Posts tagged "Travel"

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Source: Hiking and sledding on Mount Rigi with some co-workers. Probably the first picture I've ever taken and enjoyed looking at.

I'd previously mentioned that I had an upcoming work trip to Zürich, and in keeping with my usual blogging tardiness, that trip was two months ago. Actually, I (perhaps ironically) got back from India a few weeks ago, so expect that post soon in a few millennia. But anyway, let's talk about Switzerland: a country of cheese, chocolates, and armed neutrality*.


Waiting to leave SFO on a gloomy evening.

Leaving on a jet plane

As it turns out, Zürich is kinda far away. Like, 5,889.11 miles, give or take a few. Luckily, the Wright Brothers solved this problem a while ago, so off I went on a fancy, new-fangled flying machine in relative luxury. I've been consistently impressed with the quality of economy class on international flights (first Lufthansa, and now Swiss), they really put our domestic carriers to shame. Between the hot meals, warm cloths so you aren't bathing in your own face-grease the whole flight, and honest-to-God leg room, my mind is legitimately blown every time. Fun fact that I didn't know until recently: foreign airlines can't operate point-to-point routes within the US. Given that, it makes sense that domestic airlines aren't really trying that hard, they only have to compete with like two other equally awful carriers on most routes.

Moving on from my tangent: though the plane was a slightly more tubular metal container than I'm used to sleeping in, I slept soundly, in spite of the shape. A short 11 hours after takeoff,** I found myself in Zürich.

Taking the Train

Being able to navigate in a foreign country is a useful skill, not only for Amazing Race contestants. Unfortunately, navigating public transit is also a skill I sorely lack, which is ironic because I used to drive public buses. But anyway, the trains (and the rest of public transportation in Switzerland) are really, really good. So good in fact, it can be a bit overwhelming for someone used to the US's decidedly mediocre public offerings. After a bit of jet-lagged, blank-eyed staring at a departure board for longer than I'd like to admit, I hopped on a train heading in the general direction I was going: Zürich HB, the main Zürich train station.

A rough depiction of what I found myself up against, from DC Rainmaker

The trains in Zürich are buttery smooth, like riding on velvety Swiss clouds. I never noticed how rocky train rides here are, but comparatively, it feels more like I'm riding a jackhammer when I Caltrain up to San Francisco. I'm being dramatic, but the trains in Switzerland are indeed modern marvels of engineering. As a testament to their coolness, a Zürich-based co-worker told me that if the trains are more than a few minutes late, people start Snapchat-ing and Tweet-ing pics of the late train, because they're usually so punctual. Not only are they timely, but they also go everywhere, including up mountains. We were able to get to the top of Mount Rigi with a few trains and five minutes of walking. Take notes, America.

Doing Some Exploring

Regrettably, I didn't have a lot of time to explore. I was, after all, on a work trip. Had that not been the case, I'd likely have started each morning at the main train station and picked a random train to dictate the plans for the day. I did at least attempt to do some exploring though. But words are boring, so instead of making you read about it, here are some pictures.

Lucerne

Lucerne (or Luzern, depending on who you're talking to) has a rich history that stretches back to the 8th century, and you can see a lot of that history in a lot of the architecture, which has been preserved or restored. It's also just a beautiful area.

Brewery/Hotel

Some friends were staying in this cool brewery-turned-hotel-and-spa, which has an ornate library area and a bunch of the original brewery equipment.

Snow Pup!

I have an infinitely-exploitable*** soft spot for cute animals. I found this majestic and sagacious creature at the top of Mount Rigi and had to stop for a pic (and some petting).

Observations

Weather

I was surprised to find that one of my favorite things about Switzerland was the weather. Silicon Valley has a watered-down version of seasons, and Zürich in the winter reminded me a lot of Boston. It was part nostalgia, part missing the sensation of crisp winter air, but in any case it was immensely enjoyable. I frequently found myself stepping outside, solely to take some slow, deep, refreshing breaths.

Language and Economics

It probably shouldn't surprise me at this point, but everyone in Switzerland speaks some combination of German, French, Italian, and English, and usually at least three of those. It's at least in part because the EU is a giant cultural melting pot, but I was impressed no less. Interestingly enough, the Swiss dialect of German is incomprehensible to German speakers from Germany, though the written language is mostly the same. At least that's my understanding. In a vaguely-related train of thought, everyone being so multi-lingual and high-skilled means that even jobs that would usually be considered "entry-level" in the US pay really well. In fact, only 10% of jobs pay less than ~$50,000/year. As a result, service industry staples like restaurants are comparatively really expensive, because people are expensive.

Driving

While I (thankfully) didn't do any driving in Switzerland, I did spend quite a bit of time watching other people do it. To my untrained eyes, it looked pretty complicated. There were tons of signs and lanes, and the trains would lackadaisically wander back and forth between dedicated lanes and mixing in with the general population. Switzerland also seems to take joy in sprinkling random intersections with roundabouts. They still drive on the right side of the road though, so no added confusion there.

Sledding

I forgot how much fun sledding is. I hadn't been since I was a wee lad, and even then I wasn't sledding down full-blown mountains. Rekindling the flames of my childhood, I raced down several sled trails at borderline reckless speeds, laughing hysterically throughout the entire chaotic decent. I definitely destroyed the tread on my boots in the process; stomping your feet is the only way to turn or slow down (unless you're willing to stop with your face). But I'd trade in the tread in an instant to do it again.

*I had the good fortune to sample at least two of those things during my short trip.

**Swiss conveniently flies direct from SFO -> ZRH.

***If you have an adorable dog and need someone to watch and/or walk them, I'm wholly incapable of declining the request.

Source: All the photos in this post were taken by my tremendously talented travel companion, who has an acute eye for good photography.

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to need a minute to blow the dust off my keyboard here, I haven't posted in an inexcusably long time. Accordingly, I won't bother with excuses, I'll just get along with the post. To start, a relevant question I received:

Hi Brandon, just wondering if you'll convert your blog into a travel blog if and when you give up the truck to travel?

This is probably in reference to the time I was figuring out when I'm going to sell the truck. Short answer: yes. Slightly longer (and also rhetorical) answer: why wait until I give up the truck to start talking about travel?

For anyone keeping track, my list of travels is woefully short. At the beginning of the year it would have just been 'murika, as in I had literally never been outside the country in my 23 years on this planet, which was deeply troubling to me. Not even Canada. Not even Mexico. Hell, I didn't even have a passport. If not for a chance business trip to Canada and (randomly enough) Bulgaria, my entire list of visited countries would still be a single three-letter line.*

Well I'm excited to share that I added my honest-to-God-first-actual-leisure-travel destination to the list: Iceland.

My plan of record was (and continues to be) to save up, retire early, and travel for some indeterminable amount of time, but that doesn't mean the road to retirement needs to stay stuck in the States. Plus, reading about all of the potential journeys I could take made my travel trigger finger a bit itchy, so when $400 round trip tickets to Reykjavik, Iceland appeared, I had to bite the bullet (excuse the poor combination of expressions) and book the trip.

Preparing for the trip

It's not a huge secret that I don't have a lot of stuff. I've got a bed, a dresser, and about a week's worth of clothes. For reference, here's a recent picture of my closet:

Not a lot going on in there.

One thing worth noting is that my wardrobe is unarguably meant for California weather. After all, it's one of the main reasons I can do what I do. I've got a light sweatshirt and a pullover, but I'd still probably be a Brancicle** in Iceland wearing both of them together. Not only was winter coming, but I was heading for winter. Real winter no less, none of this Bay area oh-man-it's-dropped-below-sixty-it's-so-cold "winter".

So I started entertaining the idea of how to go about getting real winter gear. Did I want to borrow it from a friend? Should I find a place to rent it? Should I just buy some cheap stuff and dispose of it after? After all, truck space is limited. I had to think about this a little bit, and I did a bit of consulting with my past self and Thoreau's Walden. One thing that stuck with me from Walden (not that I've finished it yet) is the idea that if you are going to buy something, make sure it's high-quality. That way, instead of saving a little bit of cash in the short term buying something cheap that needs to be replaced regularly, spend a little bit more and make it last for life. This makes sense, and looking forward, I knew I'd be going to Boston (for Christmas), Zürich (for business), and Alaska (with friends) over the next few months, so I'd clearly be getting a lot of use out of whatever winter gear I bought. After a bit of review-reading and shopping around, I ended up buying a few things to start my winter wardrobe.

In total, I spent around $1,000 on winter gear. Not cheap for sure, but still less than a month's rent for a shared apartment in South Bay. Plus, it's unlikely I'll ever have to buy any of these things ever again. And now for the end result, a happy, unfrozen Brandon:

Me playing with chunks of ice on a black sand beach.

Travel Philosophy

Since this was my first time traveling for no other reason than my own amusement and edification, I didn't really know what I was doing. I definitely had an idealized version of what travel should look like, but outside of that, I was pretty clueless.

To me, travelling isn't about collecting selfies to show off where you've been to people who couldn't care less. It's about learning, and experiencing something new. There's this natural human tendency we have to surround ourselves with people like us, which probably explains why my Facebook feed is an echo chamber for all of the things I want to hear. Unfortunately, that's not how you actually learn anything, or grow as a person. You learn stuff by stepping outside your bubble and looking at things from a new perspective. All of the interesting perspectives are hiding in other people's heads, and the vast majority of those people don't live in Mountain View, California.

Another thing that I'd been thinking about is how, more often than I'd like, I find myself worrying that I'm not living in the moment, that I'm mindlessly going with the ebbs and flows of my daily routine, than my headphones are buried too far into my head too often, which in turn is buried too far into some shifting racket of pixels. I worry that if I don't make a conscious effort to be alive, I'll just be mechanically going through the motions and I'll wake up one day shocked to find out that I'm old and had blindly let life pass me by. I know, I've had this particular flavor of existential crisis before (and it's pretty much the plot of the movie Click), but it's not entirely unfounded. Research shows that time seems to go faster as we age because our brains don't even bother forming long-term memories for our cookie-cutter daily routines. Getting back to the topic at hand, all I'm trying to say is that when I started travelling, I wanted to make sure I was living in the moment and really experiencing it, as opposed to passively observing it, particularly through the potato-quality camera on my phone, but I'll come back to that later.

Ice and Fire

So let's talk about Iceland. I knew almost nothing about the country before I left, having done a downright pitiful amount of research beforehand. Iceland was first settled by Vikings around the 9th century, which fits right in with my preconception of the Vikings as hardy badasses who looked frosty death in the face and laughed heartily. At some point in 11th century, everyone adopted Christianity, though locals tell me the real religion of Iceland is The Church of The Almighty Lamb Hotdog, with houses of worship on every corner.

The hotdogs have crunchy onions and some green Mayo-esque substance. They taste amazing, and I'm not proud of the fact that I averaged more than one per day.

Culturally, Iceland is super interesting, especially if you're from a more mainstream first-world Western country. Nearly a third of the population owns guns, but the police don't carry them, and on average, there's less than one fatal homicide per year. It probably has something to do with the fact that 97% of the population identifies as "middle class". Other factoids on the highlight reel include that Iceland runs almost entirely on renewable energy, mainly geothermal. Ooh, and Iceland's economy is dominated by the fishing industry, and more recently, tourism. I remember reading on the plane that during peak tourism season in 2017, there will be more tourists than Icelandic residents (>300,000).

Left: The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. We went right from the airport.

Right: An open-faced breakfast sandwich. Fresh fish isn't hard to come by.

Aside from history and random factoids, the entire country looks like a tourism ad. It's stupidly photogenic. It's got giant glaciers, active volcanoes, stunning waterfalls, hike-able ice caves, unique architecture and so much more. At times, it's easy to believe you're on a different planet. Here's a random potpourri of photos:

Top Left: Hallgrímskirkja, a really mathematical-looking church.

Top Right: Downtown Reykjavik, as seen from the top of Hallgrímskirkja.

Bottom Left: Hundreds of square miles covered in volcanic ash from a past eruption.

Bottom Right: Hiking in some ice caves.

Lessons Learned

So, having completed my first international mini-vacation, it's time to reflect and see what I learned, not just about Iceland, but about myself. Unsurprisingly, I met a ton of wonderful people, locals and tourists alike, from a whole variety of interesting backgrounds, and had the opportunity to acquaint myself with an array of languages, foods, customs, and cultures. I saw the Northern Lights, ate and drank local delicacies, learned a few Icelandic words, and toured some of the most awe-inspiring natural sights I could imagine.

More personally, I learned to balance out my travel idealism with a bit of practicality. It's nice to want to live in the moment and appreciate things for yourself, but that shouldn't preclude documenting the journey. I've noted before that I keep this blog because I have a Swiss-cheese memory, and writing these posts is how I make sure I remember all of this. Well, the same goes for travelling. Watching the sun set on a black sand beach and taking in the beauty of the moment isn't mutually-exclusive with memorializing it in a photo. Stuck in my own idealism, I failed to realize that, and didn't really take any photos. Were it not for my travel companion, my future self would have no way of reliving this adventure, and it was definitely unfair of me to leave that burden on them. Without them, this post would certainly be less interesting, and missing most of Iceland's unique character. So I guess I learned a bit about how to actually travel, which I'll put to use on future excursions.

More than anything, I'm looking forward to seeing where I end up next.

*Just for completeness, the whole list would be:

  1. USA
…and nothing else.

**A portmanteau of the words Brandon and Icicle.

Source: Question mark from Online Web Fonts, clock from ClipArt Best. Looking at this again, it would have made more sense to put the clock in the dot of the question mark…oh well.

As of me typing these words, my little truck experiment has been going on for over a year and four months. That's been more than enough time to see a thousand different questions fly through this site and my inbox, and every so often I'll sit down and answer a few of them. But there's one question that I haven't answered, and can't seem to escape. It's usually one of the first questions to come up in conversation, and half a bazillion variations of it are sitting in my queue:

How realistic is it to live in a truck for the next 10 years?

How long will you continue to live in the truck?

Are you going to use your savings to make a down payment on a house?

Are you comfortable living in a truck indefinitely?

You get the idea. Basically, people want to know when the hell I'm going to get my shenanigans together and be a normal, functioning member of society. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I've been avoiding the question, it's just that I've never had a good answer. Normally I'll say something like:

"Whenever the truck stops making sense."

Standing alone, that answer is pretty useless, and I definitely don't have enough of the Mr. Miyagi swagger to make it sound sagacious or insightful. But anyway, this post is all about figuring out just how truck-filled my future could be.

If you've been following along with my story disjointed ramblings for a little while, you probably have a pretty good sense by now that I have literally no idea what I'm doing. At all. Sure, I plan things out sometimes, but I hardly ever consider how to piece it all together. I'm just kinda playing things by ear: trying to live as simply as I can, attempting to figure out what I want out of life, and deciding what happiness means to me. So it's fair to say that I haven't put a ton of thought into a timeline for migrating out of the truck and into a more permanent crash pad. In my defense though, the actual "migrating out of the truck" part would take all of 10 minutes. But anyway, to figure out how long it makes sense to stay in the truck, let's go back to the beginning, to figure out how we even ended up here.

Beginnings

When I started this adventure, all I knew was that it didn't make a lot of sense for me to get an apartment. I'd spent a summer out here two years ago, and from that experience, I could confidently say that I'd rarely be home. Plus I consider traffic a form of torture and I'd rather spend my money building stupid things, like bike racks and my future. So this was the logical conclusion extreme, and I bit the bullet betting that this lifestyle would be simpler, without actually sacrificing my happiness or anything else I cared about. And I like to think it's paid off. So as weird as it is, the truck just made sense for me, given where my priorities were (and still are). There's not really an endgame; as long as my goals stay the same and the truck remains a valid tool for achieving them, I'll stick with it.

So... how long will that be?

If we're looking for a milestone that makes sense to stop with all this truck business, losing my go-to parking spot probably would have been as good a time as any to call it quits. Clearing out my student loans would have been a satisfying high-note to end on, and rounding out an entire year in the box would have worked too.

More recently, someone asked me how my retirement nest egg is doing, because the savings clock only shows how much money I'd have saved over a hypothetical apartment. Between the various retirement accounts, I just broke into six-figure territory a week or two ago (semi-independently confirmed by Mint). $100,000 is a nice round number, why not call it a day, drive my truck up to the city, and toss my bed and dresser into a respectable studio apartment? Hell, why not take those savings and put a down payment on a house? Why am I still spending my slumbers surrounded on six sides by an super-sized sardine can?

Well, because it still makes sense.

While a lot of stuff has changed over the past year, that hasn't. And if after two years, or five years, the truck still maintains all the properties that originally drew me to it, I'll still be here. It's weird though, because on the other hand, there's actually very little that keeps me from abandoning it at any given second. For example, if I went back and found some huge hairy mutant spider in the truck tonight, there's a 96.4% chance I'd never sleep in it again.

Or maybe I'll go back one night and find it burned to the ground in some freak accident. I honestly don't even think it'd be a big deal. I mean, what would I really be losing? A bed and a week's worth of clothes? Hardly worth ruining a perfectly good day over.

But let's assume for a second that the mutant spiders only come out while I'm sleeping, and the truck doesn't burst into flames on a whim. What do I think the plan will look like?

The Closest Thing to a Plan

There's always this implicit assumption in every question about my future plans: that I'll be moving into an apartment/house at some point. But, if everything goes to plan, it'll be the exact opposite. I've talked pretty seriously about spending the rest of my life traveling, so let's take that as a given and see where we're at.

Through that lens, the truck feels more like a stepping stone, a transition phase. In the same way that college is a transition from living at home to living in the real worldideally, the truck is a transition from living in a singular, fixed place to living everywhere…and nowhere at all. Becoming sufficiently comfortable with the truck, my next home will ideally be nothing more than a backpack. I'll hop around the world as passports and seasons and retirement monies allow, staying in hostels and exploring the places that words in my travel books couldn't possibly do justice.

So long story short, I don't know how long the truck will be a part of my life, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Source: Truck from Teletrac and Map from Simple Icon

Brief note: I wrote most of this on the plane, but it took me a few days to getting around to polishing it up.

I've thought travel, I've talked travel, but aside from a few fleeting flirtations with decidedly domestic destinations, I hadn't really done much of it.

Until now, that is.

By the Numbers

I'm currently writing this at 35,000 ft, traveling at 556 mph on my way back from a business trip. By the time I touchdown in San Francisco, I'll have covered 13,587 miles in the sky and 34 hours and 31 minutes in airplanes and airports, meaning that this trip handily accounts for more travel than any two of my previous trips. Spanning four countries and as many languages, I had the chance to explore what might as well have been new worlds to me and dust off my paltry high school French knowledge in the process, which was actually même pire que je pensais. My genuine apologies to anyone who was forced to struggle through a conversation with me and my rusty, awkwardly accented French.

Making Memories: Montréal, Munich, and more

Aside from the business portion of the trip, which proved to be wildly insightful and informative, I had some opportunities to really get a feel for what certain sections of the world have to offer. In short: new perspectives and a few centuries of lush, vivid history to explore. I ogled at Old Port, partook in poutine and attempted to understand the underground. I meandered around Mont Royal, savored smoked meats, marveled at massive museums and cathedrals, and even won a few Leva at a Bulgarian casino. I chowed down on Currywurst in Frankfurt and put back a beer in Bavaria. I — I could keep going, but I'm sure you get the idea at this point.

Reaffirming the Future

The trip also served to remind me of my plans for, well, the rest of my life. As a refresher, the current course I've been carving (hopefully) leads to retiring young, traveling the world, and working on technically challenging projects of my own design. But up until now, most of what I liked and knew about travel was learned secondhand, vicariously absorbed through books and videos of people who'd actually made their way out into the world. Looking back, it was probably a little risky to plan for a future I knew so little about, and dedicating years of my life in pursuit of it. But now I've gotten a taste, and I can imagine myself spending several seasons in the cities I basically sailed through and still have more to see and explore. It's easy to get caught up in your own little comfortable corner of reality, forgetting that there's a whole world full of ideas and perspectives and cultures that you'll never experience if you don't dive into them. I've said before that I enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone, and being dropped in a country where I can barely tell the bathrooms apart was certainly a great way to do that. So on that front, it was nice to see reality lining up with my goals.

There's this weird dichotomy that exists with planning things. I like to be spontaneous and leave myself flexible for anything that may pop up, yet I'm planning details for things ten years down the road. It's confusing, to be sure. I recognize that I'm not the same Brandon I was two years ago, and that Brandon was different than a Brandon from two years prior. I'm an undulating, four dimensional stream of Brandons being shaped by my own ideas and environment, trying to figure out what makes sense to do with the one shot I get at this whole "life" thing.* I can't expect that Brandon ten years from now will be anything like The Brandon I Am Now™, except for hopefully a few guiding principles. Trying to setup for a future is dangerous like that, and the best I can do is open as many doors as possible while I'm young so that all I'll have to do is pick one when the time comes.

*Reading this over, it sounds like I'm stoned out of my mind, rambling on about the universe and higher dimensions. I can assure you that that isn't the case, but looking out over a stunning skyscape above a glimmering Greenland will do strange things to your perspective.

Source: The blurryface treatment returns for my dearest mother, who stopped by to see my new digs and make sure I haven't become too deranged, back in November. I like the juxtaposition of a normal family photo with a decidedly non-traditional backdrop.

I've discussed my homelessness on here before, but between my camping trip a few months back and my early retirement revelation, I now have a whole new lens to examine it under.

Getting Nostalgic*

So let's take it back more than 12,500 years: humans aren't doing anything productive. We're hunter-gatherers, we set up camp near wherever we think the food (berries, plants, and huntable animals) will be at. We build simple structures to protect ourselves from the elements, but we take them down and start over somewhere else when the food supply dwindles. Most of our time and energy is put towards the highly productive task of not-dying.

It isn't until we get our collective act together and develop agriculture about 12,500 years ago that we actually settle down in one place and make permanent homes. Here, homes still have the purpose of protection from Nature's hissy fits, but also act as more durable places to set up shop for the long haul. So people build settlements, but naturally there's not a ton of infrastructure; it's not like you can ride 50 miles in any direction and still have your daily Starbucks latte. Anchored to their large slash-and-burn farms, people tend not to move around much, barring war or particularly malevolent acts of nature.

How 'bout Now?

A lot has changed in the past decade or thousand. It took two days of me lounging around in a tent to realize that we have the luxury of an unprecedented level of mobility. Long before home ownership became something to check off of the "American Dream Bucket List," homes were just a place to not die, conveniently positioned near your farm and the rest of your relevant infrastructure. In this wondrous modern era, resources like food, water, plumbing, electricity, and even Internet are more or less ubiquitous in most of the desirable parts of the planet, and we have the modern miracles of cars and planes to travel to them. This means that, for certain lifestyles, the home can take a position of obsolescence. Anecdotally, I had no problem leaving everything (not that there was much to leave) behind for a weekend, and settling down 200 miles away with nothing more than a wallet and a bag of clothes. That's a big difference from 12,000 years ago: if you packed your bags and traveled 200 miles you'd likely find yourself 200 miles from the nearest human being, and you'd make some nice puppy chow for a pack of wolves. More comfortingly, now that humanity has settled pretty much everywhere and bent nature to our will, we have all the allowances of modern life all over the place, with a greatly reduced risk for puppy-chow-ification.

The reason we don't take advantage of our profound mobility is obvious: we've cast our anchors. We're anchored to our jobs, to our families, to our weekend tennis club meetups, and even to the piles of stuff we've been accumulating in garages, sheds, desk drawers, and cabinets. For the majority of people (who by and large are not travelling salesmen), it's completely unfeasible to dig this ever-more massive anchor out of the mud it's so firmly embedded in. Who would have thought that a basement full of forgotten Christmas presents would be a modern day Excalibur?

Loosening The Sword

I'm making a very conscious effort to make sure my life doesn't play out like the scene I set above. While the truck is still my "home", the traditional idea of home plays a much less important role in my life. Yes, I'm still anchored to the Bay by my job, but if all goes to plan, that'll only be the case for a proportionally short period of time.

When I first set out on this journey eight months ago, I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to truck it up for a few years, and then spend six whole months travelling before returning to work for the next 30-odd years. This was before I knew about the Trinity study and withdrawal rates and 401k's and HSAs and IRAs (oh my). But now, with everything falling into alignment, it seems silly that I thought six months would be enough time to do all the travelling I've spent my youth dreaming about. How could I possibly see everything there is to see when travelling 500 miles in any direction might as well be a new planet?

I guess I was worried that if I didn't travel soon, I'd never do it at all. But, if a bit of delayed gratification is all it takes to turn a six month trip into a lifelong adventure, I'm more than on-board. Plus, now that I'm more settled in my job, I'm finding that I do get to do a fair bit of work travel (in fact I'll be visiting two countries next month alone). My work-sanctioned excursions will be more than enough to tide me over until I can make travelling a full-time job. Then, I won't even have to drag up my anchor (since I'm hellbent on keeping this metaphor going). I'll just quietly cast the chain overboard and watch it sink down as I drift off into the sunset.

*I did really, really poorly on the AP US History exam in high school, so take everything I say with a kidney stone-inducing amount of salt.

Source: Dagny Taggart

In Charting the Waters, I mentioned two books that I picked up to get myself in the travel mindset. Last week, I set aside an hour and read through the lighter of the two: How to Drop Everything And Travel Around The World.

Thoughts

Overall, I thought the book was a worthwhile read. As far as actual, concrete information about travel and destinations, it was pretty light (the whole thing is only 56 pages), but it was certainly helpful in orienting my mind with respect to my future world tour.

Getting Excited

The book did quite a nice job of selling the concept of travel. Not that I needed any convincing whatsoever, but I was definitely getting excited just reading through the first few chapters, thinking about the planning process and choosing my destinations. In particular, the book included a quote from travel writer Pico Iyer, as follows:

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.

-Pico Iyer

The beginning of this quote is a little too Confucian for my tastes, but nonetheless I agree with its sentiments. There are plenty of things that can only be properly experienced in-person; a newspaper or computer screen simply won't do it justice. It goes almost without saying that travel falls into this category. And while I'm not quite done being a "young fool" in the first place (I do live in a truck, after all), travel will likely kindle a child-like awe contrary to what I've experienced in my (short) adult life.

Tips and Tricks

While the book didn't have much concrete information on travel destinations, it certainly provided me with new, useful travel information.

Traveling Light

I've managed to pack my life into a 2' by 2' area in the back of a truck, and thus like to consider myself well-versed in living minimally and "packing light". That said, the book had valuable advice on what kinds of clothes to bring with you to maximize utility and minimize the raw weight and volume of your baggage. I wouldn't have even thought of bringing quick-drying shirts with me on my voyage, so that was a good tidbit to discover.

Regional Snapshots

One of the useful things the book provided was single-paragraph snapshots of different areas of the world, broken down into 8 regions (South/Southeast Asia, South/Central America, East Asia, Europe, Africa, North America/New Zealand/Australia, Central Asia, and the Middle East). What was particularly nice is that it took the perspective of an English-speaking American, and outlined how cultures in each region are going to vary and what sort of differences Americans can expect.

Random Tidbits

Did you know that just the act of planning a trip makes people happier? Me neither, but it's apparently a studied phenomenon. This, along with tips for spotting a good food cart, where to find not-sketchy housing, how to do travel research effectively, and how to travel alone versus with a partner, are all useful pieces of information provided by the book in various forms.

All in all, the book helped me get my head in the travel game and get excited for planning my future trips. For $3, totally a sound investment.

So I've been at work almost a month now, and living in the truck for just as long. I've definitely established a comfortable routine, and I'm a lean, mean, code-producing machine on my team, so everything is going good. This means I can focus my non-work hours to the real goal: the big trip.

The Trip

When I interned in Silicon Valley last summer, I realized a few very important and related things:

  1. I'm horrifically uncultured/culturally-unaware.
  2. I'd like to change that.
  3. The world is full of beautiful and amazing places.
  4. Of all these beautiful and amazing places, I've only ever seen a small handful of them.
  5. I'd like to change that too.

I've mentioned this here and there, but as a reminder, the end-goal of this whole situation, the culminating experience of 4+ years of van-life, is a world-encompassing expedition. Realizing how little I've done, seen, and know helps me put into perspective just how important this goal is for me. I want to experience as much of the world as possible, and over the course of the next few years, as I save money and my stocks vest and my investments grow, I'm going to plot out the journey in excruciating detail, making sure that I don't miss anything. I'm only going to be young and able for so long, now is the time to do this.

Plotting the Course

Right now, I have a very broad idea of what I want to do, and a very limited idea of what is actually out there in the world for me to experience. I know I want to spend at least six months traveling. I know I want to visit all the (inhabited) continents. I know I want to learn the basics of a few languages. But beyond these few basic desires, I don't have much concrete knowledge as to what I should even be looking for. Luckily, I'm not the only human being on the planet, and I can draw on the near infinite wisdom of the rest of the world's past and present human beings through the endlessly useful invention of The BookTM. To get warmed up, I've purchased two whole books.

Book #1: How to Drop Everything And Travel Around The World

A vaguely gimmicky title yes, and not a super thick book, but it has exactly what I need: firsthand travel experience from someone way more knowledgeable about the topic than me. The text certainly isn't exhaustive, but at the very least, it'll point me in the right direction regarding things like: learning languages, adapting to new cultures, understanding the philosophy of travel, and tons of other useful skills. It's basically a Sparknotes-edition of what I want my life to look like a few years down the road.

Book #2: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die

This book is some serious business. In it's physical form, it's 1200 pages of tiny text, a nearly comprehensive guide of places to travel to, and what to do when you get to them. And while it's naive of me to make any estimates without having read any actual content yet, I'd like to reach at least 250 of them in this trip. That may be a feasible goal, it may not be, I have absolutely no idea at this point. But reading this book, in it's entirety, will help me understand more about the cultures of the world and how to adequately approach them, as well as less abstract, more practical things like where to stay, what events to go to, and what to eat.

Like I said, this is just the start, and I'm sure I'll have a better idea of what to read/do/learn next once I start reading these books. I have years to go, and all the time I need. The sky is the limit and the world is my oyster: you bet I plan on being the most high-flying fisherman I can be.


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