For the last two years I’ve been traveling. A lot of people ask me how I can afford to travel so much, to which I kindly respond, “I can’t. I work for my privilege to be out in the world, truly absorbing and integrating myself with the culture I’m visiting.” And by work I really mean work, taking a job wherever I go, saving up just enough cash to hop to the next place, and doing it again.
Yeah, it’s risky. But I would gladly trade the comfort and security of a leased apartment, a steady 9-5 five days a week, and a suit for the joy of being free and truly living my life. When you work while you travel, you get a chance to see more than just the touristy standards that have more pictures on the internet than Mark Zuckerberg. You become truly immersed in the sights, sounds, and streets of the community you live in. You become a participant rather than a spectator, and in doing so, adopt new ways of seeing the world; you break down the walls of social conditioning you’ve been living under for so long.
“Isn’t it scary? How do you know where to go?”
Sure it can be scary. But that’s part of the fun. To look back on how frightened you were when you arrived, with no idea where you were going or what was going to happen, and seeing how the story naturally unfolded, or didn’t, to your benefit, can be an empowering experience. You learn that you really can make things work for yourself with no, or very little, planning. Life becomes a game of sorts: how long can I survive on the $100 I have left in my bank account? (Actually, a few weeks, if you really try) Where am I going to sleep tonight? (A cave in Honolulu isn’t so bad) Will I find a job before I run out of money? (Maybe, maybe not. Surviving on avocado and pineapples is easy though.) And as long as you’re still breathing, you always win.
“I’m not a risk taker. I can’t just ‘wing it’ like that!”
I’m not a risk taker either. In fact, I’m pretty much the opposite. What’s risky is remaining stagnant in life, letting the days pass you by, only to sit back one day and realize that you’ve wasted 5, maybe 10 years of your life. Humans are natural explorers. Our ancestors survived because of their ingenuity, enthusiasm, and ability to adapt to a wide range of situations, environments. That means we are the direct descendants of a line of some pretty bad mofo’s, and we really can crawl out of the dirt to make anything happen.
If you are having second thoughts, though, you could always set up a job before you get to your destination. Or check out couchsurfing.com, and line up a place to crash for a week or two while you get your feet on the ground and start a job hunt. The thing is, once you start the process, you meet and make uncountable numbers of contacts from all over the world, who are just as willing to have you sleep on their couch for a month as you would be to have them on yours.
Once you have job in a new place, you meet people who know more people, and your social network flourishes. You may find yourself invited to an art show you never would have heard of, exploring bars and restaurants only the locals know of, and making new, lasting friendships. And who wouldn’t want that?
So take a chance. Get out and see the world. If you want to go Sydney, go there, find a job, survive for a few months, and move on. The experiences and growth you will encounter are far more valuable than that nice leather couch you’ve been saving up for. And when you look back on it, you’ll realize that you did something valuable, meaningful with your life, and you’ll give them lots to talk about at your funeral.