Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Trapped in the American Dream

Once upon a time I woke up and realized the American Dream…

Was a Nightmare! A Wild Goose Chase! A Trap!

A typical family striving towards the American Dream is like a bunny on a treadmill, with a carrot dangling just out of reach. With each step, you feel like you’re making progress but you’re really not getting anywhere.

Do you disagree? Let’s examine this epiphany in depth…

0-15 You are fully swathed in a cocoon of blissful self-centeredness. You believe the world revolves around you and you may be right but be forewarned… there’s a hurricane ‘a coming!

15 – 18 (Yes – it starts this early) You begin to realize that actions have consequences, namely, that the caliber of work you produce will directly impact what college will accept you. Yee Gads!

Time to put your nose to the grindstone – you’re 15 and you’ve put your first foot on the treadmill.

18 – 22 (ish) you vacillate through highs and lows, trying valiantly to master the perfect combination of business and pleasure. You’re in college right? You gave up some pretty major high school hijinx to get here. Are you willing to forgo all those college mixers? But you’re also aware that you’ll be paying these tuition bills (plus interest for the next 10 years). You want your education to be worth it, right?

Ok 24 – now it’s really time to buckle down – get on a career track – start paying off your college loans – oh and if you want to be able to retire in 40 years you’ve got to start saving now.

25 – 30 You’ve landed a job and now it’s time to start settling down (if you’re following along you’ve now been delaying enjoying your life for the last 15 years – but don’t worry you’re getting closer to realizing the dream so keep trudging along). You find a mate (spouse) and start raising a family.

30 – 45 Remember those few happy go lucky years from 0 – 15, well you’re the parent now so it’s time to raise a blissfully ignorant, self centered child... Ahh the circle of life.

Oh and to add insult to injury – you’ll need to carve out a portion of your income to save for the childrens' college (while still paying your’s off) lest you be considered a neglectful parent.

You’re fully trapped now – feet firmly planted on the treadmill.

Wake up, go to work, come home, have dinner, spend 5 minutes with the kids, go to sleep. Do it again.

Thankfully there’s that sweet 45 minute reprieve on Saturday in between soccer and ballet.

50 – 65 Retirement is now in sight – if you can just get through the next 15 years you’ll have it made.


a. You’re still alive

b. You’re healthy

c. You’ve saved enough money to fund your newly found freedom.

It’s only taken you 50 years to be able to enjoy your life, on your terms…

Really? This is “The American Dream”? Yikes!

I’m thankful my family decided to STOP DREAMING AND START LIVING!

We’ve been on a 30,000 mile short cut, not to retirement, but to life.

Our American Dream actually entails… seeing America… all of it… with our kids…living full time in our camper.

I know it’s not for everyone, but I do hope that all families at least consider that there are options and choices and that sometimes dreams (even the American Dream) need a bit of analysis.

Kimberly Travaglino is the author of "How to Hit the Road" a step-by-step guide for getting your family's life Off Hold and On The Road. She also serves as the Editor of Fulltime Families Magazine, a company that supports risk takers, pioneers, and enlightened families blazing their own path across the country.

Interested to see what others have to say about the American Dream?

Check out these posts

Nancy from Family on Bikes - What is the American Dream?

Lisa from New Life on the Road - Living the Australian Dream
Lisa from Around the World in Easy Ways - An American Dream Fairy Tale
Brandon from Fullness of Life - The Global American Dream
Talon from 1 Dad, 1 Kid, 1 Crazy Adventure - The American Dream
S King (aka Mom) from A King's Life - Redefining an American Dream
K King (aka Dad) from A King's Life - Livin' the not-so-American Dream
Lainie from Raising Miro - Erosion of the American Dream
Mary from Bohemian Mom-The Illusion of the American Dream
Family Travel Bucket List - Bye Bye Miss American Dream
Justin from The Great Family Escape -The Real American Dream
Melissa from Break Out of Bushwick -Good Morning, America, Let's Occupy Wall Street!

Amy from Livin On The Road -To dream a little dream of... travel


  1. One of my most powerful memories is of my grandfather. Grandpa worked extra years in a job he hated in order to save more for retirement. The plan was to live in Florida during the winters and the cabin he built on the north shore of Lake Superior in the summer. It was the perfect life. He worked and worked to save for the dream.

    Finally he retired and he and Grandma started living the dream. They bought a house in Florida for the winters and spent the summer in Minnesota. Life was perfect.

    And then - on their way to Florida for their 2nd winter, Grandpa had a stroke and died in the middle of Georgia. He was never able to live his dream.

    I've thought about Grandpa a lot throughout the years and always keep the lessons I learned from him in my heart. Life is too short to wait. Take advantage of today.

  2. Amen to that Nancy! We've been sold a load of bunk with a side of guilt. Work hard, delay your gratification - to do otherwise you're seen as a slacker.
    We still believe in working hard, but we make plenty of time to play hard too!

  3. Well said Kim! Wish I would have been able to read this 15-20 years ago...sure would have been quicker than figuring it out the way we did. ;)