Social networking has been my thing for about 10 years now and with the advent of online presence and self congratulatory blathering – well, let’s just say it’s been a good fit.
Over the last couple of months, I have been getting more and more email with one question: How do you do it? How do you live your life when most are slaving away in shackles that seem unbreakable?
I am happy to answer these questions. I want everyone to experience the freedom that I have found, but I wasn’t sure how to address each individual’s desires to get away from their situation.
So I wrote a list.
1) A lot of people say they want a “year off.” This idea that we can escape our own lives is not healthy. Instead consider this your “year on” or better yet, ruminate the idea that you are taking active steps to turn your life “on.” By looking for a positive way of living your own life, you will be less inclined to box up whatever experience you are about to embark on when you do return to your “normal” life. Heck, you might never come back! If you think that a great change is what your life needs, why would you ever see the end of the tunnel and want to undo change?
2) Look in your own backyard first before flying off to Timbuktu. Change is possible in your own world if you have room for it. For me, I was fenced inside of Los Angeles and needed a serious geographical change. In California, this could be as easy as heading to a less populated part of the state, but, as number 3 will explain, geography wasn’t just everything.
3) Reward yourself with your decision! And I am not just talking about foot rubs, skydiving, and extra dessert . . . . I am talking about financially rewarding yourself for changing your life. Pick a country with a much lower cost of living then you and you will feel as if the job you are not doing back at home is paying you by cutting your expenses. Imagine if every meal cost $1 instead of $10 and your bills, parking tickets, frivolities went away. It would add up to hundreds of dollars in your bank account that you basically earned. Living cheap is fun in itself! This is most easily achieved in third world nations, but this leads to number 4.
4) Don’t live poorly while living cheaply. If you are accustomed to good food, good music, and good culture you must choose wisely where you will live. For me it was Thailand where the music and culture got thrown out in lieu of amazing food, relaxation, and scenery. Before you embark, budget plenty of splurges because they will be your saving grace.
5) Live like the locals do. I cannot stress this one enough. Stay somewhere for a long period of time. Don’t backpack around too much. Rent an apartment, a motorcycle, et al for at least a month so that you get a much cheaper deal and your body feels rested an secure in its location. Don’t pay more for things just because you can. You have to keep living at the locals median income so that you can connect with most of the people that surround you.
6) Don’t disconnect. A lot of people want to get away from their life and the first thing this entails is tossing their cell phone and their laptop. I have found these two items to be the most precious as I travel. The cell phone, unlocked and PDA enabled, is your personal Google butler and will save your ass more than once. Simply calling people and being able to be called is a basic part of the world. Cheap SIM cards can be bought in any country (except America!!!) and you should always add the biggest data plan available so that you can use Skype, email, video blogging, youtube streaming, and Podcast downloading through your phone. You won’t always use these, but knowing they are there will provide interstitial comfort at just the right moments. The laptop is your personal television. With a program called Hotspot Shield, you can watch Hulu and Netflix anywhere in the world. I suggest a netbook because your laptop will probably be the biggest thing you carry.
7) Money is always on people’s minds when they travel. There are so many college kids backpacking around the world at a given time that their frugality becomes infectious and even if you can afford something, you just feel plain guilty spending more. So PAY YOURSELF to travel. If you can find a supplementary income that will electronically add money to your bank account every month, this will give you piece of mind. Income from freelance travel blogging, or ad space sold on a website, or ebaying items as you travel will all add a few hundred bucks to your bank account which should be enough to live on month to month. If you cannot find a source of income, PAY YOURSELF. What I mean by this is, set up an automatic transfer from your savings account to a special travel bank account. This way you will some money coming in as your travel and you will know how much you can spend. It seems silly, but alleviating your mind’s eye from money will free it up for much more enlightened activities.
8) Go home every now and then. No matter how far you are and how much it costs, you should see familiar faces and loved ones every so often. You should budget these trips home before you go. A cheat around this is to meet a friend in a worldly location that is mutually beneficial or better yet, fly a friend out to meet you somewhere!
9) Be flexible. You never know who you are going to meet when you travel so even if you have an idea of where you will be, who you will be, and what will become of you in a certain location, you should be prepared to throw all that away if something feels right. Falling in love with people and places cannot be planned and you should always keep yourself somewhat untangled in preparations for a big change. Go with your whims
10) If it ain’t right, fix it. So many people do a committed Year On in one place and have regrets later. With airplane travel being as cheap as it is, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself while you are reinventing yourself. This may be your one chance to get away from what you consider a normal life. Always keep your eyes open for a life that you would consider importing into your real life. Just because you are in a strange land doesn’t mean that it isn’t your life. You are there, living it, so whose life is it? The world is our oyster people.