That man on the plane
I boarded my flight from LAX to JFK and saw that I had an aisle seat on the last row. Soon after my plane neighbor arrived and grabbed the window seat.
“So, were you visiting LA, or do you live there?”.
Turned out his family was actually from Italy, but his parents moved to New York two years before he was born and he was now living in Santa Barbara with his (American) wife and kids.
Our conversation took off and we first got the typical questions out of the way: where did we live, what did we do for a living, did we have a partner, children, a house, a dog – no wait, I don’t think we asked anything about a dog.
Of course the man, let’s call him C., also wanted to know what I thought about Los Angeles.
I told him I’d absolutely loved it.
I’d just spent 12 days there and was sad to leave. The vibe there was SO different from the one I generally experience in Belgium. People smiled at me on the street, or even said hello. I met so many people and it cost me less effort than starting a conversation with people I see weekly for certain occasions back home. Everyone seemed to have such a positive attitude and everything seemed possible.
I know this will sound cliché, but I could feel the American dream in Los Angeles. It’s not that everyone I met wanted to become an actor (well, there was this one guy…), but everyone seemed to have a goal and, most importantly, they seemed convinced that they had what it took to achieve that goal.
The dreams of a daughter
When I ended my ode to LA I expected to be put back with my feet on the ground. I expected C. to address some of the ugly sides of Los Angeles and tell me that most people were just friendly because they noticed I was a tourist.
But he didn’t.
Instead he told me a story about his daughter.
His daughter loves to perform. She’d already attended a musical camp and had performed at a local fair, a small theater and a radio station when one day she told her parents that this was what she wanted to do. She wanted to act “for real”.
C. was skeptical about it. He knew that so many people wanted to make it in show business, especially in Los Angeles, and that few of them actually did.
Somehow it was strange that he wasn’t more supportive of the idea as he himself had loved to become an actor when he was younger. He even got some opportunities to step into the trade, but his mother told him it would be too hard of a path to take and he listened.
His wife, however, just started looking for auditions and gigs that their daughter would qualify for.
And you know what?
C.’s daughter got a role in a TV show and two movies.
It was perfectly possible her to do what she wanted to do. All it took was someone who believed it could be done.
Now this post isn’t about believing in your children or not. I know C. is super proud of his kids and supports them fully.
It’s about a general difference in mentality.
C. realized this and that was also why he’d told me this story.
More so: he believed that the mentality difference between him and his wife hadn’t just been one between two people, but that it was actually a difference between ‘the American mentality’ and ‘the European mentality’.
Now I know that there are plenty of Americans who don’t have the “Just go for it” mentality, just as there are Europeans who are making their dreams come true, but having travelled through a lot of European countries and living in one I actually feel that this mentality difference is a real one.
I’m from Belgium and in Belgium everything seems to be aimed at conformity.
I could write books about it, but the thing is that if you want to do something out of the ordinary in Belgium, most people will think you’re a dreamer, unrealistic and – at best – ‘special’ (mind the ‘ ‘).
Get in the right mindset
I met C. a month after I’d started my travel blog Wonderful Wanderings and I truly believe his story helped shape the way I look at my blog and what I want to achieve with it.
Screw just keeping a travel diary. Whether there is an American versus a European mentality or not, I want to be the one who goes for it. I want to help people all over the world plan their own wonderful wanderings. I want to make my mark in the travel blogging world. I want to create something of my own that I can be proud of.
And I don’t just want these things, I’m working hard to achieve them. No, I’m not there yet and sometimes everything seems to go so frustratingly slow but giving up isn’t an option. I want to make this work.
If there’s something you want to achieve, don’t focus on the difficulties you’ll face; focus on the things that will get your there… and know they will get you there.
Don’t hold yourself back from achieving a dream and don’t count on other people to do the work for you. The only one holding you back from achieving your dreams is you. The only one who can make them come through is you.