Why I Don’t Have A Purpose

Welcome to the Magic of Everything — a love letter to all my failures and a celebration of everything that’s wrong with me. 

Because for most of my life I knew there must be something seriously wrong with me. I just didn’t know how to “do” life like everyone else. 

Housesitting in Italy

I’m a full-time Aussie, part-time Frenchie, and at the time of writing I spend most of the year living on a tiny off-grid island in the South Pacific. The rest of the year I wander the world slowly, following my odd-shaped nose. 

I’ve been living nomadically since 2001, moving between 40 different jobs in 13 countries and travelling through almost 50 others.

All my life I’ve been restless, insatiably curious, jumping from one thing to the next. I’m a professional quitter… A girl who struggles to finish anything she starts… Someone who is allergic to commitment and values freedom like oxygen.

When I looked around at my friends and family, most people appeared capable and confident moving through the phases of life our society has mapped out for usfrom school to work to marriage and children and/or pets. They had beautiful homes with well-kept gardens that they relaxed in after a busy day at work building on their increasingly successful career. They could soothe their wanderlust with an overseas holiday each year and, for the most part, they seemed to know how to cook. 

But not me. 

I couldn’t wrap my head around any of that. 

I could easily live in a mud house in the Himalayas for 5 months, but don’t ask me to keep a house plant alive for a week. Trekking into the Sahara on a camel while chatting with my Berber guide in French? No problem! But if you start talking about bathroom renovations and home loan interest rates you have lost me.

For me, navigating these seemingly “normal” things felt frustratingly difficult and complicated. Impossible, even. It’s like I’ve been missing something obvious my friends and family at home can clearly see. Like everyone else had the corner pieces of the puzzle so they could make sense of the bigger picture and I was just clutching a few pieces of the sky.

As a result, my path through adulthood has been less linear and more like I’ve been dancing a messy Cha Cha. It goes one step forward, one step back, shuffle a bit, wiggle my bum and spin off in a totally different direction.

My Unconventional Life

In my early 20s I got away with it. “You’re young!” everyone around me exclaimed joyfully, “Travel! Explore! Enjoy it while you can!” they said, “Because once you settle down…[Insert cliche about the ‘old ball and chain’ here]” 

And so, confident my restless nature would subside once I got this travel bug “out of my system”, I set off to see the world. Maybe, I reasoned, I would find my one true calling along the way?

At Home in Honduras

At home in Honduras

At first I wandered through Europe, finding work as I went. I was a BBQ chef in Italy for a while, a tax auditor in the Netherlands, a nanny in Spain, a bar manager on a Scottish cruise ship… I was having a ball, but my purpose was nowhere to be found.

As I travelled, I wondered if I had a deeper calling as I became increasingly aware of my privilege and my impact on the world. One night, in a wine-fuelled “What is the meaning of life and why am I here?!” meltdown, I made a conscious decision to shift my focus away from me and towards the lives of people who were born into far less opportunity.

Soon I was volunteering as a journalist in Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and home to some of the highest homicide rates on the planet. Next I found myself living in an indigenous Shuar village, helping locals to set up a tourism project in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador.

This was the start of a serious volunteering addiction that led me to become a passionate activist in the modern slavery abolition movement and the co-founder of an anti-trafficking non-profit in Nepal.

In amongst all of that, in a hotel lobby in Peru, I met my husband, David. A Frenchman and a travelling soul himself, he became the love of my life, a twin flame I could dance this crazy cha cha around the world with (although not literally because David had a strict policy of only dancing to reggae music).

When we first got married in our mid-twenties, even we assumed we would eventually find some corner of the world that we both loved so we could settle down, buy a house and have children. Because that’s what you do, right?

But years went by… our faces got crinklier and our bellies flabbier. We did the cha cha together from the twinkling lights of Paris to the golden pagodas of Myanmar and the uninhabited islands of the Kingdom of Tonga, making half a dozen career changes along the way with no sign of slowing down.

Through the job and location changes I continued my lifelong habit of collecting hobbies and qualifications that I would quickly forget and later discard. I learnt the guitar for 5 minutes before giving it up to master the ukulele. I became a TEFL teacher and  with zero background in dance or fitness  made the incomprehensible decision to train as a Zumba instructor. Then I took bellydancing classes and studied to be a massage therapist, only to discover my passion for massages does not extend beyond receiving them.

Sign to Everest Base Camp

David and I with our heads in the clouds (as per usual) on the way to Mount Everest

As my unfertilised eggs slowly dropped dead from boredom and my 30s were well and truly underway, I berated myself again for all that must be wrong with me because I don’t have all the things. The house. The car. The children. The stable career. The YouTube-worthy fur baby. The rooms full of furniture and stuff.

But it wasn’t just that I didn’t have any of this.

I had no desire for any of the things I felt I should have. In fact the more time went on, the less I seemed to have at all. Without even realising it, I had become a minimalist whose life could easily fit within an airplane baggage limit. Soon I could fit all my major valuables into a handbag I bought for $4 in Bangkok. 

So I didn’t have all the stuff, but I was happy  I mean, genuinely, “I love my life” happy. Surely that had to count for something?

Is Happiness Enough?

The year I turned 30, $h!t got real. I ramped up my Shiny Object Syndrome by embarking on a ridiculous mission to cross 30 items off my bucket list in the year before I turned 31. At the same time, I sunk into some serious soul searching.

Why was I constantly in search of the NEXT? The next big thing, the next adventure, the next challenge, the next country, the next project. I mean, wasn’t it time to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up? Or could there possibly be a way I could harness this restless energy and use it for good?

Here’s 5 key things I discovered about myself:

  1. I thrive on change and human connection, the buzz of meeting new people and hearing their stories, the feelings of awe and wonder. That’s what keeps me travelling.
  2. I am happiest in life and at work when I’m learning new skills and improving on systems and ways of doing things. Once I know how to do something to a certain point, I lose interest and start looking for a new challenge. That’s why I change hobbies, jobs and careers so often.
  3. I’m not an expert at any one thing, but I’m a little bit good at a lot of different things and as a result I’ve learnt how to learn really quickly.
  4. I feel like an introvert even though I test off the charts as an extrovert (a learned behaviour from years of solo travel?), so I need lots of space and time alone in order to feel human
  5. I love it when things don’t turn out as I planned.

Recognising these things about myself, I knew I had to take a whole new approach to life and work than I had in the past. I also needed to change the story I was telling myself about my success and failures. For starters, I clearly had to find a job that valued my versatility and didn’t tie me into one place or routine.

At that point, I decided to go to university to improve my job prospects. Up until then university had been a no go for me: a 3 year commitment to one school and one line of study? Nope. No way. But then I found Open Universities Australia which meant I could study online from anywhere AND they had the most deliciously random selection of electives I could chose from. So I gave it a shot.

I ditched my uni graduation to cycle the Mekong from Vietnam to Cambodia

For three years, I submitted essays and sat exams from Romania to New York and the Himalayas. It turned out doing two different subjects that changed every three months was the perfect arrangement for me and my desperately short attention span. 

I’ve never felt prouder of myself than I did the day I handed in my last assignment.

Completing that degree felt like my first “socially recognised” adult achievement but it gave me so much more than an education and a piece of paper. 

It was proof that if I found the right formula and conditions, I could not only finish something I started but totally kick ass doing it.

Finding My Superpower

The year after I graduated, my life did a total backflip when I scored my first online gig — a contract-based People and Project Management role for a guy called Yaro. He was an Aussie-Canadian blogger who lived the “laptop lifestyle” and the best thing about the job was I could work online from anywhere in the world.

The role itself changed constantly with new team members to hire and new projects starting and rolling out every few months. Because humans are fascinating and unpredictable and projects often hit obstacles, there were always fresh challenges to overcome and different skills to learn along the way.

I loved how diverse the role was and that I could work from the Arctic Circle of Norway or an over-the-ocean bungalow in a tiny Thai fishing village.

The combination was MAGIC. Not only had I found the perfect job match for me but I’d found an employer who valued my random hotchpotch of skills and my ability to throw myself into any and every task he put before me — especially the ones I had no idea how to do.

I set myself up as a sole trader with an online business and I immediately started to pick up more clients around the world— a French translation job for an NGO in Liechtenstein… basic WordPress tasks for a web designer… content writing for a theatre… then more hiring and outsourcing gigs for small businesses…

So much diversity in my work and I didn’t even have to get out of my pyjamas. 

Then David and I scored a role managing a tiny off-grid private island in the Kingdom of Tonga — another employer who needed a Jack of all Trades with a checkered work history who would throw their hands to anything.

There is no school you can attend to learn how to do a job like that, there is no Bachelor of Island Management available at any university I’ve seen. But my experience working in hotels in Ireland and Italy + managing a campsite in France + living in Tonga and learning Tongan + working on a boat in Scotland = the perfect skillset for the job. 

My office most days…

Fast forward a few years and I’ve now been working as a Project, People and Culture consultant for almost half a decade, running my own business from wherever I wake up that day – whether it’s a remote island in the South Pacific or a terrace in Paris.

Because my work is so connected with people, it’s unpredictable and full of change. And because I’m so unpredictable and full of change, it means I can connect with almost every kind of human there is…

Now the character traits that seemed like a handicap for most of my life have revealed themselves to be my ultimate SUPERPOWER. All of those random and seemingly disconnected skills and experiences I’d collected over the years are coming together in the most magical ways.

It made me wonder if there were other people out there who experienced the world like I did; other curious and multi-passionate people who felt lost, trying to work out which of their ever-changing interests and passions might be THE ONE. Did they know there may not be a ONE? And did they know they could make that work to their advantage?

Then one day, I discovered something MINDBLOWING.

It’s Not Just Me

Not only is my personality type not in the slightest bit unique, but there is actually a name for this phenomenon. It’s called Multipotentiality. There are even several names for these hyper-curious, multi-passionate people who don’t have one true calling.

Throughout history we’ve been called “generalists” or “polymaths”. Barbara Sher calls us Scanners. Margaret Lobenstein referred to us as Renaissance Souls. And more recently Emilie Wapnick coined the term Multipotentialite, or Multipod for short. These three women have each written comprehensive books based on extensive research of this quirky behavioural pattern.

Their work gave words, meaning and labels to the way I experience the world; something I had never been able to articulate before. It turns out we’re not losers or quitters at all. On the contrary, multipotentiality is often associated with a strong intellectual or artistic curiosity. Our brains just don’t process information the same way as other people because they’re wired differently. You can read all about it here.

I ugly cried through the first two chapters of Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose — sobbing “It’s not just me!” over and over again. When I watched Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk about multipotentiality, I felt validated— like I finally belonged somewherewith Emilie, Barbara and Margaret (may she rest in peace) and all the other round pegs who don’t fit in the square hole.

I realised I don’t have a purpose. I don’t have one true calling. My “thing” is that I don’t really have a “thing”. So I could finally stop searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Because I’m living on purpose every day of my life by being true to who I want and need to be that day, in that moment, for myself and the people around me. 

Why Everything Is Magic

I shut down my old blog in 2015. Over the last three years, after taking a blogging hiatus, I desperately wanted to find a new home in the cloud where I could share my words with the world. However, conventional wisdom dictates that blogs, like businesses, need a niche — a specific topic the blogger writes about that will appeal to a targeted audience of readers.

This is really bad news for a multipotentialite, especially an extreme case like me…

Ever since I took my old blog offline, I’ve been searching for my elusive niche but my passion changed every three months. I’ve been overwhelmed by my options, bought more than a dozen domain names and developed logos for all these half-baked and quickly abandoned ideas.

Until finally I decided screw it.

I am just not a “nichable” person. My superpowermy magicis in my endless pursuit of absolutely EVERYTHING.

And so the Magic of Everything was born (with a $99 “out of the box” website and a logo I designed myself, just in case I changed my mind again.)

At the same time I had this revelation, I was in my last months of studying to become a certified coach. When I finished, I extended my business services to offering coaching for women who are either terrified of or addicted to change.

My clients so far have mostly been multi-passionate people, like me, who need help following through on their passion projects or carving out unconventional career paths that will give them the freedom to follow their (latest) bliss.

The women I’ve worked with have taught me so much and shown me that this is also work I am meant to be doing… at least for now, until I get over it and move on to something else 😉 

My intention is for the Magic of Everything to be an inclusive space where any curious, wandering souls who stumble across this website can access information and resources to help them along their journey.

I hope it will inspire you to step confidently into the life you want, even if it’s not a life other people expect or understand. 

This will be a platform for me to document my own journey as a change addict and wandering soul, writing about my ever changing interests and passions as I explore the Earth. 

I’ll also be covering some more well-loved subjects I’ve held onto through the years, like nomadic living, minimalism, longterm world travel, unconventional ways to earn a living, language learning and why cultural exchange is the path to world peace. Oh and champagne. I love champagne…

What my idea-filled head feels like most of the time…

I’ll be breaking all the bloggy rules by writing about everything in one place but that’s kind of the point. In a society that favours experts and specialists, multipotentialites have long felt the need to narrow themselves and modify their behaviour to be accepted or achieve any kind of success.

I’m not going to do that anymore and this website will unapologetically change with me.

So this blog won’t be for everyone. It’s for the curious souls, the wandering hearts and the freedom seekers who want to remain conscious of their impact on the world.

I know the right people will find me here.

And if you’ve read all the way to the end of this post in the age of clickbait distractions and smartphone notifications, there’s a good change you might be one of them. Either that or you’re my mum. (Hi mum!).

If any of this story has struck a chord with you, if you think you may also be a multipotentialite, I want you to know there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not a failure or a flake because your curiosity knows no bounds. You’ve got an incredible superpower.

You just need to learn how to use it.

Laura Maya x

Nomad, Writer, Coach and Extreme Multipotentialite

P.S. If you think you might be a multipotentialite, read my blog post on multipotentiality and check out my About page for some resources to get you started as well as some free welcome gifts from me to you. 

Laura Maya

ABOUT Laura Maya

Laura Maya is an Aussie-French nomad, writer and alternative lifestyle coach. She’s the author of Work The World and curator of the free self-coaching program GPS for the Soul

Laura has been working and travelling the world slowly since 2001 — exploring cultures, writing stories and learning languages in almost 60 countries. Now she helps other restless and curious souls design a life they love by exploring alternative ways to live, earn, explore and impact the world.