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I have received dozens, if not hundreds, of messages from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers that have asked me how I am able to travel so much (This was before international travel was big, before everyone and their mom everyone started doing it). My answer lies in these life lessons.
The answer is simple and comes in three parts.
I view money differently than many (most?), I dedicate time to my genuine interests (rather the interests I think will impress people or that earn lots of green pieces of paper), and I travel rather than vacation.
Here are the details of these life lessons I’ve learned.
Life Lesson #1: Money is Nothing But Printed Paper
Literally. Our currency is “fiat money” meaning it’s only valuable because a governmental decree says so. It’s amazing how much significance is placed on these little green pieces of paper when they are nothing more than objects whose value depends on the government. Essentially, the government says that a $100 bill equals one hundred dollars when it’s nothing more than a piece of paper.
Aim to Be a 75-thousand-aire
Don’t get me wrong — we all do need money to meet our basic needs, but the fact of the matter is we need less of it than we think we do. In fact, an article published in Time Magazine shows the research from Princeton University has set the ideal salary right at $75,000 per year.
That may seem like a lot of money for some, especially those of us who are young. But my point is that we often strive to make millions or even billions of dollars. You never hear anybody exclaim that they want to be a ’75 thousand-dollar-aire’, but almost everyone wants to be a million or billionaire. Do they really, though?
The truth is: money comes and goes. It ebbs and flows like the waves of the beach. Often we think that money leads to happiness and that we must have a lot of it to travel. This is absolutely untrue. Money is simply a means of exchange representing quantity and quality of work in order to buy and sell things.
We are trained from birth in Western culture that success and money are equivalent. Ultimately, the greatest success in life is actualization; doing the things that make us feel complete as human beings (which, for many of us, includes traveling the world). I know it’s easier said than done, but really, focusing on money is a waste of life.
If it’s money that’s holding you back, I’ve uncovered ways to travel for free or even make money in my book Journey On.
Life Lesson #2: Time is the Most Valuable Resource in the World
One of the first concepts in economics students learn about is “Opportunity Cost”. This is extremely important. Basically, the definition states that when you buy one thing, you cannot buy another thing. Or, more importantly, if you do one thing for an hour, you cannot do another thing for an hour.
Simple, right? You can’t do two things at once. It’s an easy concept to grasp, but its practice is hard. Deciding what you want to pursue in your life, choosing which passions you develop, determining your aspirations — that’s the hard part. Everything comes down to choice during our finite time in this world.
Those hours you spend working, studying, and living for other people mean nothing. Trying to achieve the conventional definition of ‘success’ ultimately leads to life dissatisfaction.
When you live for appearing successful and impressing others, you lose not only the opportunity to travel but the chance to be authentically you during our limited time on Earth.
Choose happiness and self-actualizing. Choose to book those tickets you’re on the fence about. Choose to taste the gelato when in Italy. Choose to skydive in the Pacific Northwest. Choose to be free, to live life as if money is just an object. Because life is short, and time is limited.
Life Lesson #3: Travel and Vacation Aren’t Synonyms
One important thing to iterate: the version of travel I discuss in my book are about living a life of adventure. Living life on-the-go, hopping from place to place, country to country.
This idea of travel has nothing to do with vacation. Vacations are about enjoying the same amenities you would back home, talking with the same people and remaining comfortable.
Travel, on the other hand, is a journey. Travel involves going with the flow (“when in Rome, do as the Roman do”). But it also involves taking risks…like hopping on a train in Tokyo when signs aren’t written in English. Travel is about immersion in foreignness. About living life fast but simultaneously trying to savor the moment slowly. About living more like a local, and less like a tourist.
Travel is about unbecoming your cultural indoctrination, your idea of self, your biases.
In summary…don’t expect to be living a lavish lifestyle as a traveler. You won’t be sleeping in fancy resorts and rolling in the comforts of home around the world. In fact, Several nights may be spent sleeping at the airport, catching the bus like a local, and carrying only the necessities in either a backpack or carry-on. (These are just a few of the methods I have used to save money and gain adventure!).
My primary intention is not to guarantee you financial success or provide you with “get rich quick” schemes in any of my books. Rather, I detailed activities that are conducive to world travel for free. Or while turning an (often modest) profit.
As somebody who has traveled to dozens of countries and numerous places within the United States, I have learned how to travel completely self-sufficiently, on my own dime. I consider myself a basic and minimalist type of person, unattached to my possessions.
No, I don’t live a glamorous life (in fact, I have just enough clothes to fit inside a medium-sized suitcase), no I don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on accommodation (in fact, I use Couchsurfing often). I don’t dine out at 5-star restaurants. And I definitely don’t go on overrated and overpriced guided tours. Instead, I do things my own way, independently. A little creativity, open-mindedness, and flexibility go a long way.
Living Simply to Simply Travel
Simple is the way to live if you’d like to simply travel the world. Travel is about being spontaneous and focusing on the beautiful things in life rather than working towards trivial things that don’t matter like ‘money’ and ‘success’. Remember that our time here is limited. One of the most important life lessons to learn is that life is best spent chasing actualization rather than fiat money.
For more on how to travel the world — even if you’re broke — order my book, Journey On.