American Dream: Fairy Tale Or Nightmare?

American Dream: Fairy Tale Or Nightmare?

This is a guest post by Mike Routen at Route To Freedom.  Mike posts weekly on his blog about helping like-minded people wake up from the American Dream and start finding the route to their own freedom.

The American Dream.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Grow up, get a good education, get a good job, get married, buy a house, work until you retire, enjoy life.

Sounds like a fairy tale.

Turns out to be more like a nightmare.

I know, I’ve followed the plan for the last 20 years and it has lead me in the wrong direction.

We didn’t start our marriage with the intention of chasing the American Dream. At some point though, we were seduced by the lure of wealth, comfort and possessions by following bad advice.

Making these a priority over personal freedom lead us to compounding debt, locking me into a job and making us put our dreams on hold.

While I do appreciate the job that I’ve been in for the last 17 years, I have to admit that many of those years were soul-sucking.

The only thing that kept me at that job was a mortgage, a mountain of debt and my devotion to my family.  We were so miserable that we employed unbridled retail-therapy to help dull the pain of our indentured existence.

Of course, the unbridled credit card use only drove us deeper into debt, further strengthening the chains that were keeping us in the life that was slowly killing us.

Then, one day, I reached my tipping point.

My wife and I were taking a beautiful dinner cruise on a 45 foot sailboat all to ourselves, with the owner/captain/cook serving us a delightful dinner, sailing down the Willamette River.  As we silently ghosted down the river under a gentle breeze, my beautiful wife turns to me and says, “I could live on a boat like this.”

That was it.  That was when the dream came to life, fully formed in our hearts. We would travel the world as a family!

We’ve been seeing the writing on the wall for way too many years.  Unless we made drastic changes, we were going to end up burned out, bankrupt and dreamless at the end of our lives.

We decided that we needed to wake up from the American Dream.  We needed stop living the life that society dictated to us, stop meeting the expectations of those around us and to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Everyone around us was headed in the wrong direction, and we didn’t want to be the winners of that race!  That dream just didn’t make sense any more.

Now we are living with intention.  We know why we do the things we do and we are now headed toward the life that we dream of living, not some generic, look-good-for-the-neighbors, insincere lie.

We no longer cruise the mall, looking for trinkets to appease our wants.  Now we budget our money and pay down our debt with all of our discretionary income.  We have a lot of bad spending to make up for, but each month we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel get a little bit brighter.

We know how long it will take to get out of that tunnel and back into the light of freedom.

While that is happening, we are working on creating income streams that will allow us to continue to live a comfortable life no matter where we call home. We can pick up the family and explore a new city, state or country any time we feel that we are ready for some change.

This requires significant change.  We are eliminating most of our possessions in order to be mobile. This is actually quite an exciting proposition.

In the last few years, we have really been appreciating the notion that our stuff owns us as much as we own our stuff.

By keeping up with the Joneses for so long we have amassed enough crap to fill our 1500 square foot townhome.  Yet when we look around, there isn’t much here that we couldn’t do without.  I would trade all this crap in an instant for the ability to live where I want.

Unfortunately, the transition is going to take much longer than an instant.  We have a mountain of debt to chip away at but we are not letting that stop us.  The reward will be worth way more than the struggle.

The freedom to exist by our rules, not by the expectations of society around us.

Showing our children that there is so much more to life than the mall and the latest fashions in Hollywood.  That happiness is not tied to the stuff we own, but rather the people we meet and the contributions we make to the world.

I have had the privilege to see just a little of this great big world, including beautiful places such as Hawaii, New Zealand and Antarctica.  Now I want to make sure that my children have the opportunity to see more than our small corner of the world.

I don’t have this dream for just our family.  I can only imagine how many other families there are just existing through their days, wondering if this is all there is to life, dreaming of living a different way.

It is my mission to be an example to those people.  Showing them that no matter how far in debt you are, if you are willing to make change in your life, then you too can overcome years of chasing the American Dream, change direction and start working towards living your dream!

You must define your own dream, so make it a big one.  Only by having a big dream, one that keeps you up at night and makes your heart beat a little bit faster when you think about it, will it carry you through the difficult times.

Those times when life throws you a curveball and you want to go back to your old habits, this is when your dream will need to be big enough to crush those old habits, helping you to keep your focus on what is truly important.

How do you crush the stereotypical American Dream and make your own dreams come true?

5 steps to achieving your dreams:

1.  Define your dream.  What is missing from your life?  What keeps you up at night and occupies your thoughts during the day?

2.  Write that dream down.  Make it tangible.  Create a Dream Board by finding pictures that represent your dream and put them someplace that you will see every day.

3.  Determine what it will take to make that dream come true.  Your dream may be closer than you think it is.

4.  Start looking for ways to bridge the gap of where you are now and where you want to be.  Once you start looking with a positive mindset, you can find many creative ways to make the dream come true.

5.  Commit to the process of reaching your dreams.  They will not come easy. They will require hard work and sacrifice now, so that you can enjoy them when they come true.



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'American Dream: Fairy Tale Or Nightmare?' have 9 comments

  1. June 15, 2012 @ 9:11 am Jill

    Mike. It's sounds like its going to be wonderful! Well done.
    Jill recently posted..Oh travel, what have you done to my husband?


    • June 15, 2012 @ 10:33 am Mike Routen


      Thank you so much for the kind words.

      I so look forward to making the same kind of transformation that your husband made when we start to slow travel!
      Mike Routen recently posted..Put Up Or Shut Up


  2. June 15, 2012 @ 10:36 am Rich Polanco

    Excellent article! Glad you're also on the path to location independence. I also took thy decision and it was the best thing I ever did.

    Best wishes on your journey,

    Rich Polanco recently posted..How to Rent a Place Like a Local in Antigua Guatemala (Or Any Other Expat Destination)


    • June 15, 2012 @ 12:00 pm Mike Routen


      Thank you. I love your latest post!

      My wife and I are looking at some of the locations you mentioned, and haven't heard of some of the others. We'll have to check them out, and we'll definitely use your advice before we rent anything!
      Mike Routen recently posted..Put Up Or Shut Up


  3. June 18, 2012 @ 5:09 pm Annie Andre

    You are and will be such an inspiration. i used to wonder the same thing when i was drifting through life living the life i thought was supposed to make me happy. We've been travelling now for 2 years and we've been living in the south of France for 7 months already with three kids in tow.

    Where there's a will there's a way and it's up to someone to lead the way. I think you're doing a great job so far..
    Annie Andre recently posted..Could You Slow Travel For 8 Years As A single parent? Lainie Can:Interview


    • June 19, 2012 @ 2:25 pm Mike Routen


      Thank you so much for the kind words. Your website is quite inspirational as well! It looks like you are really enjoying your time in France.

      Thank you for helping lead the way so that other can see what is possible when they pursue their dreams.
      Mike Routen recently posted..On Stress, Attachment and Clutter


  4. June 19, 2012 @ 3:14 pm Rhys Joe

    For achieving our dreams your shared 5 steps are very important, i think so. The idea of writing down our dreams and creating a dream board is awesome. I want to follow this idea for my dreams. Thanks a lot.
    Rhys Joe recently posted..El Informe


  5. September 21, 2012 @ 3:56 pm Eddy Baez

    The american dream is full bull!!! I'm going Carlito Briganti from now on!
    Eddy Baez recently posted..If you can dream it, we can draw it!


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