How and why to live a traveler’s lifestyle!

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

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5 Comments

  1. Very well articulated. Do you ever listen to any Terrence Mckenna? He has a couple great lectures talking about the trappings of our programming. Real brilliant stuff. I made the shift in my operating system many years ago, and to my knowledge don’t know of any greater tool for personal evolution than that of traveling. Keep the good vibes flowing brother!

  2. Thanks. I enjoyed the read and thinking about your views. A couple of years ago I took up the traveller’s lifestyle, having found myself post kids and out of work. I meet people travelling with kids but I don’t think that would’ve suited me. Staying in one place for family and career are valid pursuits but it’s never too late to leave the nest and explore. I agree whole heartedly – it’s been a life changing adventure, an exhiliarating journey with highs and lows. I’m doing it on a shoestring budget… which I imagine might be confronting for those used to comfortable middle class type conditions. For me living as the locals and often experiencing similar hardships as a result has been enlightening. One could argue that you can learn a lot, broaden your views and open your mind from reading or perhaps watching film, but there’s no comparison to the reality of immersing yourself into other walks of life. Admittedly I’m not out there full time but now ven the inbetween stages where I’m scraping together funds forbthe next leg of my journey have become part ofbthe adventure.

  3. I do have social and material dependencies. I’ve had them my whole life and i’m not ashamed to admit that I’m beeing owned by them. I might also not be fully in charge of my decisions. I might have a narrow field of view. But also I have a place that i can call home, fulfilling hobbies and, most important, people who I love. People who depend on me and whom I can depend on. I want to do and be something that matters. Material and social dependencies are just the attachement that come with doing and being something that matters.
    I’ve never felt totally free. But do I want to? Let me ask you: During all that travelling around, have you found the meaning of your life? Is feeling free a meaning?

    For me, the meaning of life is accepting the challenges you’re given, trying to do the things you do right. It’s not about feeling free or truly happy (that being a misconception which often leads to depression and drug-addiction). Therefore leaving it all behind would simply be giving up my meaning of my life.

    Of course I don’t question what you do, having the experience you do sure is something I’m jealous of. But, well, the way you’re intending that we cannot be fulfilled beings without seeing the world the way you do is – let’s be honest – a bit narrow-viewed.

    • Dear Hyos.
      Thanks for your interesting comment. I very much appreciate your thoughts and the open feedback.
      I do agree with you, that the pure idea of being free or without material dependencies should provide some kind of constant happiness is an illusion and could be called narrow-minded. I might didn’t make my point of reference clear enough, so let me try again. I don’t think that stepping out of the cultural bonds (here as material dependencies) is in any way easy or provides happiness by default. It’s more the opposite, as you always in conflict with the current sociocultural tradition. My point I try to make is; that we as a species pay a big price for shaping values and consciousness out of awareness we never challenged and stepped out of.
      Interestingly enough that you framed your goals like “doing something that matters”, “accepting challenges” “doing things right”. These are clearly values that are shaped by your current sociocultural tradition. With that I mean, if you would live in another place or time the content of those goals will be complete different. Now suddenly you’re not in charge anymore of whatever you will call “meaning”, due to the subjectivity of culture opposed to reality. This becomes important to me once I reach for goals like “well-being of conscious creatures”. I hate to be limited to the current common sense of my time and place, as this is the place where we did and still do all the horrific actions. This is the point where it becomes so valuable, to at least once in your life, step out of this cultural tradition for a reality check and to me travelling is one such tool. This all sounds complicated, smart assish and annoying I know, and on top of that I have to even get tautological on you. I would claim that you can only understand this once you experienced it. So my question then becomes; how you make sure that you actually do something that matters? There were/still are times where we burned witches, enslaved people, polluted the environment and so on, BECAUSE in reference to that culture, it was something that MATTERED.

      The meaning of life? For me the meaning of life is to live a lifestyle with a mindset that in a biological reproductive way could sustain itself forever. The highest form of evolution; the species who can keep its environment in a equilibrium to his own favor and the well-being of conscious creatures.

      • Well hello, i actually didn’t think that i’d get a reply on that 😉 So, thank you.
        Still, i’m not totally disagreeing with you. Of course, having a job, a constricted social environment and the commitments that come with them you are limiting in a lot of things, but not the mind. I still have all the options. I’m still in control. And if from time to time stepping out of your sociocultural consciousness is what you need (to keep an open mind, see things from different perspectives), well, there’s always some hippie who can help you with that for a small fee. Ahm. Anyways: How I can make sure that i actually do something that matters?
        I’m feeling happy about what I do. I don’t have the feeling that I’m wasting anything. I might not be inerrable, but I’m trying to be a person who influences his environment in a positive way and mostly i feel like i succeed with it. And I can only sustain this by not abandoning it.
        So, just one question: You go away for a long time. You learn alot about how the wolrd is working, how different views can be and so on. Then you come back and… What do you do? How is this knowledge, this gathering of experience, helping you and your environment? All i’m saying is that – in the end – you have to do something with what you’ve learned. Do you know what that will be?

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