Have you ever asked yourself why you spend so much time doing some of the things you do? Have you ever stopped to question whether the things you do in your free time actually make you happy?
I never had, until I recently noticed that I didn't miss something I used to do so often.
Fashion, clothes and insecurity
I used to shop a lot.
I think it started when I reached puberty. I’d always been quite insecure and that got worse when I went to high school and things like parties and boys started to play a significant role in my life. I started paying more attention to the way I looked and constantly compared myself to other girls who were more popular/skinny/pretty …
When I was about 14 yours old I started taking dance classes. Although I loved those classes, they didn't help my confidence grow. Clothes and style in general are important in the dance world and, just like in regular fashion, new trends follow each other faster than you can cut a price tag out of a new t-shirt. On top of that there’s always that mirror you’re looking into while taking class.
In hindsight I think I spent a lot of my teenage years trying to keep up. With the popular girls at school, with the best dancers in my dance school, with the trends in both of those social worlds.
And for what?
As I grew older my allowance got bigger and I started working summer jobs. From that moment I had my own money to spend as I pleased and although I also saved a lot, I often spent my money on clothes.
Still, I didn't have my driver's license yet and we lived too far away from the shops to get there by bike or on foot. So if I could go shopping mostly depended on whether my mom felt like going shopping with me.
But then I went to university. Not only did I get my driver’s license (and my own car when I turned 19), I also studied in the center of Leuven for four years. I didn't live there, but when I walked from the train station to where I had class and back I always had to go through one of the two main shopping streets. The fact that we sometimes had free time in between classes didn't help either.
Things got even worse when I did an extra master at the University of Antwerp. I lived there for a year and as some of you may know, Antwerp is the Belgian fashion city.
Filling a Void
Now, it’s not so that I went shopping all the time and neglected my studies or got into debt. It’s not that I had to go shopping. I just didn't have anything else to do. Yes, I still danced and of course I often met up with friends, but I didn't have anything I wanted to work towards to. I didn't have a goal that required my time in order to be reached.
Basically, I was just killing time.
And then there was travel
At a certain moment ‘free time’ almost equaled ‘shopping time’. I constantly spotted cool clothes on other people and felt like I had to keep up. I wouldn't have been caught dead wearing the same outfit for two consecutive days, so I followed the trends and spent at least half an hour each morning staring at my wardrobe before deciding what to wear.
That didn't make me happy though. After I’d gone shopping I often realized that I’d bought things that I didn't really need, or that I didn't even like that much. I owned a bunch of clothes I barely wore and I frequently returned things only to come home with something new again.
Travel has changed that.
The more I started to travel, the more I knew that what travel had to give me was so much more valuable than a new pair of shoes or a sweater.
I started thinking differently. A t-shirt became a meal abroad; shoes were several nights at a hostel; not going shopping for months would equal a plane ticket to the States.
On top of that I didn't feel the need anymore to wear something different every day and so I started packing less for trips.
Travel has showed me that there's so much that's possible and so I now work hard for the things that are of real value to me. I don't go shopping anymore in the weekends. Instead I stay to work on my travel blog, to plan a new trip or to help people plan their own wonderful wandering.
My story could be yours
You might have read this post and think: “Wow, that girl had a problem’. I don’t think I did. Maybe I did.
Either way, if I had a problem, a lot of people do. When I look at friends, colleagues and family they are constantly shopping. Some of them see shopping as a fun day out; others explore cities shopping street by shopping street; colleagues fill their lunch breaks by browsing through online stores …
Is this hardly recognizable for you? Try substituting shopping with something else, like online gaming, going out, watching television…
Now, I’m not saying that we should all quit doing those things. I just think that if there’s something that you do a lot and that doesn't really make you happy, you should have a look at why you do it.
Maybe you’re trying to fill a gap with the wrong thing or maybe you’re just doing it because everyone else is doing it.
Either way, there is something out there that will make you happy, that will give you purpose.
For me, that’s travel. What is it for you?
Sofie is a language lover and travel aficionada who combines a full-time job with freelance writing and travel blogging. She uses her weekends, vacation days and public holidays to travel the world and share her experiences with you on her blog Wonderful Wanderings. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook or connect with her on Google+.