This week I celebrated the 4th anniversary of the day I quit my job as an architect in New York City and left to travel the world for a year – or so I thought.
As each year passes, and I still see myself on this road, I look back at what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, and what lies ahead. My life in the past four years has not developed in a traditional linear story. In fact, many things led me to the choice of quitting my job, and many opportunities stem from that initial choice that I wanted to travel.
Never in my life I thought I would travel for so long, and much less reach four years as a nomad. But, the longer I see myself on the road, the more I realize that this privilege is the result of a lot of work and dedication that has spanned much more than my time on the road.
My Current Thoughts About Architecture As A Profession
The longer I travel, the more I see myself missing architecture. I miss designing. I don’t miss the corporate lifestyle. Not. A. Bit. When I think of myself going back to an architecture firm, an ephemeral sadness creeps in. I feel like the better part of me will be encapsulated and reduced to endless mouse clicks that are visually represented as colored lines on a screen, that maybe –just maybe– will become a physical object in the future. But, never mind the mouse clicks and Autocad, I enjoy that. There are so many aspects of the office dynamics of any typical firm that put me off just thinking about it. (That might be a future discussion.)
On the other hand, lately I’ve found myself craving more to get my hands back on that “design mouse,” but as an independent consultant/architect. I’m currently designing a project for a personal client, and I’m loving the process. I like to call the shots and have more control of things, which is a direct reflection of my current lifestyle. I am where I am today because I decided to change things when I felt unhappy with the way things were developing. I took more control, and by taking more control I took more risks too. And even though I saw myself in some difficult moments financially in the past years, I say that it’s all been worth it.
Becoming location independent brings a lot of freedom, but at the same time it brings a lot of responsibilities that many people don’t mention. Everything you want, everything you earn, everything you experience, depends on what you do and how responsible you are.
My Views About The World
The longer I’ve traveled, the more I realize how I like to dig into the lifestyles of other cultures. I’ve always liked this. I like to understand the foreign and see how it reflects on the way I see the world. But lately, I’ve been even more curious. Now, I love more than ever to sit down and talk to people, grill them with questions, and at the same time share my life and culture with them. Recently, while in Cuba, I couldn’t stop talking to my hosts and random people here and there on the street. I absorbed everything they told me like a sponge. For me, you get to know more about a destination through its people. Sights and monument are interesting, but people bring life and meaning to a place.
I think that as different as we might be all around the world, we all have a thing in common (among many other things, of course), which is the desire to be happy and comfortable.
I never get tired of learning, and as the saying goes, “the more you learn… the more you realize how little you know.”
There’s Power In Numbers
This year was extremely interesting for me, travel wise. Now and then I manage to travel for a few days or up to a couple weeks with random people I meet on the road. While traveling overland in South America, I bonded so well with an excellent group of people that we managed to travel together for over two months! We all met at different points, picking and dropping people as our trails merged and diverged. But, eight of us formed this unusual bond that we all managed to change our plans at one point or another to stick together for a longer period.
Just like locals bring life and meaning to a place, friends bring an extra sense of joy to the travel experience.
These were total strangers at one point, and for a while we became inseparable. The underlying message is that friends do happen in the least expected places, and good bonds can happen when there’s a “click.” I’m an introvert, which is one of the reasons why I love to travel solo, but traveling with other people challenged me to push outside that shell once again – which is something I love doing, even though at some points it freaks me out internally.
On Slowing Down And Traveling Smarter
I think I’ve found my comfort travel pace – at least for now. In the last two years, I’ve slowed down significantly my travel pace. I found this essential to control my spending and improve my earnings. When traveling at a fast pace, I can’t dedicate much time to work, which is reflected directly in my income. On the other hand, if I just stop traveling to work, then I fail to feed my desire to travel and see the world. For the past two years, I’ve started settling for a few months in one city, followed by a few months of travel. I’ve repeated this cycle several times now, and it’s been magical.
This 4th year of travel was the second cheapest year of my travels, though I would officially call it the cheapest since this was the first year in which I didn’t do a single collaboration with any tourism board or travel company. So, every single experience I had was paid fully out of pocket. My first year of travel cost roughly $18,000 while this fourth year cost roughly $18,500. The big difference is that during my first year I did several collaborations, so the actual cost of experiences would have been more.
I went into more detail about the cost of my first three years in this post.
I’d also attribute this low cost to me getting smarter with travel hacking and budget travel tricks. Several of my flights this year were paid with frequent flyer miles or bought at a highly discounted fare. Slowing my travels also allows me to spend much less on accommodation since I can rent apartments at a lower rate and eat cheaper.
Ups And Downs Of No Home Base
Currently, I am in Brazil, where I rent a room in an apartment I share with two girls. The other day one of them asked me, “what do you want in life?” A bit confused by the question, I simply joked with, “to travel!” Of course, I want more in life than that, but it was my simplest sarcastic quick-fire answer to the question. To which she replied, “Don’t you want a stable home?” I get asked that question often, and quite honestly, I don’t need or want it now.
There are some downsides to not having one’s place, but they clearly not outweigh the upsides of travel. At least not for me. I know this is a first world problem, and I’d like to state that I’m well aware of this privilege that I have. Sure, sometimes I miss having a place I can call home, where I can throw myself in any corner and relax as I see fit. But, having slow moments like these, where I can rent a place for a few months, satiates that craving for a good while.
On the other hand, not having a home base gives me the freedom of picking my stuff at any moment and just go. I know my roomie doesn’t understand my “travel thinking” and sees my lack of a home base as erratic. But, technically her house is my home base, even if ephemeral.
On Evolving As An Entrepreneur
I’ve realized that building a business can happen anywhere whether it is with a full team of advisors in New York, or a simple one-man-with-a-laptop in Chiang Mai. I fall in the latter. I’ve grown GloboTreks mostly without a home base, jumping from place to place as I see fit – or more accurately, as I wish.
Entrepreneurship comes with a lot of issues, like the lack of a consistent salary, and a strong need of self-discipline (which I don’t have most of the time). But on the other hand, I love that I always look forward to developing something new for the site and that I always brainstorm something that could be X, Y, or Z. And even though 90% of the things I think of never materialize –whether for lack of time, resources, knowledge, or lack of faith– I’m happy that my gray matter is always thinking of ways in which I could evolve GloboTreks or myself as a business person.
I’m not a salesperson, marketer, and I never, ever saw myself as an entrepreneur. I never felt like I was cut out to be that. And sure, I lack so many skills an entrepreneur needs to become successful, but one thing that I’ve realized along the way is that you will never feel ready to do something for the first time, so all you have to do is take the risk –even with the doubts– and work hard to succeed. I didn’t feel ready for many of the things I’ve done in the past four year –including quitting my job– but, I’ve figured things out along the way as I faced the challenges.
A Big Thank You
Well, obviously, these past four years were fueled by many of you through your support, emails, facebook messages, tweets, and everything in between. I’ve had the pleasure to meet a few of you in person, and I’m looking to meet even more of you in the near future.
I never expected this site to set in motion a whole new career beyond the idea of “I want to travel the world for a year,” but life and the universe work in mysterious ways and all I had to do was follow my passion, intuition, adapt to changes, and steer my life towards the doors that opened unexpectedly as I roamed the world. Hopefully, many more doors will open as I explore new lands.