One morning back in June 2018, on first week after quitting my job, I had a question pop up in my head:
OK, now what? Where do we go from here?
Before quitting I thought that I will do a short trip to a music festival and head to cheap sunny place in Bulgaria or Ukraine to enjoy good weather, warm sea, cheap lodging and food; read psychology books (my new strong interest) and learn something to be more advanced in my future job search. After this, I thought, I’d go to Central and South America to “see places” and escape the cold European winter.
I remembered all of this and I had next question popping up:
why do I want this? where is this coming from? do I REALLY want this?
And you know what? The answer was — I want it it because others do that. Because I see all those shiny and perfect pictures on Instagram every day, because I know some people who went there, working remotely at the time while I was experiencing shitty weather at a job I despised. I was jealous. I was brainwashed.
I imagined how I hike to Machu Picchu, try to make a perfect sunrise picture among hundreds of other tourists like me. At the same time I knew that reality is not like that.
My reaction to this image was: I don’t need it. It’s disappointing. I’ve been to and seen some “paradise” places like this, where behind a perfect picture is a stress of catching a moment onto a picture w/o any people in the view, anger of dissatisfaction with your camera. It’s nothing to enjoy.
It’s tourism in it’s best (worst?) form (as I see it) — you give away money to receive a product, in this case some pictures. And just as many products they fade away with time. It’s ego feeding — “look, me too! me too! Look, I was here!!”. Happiness is not a place, it’s not a product… happiness is inside you and it’s a state of mind. Instagram-tourism is a bad pill to give meaning to a low meaning life. The effect is short lived, you need more of it, you need more exotic places, you need more money. It’s like a drug.
I must note – I don’t mind conscious tourism driven by curiosity. As for me – after a while most places look the same. We live on beautiful planet and a waterfall in my home Estonia is as beautiful as one in Cambodia. I want to enjoy a waterfall as part of nature, not because they filmed Tomb Raider there. I feel that my journey is really inside of me.
Simple truth was that I wanted to experience location and decision freedom. Quitting a toxic job already felt very liberating. I wanted to go with the flow, meet new people and enjoy my time at places as if I was living there. Later I learned about a term called slow travel.
To my surprise, having no plans turned out be somewhat cheap too. It’s going easy on my mental state (no pressure, no stress, feeling of freedom and flexibility) and it’s easy on my wallet – I’ve flown 4h+ flights for as low as 20EUR and I flew to Europe to Goa for 270EUR (one way). Few years ago I payed 650EUR (return) for a ticket to Bangkok for my 2 week holiday.
The more time you have, the cheaper it gets, the more you can travel
Something I learned in January 2018 in Cambodia – the more time you have, the cheaper it gets, the more you can travel. Back then I had a 160USD ticket from Phnom Pehn to Luang Prabang. I met some really cool people (hi Henrike and Patrick!) and decided to return my ticket with a 40USD penalty and stay in Cambodia for good. Later I calculated that if I would have an extra week in Asia I could go to Luang Prabang by famous boat cruise, enjoy some local fishermen villages, eat, drink, sleep… and still have some money left from those 160USD. I was mind blown!
I started to see my expenses differently after that – here I paid two nights stay in Cambodia for a coffee with a cookie. This shirt costs a flight from point A to point B in Asia etc.
Most importantly I realized that most expensive resource we have is time. As time goes your opportunities account decreases. As much as I am enjoying my freedom, I also have certain degree of anxiety about my age of 32, about earning money, starting a family etc. It would be easier if I was say 25 🙂
I figured out a superficial non scientific formula: adventure = time³ x opportunity² x money. Getting the same amount of adventure will be harder with time, the amount of money you would need to achieve same level would be bizarre. Paying for kids, insurance, getting more comfortable stay, hiring transportation because you’re getting old to hike a lot etc etc. In some way it resonates with lessons found in 4 Hour Workweek book by Tim Ferris.
May be just don’t postpone your happiness and live a little more fulfilling and conscious life. You have a choice 😉