Luxor, Egypt. I am walking through the streets of this dirty and crazy city, past a temple thousands of years old standing resplendent against a backdrop of run down buildings coated in dust blown in from the desert. I pass horses attached to old buggies, the drivers offering to take me anywhere for increasingly lower prices as I purposefully walk past them. Vendors call out offering unique and wonderful souvenirs (all made in China, of course). In an alley a humble man quietly makes falafel sandwiches, content that I will be back when I am hungry. I trade honest and friendly glances with women I pass and receive warm and embarrassed smiles in return. Turning down a side street I see some kids at play, some unknown game involving a stick and lots of running. I dodge the worst of the trash, dirt, mud and dead cats yet I know I cannot avoid returning to my hotel covered with yet another layer of grime. Far from the main roads and vendors eager for my money I stop to trade a few words with a mechanic working on a motorcycle; he speaks almost no English yet is eager to spend a short time connecting to this humble traveler wandering past his shop; I wish all Egyptians were this open and friendly yet unfortunately many have turned their friendliness into a weapon in pursuit of profit from the tourists.
When I find myself lost I stop and ask the women for directions, not the men, for they invariably speak better English and I know we can have a real interaction without them selling me something; I am astounded by these strong and intelligent women, especially in the face of the culture they live within. All along the way I get greetings and statements that at times annoy me yet mostly just baffle and amuse me: “Egyptian price for you!”, “Hola! ¿Cómo estás?”, “Maybe Later?”, “USA Number One!” and “Welcome to Alaska!” The country has been a roller coaster ride of wonder, nuisance, friendship, anger, delight, pity, and beauty. I cannot help but feel both love and hate this country.
It has been amazing to experience this country yet I can feel it is time to move on. My curiosity, my wanderlust, has me interested in new lands and new adventures. I am quite familiar with the feeling. I have been following this urge to travel, to explore, to learn about the world, for three and a half years. This urge has led me to ride a motorcycle from Alaska to Argentina, to learn to dance tango and salsa, to travel across Europe learning about the cultures that colonized my own nation, and to this strange land of ancient history. Now that urge has me moving on to Asia. It is a part of the world I know nothing about and I am eager for the adventure to come even as I feel that twinge of fear of the unknown.
I let the fear slip away.
I let it starve from lack of attention and feed instead my expectations for the adventure to come.
I do, of course, know everything will be fine. I let the fear slip away, let it starve from lack of attention, and feed instead my expectations for the adventure to come. Later, on an airplane somewhere over India, I reflect back over the years to how I got started. Of the choices I made.
This is the most common question posed to me. The actual words of the question come in infinite variety yet the sentiment is always the same: “How did you do this thing….and how could I do it too?” Even simple statements declaring the impossibility of duplicating my feat come with this question implied for there is always the nagging thought behind such questions: What if it is not truly impossible?
The answer to this question is simple, I have told it to you already. I have told you the great secret for how you can change your entire life, how you can travel the world as I have or how you can achieve your dream whatever it may be.
The answer is I simply made a choice. Nothing more, nothing less. I chose to travel and so I did. Once that choice was made everything else became unimportant. I made a choice and took one simple step after another until suddenly I found myself on the road able to go anywhere in the world on the merest whim. Looking back I am surprised to see that stepping out my door to travel the world ended up being far easier than building the career I thought I needed in life. There are of course fears, debts, commitments, a lack of money and more that we all see as obstacles to traveling the world yet all those can be overcome by making this simple choice.
If traveling the world is so simple,
why don’t more people do it?
You won’t like my answer so brace yourself for an unpleasant truth before you continue reading. I know this is going to sound harsh and that is because I am not here to hold your hand. All I am going to do is tell you the truth of the world I live in, the reality of the world that has allowed me to be on the road these past years. Take what I say and love it or hate it as you choose. Ready? Read on…
You don’t want to travel!
Yes, you read that right. You do not actually want to travel the world. You believe you want to travel but the truth is that you have this idealized notion in your head of what travel is and you want to live that romantic ideal. In the real world, the wonder and glory of travel is mixed in with hardship, fear, sacrifice, responsibility and many other unpleasant sensations. The wonderful parts are amazing and move my soul but more often than not it is all the rest that keeps me on the road instead of relaxing in a comfortable house with a family and a career.
I once dreamed of travel and said it was my greatest desire yet year after year I continued on with my comfortable life through years of study at university and more years building a career. There was so much I wanted to see and do in the world, so many places I would go if only it were possible. Yet never once did I want what I have now achieved. Even on that day I set out from my door to see the world I did not want this life I have now designed for myself. I could never even have imagined the reality of what I have done these past years and even if I had I would have told you, “NEVER! That is so far from what I long for I won’t even consider it!” Yet I have been thoroughly seduced by the reality of this gritty, uncomfortable and wonderful life traveling the world. It is both far better than anything I ever dreamed possible and far worse than I could ever have imagined possible. I would have it no other way!
Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.
You do not want to travel. There is something in your life you want far more than this dingy and dangerous life of wondrous adventures I live. I do not know what it is and I will not hazard a guess. All I know is that if you truly had made the choice to travel as I do you would be asking me very different questions or perhaps already on the road with me. You could walk out the door right now and never look back. For some the risk of doing so would be greater than for others yet still you could do it. For some there would be a trail of burnt bridges and broken promises left behind yet still you could leave today!
No, you do not want to travel, you do not want the life I live.
Yet perhaps you do truly want this unruly and unconventional life I live, this glorious life where fear, love, horror and beauty get mixed together in unfathomable intensities. All you have to do is to make a simple choice to do it. Make that choice and it will happen.
Do you truly want to travel as I do? Do you want to stand at the base of the great pyramid at Giza, on the mountain looking down at Machu Picchu or stroll the corridors of the grand bazaar of Istanbul? Than do it! You can take the first step on that road today and find a way to get there. Follow your own wanderlust, let it burn in you with an intensity brighter than the sun and you will find yourself on an adventure that makes mine seem mundane in comparison.
If you desire a more graceful transition from your life to those magical places, that is also easily within your grasp. Settle your debts, free yourself of obligations, prepare your family to come with you, whatever is necessary to make that smooth transition. Start working on it today and make it possible whatever it takes. This life I lead is within your reach, waiting for you to grab hold. There is a book which will teach you this process. Harry Browne will show you how to live the life you want to live in his book “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World”.
It is irrelevant which route you choose
or if you find another path of your own.
Take one simple step after another.
Are you still here with me? Do I have your attention? Then I challenge you to stand up and take responsibility for your own life! I do not say you should travel and I do not know if you truly want to travel for that is an intensely personal topic to your own self. Yet if you do want to travel, oh my friend, if you truly do want it, travel is glorious! With all its difficulties, hardships and dangers it is truly magnificent! One day we will perhaps meet on the road, kindred souls though we know not why, and I will ask you but one simple question to fuel our conversation for the night: How did you make your choice, the one that that led you to travel here today?