If you do not have a healthy balance with nature in your life, then your mind is cluttered. It will be no matter what. Nature is the way you not only cleanse your mind but also allow your thoughts to finish. So often, we start 10 new thoughts while were still in the middle of another one. And many times, we never finish a thought, allowing us to move on from it and not commit and further mental space to it. If we let too many of these thoughts enter our mind without finishing, we become overwhelmed, anxious and restless.
There is so much wisdom in this book. These are lessons that can only be taught through life and death situations that reveal perspective, exactly how it is.
Some of the most powerful quotes:
“When I was certain all of you were dead, I knew I would never recover from the loss. It was as if my house had burned to the ground, and I had lost everything I owned, forever. And now, to have you back, it’s as if I have stumbled on something precious in the ashes. I feel I am reborn. From now on, I will try not to feel sorry for what was taken from me, but to be happy for what was given back.” (From one of the fathers of the survivors)
“Did I have the strength to trade the glamorous life I was living for long days toiling at my fathers hardware store? In the end, there really was no question. The lessons I’d learned on the mountain prevented me from doing anything but choosing correctly; I would make my future with the woman I loved.”
“In the mountains, there was never a minute that I did not feel death at my side, but the moment I stood on the summit of the mountain and saw nothing but towering peaks as far as the eye could see, was the moment all my doubts were swept away and the certainty of my own death became viscerally real. The realness of death stole my breath away, but at the time same time I burned more brightly with life than I ever had before, and in the face of total hopelessness, I felt a burst of joy. The realness of death was so clear and so potent that for a moment it burned away everything temporary and false. Death had shown its face, dark, predatory, invincible, and for a split second, it seemed that beneath the fragile illusions of life, death was all there is. But then I saw that there was something in the world that was not death, something just as awesome and enduring and profound. There was love, the love in my heart, and for one incredible moment, as I felt this love swell-love for my father, for my future, for the simple wonder of BEING ALIVE- death had LOST its power. In that moment, I stopped running from death. Instead, I made every step a step toward love, and that saved me.
“I have never stopped moving toward love. Life has blessed me with material success. I like fast cars, good food, fine food. I love to travel. I believe life should be enjoyed, but my experienced have taught me that without the LOVE of my family and my friends, all the trappings of worldly success would ring hollow. I also know that I would be a happy man if all those trappings were taken from me, as long as I am close to the people I love.”
Being good enough at any particular craft guarantees you work (as long as that craft is still marketable in our society, of course!). When you are good enough at a craft, you can dress however you want. Wear whatever you want. And can do a lot more things than anyone else in normal life can do (as long as you take care of the relationship).
So, if you want to do whatever you want for a living: Obsess over one craft that you’re passionate about. And then just be you.
Years ago, my parents gave me my first camera. It was a $200 Canon Elph. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing... I just went around everywhere and took pictures of every single thing I could . People, flowers, cats, houses, parks... You name it.
I did this for a long time until I was working at a restaurant in St. Louis and met someone namedKara Proehl. She was an incredible wedding photographer and I'll never forget her passion for photography and people. She inspired me to get my first professional camera - which was a Nikon d7000. (It was the most expensive thing I had ever bought - $1,000). She really believed in me and even invited me to a shoot with her in Castlewood where she would be the model and I would be the photographer - and she would help critique the pictures after.
It was after this shoot where I really started to become obsessed. I kept taking pictures of everything and trying to figure out what I liked the best... But it was all just a hobby.
Then, one day, I booked my own shoot. Someone actually offered to pay me to do something I already loved doing so much. And, for the first time, I realized it was actually possible to make somewhat of a living with this hobby I was so passionate about.
And I started to see it from a different perspective.
Over the years after that, I refined my craft. I still took pictures of everything, all the time, and was known to always have my camera on me. Through hundreds of thousands of photographs, I started to fine tune 'mistakes'. No matter how beautiful I thought the pictures were becoming, year after year, I would look back at them from the previous year and see things I could improve on. (This process is still very much going on to this day)
While doing this, I was networking all the time and meeting people that helped me learn a lifetime of skills. I did this with no agenda - I truly just wanted to learn more and talk about what I was so passionate about. It was really during this time that I saw my photography improving - and I began obsessing over knowing everything I could about it. I was learning by just doing - by taking photographs and going through them - rather than taking classes or reading books.
Another important part of this process was that I changed whatever I was photographing whenever I lost inspiration in it. My passion for photography itself never diminished but, when I wasn’t excited about a certain form of it anymore, I would just let it go and try something new.
Then I started projects with this and started just trying new things.
By doing this, I quickly saw I was very passionate about photography ideas that had some sort of social impact. I started to see my camera as a tool for much more than just taking pictures... I saw it as a way to help people, to connect people and to bring awareness to situations that needed it. Social media was starting to take off and this really helped with this also.
Still, none of the projects ever amounted to anything (in a physical sense). They never really got noticed, I never made any money with them and they just disappeared as soon as I stopped them. They all could have seemed like a silly idea, or even a failure, but in those experiences, I learned how to separate two different perspectives: trying to create art that drew a big audience and just trying to do things that I cared about so much that I really wasn’t worried what anyone else thought about it.
Regardless, I kept starting new projects. I would notice myself getting in a creative rut and getting depressed when I wasn't inspired so I had to keep trying new things. I tried to focus on the small successes of these projects (like words of encouragement or people telling me it made an impact on their life) rather than on a large scale. I think this is crucial for artists to do.
This year, The World I See (my 4th project), was my first project to become something. It has been published twice now by National Geographic, was a TED talk in October and will be a published book next month.
But I promise you this: Those things would mean nothing to me, if it wasn't for the hardship and difficult moments that led up to them. In fact, these results wouldn't mean a single thing if it wasn't for the relationships that are around me today, that I learned to trust and love during the times before.
I couldn’t begin to tell you how many moments of self doubt have accompanied me up until this point. It’s a very important part of the process and those are essential times to learn. In the endless moments of uncertainty, I grew as a person in ways I never could have without them. I developed a healthy relationship with rejection. I learned humility. I learned confidence. I learned psychology and how to use that to better understand how to make a living with this. I learned to grow close to the relationships that were truly there for me. I learned how to balance life outside of photography and travel.
And today, and even prouder moment, I bought my first house. With nothing but money I made through photography. Something that, just a few years ago, I never thought I’d be able to make a penny at. Dreams I couldn’t have even fathomed just a short time ago.
The reason I write this all is to say:
To the artist with passion but is full of self doubt and uncertainty. To the artist that is in a creative rut (or even worse, it starting to give up). To the artist who thinks that people who make a living with art just got lucky. Or are better at their craft than them.
That’s not how it works.
Art can only get to a level where it’s possible to make a living with when you have given your life to it just to get there. Where you somehow found the strength to take just one more photograph, or paint one more painting, or sing one more song, at your lowest times. When you somehow found the strength to keep trying when it seems like no one else notices what you're creating. When you persevere out of pure passion - not out of a desire to be rich or accepted.
That is the only way you find who you are and what you can create.
And when you 'make it' - and I promise you will if you obsess and have passion - you will feel like you made it at even the smallest of successes. Even at just reading the words that people write about your work. When you see your art making a tiny impact on the people around you. That ends up becoming more important to you than any amount of money ever can.
When you allow that the be the goal, making a living doing that makes a lot more sense. You’re humble enough to keep learning but your work is good enough to support you now.
And when you make a life in that way, I promise you will feel joy every day of your life. Joy that no one else could ever take from you.
All my love.
Adam C. Schlüter
(I tagged just a few of the people who had a tremendous impact on me during this journey so far. Thank you all for making me who I am today.)
Some of my favorite moments doing this project is with kids. Today, it’s almost impossible to get a kid to trust you enough to take a photograph because their parents have instilled so much fear into them. I am totally fine with people educating their children to be aware and smart but... It’s tipped too much to where, nowadays, parents tell their kids to be scared of pretty much everything that isn’t them. This is a very dangerous thing to happen to society and never really leaves people as they grow and mature. I meet many young adults that are still not able to trust people fully (especially strangers) because they grew up in overprotective and sheltered households and it’s destroying the fabric of how humanity works.
We are meant to be aware of our surroundings and to use our intuition to gauge if we should trust someone or not. Not use blanket generalizations that are almost always unfairly applied to situations.
When that happens, people start discriminating and having too narrow of a view of culture and race in the world. So, needless to say, it means the world to me to see a child use their brain and intuition to gauge if they should trust me or not. And even more so, to see the parents giving their children the space to make those decisions on their own.
That is the only way for them to fully spread their wings and experience life for how it truly is.
This picture is an important one for me to share. Many people know I photograph weddings for a living - and do this project as my passion when I am not. When I tell people I photograph weddings, I hear a lot of ‘Must be nice! You just take pictures and make tons of money.’ And it kills me. Photographing weddings are the hardest - mentally, physically, emotionally - form of photography I’ve ever done. Portrait photography is already difficult but to add that difficulty onto a once-in-a-lifetime day is almost too much to handle sometimes.
People see us taking pictures and having fun... but they don’t see the days before where we prepare, don’t sleep well, prepare again, overthink every detail, etc. We take it incredibly seriously and fully understand the gravity of the day - and how it’s not really possible to make a single mistake at times.
So, when you do hire a wedding photographer, please keep this in mind gauging if they’re worth the money they’re charging.
And only pick someone that takes it every bit as seriously as it should be.
Fear is a natural part of my life and something that I try to always be in control of, but it would be superhuman of me to think that I can live a life completely free of it. Fear to me is the black lining of life, the devil on your shoulder, the pain that causes you to seek that which is greater. It is the puddle of mud that you stepped in years ago, and though you have cleansed your body from the mud that was on your skin, there is still a stain of it on the bottom of your pant leg that you don’t think about until the next time you see a puddle. Then, all those feelings came back, that you have completely forgotten about because you haven’t looked at the bottom of your pants in a long time. But fear to me is not acting like that stain is not there. It is knowing and appreciating that stain because, because of it, you were able to be smarter and navigate all the puddles that you came across since then. That doesn’t mean that you won’t stir up feelings of pain when you see a puddle again… It means you are now smarter and more aware, and need that fear to work through you so you can let it go.
You need to find someone that can appreciate that stain for what it is. Not expect you to just buy new pants and forget all about it - because that stain made you the person they fell in love with.
I’ve lived ten lifetimes since I started traveling. I’ve seen the sun from 10,000 perspectives.
It has always been my sincere belief that, if you are self employed, the gym needs to be a major part of your routine. For a few different reasons.
First, the obvious. Being in your best physical shape will always correlate to being in your best mental shape. And being in your best mental shape is crucial towards making the right decisions in a timely way. And to really helping balance out the stress that can come with self-employment.
Second, the gym sucks. Let’s face it. Working out sucks. It’s painful, it’s long, it’s tedious… And if you’re doing it right, you don’t want to ever go back when you leave. Great. But you do go back, and you make sure that you continue going back with that mentality.
Because, the gym is a sanctuary also.
You are a different person every single time you leave. You faced an uncomfortable, difficult situation (that you did not need to do!) and you were made stronger and more focused because of it. And you bring that thinking and confidence into your daily life, and into your business, and it makes everything a little easier. Small things that could have brought stress don’t anymore. You have trained yourself to understand that uncomfortable does not mean bad. And that distinction is very important. Many times, when we’re navigating self-employment and are faced with many decisions on where to go and how to do it correctly - being uncomfortable will be a vital part of the major changes. These changes will many times involve uncertainty, inconsistency and, in the best times, it will involve a path that you have to forge on your own. To do something that no one else has done.
But you’re strong. You are in good shape. You’re healthy. You have been taking care of your body and mind. And you carry a subtle, deep confidence with you because you have trained yourself to face difficult physical situations with courage.
And you’ve been shown that you will prevail every time you have.
Her: "We just celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary."
Me: "Wow. Do you remember what you did on your first date?"
Her: "Of course I do. It was on our first date when he asked me to marry him."
See, I think this is the thing. I believe in love. I believe in true, deep, unescapable, fill-you-with-butterflies, scare-the-shit-out-of-you love. Love that causes you to lose control over your thoughts. That cause your logic to go from concrete to a pool of jelly. Voluntarily. It rewires you. It causes you to see life in full color when you’re safe in it, and black and white when you’re scared of it. But I believe that - if you can get over the hump over initial understanding - your whole life can be fuller, stronger, more beautiful - because you did the hard work.
To take the risk necessary to chase dreams (in my opinion) you have to have a very healthy relationship with money. Here’s how I came to my thinking about it:
Money never, ever meant anything to me through this entire process.
I always just needed enough to continue… As much or as little as that meant. There were times in the very beginning of trying to find myself where I hardly even had that. When I went out to California the 2nd time, I left St. Louis with $900 to my name. On my drive across the country, I stopped in Fort Collins, Colorado and stayed too long… and had way too much fun.
I had $300 left and was trying to figure out what to do (it was enough money to make it back home - and enough money to make it to California, as long as I got a job quickly and slept in my car). I remember I was sitting on the roof of a house in Fort Collins, with my friend Jeff. While talking about this, we both realized that going West would be the point-of-no-return zone and that it was probably worth the risk since I could always sleep in my car. (My parents are incredible people and rightfully would not give me money to do this - as I was making these decisions on my own).
So I decided to go West.
I remember being in Reno, NV with $32 to my name. I talked to a friend who’s brother was in Northern California, with some work I could do to make some extra money. He graciously let me work and stay on a couch with him while I tried to save as much as I could. I left his home with about $200 and headed south to Los Angeles. I made it to LA with $27 to my name and my sister graciously let me crash on her couch while I tried to find a job. I worked every day to try and find a job and finally found a bartending job in Santa Monica, and never looked back from there.
Through hard work, I would end up getting my dream offer (of being an agent in LA with my own desk) just 8 months after getting that job.
And, I ended up turning it down.
Because I had gotten to know myself so well through so much suffering on that path… I knew beyond any doubt that LA was not the city for me. And that I’d never be genuinely happy there. I wanted close relationships and family in my life and LA was just too complex and expensive to really see a balanced life in.
Also, I had learned how little money I needed to continue chasing the life I truly wanted - so the money part of the offer played no part on my decision making process. When you’re used to sleeping in a car and eating ramen on the side of a highway… Having a room in an apartment in Playa Del Rey feels like the Ritz-Carlton.
When I knew I didn’t want to live in LA any longer, I talked to some friends that had moved down to the Baja and they told me to come visit.
It was an easy decision and I ended up moving to Mexico for a total of over 2 years.
The takeaway from this is:
When you’re that broke, you really develop an appreciation for money as a tool. There’s no part of your thinking that is about buying stuff you don’t need. You deeply respect money as a tool in being able to buy you the things you truly need: food, water, comfort. When you make it out of tough financial situations like that, you never forget.
And every bit as importantly, you develop incredible drive and ambition during times of suffering. By stripping away comfort during times when you’re broke, you fully understand that you are in charge of digging yourself out of that hole. You can stay in the bottom of that hole all you want - or you can fight hard every day to claw your way back out of it. And through that process, you grow deep self-confidence and humility.
Now, for the rest of my days, as life becomes more financially secure, I will never be able to forget that money is simply a tool.
I don’t even have a choice in that.
And now, I focus on a simple life and use all the money I have left to try my hardest to make my dreams come true.
This gave me the opportunity to self-publish this book myself, and take the full cost of it (which was still a BIG risk). Something I am very grateful for. Normal publishing contracts are 90% the publisher - 10% the author/artist. So you have to give up 90% of your life’s work to be able to see a book come to fruition… Which was simply not an option for me.
To make dreams come true, there will almost always be a big financial side. Perseverance is necessary and, the longer it takes, the more money it costs. But if you have saved, worked, suffered, prepared and lived simply enough… You can use that tool to continue chasing that horizon.
People say a lot of things about energy. The energy that some people have. This might seem crazy to a lot of people but I’ll say this: One of the things I’ve heard many times in life, and especially on this trip, is that my energy is so strong that it’s impossible for people to say no. I don’t know what I’m doing, and don’t do anything crazy, but I’m starting to see how many doors that opens up for me. I just walk into houses, onto balconies, anywhere I want and my energy immediately disarms people.
How do I sum up Cuba? I don’t know yet. It’s really an amazing place.
Unrefined I guess.
Cuba is a difficult country though to figure out, I won’t lie. Spontaneous travel takes a lot more than just hopping on a train or an airplane. Someone’s you get to a city and every bus is full for the next two days, so you sign up on a waiting list and just enjoy. The difficulty in traveling is only because it’s such a primitive culture, which is why I also love it so much. You know what you’re going to get. The humanity is perfect and people treat you with the utmost kindness, and love to host and take care of you. They love to tell you about the special parts of their towns and what they are most proud of. They welcome you in immediately as family, if you say hello and ask questions. When there’s a baseball game on, no one does anything but watch the game. Yes, this culture is devoid of many opportunities that they would like to have but it simply does not hold them back from working their hardest each day. There is simply no rushing. Absolutely no rushing. I mean, when you see it the way they live... It makes you even wonder why we ever rush? There’s always time for them to stop and give you a kiss and ask about your day.
This is a culture very dependent on community... On helping each other in any ways that they can. When you have that, you see a lot of extreme poverty but you never see people sleeping outside at night. In fact, I never once did, in even the most difficult places I went to. Everyone has a place to stay. I never saw one person without shoes. They might need to wait two hours for bread but the line is full of lively conversation.
It’s very clear that, yes, they are in a very tough economic spot and they are aware of it. But they will get through it, and they will get through it together. And not a second of life will be missed along the journey there.
If you travel enough, you don’t actually identify with being from a place. You don’t say ‘Oh, I’m an American’ You say ‘I’m from America’. This may seem like semantics but, the more you stop identifying being a certain person from a certain place, you can let go of any ego and just be of the world. When you do that, you just experience. You experience everything with an open perspective and no expectations at all. You appreciate everything about a place. From the cracks in the sidewalks to the old ladies yelling at each other to the horse galloping down a deserted cobblestone road.
You notice the wind. The way it rolls across you and causes your eyes to close at it’s chill. You notice how good the coffee is (It probably is no different than most other places, especially since I add milk to mine!) simply because you had to seek it. You weren’t able to just press a button in your kitchen when you woke up. You had to get dressed, go on a walk, feeling the morning sun, find a cafe and speak in a different language just to get that cup of coffee. When there is a process, you appreciate the end result.
You really, really appreciate it. And you feel fortunate just for having that moment. For being able to just give money in exchange for something that will mean so much to your morning routine. And, when you feel fortunate for things so small, you really start to understand travel, and life in general, so much better. These are the experiences that, though small, gently begin to unravel the tightly bound ego that we all have before we give ourselves to spontaneous travel, just to experience culture. We all must unravel this ego because, when we do, we will begin treating each other as humans again. Not as Americans, or Canadians, or white, or black, or even seeing race at all.
Or even seeing poverty at all. When we are able to treat each other like this again, we notice much bigger things that those discriminatory factors… We notice things like kindness, respect, honestly… joy. And when we see joy flowing freely from someone who has so little (in a worldly definition), we are immediately awakened to realizing how much we have, and how great our responsibility is to give back. To give freely because we have so much. To give joyously because it can bring joy to someone else.
When you travel spontaneously, you must truly give up any idea of what a place will be, or how the people will act or treat you. If I’ve learned anything crucial, it is that people are relatively the same, no matter where you go. Universal language speaks above anything else. The important words of universal language are treating people with great respect. Smiling as you walk past them. Trying to learn their language and speak to them in light sentences that show you are happy to be in their culture, and are trying to understand and learn it as best as you can. Being fair and, even more than that, giving freely when able to. Much as in the same as when I approach strangers and ask for their photographs, people feel my vulnerability in worldwide travels and are quick to demonstrate trust and love to make me feel welcome. I have had this everywhere I have gone. Literally every culture, every country, even in the darkest moments of poverty or despair. People instantly can tell that I am there without judgement or preconception (as best as I am able to - I am far from perfect), and quickly begin to make me feel welcome, and at home. As best as I am able to, I never discuss being an American, as I always want this to be an objective demonstration of peace.
It is wise to know the political situations of countries, and to definitely learn things that are offensive to the people there. You never want to go ignorantly into a culture and do something that is offensive, as this will always lengthen the space between you and the locals. Know how the police operate (and if they can be trusted), learn how the buses/trains work, how money works, etc. Should you plan on having interactions with police (they hassle you/want bribes - if so, what do they normally want, and should you give it to them?) I think it is smart to have an idea on how much crime there is in a certain country/city, but it is important to only look at the hard numbers on this. People will skew heavily on personal experiences and more people will talk about the negative experience, than those who will talk about the positives. One time someone got mugged is important to know, but in the grand scheme of probability, if there are tens of thousands of people walking around, this is not as relevant, and can just cause you to walk around in fear, when it is unwarranted. As in all places in the world, it is always best to keep a low-profile and just be gentle, and not show any wealth if possible (i.e. walking around with a camera around your neck). Yes, to not stick out, but also to not show off in a culture that might barely have the basics of living.
Remember, give more than you take. Always.
If you truly cannot speak the language, it is okay. Don’t wait to go to a place before you can because this can lead to waiting WAY too long to go and visit somewhere. Instead, learn the basics like ‘Hello’ ‘Please’ ’How are you?’ (And the response, because they will always ask how you are too) ‘Could I have x’ ‘Thank you’ ‘Coffee’ ‘Water’ ‘Bathroom’, and then, make sure you know how to say ‘How do I say X’ You can say this and point at things and it is a very quick way for me to learn how to say all kinds of useful words by association with an image and word.
Throw yourself into a culture - vulnerable, objective and not knowing the area around you.
Throw yourself into this culture with vivacious curiosity and an open perspective and you will be changed. You will have to seek out that which you are looking for. If you are looking to feel more comfortable in your area (by knowing it better), you will explore down every street. In exploring these streets, you will stumble upon small restaurants or music clubs you would have never otherwise found. Stop at all of these places, if even for a coffee or beer.
You will be absolutely astounded to how brilliant you are. Your mind is intensely aware and focused on the foreignness of your given situation, and how truly vulnerable you are. You are not auto-piloting down random streets, yet quite the opposite. Your eyes scan every detail, noticing the beauty, noticing the faces, noticing sounds and the smells. You think about the conversations you are hearing. You look up. Down. Left. Right. Everywhere. You are curious and you want to see everything. And, through the brilliance of your mind, you will also remember how to get back where you started… Even if you walked down a hundred random streets. Because you have been aware this whole time, you brain remembers things as small as a broken window, the smell of bread coming from a kitchen on a corner, a parked car… It remembers these things and navigates you back to where you came from, without you even needing to overtly memorize these things. You know how you say ‘I couldn’t get anywhere without my GPS!’ This is of course because we depend solely on this to know where to go, so our brain knows it does not need to pay attention (i.e. transactive memory)
You are aware. You are intensely alive. And you feel it in every step.
And powerful inspiration comes from this feeling of being so aware, and alive. Vividly seeing the world for as it is, for people as it is, allows your perspective to shift and see beauty in just about everything. For it is different than what you are used to and, in that alone, you find it see it with its own beauty.
And when deal with people so much, so intimately, you develop a great deal of trust in yourself, and in your own ability to accurately read and understand situations. Especially with people.
You’re not tired, even though you may have walked 15 kilometers. You are not hungry, even though you may not have eaten since breakfast that morning. But, when you come across a small restaurant and the smell hits you, you might stop for the experience and it’s not until you sit that you realize how hungry you truly are.
You are engaged.
And, while you are, experience everything. There truly are no rules to this. If you want to stop and read a book for an hour, do it, and don’t feel any guilt for doing it. If you want to climb a cliff for a different perspective of a city, do it. If you want to take a nap, take a nap. If you want to have a mojito, have a mojito. If you want to eat something, don’t look at the time of the day, just eat something and enjoy every bite.
And these trips and experiences change you forever for one simple reason (on top of many): You realize that all of the things you have - your computer, your phone, your house, your car… etc… - mean absolutely nothing in these moments. They can’t help you in any way… And they wouldn’t add to the magic of this experience in any way. You are grateful for the money that is in your pocket because it allows you to experience this culture to the fullest… Whether it be with food, drink, music, etc… But your love for money stops there because you realize it is only a tool for these things. In those moments, you truly realize how little money you need to create the happiness you want right then and that feeling forever stays with you. Life begins to be less of a race for more and more money, and much more of a race for more and more experience.
And people will say ‘But Adam, I need X amount of money because of these bills or these things…’ You have complicated your life. You have made it so much more difficult to be happy. But you have not made it impossible. Focus everything you can on getting out of debt so that money can never define what you can or cannot do. Get out of debt. Sell the things that weigh you down. Jack Kerouac once said ‘If you own a rug, you own too much.’
Now, if there is one things I have learned from so much travel also, it is that there is tremendous beauty and value in having roots in a place. In having a foundation, and a home base. I am not telling you to get rid of everything you have to just travel endlessly. Quite the opposite actually. For a home base is a necessity of truly valuing new experience by balancing it with a comfortable life that brings you contentment. I am merely saying to simplify your life. Simplify the things that make it difficult to be completely free when you need to be. If you are working a job that doesn’t allow you any time to balance your life with spontaneity, save all of your money and begin transitioning into a life where you are not as dependent on money, if possible. Downgrade your cell phone. Cancel your cable bill. Sell your new car and get a used one that you can pay off (or has lower monthly payments). You will still need a way to generate income but, by having less dependency on making money to continue the life you have, you will be able to have much more personal freedom on creating the life that is most meaningful to you.
Stop thinking that you have to be comfortable all the time. You’ve been lied to. That’s not something that is a given, and much more, not something that we need to be happy. We are all strong, independent people and capable of making very intelligent decisions in an instant, if we need to. We all have tremendous skills and attributes that allow us to be a value to those around us, as well as feel confidence in just being ourselves and nothing more. By losing the perspective that you always need to be comfortable and feel 100% safe all the time, you will truly begin growing tremendous self-confidence in what you are capable of. By navigating completely spontaneous situations in foreign places, with nothing more than your knowledge, allows you to really remind yourself the education you have inside of you, and that you know how to apply it when needed.
This part of the trip changes you forever because you bring that understanding back to your normal life. That job that seemed so complicated really wasn’t at all… You were just looking at it the same way over and over again, and so you kept approaching it the same way. But now you have a new perspective and it makes a lot more sense.
That complicated relationship you’ve been in? Where you’ve been hitting a wall for the last few months and not breaking through? You now see that you have just been approaching this with the same level of thinking also. Your repeated attempts to ‘evolve’ the conversation was really just the same argument disguised in different words. Now, you are able to step away from it enough to see it objectively, and see more than just the words that are being said by your significant other. You see between the lines. You see the way she is saying these things, her body language, her eye contact. When you see it this way, you see that she is just scared and her strong-willed argument is nothing more than an insecurity that you may no longer love her. You drop the walls, embrace her tightly and tell her you love her. And she drops her walls immediately too. She feels your vulnerability, and knows she can trust you.
Specialization is not something we are supposed to focus on. We are meant to be intelligent in a wide array of different skill sets, that allows us to be put into countless new situations and usually have an idea of how to proceed. In the times where we do not know how to proceed, we can have more confidence in knowing we can find a way to communicate that will help us.
I really believe that travel must take place in two parts. The trips you take by yourself, and the trips you take with someone special. On the trips you take by yourself, you are engaged in everything around you, and must seek out connection and conversation if you desire it. You do not have to compromise and can go wherever you’d like, whenever you’d like, for any reason at all. There’s no one but you guiding the ship. This is necessary to ensure a pure level of spontaneity.
But there will be trips when it’s important you’re with someone special to ensure a complete and fulfilled feeling at moments. Trips that you’re by yourself can be exhilarating but love is every bit as much a part of travel, and to truly feel how special a place is, it’s very helpful to share those moments of bliss with someone else. For shared moments are the happy ones… The ones that you don’t need to explain or define to anyone else, for you vividly know how you feel in that moment next to someone else. The special conversations that take place in the brilliant moments of emotion in between significant experiences are very unique and full of their own beauty, regardless of where they take place. And trips that involve someone significant also allow you to combine that intense vulnerability with a feeling of being safe, just by knowing the person you’re falling asleep next to.
Thank you for reading!
I do this for myself, but for so many others that I know are struggling with feeling alone. With feeling despair. With feeling like no one is there for them and they are left to fight their battles alone.
A little more than a year ago, I went through some of the toughest months of my life. I had gone through a massive heartbreak, I was brand new to a new town (and hardly knew anybody), and then went into a very long winter time. No sunshine. Cold days. Feeling 100% alone.
After a few months of sinking deeper and deeper into this, I couldn’t go on anymore. I didn’t even know what the answer was, or what would help. I had become so disconnected and depressed that I’m not even sure I wanted to find an answer during that time… I just wanted it to end.
But I come from a very strong family. One that I am endlessly fortunate to have. And because of that, suicide was simply not an option. I had to fight through these difficult moments and find the light. That’s how I was raised to be, and how I would claw myself back to life.
But I knew I needed a crazy situation to wake me up - and give me clarity. To get me outside of my head.
So one day, I went to my friend Teavo’s house and just looked at a map of the world. I saw Europe and thought about all the different countries so close to each other. I thought about all the different cultures I could learn from, and the different type of people I could try to meet. And I thought about the TRAINS. European train travel! I could take a train to each of these countries and try to feel like a part of the world again.
That was it.
Terrified, scared and literally having no clue what I was going to do once there… Or how I was going to do it… I booked a plane ticket to Copenhagen, Denmark. I didn’t even have a place to stay until I arrived there.
I planned to do this entire trip spontaneously, so that I would need to interact and talk with people consistently. I wanted to leave my comfort zone as much as possible and ask for help when I needed it, and be there for others in those connections.
I had no idea where I was going to go after Copenhagen. Everyday with espresso, I would just look at a map and go there next.