Sunday’s Inspiration: So What Do You Do For a Living?

dont stop living jonny blair

Don’t Stop Living – travelling to places like this (Sumela in Turkey). This is what I’m doing for a “living”.

I’m living now. I’m alive. Of that I’m sure. Life is for living and I’m happy that I’m living. But this week while backpacking in East Timor I was asked by three people (1young girl, 1 young guy, 1older guy) that annoying question “What do you do?” or the variant “what do you do for a living?” I hate the question but I don’t like to be rude so i answered it honestly each time. I love to travel so generally that’s “what I do for a living”. In living I love to travel. Travel isn’t specific enough for some people so I had to provide more information. I told them I also love to watch football. I love to go down the pub. I love to relax with my girlfriend. Those are the main things I do for a living. I didn’t mention sleeping, eating, working and drinking. Those 4 are generally a given for most humans on planet earth. Travel, football, Panny Yu and my mates/family are pretty much what I do on this planet. I have a passion for those things.

I was glad I answered the question honestly and properly. However someone at the table during the conversation said that they were an architect. Another said they work in IT!!! For a living??? Yes and these guys were deadly serious. They were also proud of their answers. However it turned out that neither of these guys actually particularly liked their jobs. They did those jobs just to earn some money to travel. So why did they not say they love to go diving, surfing and travelling for a living??? Life and living should not be about work. Nor should your job be the priority. Living is the priority. Life is the priority. Am I right? Or am I the crazy one?

Relaxing in Bali with a Bintang Beer this week.

Relaxing in Bali with a Bintang Beer this week.

As I sipped on a cold Bintang in the East Timor heat I turned myself the other way in disbelief. I’m still baffled. Who actually really believes your employment/current job is what you do? Seriously. If people asked me “so what do you work as?” then I’ll gladly answer it with “Most of my life I’ve worked as a barman. Aside from that I have also worked on ferries, in a bank, in schools, on farms etc. Why do you ask?

But the question was “what do you do?”

I travel the world.
I watch football.
I spend time with my girlfriend.
I spend time with my family.
I go on Facebook.
I write about and research travel destinations.
I listen to music.

And while doing all of those, I try to ensure that I don’t stop living.

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12 thoughts on “Sunday’s Inspiration: So What Do You Do For a Living?

  • I supposed you can excuse them for being like the rest of Western society. It’s just the way they’ve been raised and brought up to view life based on careers and material wealth. Not like you would get those types of questions as often from folks that originate from South America, Africa or Asia as often I bet. Annoying, yes, but just how that particular society views life.

    Of course, if you really want to end the topic as quickly as possible next time someone asks you what you do for a living, you can just say you are a “travel writer” now. 😉
    Ray recently posted…Olé, Olé, OléMy Profile

  • Hi Ray – you’re totally right on the first part here – it’s always people from England, Australia, USA and Canada that ask these questions. Never once in SOuth America would someone have asked me that – in fact they’d have been a million times more interesting with their questions, such as “why are you in Bolivia?” “what beer do you like?” “what’s your favourite football team?” etc. Amazing. I arrive in East Timor “so what do you do?” (I get on flights, I walk down streets, I drink tea, I eat food, I sleep etc…just makes me laugh!).

    Although with your last point I have to disagree – if I say “travel writer” then I’m succumbing to what they want me to say – answer the question with my job rather than what I actually do or should be judged on. If they ask what my job is, I could say “travel writer” or “travel expert” or “travel blogger” but I would probably answer it with “I’m normally a barman but I’ve also worked as a travel writer, an ice cream man, a farmer and a teacher.”

    I prefer to answer the question using the verb “do” to mean as many things as possible about what I “do”. For the first time ever I have 8 Sunday’s Inspirations written but can only post one a week, so the next 7 are booked in.

    There may well be time for a rant at some point. I’m off to sleep, as that’s what I “do” when I get tired.

    Safe travels and happy “doing” whatever you enjoy the most!


  • I love your answers, Jonny! And yes, I agree, it’s an annoying question, but like Ray said, it’s just a ritualised way of asking, without actually saying, ‘how do you make money?’ In South America I was often asked ‘a que te dedicas?’ (‘what do you dedicate yourself to?’) to elicit the same response, but yes, certainly I also found people there to be more interested in other things than how you make money.
    Sam recently posted…Guide to Eating Vegan in TorontoMy Profile

  • Hey Sam – yes of course you’re both right with regards to the question. I guess I just don’t like the normal everyday questions any more. 10 years ago, this wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but I hate being judged on “what I do” or as the question is meant to mean “what I work as”. That question in South America is a cool one – I love that!

    I dedicate myself to being happy myself, then my friends and family being happy and during that process if I have time to travel, watch some football and have a drink, I’ll be pretty content.

    Safe travels. Jonny

  • I find it quite sad that instead of asking “what’s your job/what’s your profession/how do you earn money” people in English speaking countries use the phrase “What do you do for a living”, which implies that living is a consequence of the job you do and not the opposite. Don’t live to work, work to live 🙂
    Raphael Alexander Zoren recently posted…How to avoid Templedom in CambodiaMy Profile

  • Thanks for the comment Raphael – totally agree as if our life revolves around work! How sad would it be if working was the main part of our life? For me football, travel, family and friends ALWAYS come before work. Safe travels. Jonny

  • It’s saddening when life is associated with work. Everything seems to revolve around it. I was one of those that was stuck in the corporate grinder, wearing my tie and fake smile. Kind of Glad a gun changed all of that. But I can understand how they think. It’s how society programs us to think.

    I really like your blog, Jonny.

  • Thanks Rashad – it was my time working in a busy PR office that changed it for me. That was 2007 when I left that job, and I haven’t looked back since. Life shouldn’t be about being too busy for other people – life should be about doing what we want – of course we need money to do that, but spend it wisely and use our time wisely rather than being defined by “what we do”. Your story is very inspiring. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Deia, totally agree – the phrase is strange, maybe those that ask it mean to say “what do you work as?” but they get confused that work is you life. For me, life, health and my own enjoyment comes first and always will. Work is secondary. Safe travels, Jonny

  • I always love your take on things Jonny – Very refreshing. For me the phrase “What do you do for a living” has always literally translated as “What job do you do?” – In my opinion “do for a living” doesn’t imply lifestyle or aspirations etc, it simply means “what do you do to earn money to live”. If someone asked me “What do you do for a living” I would always answer by telling them what job I did – To me thats what that question means and doesn’t imply anything about my lifestyle, what I do with my life or anything, its simply a question about my job.

    I think if you take the phrase literally then “living” would imply as you said “to live” and that is obviously a whole different meaning to work, Ive just never considered it this way. The English language is a strange thing!

  • Hi Paul – yes taking it a bit too literally here I guess, but the question still annoys me! We are here to live life and enjoy not ask people what they work as under a disguised question. Safe travels. Jonny

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