In the best-selling book “The 4-Hour Workweek”, author Timothy Ferriss says that we shouldn’t wait till retirement to truly enjoy our lives. Most of us think we need to wait till then because we don’t have the financial resources to do it now. Ferris’s book provides guidelines for how to do so. Annie Nguyen, one of our recent entrepreneurship graduates, has embraced this philosophy and is currently living in Cairns, Australia. This is her story.
I’ve always had this burning desire inside of me to just pick up and leave. To travel somewhere. Anywhere. Not to just travel as a tourist, but rather to live in a different country for a little while and really embrace it. I wanted to meet inspiring and kind people, see what they value, and learn how to live in a different way. Nine months ago, I decided to take off and leave everything behind. The love of my life was offered an opportunity to go to Australia and I decided to accompany him. Like with anything, I did not have 100% support from everyone. I knew however this was the best time for me. With no sort of commitment to a job, no mortgage or children, I sold my car, gathered my savings, and left.
I’ve learned that traveling is not hard to do. In places such as Europe and Australia, traveling is ingrained in the culture. At the age of 16, many are encouraged to get out of the country and backpack for weeks or months at a time. And because of this cultural norm, the infrastructure is in place to make backpacking easy in many countries. Backpacking is very safe if we use basic common sense and don’t go looking for trouble. If backpacking isn’t your thing, online communities such as CouchSurfing provide free and safe accommodations for travelers. Mass transportation is also much more prominent and convenient, making traveling achievable on a low budget. Through programs such as WWOOF, there are even short-term jobs specifically for transient people who want some extra cash. And finally Visa entry is not complicated as the US has friendly relationships with many countries.
When we travel we meet all sorts of wonderful people. People who will help us in ways we would never think possible. But we will also meet the unkind, we will get lost, and we will find ourselves missing home and hating the country we are in. We will be left questioning everything we had believed in and the way we do things. Nonetheless, it is those experiences that will open our eyes and help us understand the culture in a way we never would have if we had only stayed in a fancy hotel. When we truly travel, and have to live and settle into a different way of things, that is when our experiences become raw. I was brought to tears when a property manager aggressively yelled at me for calling him after hours (it was 6:30 PM), yet I had called another manager just 5 minutes before. In the beginning, I questioned how the locals got anything done, but in time I learned that being productive is not the only goal. People value their weekends. They respect their time off and they are willing to lose some business rather than the time they have for themselves.
When we travel we learn and grow in ways we never would if we lived in one place our entire life. There are many valid reasons why we can’t travel: we don’t have the time, it costs too much, we can’t afford to quit our job, we have family obligations, and so on. Maybe it was easier for me than it might be for others. But if I could encourage my young friends before we get tied down to the inevitable things in life that we must travel. And truly travel by committing to learning a new way of living. To my other friends who have commitments they cannot leave, I hope you will drive others who are not bound by such commitments to seize the opportunity and to let them go.
This post was provided to us by Dr. Atul Teckchandani and his former student Annie Nguyen and in the next post, Annie talks about how she enriched her travels by leveraging her entrepreneurial spirit.