“Living the dream.”

This phrase has always been my biggest pet peeve (besides people spelling my name wrong). It literally makes me cringe every time I hear someone use it.

Maybe it’s because I used to have a co-worker that would answer every greeting with “just living the dream, man, just living the dream” and I had to listen to that for 4 years. Maybe it’s because people use it to mean exactly the opposite. Maybe it’s because people use it to refer to the American dream, which holds no appeal for me.

Whatever the reason, the phrase has been tainted for me.

Until today, when I met a couple who are literally living their dream.

One of the absolute best parts of traveling is getting to meet people from all walks of life, but it’s not often I’m quite as inspired as I was by Christian and Ana. I know you can have boy crushes and girl crushes, but is it possible to have a couple crush? Because I think they might be the perfect couple.

Tanned, athletic, gorgeous and playfully in love, Christian and Ana are the kind of people you want to hate but you can’t because they’re also insanely fun and friendly. He’s German, she’s Serbian. Both of them speak excellent English with just enough of an accent to be exotic.

She is a girl after my own heart like you would not believe. Not only is she a huge Gray’s Anatomy fan, but she wears her genuine Panama hat everywhere. I have to get one now, there’s no way around it. She’s also a goofball, much like yours truly.

The best part is that they are world travelers with a passion for adventure. Every time I mentioned a destination on my travel bucket list they would launch into a description of how gorgeous it is and what the best things to do there are. They’ve been everywhere. Skiing in the Alps, river rafting in Bosnia, backpacking through Columbia, paddle boarding in Greece…now that’s a dream I’d like to be living. (Okay, so I am living part of that!)

And here’s the kicker: they’re both doctors. He’s a surgeon and she’s a cardiologist.

My first question was probably the one most people would have asked: “How on earth do you find time to travel all over the world?”

Ana’s answer was so simple. “Organization & priorities. Being a doctor in Europe is not like being a doctor in the U.S. We understand the value of taking time for ourselves in order to stay happy and energized.

The more we talked, the more I realized how Americans are getting it wrong. So much of the American dream seems to be a competition of who can work the longest hours, who can hustle the hardest, who can stress themselves out the most.

We’re up at 5am to get a workout in before heading to the office. We answer emails lying in bed at 11pm. We triple-book meetings. We multitask until we’re so burned out that by the time we get around to using our 2 weeks of vacation time (if we ever do) all we want to do is crash.

And why? So we can have a bigger house? A new car every year? Furniture that costs so much we’re afraid to let people sit on it? Guess what, guys? The more stuff you own, the more it owns you.

We’re so brainwashed to believe that if we take the time to have our own lives outside of our jobs, we won’t get ahead. Someone younger and hungrier will come in and take our job. Well, I say let ‘em. Let someone else burn themselves out in the rat race.

Maybe you’ll make less money. Maybe you’ll have less stuff. Maybe you’ll actually be happier.

The truth is that taking time to slow down and actually do the things you dream about, like travel, will ultimately lead to a better and more fulfilling life. Not only for yourself but for the people around you. Happy, energized, balanced people have the most to offer.

According to Forbes, a study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association and conducted by Oxford Economics showed that employees who take regular vacations where they are completely unplugged from job responsibilities actually exhibit higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, and better health than those who do not.

Despite these findings, over 40% of Americans don’t take the time off that they are entitled to. Of those who do, nearly half of them admitted to taking a laptop with them to stay plugged into the office. I know I was guilty of this when I was at my marketing job.

Ana & Christian have jobs where people’s lives literally depend on them, and I can tell you after spending the morning paddle boarding with them, that they could not have been more unplugged.

Would you rather have a doctor who’s exhausted from pushing themselves to work 36 straight hours or a doctor who is refreshed & enthusiastic about helping their patients because they understand the value of physical AND mental health?

Guys, we need to travel. We need to unplug. We need to recharge. We need to reevaluate this whole “living the dream” concept.

What dream are you living? Is it one that actually makes you happy, or are you just putting the petal to the metal hoping that the dream part will come true someday?

Are you living your dream or just what someone else tells you your dream should be?

Live your dream.

And live it now, because someday is just an elusive mythical creature. Whether it’s taking that weekend camping trip with your kids you’ve been thinking about or quitting your job to teach English in Cambodia, stop thinking about it and make it happen.

And don’t give me the “I’m too busy” excuse. If two doctors with busy careers and different schedules can find the time to have adventures all over the world, so can you.

You know what makes dreams come true (hint: it’s not money)? Organization and priorities. Understanding the value of taking time for yourself so you have more to give to others.

Now that I’ve seen what living the dream really means, I realize that I don’t hate the phrase. I’ve seen a glimpse of a dream that I want (genuine Panama hat included) and I’m going to get out there and live it. Actually, I think I’ve made a pretty good start so far. 🙂

What does living the dream mean to you?



Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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  1. Adam    

    “What does living the dream mean to you?”
    Well Mandi! Seeing as this phrase is in our email address, I feel we probably should say something!

    Living the dream to me means: Not having to work a 9hr waste of time everyday just to stay afloat, It means to me having the ability to work at my passion everyday all day if I so chose. It is certainly not this giant punji pit of false hope the “American Dream” tricks many into wanting. I think if more people read and actually thought about the question you asked, instead of merely passing it off as a bunch of letters. We might have a chance or a tiny glimmer at least, that one day we may all just be exactly we were suppose to be.

    Excellent post Mandi! Just maybe shouldn’t of read it at 30,000 feet.

    All the best!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Adam! I completely agree – my mantra is “collect memories, not things.” I wish more people would realize that there are ways to live their dreams other than working at a job that makes them miserable for years in the hope that they may SOMEDAY get to live the lifestyle they want. It’s a gamble I’m personally not willing to take, and it sounds like you’re not either! 🙂

  2. Sabina    

    I could not be more in love with this amazing article! I just Tweeted it and hope others do the same. Everything you said is so true – I’ve said it a million times before and will continue to repeat it. Why get stuck in the rat race when all you’re doing is putting your needs below those of whoever is selling you the “American” dream?

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Sabina! The way I see it, we all have a certain amount of time and energy here on this planet, and I’d rather pour mine into working toward making my dreams come true, not making money for someone else!

  3. Morgan Noll    

    I love this! I’ve always believed that saying you don’t have time really just means it’s not a priority. It’s so easy to let those around you influence your ideas of the dream life and lose sight of what that means to you. Thanks for putting something so important into words!

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