I’m not special. I’m just a guy that’s been making the best decisions I can with the information and experience I have accumulated to this moment. Each and every moment we have an opportunity to learn, whether it’s from ourselves, the person at the grocery store or the person that held the door for you.
I have heard from some friends, family and people I recently met that they are inspired by what I did. There were lots of things I thought were going to happen and didn’t. I thought I was going to be traveling for 6-12 months. Nope, it was 4 months. I also thought I was aiming for India. Nope, ended up in Africa. Funny how life works when we’re going with the flow. It makes hitting a goal or target impossible and that’s for another blog post. Some of the people I met were on sabbatical between decisions on a PhD program, getting a “good job” and traveling for 6 months or they seemed to be cool, laidback perpetual travelers and the definition of vagabonding (great book that I heard of after planning and packing for my trip: Vagabonding, LINK BELOW*). Others have left their life and significant other at home because this is what they do every summer. Some people just take a trip, once a year, on their own to explore new countries and themselves. How experiential and noble to seek the novelty and sacrifice daily luxuries. It’s so easy to take almost everything in our daily, modern, Western society experience for granted (soap, water, a nice bed, international travel options [other citizens of the world cannot travel as freely as us]). I didn’t meet any travelers that were out for more than 6 months. I heard some friends meet some people that were out for 2+ years. It just goes to remind me that everyone is on their own path.
Some people were learning to be more social, some seemed to not want to go home for one reason or another — I was traveling because it came up in conversations after I decided to leave my job. It wasn’t even on my radar when I told my boss I needed to leave. I had spent a lot of my life being very strategic and accustomed to routine. I would get this job, then plan to do that next. Do this, get that. I did that for a long time. Sometimes it worked. This time, I have had enough.
One time I got fired and started from scratch again (2010). The most recent career venture was a five year ride that included some success and lots of learning, courses, additional certifications and expanding my operational management knowledge. My dad thinks I’m crazy to have left the job and he’s proud too so that’s helpful. Most importantly, I learned a lot more about people – myself included. The beginning of my work life involved marketing and sales. What I thought I lacked was an operations background and I got it in spades (24/7 operations – administering large commercial real estate portfolios). What’s really funny to me is, that was my goal when I think back to 2012. Careful what I wish for, right?
Well, after having received the experience and checking the box of having that “good job.” You know, the job people talk about getting… having an amazing team that they work with to accomplish a goal, task or mission. Our mission was, keep the clients happy and we did a pretty good job at it. I was driving one hour each way to get to my corner office. I enjoyed maybe 20% of the job and asked myself if they paid me $1M would I still want to be there? I couldn’t answer yes and if my original intent was to learn operations and not getting more money, that was it. And now, I’m just realizing that I had reached that operations goal I set years ago. I completely forgot about that goal and I reached it. Maybe the traveling ended up being a celebration of an accomplishment. It was an accomplishment in and of itself for sure, but it’s more complex than that.
When I was preparing to travel it was all about planning for my dad and my brother to join me on the first 11 days of an abroad trip that my brother and I have never experienced before. I spent two months planning all of the details, the nitty gritty down to car service in one instance where it was going to be really helpful for us, a couple of restaurants that we ended up not going to, and accommodations for all of us in four different locations. There is a very strong contrast between my personal desires and preferences to travel and family ideals. It can be a challenge to travel when there are contrasting values but it is possible. For example, I value getting to know the culture, in detail, from locals by talking to them and asking them questions and developing relationships with them. This value is also stemming from an abundance of time, not so much money, but time is plentiful now. When time isn’t the same currency people are spending, traveling is usually geared towards seeing as much as possible in a short amount of time. Overall, it worked out okay for everyone. But also, I haven’t seen their blog posts on it yet for a reflective review on their thoughts.
Most of what I learned on how to travel using a budget came about as I was doing the research for family joining on the first 11 days. There is an abundance of travel blogs online with what they’ve packed and so forth. I took what I liked, left what I didn’t to create the experience that I wanted. Friends and family at the time will try to shape one’s future experience here as well. It was important for me to only take what made sense for me on my path otherwise I would have lugged more baggage around the world that I really wanted to — not including emotional baggage. The real world experience took a hockey stick curve on a graph up in no time. Not having planned anything outside of the first night hostel would do it. Want to take an indefinite trip and just see what happens? Sure, sign me up.
I was ready for some personal growth in a direction that I enjoyed. So, after family flew back to the US, I didn’t plan anything for my trip outside of the first night and that ended up being cancelled while I pursued another travel option in connecting with a friend that I wanted nothing more than to spend more time with — it’s the kind of friend you could sit in a field all night eating Chinese food while looking at the stars and just feeling an abundance of inner peace.
While talking to other travelers I met in the city, I learned so much about their journeys in life and on the road. It was enthralling for me to hear all of their experiences that I was able to incorporate into my experience — experiment is probably more accurate — taking travel to another level entirely. I’m such a newbie when it came to this traveling thing. I have never traveled solo before to a new place and it was my first time off this continent and in another country. I mean, I haven’t even been to California yet. Seriously.
I signed up for an app called Couchsurfing back in 2014 when I first wanted to make significant life changes. You can probably guess what it’s for and it’s much more than just that. I signed up because of a relationship success story. I chose to think of it that way. It wasn’t a failure. I learned a lot – I’m sure she did. It was nearly a decade long relationship and I was looking for new outlets in meeting people and thinking about traveling. Ultimately, spending time working out and a new goal of entering a triathlon sounded exciting. I love bicycling so that was the easy part for me. So, I learned after many months of running short distances and feeling lots of pain that I needed to also learn how to swim. After lots of trial, error, and 4am wake up calls — it was just the outlet I needed to focus on myself again and to find out what Mike actually enjoyed doing.
Fast forward four years later and another relationship success story happened. Pattern recognition software failure within myself. I needed to reboot, reset and replace my own human (computer) parts apparently. I downloaded the couchsurfing app again and put it in motion for use this time around. This time meaning, use it to meet people around the world while traveling.
Hindsight from traveling, the couchsurfing app was the most successful tool in my toolbox. I was able to meet many people from different countries. I saw someone post an event on the app as a meet up and decided to do that for myself in countries before arriving and that was one of the best ways to meet like minded people outside of just chatting randoms up while wandering around.
That’s all I have for now. I’m working on getting into a routine for more writing and it’s been throwing me some curveballs. I’ll be better with practice. I’ll keep showing up.
Be well, friends.
Updated text below and asterisks used above for changes
January 5, 2019
This will be super helpful to me if you care to support me and my cause.
If you’re interested in any of the above mentioned items, in this case books, I referenced and you’d like to help support me, it would be awesome if you would use the links below for purchasing.
If this ends up being a way that I can help contribute to the world more directly and donate $200 to help children go to school in Africa for one year – I will do that when the opportunity arises. There is a school the family operates where I visited in Uganda. I would love to help support them and their community. Sometimes children can’t go to school simply because they can’t afford the school uniform and shoes.