From Us to You, Global Observations, Travel

Work as an identity

I left on my travels thinking about work. I know, that doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant topic when heading off on an adventure. But generally speaking, one’s job takes up a huge chunk of your waking life. It makes sense that it’s a source of turmoil for some, pleasure for others and that it can take up considerable mental space. I’ve experienced the pressure to not only be financially independent but also to find meaning and satisfaction in the daily grind. I can’t count how many times I’ve been introduced as, “Megan, the prosthetic technician”, only to find some relief that my job sounds cool and most people have no idea what I do. Work defines us. But does it have to? And how much of that is coming from a place of privilege?

For the majority of the population, work is simply a necessity. I wonder if this correlates to one’s sense of self? So far, I’ve experienced drastic differences in the landscape and lifestyle outside of the big cities in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Sometimes less than an hour out of the city life slows down – a lot. There is a reason Laos PDR (People’s Democratic Republic) is jokingly referred to as Please Don’t Rush. Earning an income is less about a paycheck and more about growing the vegetables for dinner. In fact, there are some government initiatives to support continuing with this traditional way of life by means of tax breaks. Supporting yourself and your family may involve agricultural work, selling goods at the market or settling up a shop outside your home.

It’s no surprise then that the work-life balance means something else altogether. Relying on the land involves paying attention to the seasons and working in the cooler early morning hours. 9-5 is good for just about nothing. If your daily responsibilities are more closely aligned with your lifestyle, then maybe there is less pressure to be identified by it. That sounds like quite the relief.

That is not to say there aren’t government jobs and individuals looking to stand out, but they tend to be found working in the city, where there is the infrastructure to foster creative cross-pollination. There will always be a younger generation breaking away from the traditions of their parents. In the next entry, I’ll be examining the role of young entrepreneurs and what they’re really after.

By Megan Katz

On a one-way ticket, Megan is taking time to follow her curiosity literally. Fortunate enough to be on unfamiliar soil, she is keeping her senses clear and her wit sharp. As a maker, dancer and enthusiastic conversationalist, she is seeking meaningful ways to move through new spaces. Endlessly fascinated by human behaviour, local food and cultural norms, stay tuned as Megan shares her thoughts navigating newfound perceptions and impressions