Why You Should Scrap That Ladder-Climbing Plan And Go Backpacking Around The World, Instead

All the latest trends in career development suggest young people–and, really, all of us–need to get on the ball early, or end up flipping burgers. The Bold Academy’s Amber Rae doesn’t buy it. Consider this the commencement address everyone needs to hear.

Why You Should Scrap That Ladder-Climbing Plan And Go Backpacking Around The World, Instead

Attention all twentysomethings:


Backpacking around the world will not help your resume. Get on a career track. It’s likely that a stranger will help you develop your career more than your best friend. Remember: Typos and sick days matter.

If you “live together first” with your significant other, you are actually more likely to divorce. There is no reason to believe that your twenties will be the best years of your life.

Those were a few pieces of advice from Dr. Meg Jay in the Business Insider piece, “Why You Can’t Afford to Waste Your Twenties.”

In her book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How To Make The Most Of Them Now she suggests that if you follow advice about “finding yourself” you’ll waste your twenties and be a wreck by your thirties.

How exciting!

I think Dr. Jay should have titled her book, Be Mediocre: The Ultimate Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder, Asking for Permission, and Living a Boring Life.


While I’m not advocating poor decisions, lazy behavior, and a hedonistic pursuit of self, I do encourage twentysomethings (and beyond) to tap into our hyper-connected Internet world to invent new careers, act on ideas, and create a life that drives them and the world forward.

If I had followed Dr. Jay’s advice, I’d still be at my first job out of college. Although it was a burgeoning startup with a lot of room for growth, after 18 months of grinding, I knew intuitively that it was my time to go.

Instead, I spent three years living in six cities around the world, working on projects that challenged and enthralled me, in sectors ranging from publishing to technology to social impact to lifestyle design. I experimented with different ways of living, working, eating, sleeping, and playing to figure out what way of being resonated most with me. This ultimately led me to create Bold Academy, a life accelerator designed to give you the clarity, courage, and community to lead the life you’ve always wanted to live. In forging this path, I’ve fallen deeply in love, and sans Dr. Jay’s advice, we moved in together after two months. (Sometimes you do just know.)

Did I waste my twenties “finding myself” and am I on track to being a wreck by my thirties? Absolutely not. Instead of focusing on what I wanted to do with my life, I used the journey of discovery to figure out who I am, what my purpose is, and what my talents are, which creates a powerful foundation for the rest of my life.

Sure, backpacking around the world may not help my resume, but last I checked, I don’t actually need one. Neither did Zach Glassman, 26. Zach was a client of mine 14 months ago. When Zack, a commodities traders in Hong Kong, came to me, he was working in an environment that crushed his soul and encouraged him to be anything but himself. He felt desperate to figure out how he could get out of his way and do work that matters.

Within a few months, Zach left his job and embarked on a 10-month around-the-world trip which he dubbed “Passion Passport.” He met with the people who inspired his journey, photographing and journaling his adventures–all with the hopes of inspiring others to add more adventure to their lives. Within six months, thanks to Instagram and having a compelling story, he became a featured user and built a following of 50,000 people.


He then turned his journey into, where he promotes the transformative power of travel through touching stories, stunning images, and a project called The Bucket List Initiative. The Initiative gives prospective travelers the opportunity to win a chance to live out their travel dreams. Thanks to the perspective and space that travel provided him, he now has clear goals to attack and implement a number of growth ideas in mind for 2013.

Typos and sick days stopped mattering for Zach when he set out to design a life that combined his talent for photography, his passion for travel, and his unrelenting desire to live a life of adventure.

What track is your life on now? What track do you want to be on?

Dr. Jay says that the twentysomething years are essential to getting on a great career track. I say invent your own. Betsy Núñez, 25, agrees. She came to Bold Academy eager to figure out her next steps. She was a sales consultant by day and social venture cofounder by night (and every other moment she could find). Neither Betsy nor her venture were moving at a pace she knew they had the potential to reach. While at Bold, she learned how to make fear her companion, cultivate and implement her ideas quickly, pitch, hustle, see endless possibilities, and most importantly, to fully commit to her mission of driving positive social change.

Post-Bold Academy, she left her job of three years and joined forces with her sister and U.S. Army officer, Emily, to launch their company, Sword & Plough, which repurposes military surplus fabric into stylish bags. The company took to Kickstarter and exceeded its funding goal in two hours, ultimately raising $278,00 (and counting). The idea has become a flourishing reality, and Betsy is on track to leave a legacy.

My point in telling you these stories is this: Anything is possible. You can create the life you’ve always wanted to, if you believe it to be true. Your twenties will be the best years of your life. Your thirties will be the best years of your life. Your forties will be the best years of your life. All of your years will be the best years of your life if you decide they will and design your life accordingly.


Screw all of the triangulated data of what is and is not possible for your life. Instead, get out there and figure out the life that resonates most with you.

It’s your choice. So choose wisely.

[Image: Flickr user Viola Renate]


About the author

Amber Rae is hell-bent on inspiring you to create the world you want to live in. She creates in her studio and around the world – writing, experimenting, speaking and designing