answer. Now, I could tell people I was a teacher.

Teaching in Korea
Teaching in Korea

Except that I wasn’t a teacher. Not really. I worked for a private company that provided all materials and lesson plans; all I had to do was be mildly charismatic and remember a bunch of names. My focus was on the end of the summer, when my new, responsible life was scheduled to start: I was going to be a Master’s student in travel writing at Kingston University in London.And suddenly, that answered everyone’s questions. “Oh,” they said, “you’re going to be a travel writer, like for Lonely Planet and stuff!” Just like that, because my travelling suddenly had a semi-sensible potential job title attached to it, my lifestyle was socially acceptable.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t become a travel writer. Not officially.

I did, however, get a dream internship with Busabout Europe. They sent me around Europe for six weeks. I blogged about it.

And I fell in love.

Jared and I met in Bruges, moved in together in London, and moved to Australia 8 months later. I added two more jobs to my resume: shop assistant and recruiter. After our year in Australia was up, we took off for South Korea, where we managed to teach English, travel up a storm, and save money – all over a period of two years.

Newly engaged
Newly engaged

I became debt-free. I kept blogging. I started writing.

I realised that life didn’t have to follow an existing pattern:

it can be anything you want it to be. We spent four months backpacking through South America, three months visiting family and friends in the US, and are now back in Australia, applying for a de facto visa.
Through a blogging connection, I work as a contractor for a social media strategist and write for on line travel publications. I’m also working on a memoir, getting settled in Australia, planning a wedding, and thinking about where we’ll travel next.These days, if you ask me what I “do,” I’ll tell you that I’m a freelancer. In a way, it’s what I’ve been doing all along.

Lauren is proof that it is OK to not live a conventional nine-to-five lifestyle: a husband, house with white picket fence. labrador dog and 2.4 kids.  OK, these may come eventually – but not in any expected order, if at all!
Thanks for sharing your story Lauren.  If you like what you’ve read here – be sure to follow Lauren on her blog.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve started saying I’m a freelancer as well, only took me over a year in Paris to finally figure out it was the easiest and best way to describe myself! It got too exhausting trying to figure out what exactly I was and trying to explain what I do to everyone, plus people are impressed with your ‘free’ spirit and willingness to risk job security and health insurance to just bet on yourself and pursue your own happiness.

  2. Well said Edna! Yes, I find people are so caught up with the “what if’s?” in life and opt for the safe route. I admire and can relate to Lauren…people question why I stay in Greece when it’s so ‘shaky’ – I tell them they need to come here to discover the country and its beauty, its simplicity before they judge.

    Yes, nothing wrong with not living your life by convention!

  3. Right?! I’ve been kicking myself for not thinking of it a long time ago. People go, “Aahhh,” like they understand, then you can see the confusion flit across their face – ‘But what exactly does a freelancer do?’ – except people usually let it drop by then.

  4. What a great article Lauren, and one I can totally relate too – what is it with everyone having to be labelled by thir career – I too am a freelance (something!) anf love moving around the europe. Although I’m normally following my husband whose career moves us around frequently.
    I love your website too – you have a new converted follower 🙂

  5. Thank you Fiona! So pleased to have a new reader 🙂 It’s so true that everyone winds up being labeled by their career, no matter where you are. It’s so odd and irrelevant! Glad we can just say ‘freelancer’ and move on.

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