Forward planning is always a good asset when making life changing decisions. However making an abstract decision like, well I don’t know, maybe moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina with no Spanish speaking skills or friends to join you, well that sort of throws forward planning out the window. It’s not that gaining some knowledge, reading some blogs and talking to some other travelers won’t help, its more that you can’t plan what you don’t know.
I grew up in Seattle, lived there for 23 and ¾ decent years and yet my own personal dissatisfaction and strong desire to forge a different path than everyone else, sent me on this improbable journey. I didn’t just roll one up, spark it and think “hey, I wanna go to Buenos Aires”. No It was 14 months of research that created a yearning for a lifestyle I’d heard was unmatched. While I planned every nickel spent, picked out apartments, built my own imaginary experiences in my daydreams in-between handing beers to Microsoft execs, all I really accomplished was finding an entertaining way to fill the hours until my departure.
The truth is you can’t plan something like moving to a place you know nothing about. You can study and hear what other people recommend, but the truth is they aren’t you don’t like what you like and won’t share the experiences that you will. While it’s a fun idea to think of all the things you want to accomplish while on such a voyage, the truth is sticking to any kind of schedule while on the road is quite a tough act to practice.
After all one of the things that makes travel such an attractive proposition is the spontaneity it creates. Not knowing where you are going to eat, sleep, drink or who you are going to befriend, flirt and kiss, well this is called life being lived, there are no set schedule to follow other than this living process itself.
This was basically just the my lifestyle for the first month of my South American journey. Having your schedule interrupted by a combination of 74 hours of bus rides, party hostels and currency exchanges make it nearly impossible to get much work done. (As a side note I’m not sure how the men here keep there mind on work, I get distracted by women in the US, but here I would be fired, easily.)
While my visit is a combination of work and pleasure, it’s taken a while for the whole work thing to catch on. But now a month in, I’m transitioning from guy traveling in South America, to American Expatriate living in Buenos Aires. This new stage of my trip is what I came for and while the immersion can be difficult to adjust to, it is precisely what is needed. This change enables one to open up to a new world, a new way of doing things. This education is something no educational document can compare too. It is a crash course in adaptation and survival, in a school where life lessons create behavioral modifications.
I can say for a fact I’ve learned more from this month and a week of craziness than I could even read in a book. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again here, “Life it seems is best experienced beyond borders, outside comfort zones and with an open mind.”. This experience has opened my mind to a new world, changed my perspective of the world and how it works and lit my entrepreneurial fire. So much so that I considered changing my flight to leave sooner so I could start working back home sooner. I have far too much to learn to succumb to my homesickness however.
Let me take a step back and explain a key point I’ve discovered through this mini-retirement/self discovery period in my life.
It’s quite a feeling to wake up with no worries, No voicemails to respond to and pressing issues like, “where am I going to eat lunch today?”. With such an itinerary, the necessary freedom is provided to learn the most about yourself. You can finally answer the life questions that confused you in all those self-help books like, ”if you had nothing to do all day what would you do?” or “Do you really love what you do everyday?”. The answers? Work out, write, go out and spend time with friends and no. Simple huh?
My point being that the things you often neglect because of the lack of time you have with a crazy schedule are often the most enjoyable aspects of your life. While you will find time to fit them in, it is never the primary focus of your day.
Basically, you are never able to put 100% of your energy in the direction of the things you care about the most, whether it be your family, friends or expanding waistline.
In this sense taking such an expedition, experiencing this moment of clarity sure goes along way in answering the “what do I really want with my life?” question, that seems to haunt most of us on a daily basis.
I’m only beginning to scratch the surface on the benefits of long term world travel, but suffice to say that making a 2-3 month trip happen will pay for itself in the education that it will provide. The people you will meet, places you will see and lifelong memories you will create are a pretty nice bonus as well. I’m already thinking of how many “One time when I was in South America” stories I’ll likely share at cocktail parties.
Bottom line, set a time in the future, preferably in the next year or two, to travel somewhere and immerse yourself in a new culture and lifestyle. The benefits are countless and limitless.