What if I don’t fit the mould?

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We were recently contacted by BBC Travel to be featured in their “How I quit my job to travel the world” series.

I was excited.

BBC Travel is a good place to be featured and I was ready to contribute our story. Except there was one slight problem.

“I’m not sure I can write this story in the way you want. I’d have to angle it differently because I’ve never had a job to quit in order to travel. I’ve only ever worked jobs to help me travel. I left to go travelling as soon as I graduated from Uni when I was 21 and started teaching in London. That is how I’ve lived my life ever since – on my terms. I’ve never been caught in the nine-to-five life that I felt I had to escape from.”

The reply.

“Sadly it won’t fit the story angle. We need people who quit their normal life to travel.”

Damn. That’s what happens when you’re honest.

No. That’s what happens when you don’t fit the mould.

The story of my life.

Can you imagine how challenging it is when you apply for jobs or a place to rent when you return home?

It was a nightmare when we recently started looking for apartments to rent in Burleigh Heads after our Australia road trip. There’s little room for common sense or out-of-the box living within the bureaucratic rules and procedures and generic application forms.

We had to verbally give the story of our life with every new application.

“You see our life just doesn’t fit into these application forms. We’re a bit different and don’t fit the mould. We don’t have any rental history in Australia, as we haven’t rented since 2000. We’ve either lived overseas or we owned our own properties.”

One potential future landlady gave me a blank stare, followed by horror and confusion. “I’m sorry you need references.”

“Yeah, but we don’t have any because (repeat story). But we’ve owned our own properties and responsibly paid them off. We’ve got character references you can check out. (As a last resort, we’d give them our blog URL, “You can check us out here. I think you’ll soon discover that we can’t really do the runner on you!”)

A couple of realtors told me to “just write down the details of your landlord in the States and we can contact them.”

Are you freaking kidding? It was five years ago and I can’t even remember the street name.

Then there’s the drama of the employment history.

No, I don’t have a work referee or pay slips. I have my own business.

Not fitting the mould sure was NOT fun when I first applied to teach in the States through VIF. I needed work references and statements of services from every school I taught at. I was chasing up those from schools in London, Dublin, Sydney, and Bangkok from our location in Africa. Oh yeah, police checks too.


Let’s not even talk about returning to teaching in Australia after teaching around the world since 1997. That was not fitting the mould at all. I suddenly became an inexperienced teacher that needed to go back to University to study for another year.

It didn’t matter that I’d actually taught in London, Dublin, Bangkok and North Carolina in various roles such as special needs, ESL teaching, and head teacher roles!! How could another year of University ever teach me anything more valuable than those teaching experiences had given me?

Teaching in London in 1997
Teaching in London in 1997

Mould over common sense.

See ya teaching! I’ll make my travel blogging business work instead (Thank you for that by the way!)

The only way I’ve successfully fit back into society is because of people who have a bit of an out-of-box thinking.

When I first came home from London, I struggled to find work because I didn’t have a “steady” teaching history. Then I met the principal who’d lived in London and did the travel thing in the 60’s. She hired me straight away – from one outta the mould person to another, she understood the strengths travel gave me.

Then finding a house in Burleigh – one lady told us to write our story into the application.

“It’s always great to hear people’s stories. It gives us a better sense of who you are which can only help your application.”

Alleluia!! A forward thinking person.

Then our eventual realtor who found us our apartment. “Don’t stress over those forms. I’ve been doing this job for years, I’m a pretty good judge of character and I feel good about ya.”

Common sense approach!! Why isn’t it more prevalent?

Not fitting the mould can throw up many road blocks and challenges. It will mean you have to feel the wrath of the systems you refuse to be imprisoned by. You’ll be judged and criticized and thought of as irresponsible and irrational.

It will mean you’ll miss out on certain job opportunities and the chance to be featured on BBC travel.

How I refused to take a job I’d have to quit to travel the world is a more unique angle!!

I’ll write it on here instead and keep letting my honesty keep me on my right track.

I’d rather take charge of my own story and craft my own mould. The eventual rewards and opportunities when you do will be richer and more rewarding.

And it makes way better stories to tell.

What if you don't fit the mould? Tips on how I've coped with living an out-of-the-box lifestyle.

How don’t you fit the mould and what challenges has it presented to you?

28 thoughts on “What if I don’t fit the mould?”

  1. Thank you so much for your post. Had a very rough day juste because I do not fit the mould. I’m a financial manager, traines trader, business consultant, coach, sales rep, and none of the above. Of course I do have the same challenges you mentioned in Mexico -very conservative. When people ask me why I dare as a woman to study my MBA in Tokyo no matter what explanation I offer, they are baffled anyways. The same to why I live next to the Caribbean sea been a banker, or an entepreneur or my latest idea: move to Toronto. However, the greatest challenge has been to live a life without profound or meaningful relationships. Yup, single, no kids, few friends. Love of my life: my two dogs. The hardest part is overcoming the feeling that something must truly be very wrong with me, and learn that I just like to be different… And of course, loving and enjoying myself. Thank you for reminding me I am not alone. Great post!

    1. No you are not! Embrace your whole self and ignore what anyone else says. It actually takes a lot of courage to live a life in accordance with your values and how you want it to look. So huge credit to you!

  2. I know exactly how you feel. Though I haven’t travelled quite as much as you I have moved house a lot often lodging with friends and have generally just kept my bank accounts registered at my mum’s house. So much easier than changing every couple of months. I love not fitting the mould though, who wants to be normal, nobody is anyway so why try 🙂

  3. When jobs ask for your addresses from the past 10 years for a security check = too hard basket! Though getting easier now that I’ve had the same house for 6 years.
    I get put to the bottom of contract piles often because of my contract jobs, I’m fairly certain. The good news is that when people do pick you out, they’re usually that good type that appreciates what a varied background brings to a job (or situation or whatever it is).

  4. When someone asks “Where are you from?” I take a deep breath and quickly decide whether to give them the short version (they were only asking to be polite and don’t actually want to know) or the long and much more interesting version. Don’t even get a started on “So where is home?!”

    1. Oh yes!! We suffer from that all the time! the long version sure is long!! Lol.

      One funny story we have is we were on a press trip on Sydney Harbour years ago when we first started blogging. We were the only bloggers amongst a lot of journos and travel writers.

      One guy asked where we were from and we went into our long version story spiel. And then he said, “No I meant which publication are you from?”

      We cracked up. Totally did not get the mould kinda speak there!!

  5. In many aspects of my life I can say that I still fit the mould but my love for travel constantly forces me and my family to break it and slowly but surely transforms us into unconventional family. Thank you very much for your post.

  6. Hi Caz, Your post resonated with me. Our family did quit jobs and school to travel the world but the difficulties you talk about within society, sound very similar to the experiences we had on our return and still to this day. People sometimes seems suspicious of those who do things differently. It’s like you become a freak in a way… If I were to describe myself it would be as a colourful see-through bubble. So many wonderful experience have made me this way and I treasure every one of them and what they have created within me. But it seems many live, lives of black and white. I always say to my kids, the people you want to employ you anyway, are the ones open to your differences because of what you can bring and how you can enhance a position. You want someone who wants to employ You, the person. My son is a professional freerunner – because of our choices, it gave him different ones. Our daughter is 20 and has booked her one way ticket to return to Koh Tao and complete her Scuba Instructor qualification in April. As a child, she was so shy but travel has developed her, she has so much more surety in herself. She said to me at 12, “thank you for taking me travelling because you gave me, me.” What more could a mother want! 🙂

    1. Oh I have goosebumps reading this Janice. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and stories. It’s very inspiring and a perspective that will help a lot of people. What an awesome Mum you are.

  7. Having people fit into one ideal mould only kills creativity & individuality. It’s like expecting a bird and bear to climb a tree; then getting upset over why the bird can’t climb — oh, if you only knew the bird’s unique mould.

  8. Hi Caz,
    Thank you for this post. Being outside the mould is a situation I am in right now. Being a single homeschooling mom and freelancing has it perks and bumps. Right now I am attempting to lease or buy a car and finding a new home here in Los Angeles and they all want job references and 6 months at your particular work. Being a freelancer I do mostly one time projects.
    I have decided there is a way even though I don’t know what that is right now. I am trusting.
    Warmest Regards,

    1. Hey Tracey,
      I have experienced the same thing in LA and totally empathize with what you’re going through. Try places on the east side – around Eagle Rock or Highland Park – lots of struggling actors, artists etc live in that area, so landlords are more used to dealing with unconventional people!
      Best of luck, J

    2. I think when you get to that point, you realise all you have left is trust and then miraculously things work out. If only we knew it from the beginning. Something will come through for you! xx

  9. The world is just not built for people who want go places and do things!

    Having just moved back to Canada (my home country and birthplace) after 20 years living in the UK and the US and travelling, I’ve had to spend most of the year trying to prove to banks and other “official” types that yes, I am Canadian, yes I do live here, and yes, I have an excellent credit rating (in other countries). I’ve finally pulled it all together and we’ve decided to move on to Europe in February. More paperwork and explanations soon to come.


  10. Wow, that seriously just spoke to me!! Such a good read. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been easy getting a knock back from BBC for the lack of ‘story angle’. I’ve had the same thing happen to me and nothing gets my gears up more than that. If anything, it means you have more strength of character. You didn’t sit and watch your life go by in a job you hated. Instead you created the life you wanted. Good on you and keep up the awesome writing, I love it!!

  11. I love this posts I really feel where you are coming from. Even when we are not lving the same nomadic live as you do often people don’t understand why we want to travel so much.

  12. Love this. It’s true, not everyone needs to take the “common”, “popular” or “most appropriate” road to get to where they want. Even for those of us who have reach obstacles like this – either you’re too young, too single, too inexperienced, etc. You’ve just got to find angles and people who trust in you to help you make it happen 🙂

  13. Thank you Caz for such a nice post. Everyone is trying to fit into the mould. I think people who fit into one mould kills creativity & individuality. Benig outside the mould is very difficult & you did it. Great words.

  14. What a great post. I totally relate to it. Western society seems to have morphed into what I call ‘tickbox living’. Everything and anything seems to come with a series of questions that has a fixed number of pre-decided answers and if you can’t tick one of the boxes then it’s a big NO! I live a far more ‘normal’ life than I used to, but still get caught out by this.

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