lip lit: Hap Working the World
What could be more exciting, exhilarating and adventurous than committing to working on every continent in the world before your thirtieth birthday? This is the goal New Zealander Hap Cameron set himself when he was twenty-one, after graduating from a marketing degree at university. He wanted life experiences, and to avoid the trap of falling into a nine-to-five job for the rest of his life. This sounds like the existence most people only dream of, unable to bring themselves to forfeit the security of a regular income and a place to call home. Working the world sounds glamorous, but as Hap finds out on his travels, it is often anything but.
I don’t think I was under any illusion that working the world would be glamorous before I started reading the book, but I was surprised to find just how taxing it was for Hap. His adventure comes with its own set of challenges and really opened my eyes to the emotional, financial and physical stress of moving around from country to country and job to job. Hap begins his journey in Korea, teaching English. From there, opportunity arises and he ends up in Spain, before heading to South America and the USA. Between his stints working, Hap takes time out to travel, backpacking through South America or seeing the sights in America and Canada. He has some amazing experiences: living out of a car, getting locked up in an American prison, volunteering at an orphanage in South America, working the oil rigs in Canada, riding his bike through southern Africa and being a waiter on a cruise ship to Antarctica. Each of these experiences come with their own challenges and hardships, yet Hap is determined to achieve his goal and knows he won’t be happy until he’s done just that.
This book isn’t the most literary you’ll ever read, nor is it the book to read if you’re looking for intricate details about particular continents. There are moments in the book where Hap describes the countries he’s in, however , apart from the African leg of his journey and parts of South America and Korea, I felt as though I didn’t really get to see the country and life Hap was living. This was perhaps an attempt to tell his story as succinctly as possible, as I’m sure Hap could have written a whole book about each continent he visited, or one book for each year of his nine year journey. I wanted more story-telling, more descriptions and showing instead of telling. I wanted to experience these continents with Hap, instead of being told how it was for him.
There were moments in the book where Hap would return home to New Zealand and see old friends with stable jobs, their own houses and families, and he would wonder what he was doing. He had enough experiences to last him two lifetimes, but he was broke. He had no assets, and only the money he received from his next pay check as it came in. Hap admits to feeling almost jealous of his friends, or if not jealous, uncertain about what his future would hold. It is his realisation that he doesn’t have to live that way, he doesn’t have to live like everyone else, that thirty doesn’t mean the end of your life, when Hap truly rediscovers what he wants from life.
I was in two minds while reading this book. I envy the experiences Hap has had, and his sense of adventure to the point of recklessness. I don’t have that reckless sense of adventure in me, and there is no way I would ride a bike through a national park in Africa, with the threat of wild animals the way Hap does. At the same time, I am a person who hates to conform. I don’t want to spend my life in a nine-to-five job I hate. I want to do what I enjoy. Yet, I want financial security. I don’t want to be in debt the way Hap sometimes is. And it feels like a catch-22: I want the financial security of a nine-to-five job without working a nine-to-five job, and I want the amazing experiences which come with travelling, but I don’t like taking risks.
This is what I admire Hap for. He’s not afraid to put his life on the line. He’s not afraid to live as he wants to live, and deal with the consequences of choosing to live that way. He’s willing to sacrifice in order to achieve what he wants, and that in itself is inspirational.
Hap Working the World is published by Allen and Unwin.