I’ll be candid. As much as I’m enjoying being on the road and everything that comes with it, at times I’ve grappled with thoughts that are rooted in societal norms and the associated pressures to adhere to these. There are three thoughts that I’ve been having:
- I’m not building an asset portfolio: I’m spending all my savings while my friends at home build and buy houses.
- I’m not building a (traditional) career: Many of my contemporaries and former co-workers at home are climbing the corporate ladder or starting their own successful businesses.
- Relationships: When you travel, you’re leaving the ones you love behind. Things go on hold. Others end.
These are by no means complaints. They’re just reflections I’ve had. I’ve been talking to a bunch of people I’ve met on the road and by hearing their stories: where they’ve come from and where they’re going (literally and figuratively); how they feel on the road and things they’ve learned – and together we discussed some counter arguments to the aforementioned points.
I’ve worked in a place that follows the 9am – 6pm day. You walk in before 8, or you’re late. Even though the official starting time was 9am. You spend the day working on projects that you don’t care about, for people that don’t respect you. If you’re lucky, you’d leave in time to make the 7pm BJJ class and train. But your mind is elsewhere, tied up in clients whose practices step on the toes of every moral conviction you have. Locked in the prison that is the next day’s work.
Travel doesn’t mean freedom from hard work, or freedom from business. These are not bad things – as much as I’m enjoying the current down time and perpetually free schedule. It’s freedom from having your schedule constrained, giving you time to read books, research and plan your next move – whatever that may be.
You’re incredibly free to focus on whatever you like. Books, art, family, travel, jiujitsu…leg locks. Having so much time to follow your passions and see new things is very relaxing. A free schedule is also a pass to do things you otherwise wouldn’t have time for – checking out an old temple, or a beautiful national park. And the benefit of doing this during normal working hours is that with a bit of luck, you’ll score it empty.
Personal development/ Education.
It’s no secret that you learn a lot on the road. You learn about the cultures, customs and languages of the places you’re visiting. You learn where the best food and coffee are. The lessons are ubiquitous, but they go further than this. You learn to step outside your comfort zone, whether it’s trying a new meal or making new friends. It teaches you to let go and relax in most situations. To use one of Jocko Willink’s principles, it teaches you how to say “good” when things are anything but. It’s all part of the journey, all part of the story. If you can still say “good”, you’re alive. Everything is a lesson. Missed your bus? Good. Catch the train instead, and learn to leave a bigger time buffer in arriving to the bus station.
Yes, this lesson is still applicable when there’s a toddler sitting behind you on the train screaming, banging on your seat and shitting themselves simultaneously. (Yes, this is happening as I write this, on the train I caught because I missed my bus).
But it doesn’t only teach you to say “good” when things aren’t good. Travel teaches you to really appreciate every moment, both good and not as good. Everything adds to the experience. And lord, is there some good experiences to be had abroad.
Sure, you’re not going to be earning as much on the road. It’s more than likely that you’re living off your savings. Maybe you’ve managed to pick up some odd jobs along the way. Or maybe you’re one of those wizards that’s managed to create an income or career that allows you to be on the road. But as long as you have enough for the essentials, you don’t need much more. From the outset, you’re limiting things you don’t really need. You get rid of pointless possessions. Limit what you buy. It forces you to ask yourself questions. Do I really need the latest iPhone? We tend to hoard things we won’t use, buy things we don’t need – get caught up in material possessions rather than trying to use our money or time for experiences, memories and friendships.
It’s surprising how many opportunities arise when you’re on the road. Travel does not necessarily have to mean just spending. You might end up working in a hostel in Spain, teaching some jiujitsu privates on a tropical island or even working in a bar in Prague. Who knows?
Until next time!