Should you wonder how it happens that some people are always travelling around the world, exploring the beauty of different places, cultures and ideas, and you seem to be stuck in the chore of everyday life, then this post is for you! This may be confusing, but be aware that even if you rationally agree with me by the end of this text, you probably still won’t change your habits (Not because I say so, because that’s what the current behavioral science shows)! I do not intend to claim knowledge of what makes people happy, but I claim that most people are not actually in charge of their decisions, as preferences drawn from a single type of experience are rather useless because of the lack of alternatives. If you have driven only one car in your life, it will be, by default, the best car you have ever driven. But I guess you can see that this is not a meaningful statement. Thriving within your own cultural ideology is therefore the same analogy and this is where traveling becomes so valuable. I would define traveling as; trying different possible lives, ideas and values while learning and improving up on these experiences.
When I first gave up the the western securities like a job, living arrangements, material goods and affiliations, it was frightening to face the unknown. I wasn’t trained to be anywhere other than at a job or in-between; delivering my part to society without ever questioning what a fair part would imply or what the goal of this system would be. Since that day, I changed my life completely just by facing new situations daily and learning to embrace the unknown rather than fear it. I lost so many biases and fears that now I have a hard time “returning” to an enclosed system.
Why? At the limit of our experience and knowledge!
Imagine for a moment an artificial intelligence that is programmed to learn from its environment and copy the habits, values and the behavior of its surroundings. This AI is by default limited to its experiences and the culture it’s surrounded by. Now imagine that you place this AI in different environments over time and train it to compare the achievements of the different environments by a falsifiable and repeatable methodology (science). Now it can select the superior solutions and reject the obsolete. Well guess what, along this train of thought, the human being is limited to the experience and knowledge of its environment, therefore it becomes a virtue to seek other experiences to improve up on them. Once you understand this limitation of consciousness, you either accept your ignorance or seek the path to widen your paradigm (personal worldview). By measuring how narrow or wide these paradigms are you can almost reflect the advancement and or ignorance of our civilization.
How do I finance this lifestyle?
Spend less than you earn! It’s as easy as that. This may be hard at first, as you are probably enslaved by consumerism without actively experiencing another way, but this is just a habit too. I will have a hard time convincing anybody here if you’ve never felt the freedom of not owning stuff. Well, ask yourself, does it make you improve, free or happy to fill your apartment with stuff or does it hold you back from leaving it? How long would it take you to organize your belongings to leave for an unknown window of time? If the effort for such an endeavor is too big, then do you own the stuff or does the stuff own you? Don’t expect you to be rational about this; you probably just do as you always have. Once again you can’t imagine something you never experienced. So unless you free yourself from your material goods, your opinion on this is irrelevant as there is no ground of comparison! I’d like to add that I am not suggesting a life without the comfort of material goods, as I absolutely support the improvement of technology, but rather to change the relationship from owner to user. In the western society we are a past scarcity culture. Tools and equipment are readily available everywhere to share, so why the responsibility of owning – and bound by – them?
If you like to talk money, here: I can cover my costs in Zürich with about 2’000 CHF a month (flat, food, transport, insurances, and all other living costs) and while travelling with about 500CHF per month. This is about half the minimum income in Switzerland but its more than most of my friends would earn around the world. These figures can vary in both directions. If you don’t have money at all, there are enough projects everywhere where you have no board to pay, or travel by bike, walk, learn skills and try to find ways. Challenge yourself to live without money for some time; travelling this way will always bring you to the local people and let you become creative and add skills to your arsenal. If you need some support or ideas, if you struggle with this, let me know. If your excuse for not travelling is lack of money then you simply didn’t try hard enough!
What do I do while travelling?
Relaxing at the beach, drinking beer, reading and talking to tourists? Well no! In general I try to blend in with the locals. Stay at their houses, do what they do and try to learn and interact with their culture. On this level it’s easy to create an interaction and exchange ideas for better solutions. Furthermore I write everything down that I don’t understand and read it up later. Spending about two hours a day with self-improvement of my scientific literacy, using online universities or reading books or journal took me on a journey through astrophysics, chemistry, modern biology, behavioral and moral science, and my favorite: the philosophy of science itself. Trying to understand how our world works changed my worldview as much as the experiences that I collected. There is no longer an excuse for not having sufficient education on hand as everything is available for free 24/7. After this there is still plenty of the day available to discover places, do sports, play cards, celebrate or do whatever you choose. There is so much space for improvement you can achieve if you’re not spending the majority part of your day with simple labor, labor that can be easily be replaced by technology today. I hope that changes some perceptions of the laziness of traveling compared to repetitive labor.
Happiness and sorrows
I asked a lot of friends, colleagues and strangers, if they are happy with their current life situation. The most common answer was: “it could be worse.” If this is your situation too, that should at least leave a lot of space to try something new. For my part, conformity makes me depressed. So what is the downside of the traveler lifestyle? I often view my life as an equilibrium between peaks of high’s and low’s. If I had to compare my former consumer based lifestyle with my traveler lifestyle, I guess the average would about even out but what changed immensely is the dynamic or amplitude of the peaks. Conformity brings often what it defines, repetition, tedium and little emotions. In contrast my peaks changed massively with the unknown. Having unbelievable, new, mind changing experience as well as the hardest and most mind bugging, sad and angry days. This dynamic let’s me feel much more alive and I collect a lot of happiness out of the peaks, even if they can be painful sometimes. Think about your past, is it the conformity or the peaks that stay with you?
Living on both sides of the fence.
Wherever I go I always hear; the next country, city, neighborhood is dangerous, don’t go there. Like the Orwellian view in 1984, we are always in war with strangers that we have never encountered. Having been in over 65 different countries and staying with every social layer there is, I haven’t found that bad society on the other side of the fence yet. Once I asked a guy in a slum neighborhood why he wouldn’t rob me, as I was obviously not from here. He said: “ You don’t seem to be afraid of coming here an treat us like equals.” I try to look at situations by the probability of the possible outcome and to moderate my first intuitive impulses. Rational or chance based risk management doesn’t seem to be a natural skill of ours (but this is also well understood in social sciences).
Open feedback loop
Well, if anybody made it through this text and would like to comment on it, I would be very interested about your reasons for selecting your lifestyle, or the barriers that keep you from changing it! Thanks