I lived in a van down by the river. Alright, I admit, it wasn’t actually down by a river, more like along the Mediterranean Coast in a country where I didn’t speak the language while having the time of my life.

  • Story Tiffany
  • Soundtrack of the report
  • Proud Mary
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival

I know not everyone will get the reference, but those who have had the pleasure of watching the American television sketch show Saturday Night Live might remember the late Chris Farley’s depiction of “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker.” In the over-the-top sketch he declares, “My name is Matt Foley and I am a motivational speaker. I am thirty-five, divorced, and live in a van down by the river.”

The beauty of Matt Foley came in his personification of everyone’s fear of growing up to be a failure living in a proverbial van down by the river, while everyone we know has gone on to become a big success with a fancy job title. With my ten year high school reunion looming, and with social networking sites like Facebook making the anticipation of said reunion into a tangible constant reminder with daily updates and posts from people flaunting their success, I admit, I started wondering if I’ve done anything with my life.

My biggest accomplishments to date involve travel to foreign countries and testing my own limits, not exactly something that can be quantified into a job title or neatly understood and packaged in a salary compensation report. So of course I started to panic. I found myself in yet another stable job doing what I was doing before I started to travel because of that fear of failure, but then one day I realized, I did live in a van and I loved my life more in that moment than any time that I’ve spent with my new fancy title and fancy paycheck.

It took place during the end of a solo trip in Italy, Egypt, Jordan, England, and Spain. I was given a choice to either head into Morocco, where I’ve traveled before and later would travel to again, or live in a van for a few days. No surprise, I chose the latter and never regretted my decision. Today, when I realized I had lived the fear personified by Matt Foley, I came to terms with the idea that a lot of the fears we’ve been taught are nothing more than that, a fear.

As many other travelers would agree, once the steps to explore the world and see how others live have been taken, it changes our perceptions of what we once feared. Without leaving my comfort zone, as travel has done for me time and time again, I never would have had my “ah hah” moment and realized I have lived my fear of failure and actually enjoyed it.