In the sixth grade I wanted to be a Tupperware Dealer. My mother was a “Tupperware Lady” and it appeared to me to be a pretty good gig. She worked mostly from home and set her own hours. As far as I could tell she spent most of her time shopping and hosting parties. It seemed like a good career choice at the time.
Two years later my eighth grade English teacher gave the class an assignment to memorize poetry. Many of the poems seemed nonsensical to me and I had difficulty understanding my teacher’s passion for the subject, until I read The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. For some reason the final stanza of the poem resonated with my 13 year old mind, and it was arguably at that point in my life that I first heard the siren song of a career path of non-conformity.
It wasn’t until my college graduation nearly 10 years later when I was forced to choose a career, to choose a life, that the impact of Robert Frost’s words began to affect my future and ultimately influence my destiny. My college advisor had encouraged me to find a job in research and earn a PhD or apply to med school to become an MD. A few weeks before graduation with decision and application deadlines looming, I came across a classified ad in the campus newspaper, “How to Get a Job in the Cruise & Tour Industry.” The siren was singing in my ear again. “Take the road less traveled,” she said. And so I began to send out resumes to every cruise line on the seven seas.
I had only intended to take one year off, yet I ultimately gave up a career in medicine to build a career in tourism. It was my choice to take a gap year that led to my incurable travel addiction. In many respects I never really returned from my gap year, and one might say that I lead a gap life. I’ve now visited over 50 countries and nearly 50 states and often consider that it all started with one choice: to finish college and follow the traditional path, or to choose another path – the one less traveled.
There are many interpretations of The Road Not Taken. As with all forms of art each observer will find their own meaning. In fact, Frost describes the two roads as “equally lay” suggesting that one was not significantly less traveled than the other. Still for me the poem has always been a symbol of what life can become if you dare to choose the less conventional road, if you consider of all your options, not just those that are clearly laid out before you. The well traveled road is predictable and considered safe. The road less traveled is unpredictable, mysterious and seductive. You will often be amazed by the places to which it leads you. I know I am.
I am filled with gratitude for the places that the road of life has taken me, yet I often wonder where I would be now if I had taken the other road. Although I think we can all agree, I wouldn’t be selling Tupperware.