We’ve never met, but I’m your crazy uncle Justin. When you are old enough to talk, I’ll be the one you hear your parents talk about, when they ask, “where the hell is he now?”. But don’t worry, you can rest assured I am somewhere weird and far away, always chasing the next sunset.
When you were born I was in Colombia. Being a broke backpacker, I missed your birth in the far away land of Minneapolis, but don’t worry, everyone in the hostel bar got a round on me in your name.
On your first birthday I believe I was in Perth swimming with sharks, and then Bulgaria for your second. I think you are seeing the trend here, and if you take anything away from this, its that sometimes you have to make sacrifices to live the life of your dreams.
My point is, I haven’t been around much, or will I in the future. It’s not my fault you see, I have a rare condition called the travel bug. I tried to avoid it. Tried to ignore it. There’s no support group or travel addiction hotline. The only way for it to stop itching is to scratch it. So here I am (on a beach in Costa Rica).
Now, I figure I can’t let a little thing like being a wandering travel junkie stop me from my uncle duties, so I am here today to teach you all the things you need to know in life, all in one letter. Ok, here we go.
–Don’t ever defer your happiness to a later date. It is never guaranteed, so do what makes you happy now! No matter what it is. If it makes you happy to chase and study whales around the world, then don’t let ANYONE tell you you shouldn’t.
–Never forget toilet paper when traveling the world. You will already be dealing with evil “squatty potties” and forest bugs, you don’t want to be caught with out the TP.
–Embrace every culture or foreign influence you encounter. Broaden your horizons, in every way possible. And I know you are only 3, but always remember: Russian and Irish girls are crazy. Only half in a good way.
–Love your mom and dad, because they might have to “like” and “support” your crazy ambitions later on. It will be much easier to convince them that it’s a good thing to hitchhike in Africa, if you were a good kid…… Actually maybe not. They might want to get rid of you if you’re bad… I’ll get back to you on that one.
–Question everything! Don’t ever assume that anyone, whether it be the media, general consensus, society or grown-ups, are right. Question, research, dream, explore. A wise man is a experienced man, not one who believes everyone. If the media say Mexico is too dangerous, go there immediately. If your parents say there’s no reason to travel, show them some. I’ve learned that nearly everyone’s opinion about a place is usually wrong.
–Traveling enriches the mind and is the best education. During my last four years of constant travel, I have learned stuff I never even knew existed, and could never have learned from a book or classroom. Even if you only take short trips, you will learn something new and lasting each time. Remember, “Terviseks” is Estonian for ‘Cheers!’, you mght need that.
-The American education system sucks. Don’t only rely on it, learn on your own. Apply yourself. Hey, since you’re probably already planning to be a world traveler, start learning Spanish and french now. You will thank me later. Which brings me to my next point…
-Girls love it when you can speak their language. You will already be ahead of the game. You won’t be “that” American.
-Fate isn’t real. Make your own destiny, don’t leave it in the hands of an imaginary thing. Only one helping or hindering you, is you. People that wait around for fate to intervene are also the ones that will blame fate for nothing ever happening. Make your own fate.
–Travel can be a lifestyle, instead of a vacation, despite what you will hear from every person that thinks they know something. Learn, explore, experience. Soak it all in. Surrender to new experiences. Be ahead of the curve. Your crib mates will be jealous.
–Things I wish I had known before traveling: Don’t drink the water in Bolivia. Don’t try to out-drink a Latvian. Don’t buy expensive souvenirs in airports. Don’t try to pet angry penguins. Don’t try to out-dance a Brazilian. Better yet, go ahead, learning is half the fun.
I guess that’s about it for now. The main thing I would tell anyone, especially family, is to do what makes you happy. Don’t defer your happiness because it is sociable acceptable to work your whole life at a job you hate, just so you can have fun when you retire. Any senior that does this will tell you that at some point, regret takes place of your dreams, and then it’s too late. Go, now. Live your life. And I’ll buy you your first vodka shot and we will say “Nasdarovje“, when you finally get old enough. (that’s ‘cheers’ in Russian Bud)
Your permanently-nomadic Uncle Justin.