I’ve just realized that this December marks the five year mark since I ditch all my things and hit the road to Africa. Yep, that was five long and exceptional years since I went on that life changing school trip to South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia, with Prof Chad Thatcher and Colorado Mesa University.
I haven’t been home or seen mom since. I figure I have to have learned a few things about the world after five years, 79 countries, six continents and countless experiences, so I thought I would attempt to write a few of them down here….If for no other reason, then to convince some of you that traveling can be life changing.
1. Travel is the best education you can get about the world. If you are interested in history or cultures or any number of things outside your home country, going to and completely immersing yourself into it is the only real way. In each new country I go to I try to find local books and history to learn about the place. In this way I have learned and discovered so many things you will never find in your university text books. What better way to learn about the Khmer Rouge, than to go to Cambodia and see the killing fields and museums first hand, and read hand written books by survivors, that never got wide publication or distribution?
2. Geography. By default, and not on purpose, I’ve become quite the expert in world geography. This is another one of those cases where when it’s fun or natural to learn something, you really remember and keep the information in your head. On any given day I can now name every country on a map, as well as most capitals, currencies, exchange rates, major land marks, languages ect. I didn’t know I was learning these things, it just happened out of necessity. To me this is important. It’s good to know the world. Ignorance is not bliss.
3. I’ve learned that America isn’t as number one as Americans think. Despite what most think, besides military strength, US of A is not number one in nearly anything important in the world, and that came as a sobering surprise to me. As a huge world leader, and the most influential country on the planet, I thought we would be setting the bar for things most important in a progressive society…Things like education, health care ect.
But on the contrary, many other first world countries are destroying us in these categories. Why is this an important thing to me to have learned? Ignorance is not bliss. Seeing many great countries such as Finland and Sweden laugh at our policies on how we educate our children, is sad…. But it’s also inspiring. We should be taking the best ideas and systems from around the world, and implementing them in our own country. Then we would be great. Knowing that there’s a better way out there is the first step.
4. Being good at a lot of things is better than being an expert in one. I think that’s what I’ve done with my life. I’ve become good at many many things, as opposed to getting a degree and becoming an expert in a single subject. I can now build and design a website, run multiple online businesses, backpack any country on any continent alone and with tiny funds, camp on volcanoes, find work in any economy, country, environment, survive and thrive in third-world countries or even war-zones, make and produce quality videos, scuba dive at a high level, hitchhike Europe, learn enough phrases in a strange language to get around a busy city, get through airport customs fast and without problems, name all natural and ancient world wonders, tell you the exchange rate in 100 different countries at any given time, and many many things more.
I know 3-4 phrases in 10 or so languages, which is more useful then knowing one fluently, if you travel to a big variety of countries. I can identify symptoms from tons of different foreign and weird ailments, such as Dengue and Chikungunya. I’m sure there are many many more things, and I think each one can come in pretty handy as life skills. Having many life skills makes you self sufficient, I think.
5. Turkish delights are good. Squatty potties are bad. Estonian girls are beautiful. Penguins rule. Sharks arnt as dangerous as people think. Can’t trust dolphins though. Boats make me sea sick, but I love them. Romanian girls are nearly tied with Estonians. Finnish people are crazy, in the best way. Balinese dancers make me feel like I’m on drugs. Airplanes are boring. Working for yourself is worth being broke half the time. Egypt is hot. Camels bite. Ostriches bite. Australians drink too much. But less than Russians. Colorado is like the Switzerland of America: In the middle and in the mountains. The words “toilet” and “taxi” are universal.
6. An enlightened person chooses to live their dream, instead of making a lot of money. A smart enlightened person combines them both (but keeps the dream a priority over the money still). This is the most important thing I’ve learned on the road. If I had to give one piece of advice, it would be this: Work for yourself, in something you love. If you work for no man, and are building something for YOURSELF, you will work hard, and be motivated to get out of bed each day to do it. And when its something you love doing, you work harder then ever, you might not even consider it work at all. And when you work this hard, you’ll be sure to succeed.
7. “Things” are just trophies to impress other people, and are far less valuabe then good experiences and stories. In my opinion any one who forgoes life for STUFF, is an idiot. I don’t want to hear what you do or what you drive. I want to hear where you’ve been and what unique thing you’ve experienced. That’s nice that you drive that BMW, Mr. 9-5, but what would impress me more is if you had sold that car and used the money to ride the rails across Siberia, or trek Nepal or raft the Amazon. Become a REAL inspiration to someone. Those are the things you will either regret or remember when you’re old. No one brags about their BMW on their death bed, and if they did, no one would care.
8. Mankind is the only thing holding itself back from great progress. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I truly believe that every problem we have in the world, can be solved with education, yet its not our priority still. Its really blows my mind that we have become so slow or even backwards when it comes to progress these days. WHY have we not taken people to mars? WHY are we still reliant on oil and fossil fuels, and think its acceptable to ruin the planet? WHY havn’t we cured cancer and other diseases? WHY is there still thirst and hunger in a world so advanced? WHY are we still going to war and killing thousands each year, just for minerals, which are overly abundant on comets and other planets? Instead of putting tons of money into space exploration, where its been confirmed that a single comet the size of a house contains all the elements we need, we would rather just go kill each other? WHY the hell does it still take 5 hours to fly from LA to NY??? The US government spent more on the bank bailouts, then the entire 50 year budget of NASA. .
Has progress in technology really stopped? People are not able to afford higher education and study these things, that they said as a child they would love to do. That’s why.
9. I’ve learned that indifference stops progress. For example, saving a species: People have to love something to save it. I am obsessed with scuba diving and the marine world, and its sad to see that environment ruined. I believe that showing the beauty of the oceans and fish, people will fall in love with it too, and from there they will look to protect it.
Also check out a guide to Cheap Places to Travel
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