I was talking about traveling abroad with a close friend of mine recently. I was showing him the twenty or so countries I’ll be living in or visiting in the next year or so, and I could tell he was intrigued.
His mind was blown when I said my hotel room in Siem Reap, Cambodia would cost $9 a night. Private room. Private bath. Free wi-fi and breakfast. No forced labor in the afternoons.
Mind you, I don’t normally stay in such cheap places, but I had to take advantage of the opportunity for at least a few days. And it turned out great.
After all, these are the opportunities you can find when you travel abroad.
My friend went on to tell me how he had all the opportunities to travel when he was younger. He could have taken the summer after high school to backpack through Europe with friends. Then he could have taken a year exploring the world before going back to grad school.
Then he could have taken time off from work to go to England with his friends.
But he never did.
When you’re young, the opportunities to travel are overwhelming. Yet so many people give up on their dreams to follow the herd. Whether it’s college, grad school, a job with a cubicle, or whatever else, we’re programmed by society to sacrifice what we want to fit in.
If I had to give advice to any young person about what to do with their life, I’d say one thing: travel.
It may sound odd to hear that. After all, aren’t we all different? Don’t we all have different goals? Yes we do. But travel transcends so many of those goals and offers so many unique benefits that will shape your life. It will help you see the world works outside of a classroom and a textbook. Let you experience other cultures firsthand. Reduce your sense of dogma. Give you lessons that can’t be learned anywhere else.
Because travel is the real world. Unfiltered. It’s raw.
I’m not saying to pack your bags for two weeks and go to Paris. That’s all well and good, and it will imbue a certain sense of culture in you. But I want you to take some serious time and go to the furthest corners of the world. Ride an elephant in India. Have tea in a hutong in China. Take the slow train in Myanmar. These experiences will not only provide a sense of adventure, but they will teach you unique lessons about life.
I believe travel is the best teacher. When you travel, history comes alive and makes you understand why the world is the way it is. You’ll see firsthand things that work, and things that don’t. And you’ll learn that there usually isn’t just one “right” way to do something.
As I’ve discovered myself, travel opens the door to amazing world of opportunities. We all tend to be indoctrinated in our country’s culture growing up. If you’re in the United States, that means a lot of “rah-rah America” talk that leads to believe your country is the best place on earth, bar none.
For me, spending some serious time in dozens of countries has taught me that opportunity is everywhere in the world. It’s not limited to the place you were born in. And you quickly learn that you don’t have to settle in life. If your country isn’t providing what you need, you have options. You don’t have to be a slave to a specific patch of dirt.
Right now, kids in the west – and especially places like Spain and Greece – are facing enormous challenges. Some of them are even being forced to leave their country, not of their choice, but out of necessity in that they need to seek work.
I don’t want you to be in this position. I don’t want you to be forced to leave out of desperation and merely hope for the best.
In recent months, I’ve visited a number of places in Asia that are booming. The Philippines, for instance, is a beautiful country not only to visit, but to live. They have some of the best beaches in the world. The people are among the most friendly and gracious of anywhere I’ve been – perhaps even as gracious as people in Japan. And living there is practically dirt cheap.
If you’re an entrepreneur, having 6% GDP growth can’t hurt either. You might set up shop and never look back.
Yet places like this aren’t often on the normal American tourist map. Many in the west are dismissive towards them. They know not that of which they speak. If more people got out and experienced the world, they would realize just how much they have to learn.
Take the time while you’re young to explore the world. Go off the beaten path. Go to countries no one you know has ever heard of. Determine what you’re passionate about and use the time overseas to find the perfect opportunity for you. Whether that’s starting a business or being a famous artist, find new ways to accomplish your goals around the world.
Because staying in your country can only limit your beliefs.
I frequently tell prospective students to skip college and pursue their passion. As freeing as going to college may sound, most college is about reinforcing limiting beliefs and pushing a specific set of views onto you. It’s confining.
I’ve learned more about business and investing by simply talking to the right people on multiple continents than I ever would have learned in class at the party school I dropped out of. While my former classmates are now largely working at soul-sucking corporate jobs with an asshole boss, I have the freedom to spend my next year across four continents plotting my next moves and sharing my findings with you.
I can’t say you won’t have your doubts. Change is hard, and fighting convention can be hard, too. Last week in Singapore, I had dinner with two expats from India and Russia. I told them how I occasionally – just occasionally – wonder about the road not taken.
The Indian girl quickly replied that despite working on the 29th floor of one of the most city’s luxurious buildings, with a gorgeous view of Marina Bay, most of her co-workers never put up their window shade. Never looked out upon the beauty that stared them right in the face. They just kept their head down. Never challenging the belief system they followed. Never asking if this was really what they wanted out of life.
Use your youth to get out and see the world. Don’t just take photos of this tourist attraction or eat at that cafe. Make it your mission to learn from everything you see everyday. To uncover the wealth of opportunities. To challenge your most closely held beliefs.
I assure you the lessons you’ll learn are more valuable than that of any classroom. And as my upcoming six months in southeast Asia proves, you can do it with very little money. Certainly less than a semester or two at some overpriced college. And you’ll be taking control of your own destiny rather than relying on some sheepskin that may or may not get you what you want out of life.
All the things you say you want will still be there when you get back. Colleges and grad schools, potential husbands and wives, corporate jobs… none of these are going anywhere. But saying “I’ll travel later” is nothing more than an excuse to avoid the mildly uncomfortable in favor of conformity.
As to my friend, he’s turning forty this year and feels his opportunities for travel are behind him. He and his wife will start having children soon and he says the ship has past.
Even if you’re not young, you can’t allow yourself to be held back by limiting beliefs. So what if you have a child? So what if you have a job you hate? Those who have a motivation to seek something better will do so. Take the steps necessary to free yourself from your limiting beliefs. We’re trained to think of the worst case scenario, but when you really think things through rather than emotionalize, you’ll realize this is an unlikely outcome.
So what if your job isn’t available when you get back? By opening up your mind to a new reality, you’ll be able to make the best out of the new opportunities you find. Perhaps you’ll find somewhere you love and realize you want to start a life there. Or you’ll discover a new business to free you from your old life. As for your kids, you’ll be giving them the best gift you can – a view of the world that will serve them the rest of their lives.
Many people believe that a Nomad Capitalist would only care about money, and making as much of it as possible. That view goes against our true goal: finding that which affords us the most personal freedom and happiness.
To find that is akin to jumping into a swimming pool. It’s a bit cool at first, but you’ll warm up in no time. And you’ll likely not want to get out. Whether you’re young or old.