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Ask HN: Those who quit their jobs to travel the world, how did it go?
416 points by cercatrova 39 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 450 comments
In light of the pandemic and countries slowly opening up again, I thought I'd ask this question that appeared back in 2015 [0].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9439286




Absolutely worth it, however I'd offer a few short tips:

1. Try to stay in one place for a few months, minimum. If you can stay a year or two, do that. Jumping from city to city every week seems exciting at first, but it quickly makes everywhere feel the same.

2. To quote Lao Tzu, when your work is done, forget it. If you work remotely, actively disconnect at the end of the day. It's too easy to be constantly plugged into the English-speaking media world and ignore what's right in front of you.

3. Try to blend in and adopt local clothing, culture, foods, etc. Read books by local authors, watch local films. A bit obvious, maybe, but I've met many people who insisted on only eating Western food, reading Harry Potter, and watching Netflix while abroad. At that point, why even bother traveling?


> 3. Try to blend in and adopt local clothing, culture, foods, etc. Read books by local authors, watch local films. A bit obvious, maybe, but I've met many people who insisted on only eating Western food, reading Harry Potter, and watching Netflix while abroad. At that point, why even bother traveling?

Depends on the purpose/intentions of the travel.

While I feel similarly about much of my own travel as you do, it's worth recognizing for many people, travel (or at least some of their travel) is not about having some sort of cultural experience or broadening their horizons.

For many people, travel is simply about getting to relax on vacation in a setting they like that they can't get at home.

----------

Your average Brit on vacation in Spain is not there because they have any interest in Spanish culture or Spaniards. They're there because they wanted a warm beach and sun and couldn't get them in their home country.

I'm reluctant to criticize too heavily that not everyone traveling is always doing so out of a desire for cultural enrichment. I certainly am not traveling with any desire for that in mind when I go visit a beach in Florida or a ski area in Colorado as an American.


Hmm, maybe it's an American thing but when I say 'travel' it really doesn't include a beach holiday. That would be called 'vacation' or 'a trip'. 'Travel', to me at least, implies some sort of cultural/sightseeing intent, even if it's just going to Paris for a visit to the Louvre and a few nice meals but talking to nobody.


I'm an American and I make the same distinction. Cultural travel is not on the radar of the typical vacationer, so most people don't make the distinction.

I'd add "tourists" as a third category, ranging from the one week family trip somewhere new to see the sights up to and including those racing city to city, hostel to hostel, site to site, collecting likes on instagram or whatever.


In American usage, travel just means changing your longitude and attitude.

It can be just for work, or just to perform an errand for the family.


This post is specifically about traveling the world while working though, not a relaxing beach holiday - so I think the advice is valid on that basis.


On top of this, I feel that part of traveling is expanding one's awareness and empathy, something the world could use much more of. It really does give perspective to "walk a mile" in someone else's shoes.


I agree with your point, but the OP is asking about people who go travel the world, not take two weeks in Torremolinos as a summer break.


> Try to stay in one place for a few months, minimum.

I second this. 2 months is the minimum amount of time per country, and 2 weeks per city if you expect to get anything more than a handful of good meals and a couple adventures out of a place. My better memories were all from places I stayed for over 2 months, and all have more to do with people I met than the place itself.


As someone who was on the road for three years, this was my biggest take away. If anything I'd treat one month as an absolute minimum. I'd prefer not to be anywhere less than 3 months. It ends up taking a week just to get truly unpacked.

From that base, you can still do day trips and weekend trips.


Agreed - 3 months minimum, esp if working while traveling.

This allows to alternate between excursion weekends and relaxing weekends.

I also agree with the "1-2 years" content above - I'd really like to see the seasons cycle through in any particular place I stop.


At what point is this not "traveling" but rather "moving frequently".


When traveling is your lifestyle for some amount of time, I don't really think there is much of a difference while you are living that lifestyle.


The amount of time maybe varies by the location and the visitor, but... how much do you carry that it takes a week to unpack?

Until I started travelling with my wife (and now a child too), one main lesson I learned was "you aren't going to need it" - every time I went travelling it was lighter than the trip before!


I had one carry on for clothing and a backpack for essentials and some electronics.

I guess more accurately it takes a week to get settled in. Most of that time isn't about physically removing the stuff from the bags but more about where you need to put it and what stuff you might need to go rebuy and organize, in the new country.


Sorry, I read that far too literally! Yeah, that's fair enough. I certainly needed large blocks of staying still, but didn't feel the need to stay anywhere as long as three months - month long blocks were more common for me.


Yes, definitely. I find that around 10 days is needed to feel 'at home' somewhat, know where the market is etc, and 2 or 3 months to feel like you live there, depending on the language. It happens quite quickly. It's very satisfying to have lived in a variety of countries.


> My better memories were all from places I stayed for over 2 months, and all have more to do with people I met than the place itself.

How did you go about meeting people in the first place?


Dating apps, couch surfing, and getting out of the house & going where the people are. Expat groups on Facebook and WhatsApp, too.


Yep, dating apps didn't work great for me at all because I have the misfortune of being both unattractive and picky, but couch surfing hangouts work fantastically, especially for meeting local people. Walking around at least puts you in places where people can talk to you, occasionally they do. Wearing unique or attention grabbing things gives people an excuse to talk to you. I always choose trains and buses to travel, conversations are more common there. Hostels are a very easy way meet other travelers and get your social fix when you need it. Often times the staff are friendly enough and if you stay in one hostel long enough or visit with them, the staff might integrate you into their social life. Most hostel staff like to travel, too. Becoming a regular at any kind of place will almost certainly get you conversations with staff. A lot of people you meet in hostels are traveling from the same country or ones you are going to visit, so you meet those people there.


> both unattractive and picky

I know this is HN, but I do have to say: good luck! :-D


Yo forgot the third parameter in the function..


"Know thyself" self-awareness is a strength :)


At least in Europe (can't speak from personal experience elsewhere) you can easily find "Language Exchange" type meetups. Depending on the city, it will be a healthy mix of locals, immigrants, and tourists. If you speak English fluently, you'll typically have a lot of locals eager to talk with you to practice their English, and in turn you can learn/practice the local language in an open environment.

This is lower stress than trying to go to a random bar and strike up a conversation when I don't know the local language very well, and if you're staying long-term, it's a natural way to develop friendships with locals.


How do you avoid getting mugged or murdered from people you couch surf with? Basically avoiding the scammers...? I feel like in Europe, there are so many street scams and that if police aren't even willing to curb that issue, what recourse would you have if someone were to harm you while couch surfing at some random place? The risk feels pretty high to me. I guess you would have to travel really light in these situations?


It's actually very hard to get murdered in Europe if you're actively trying to avoid it. Same for getting scammed. The overwhelming majority of people are decent. The ones who aren't make the news because their behaviour is so unusual.

I highly recommend you give international travel a try!


In civilized parts of the world you don't need to be actively trying to avoid being attacked.


As someone with mild social anxiety, the thought of doing something like that is utterly alien, even in my own country let alone somewhere else. I don't mean in a "i wouldn't do that" sort of way, but in an "i cannot even imagine/does not compute" sort of way.

Anyhow, good on you for living life :)


I also have/had mild social anxiety. When things open up go stay for a couple days in a hostel somewhere (use hostelworld), make sure to find one with a reasonably large common room and be in it, read a book or do some work. It will probably be therapeutic. Not much is forced and socialness tends to just happen. If someone sits near you or says hi ask "Where are you from? How long are you here? What have you done here?" and roll with it. If you do some research on whats in the area or cool food you want to try, you have an immediate opportunity to invite someone to do an activity. It will feel like sitting on an airplane with the door open to go sky diving to you, exhilirating if you manage to make yourself do it.


A useful psychological hack: you have a bit of a desire to do this, hell, it's scary, right? So invite a friend and make it your goal to plan lots of things - its easier to do do something for others quite a lot of the time. Be explict you are doing this. You'll probably find there are some great bits, some other bits you cant control that are exhausting, etc. Then do another trip. Plan to invite that friend. Plan for the good bits and to avoid the worst bits. Then just go by yourself!

The first run through gives you a motivation to do something challenging and consider what you would think people want to do, even if its awks. The second, you take the learnings and reward yourself


I have mild social anxiety. Maybe more than mild. I have to say sometimes it is easier to be social in another setting. For example, in hostels the expectation is to just start talking for no reason and tell that lone traveler that you are indeed exploring the city and inviting them to join you.

Another thing I've found is taking a class - in my case kickboxing classes led to quite a few new friends.

I don't have as much courage to do that in my home country.


> even in my own country let alone somewhere else

It's much easier "somewhere else". Whatever stupid thing you do, you won't meet these people again. It's liberating.


protip: If the travel nurse during a pandemic from Philadelphia really thinks the riskiest thing she’s done is downloading Hinge, you can do it too.


Staying in hostels is great for this purpose. They have private rooms as well, not just shared dorms.


> and all have more to do with people I met than the place itself.

Did you speak the local language?


Nope. Until you travel you don't even have the slightest clue what a privilege it is to speak English or be from America. Educated middle/upper class people everywhere except china (where there is almost no english at all) generally speak at the very least broken English, if not fluent english.

That being said:

One of the most interesting people I met was in china, and I'd say complex ideas were 75% communicated in english. Google translate or wechat translate supplemented the conversations.

One of the other people I met was in Korea. His enlgish was probably closer to 50% and complex ideas almost certainly required a translation app. Great memories though.

I would probably have a conversation mediated entirely by google translate once every other week or so, and google translate was generally good enough to get an idea of menu's or communicate to people with absolutely no english ability at all. Nearly all conversations I had in china were translated via WeChat.

Traveling made me regret circumventing the language requirement in college so much.


> Traveling made me regret circumventing the language requirement in college so much.

I can feel this. I did the opposite. Instead of circumventing the requirement, I studied 5 different languages, and then continued 2 on to relative proficiency.

This has been, in my opinion, of tremendous benefit in living on and traveling to multiple continents.

I had an advisor whom I admired who was competent in some 12 or more languages. I was so jealous. I guess I probably still am.


That's very interesting. However I am not sure whether being middle/upper class has any association with being able to speak english. Frankly I don't think there is a class distinction in China (despite an economic one maybe).

I would like to point out if helpful that in China our education of the English language is much more geared towards reading rather than speaking. Students are generally equipped with enough to read and understand given adequate time but probably not speaking. However regional difference also may exist (first tier cities vs second, third etc). I used to feel ashamed about our english level in east asia in general. But then again now I think about people in the anglosphere where French and Spanish are largely taught but no one would expect a large proportion will be able to converse in them :)


> Until you travel you don't even have the slightest clue what a privilege it is to speak English

Agreed; almost everywhere, you can find someone who knows some English. The other time I realized who a privilege it is was looking for a second language to learn. There isn't a clear answer if you already know English. The English privilege you might completely miss is that, outside of China, the internet is English-first.


Not to nitpick, please don't use the term "broken English".


You are getting downvoted because it's completely unclear why the term "broken english" is offensive or not fit for use. You also did not propose an alternative.

I promise my use of it was entirely descriptive and not at all a judgement of the person speaking it. I have the utmost respect for anyone who can communicate an idea in another language at any level. I see my self as deficient for not being able to do so and think of myself as lesser and a poor citizen of the world for only speaking english.


The term broken means something was once whole and is no longer. There's plenty of alternatives like non native speaker, beginner speaker, etc. I'm generally extremely non PC but this one is a pet peeve of mine.

As a native English speaker living in Russia, it really made me realize how difficult and nerve racking language learning and speaking is. I don't consider my Russian skills "broken", just very incomplete; a WIP.


Broken in the sense "broken line" (https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=broken+line&ia=web); not "once whole", rather "with breaks (pauses/gaps) in it". Like when a conference breaks for lunch, it doesn't mean the conference was whole and now is inferior.


How could I who learned English after childhood strive for greatness without distinguishing real from broken, i.e with potential for repair?

There is nothing that is equal in this world


My friend met someone travelling who consciously focussed on creating new and interesting experiences and connections with people, rather than actual places. It led him to some pretty awesome and amazing adventures.


> A bit obvious, maybe, but I've met many people who insisted on only eating Western food[...] At that point, why even bother traveling?

Whenever I have a guide (either professional or a local friend), this is often strangely a lot of work. Particularly the tour companies I've gone with in China insist on trying to get me a Western breakfast. If I wanted pancakes and sausage I would have just stayed at home and cooked my own! Give me the stuff you like. I may not end up liking it, but there's a pretty decent chance I will.


They are probably used to closed-minded arrogant Westeners whining aloud about not getting their cornflakes. Unfortunately.

I also don't get people who won't at least try local customs like eating cooked fish on rice with green tea in the morning, but there are plenty of them. These people usually don't do well in really different countries and complain and whine and compare to home all the time instead of curious observing / understanding. Real travelling, which is about learning and immersing and broadening your mental horizon, and not about conquering some beach with your ass is just not for them.


> They are probably used to closed-minded arrogant Westeners whining aloud about not getting their cornflakes. Unfortunately.

Others have pointed out that lots of cultures have this problem: I read a Chinese newspaper article a few years ago about mainland Chinese bring suitcases full of instant noodles to eat when traveling abroad.

But while there are certainly Westerners like that, I don't think they were the cause of my problem. First of all, lunch and dinner on these tours was typically "Chinese" food, but something which was clearly targeted at a Western palate (which was perhaps even more frustrating). I think ironically, it was probably people who did want to try "authentic" cuisine -- or thought they did -- who were causing some of my problems. My guess is that they had people say they wanted "authentic cuisine", but when given actually authentic cuisine, didn't like it -- it didn't taste like the "authentic" cuisine in the Chinese restaurants at home.

Secondly, it probably does help people to deal with the new thing if they have something familiar. If you want to try something new but have never been outside the US, "three genuine Chinese meals a day for two weeks" is really throwing you in in the deep end. "Western breakfast and pseudo-Chinese lunch and dinner" probably is a much better way for those kinds of people to experience something new.


It's not just Americans. Plenty of Korean's can't live without Korean food every meal. Plenty of Japanese can't live without Japanese food every meal. I know Italian friends who say their parents couldn't live without Italian food every meal. I know the first 2 culture sell tour packages where you'll be served Korean or Japanese food for every meal while on your tour abroad


Heh. My office in Boston is right by where Asian package tour companies stop their buses and send their customers out with docents in their language. And yes, they never stop for food even after walking 5 miles through the city, which is for the best, as it would be an awful time to discover that you're lactose intolerant.


I know Greeks that can't eat without bread and feta any meal


It’s not just Americans. My parents used to travel with a mini rice cooker, small bag of rice, and canned Chinese food when they travel. They have lived in Canada since 1990.

They stopped doing that after the Boston Marathon bombing cause of the airport security.

One of the highlights of their trip to France in 2002 was in Nice. Their hotel was near a Chinese Grocery and was able to get BBQ Pork and Soy Chicken.

Five years ago they went for a two week tour of Australia from China (after visiting relatives in China). Every meal on that tour was in a Chinese restaurant.


I can't imagine a lot of close minded arrogant westerners doing a lot of travel to begin with.

I think it's more likely that they want you to feel more at home. I was visiting an overseas team in Bangalore for a week and the team took me out to ... a steakhouse. Most of the team didn't eat beef but they wanted to take me somewhere they thought I'd like. I was appreciative of their consideration but ended up ordering the chicken, felt weird otherwise.


> I was visiting an overseas team in Bangalore for a week and the team took me out to ... a steakhouse.

Right, this is exactly the problem I was talking about! And to be fair, there probably are a lot of Americans who would prefer a steakhouse; and many more who want to try "real" Indian food but just aren't ready for how different cultural food tastes actually are.

But when you've eaten chicken feet a dozen times, and incorporated "century egg" into your own personal cooking repertoire, it's a bit frustrating to make your way to a third-tier city in China and be fed breaded deep-fried bits of chicken with a bland sweet-and-sour sauce!


You’d be surprised.

There was a roaring trade in American coca-cola in Beijing because enough people wanted to avoid the local version. As a non-American, I couldn’t taste the difference, but the imported stuff was 3x the price.

Another phrase I heard often was an irate “This would never happen in America!”


Usually I try to avoid American Coca-Cola and prefer Mexican Coca-Cola. If Mexican Coca-Cola is not available, I prefer not to drink it. While visiting US, I buy the overpriced Mexican version.

And yes, the taste is different, even for Coca-Cola light.


From what I know, this is because the american coca-cola is sweetened with corn syrup, while in other countries it's usually cane sugar.

I'm not sure if the corn syrup thing has changed in recent years or not.


AFAIK the Coca-Cola light doesn't have any sugar, so the usual cane sugar explanation does not apply.


The difference in taste is the glass bottle vs aluminum can or plastic bottle.


> They are probably used to closed-minded arrogant Westeners whining aloud about not getting their cornflakes.

Cornflakes are one of the easiest things to find in China. They're sold in local grocery stores from some German brand.

http://globalfoods.rs/hahne-3/


I experienced this when traveling Thailand; it was nearly impossible to get food that was spicy enough to match my Atlanta, Georgia (US) expectations. The staff would snicker as they brought the chili's out.

In many ways it made me realize just how good multiple cultures have combined to make my "home" food good.


Food in Thailand is often not that spicy by default. The condiments on the table are what allow everyone to adjust the spiciness to their preferred level. So, I wouldn't say it's necessarily the staff thinking you can't handle it, it might just be how the dishes are always prepared.


As a Thai person, the cooks know that if they have non Thai guests, especially "Farangs", they need to tone down their spicyness. You have to insist them or bring a local to have them make it hot.


If possible (they won't always accommodate) ask the desk clerk at your hotel (assuming they're a local, not always the case especially at hostels) what they eat for breakfast/lunch and where you can get that. After a terrible "English breakfast" of undercooked bacon & burned sausage at a tourist restaurant in a small Indian tourist town, I asked the fellow manning the small hotel what he had for breakfast and where I could get it. None of the tourist places served pav bhaji (or "baji pao" as I'd understood him to call it) but when I found the little hole-in-the-wall place he directed me to I was rewarded with a new experience, a dish I hadn't tried before, and one I really enjoyed and continued eating for breakfast during the remainder of my short stay.

It can take some doing in some places to convince people that you (in my case a Westerner) really are interested in their food, culture, etc.. Learning a bit of the language can help. I was happy to be able to memorize "ek paav bhaajee aur ek samosa aur chaay chaahie" and order for myself in Hindi, hoping that if there were any complications the server would speak English as that's as far as I could go. But people appreciate that a lot, even just learning "my name is, what's your name, how are you" etc.

When I said "my name is sequoia, what is your name" to a taxi driver they would sometimes say "You speak hindi?!" incredulously, to which I'd reply "well I wouldn't go that far..."


My brother convinced his taxi driver he wanted what the natives ate and got the driver's mother to cook a real meal for him. I was elsewhere that day, and I regret missing it (We were on the same vacation, I signed up for a tour that day because there was a sight I wanted to see that he couldn't afford)

If you can pull that one off you will have got the best and mroe authentic experience.


> Try to blend in

I agree whole heartedly. I'd gone one further and add "become a regular". Get coffee/beer/food from the same place every day and consider enrolling in a language/art/something short course. It's amazing who you can meet over the course of a month or two - I met a bunch of interesting people including my wife.


How do I do this? Specifically the clothing part. How can I best plan ahead to not label myself as a clueless tourist? I imagine my American standard of dress is too casual for most places, but beyond generalizations like that, I'm clueless.


You may not be able to do a lot of "planning ahead" but when you're there you can look at how people dress and emulate that. In some places it might mean buying tighter fitting clothes than you might wear in the states (some places in Europe a lot of men wear much tighter clothing & style their hair more than the average heterosexual man would in North America), or getting flipflops instead of sneakers or vice versa, seeing what sort of bags people carry. I wouldn't think of the goal as being looking exactly like a local so much as not wearing things that immediately peg you as an outsider, like if the adult men in that area uniformly use shoulder bags or briefcases & you're carrying around a backpack.

It can also have a lot to do with nonverbal and body language–observe how close people stand to one another, how much eye contact if any, whether people greet strangers & if so how, how people queue, etc.. It took me a while when visiting India to learn that people don't stand on line the same as they do in the USA. I put my bag down in an airport line to get out a document, and as the line moved forward, people just started going around me, because I was not immediately moving forward with the line. In the USA this would be considered very rude, but in India (at least in my limited experience) it was considered typical–the line doesn't wait for you, move it or lose it. I got with the program quickly after I learned that.

And this should go without saying but don't display expensive or flashy things (jewelry, cameras, possibly fancy cell phone etc.) in an environment you're not familiar with.


Nowhere on earth will a nice button up shirt, dark sneakers or leather shoes, simple pants and a one colour sweater not be good


Your third point is maybe a little narrow minded. People travel for different reasons and long term travel can be stressful and uncomfortable for a lot of people, including myself. If I just spent all day in an unfamiliar country by myself where I know absolutely no one, I don't speak the language, I've been trying new foods for weeks, and I'm exhausted because I did 15 miles and 8 hours of walking today - yeah, maybe I want some comfort food and to watch some Netflix. It doesn't mean I'm not appreciating my travels. If anything it lets me appreciate my traveling more.


Although this isn't the way I travel, I agree we shouldn't put down other travel styles. For some people the pleasure of travel comes from merely being in a foreign place.


> only eating Western food, reading Harry Potter, and watching Netflix while abroad.

I specifically wrote only in my comment.


I'm with you on food, food is universal, but when I read a book or watch a movie I want it to be in a language I'm fully fluent in.


Sorry maybe my sentence structure was confusing there. I meant for only to apply to Netflix and Harry Potter too. As in, it’s okay to watch Netflix on a trip, but not exclusively.


I agree with your points, just want to add: The best way to connect with the culture and people is to get a local job, or studying at a local university or at least taking courses.

EDIT:

Basically become an immigrant, even if it's only for a couple of months. Ideally don't plan your return, make your journeys open ended!


In some countries, such as Costa Rica, you cannot work legally (note: "legally") as a non-resident. They take it pretty seriously there.


isn't it like most countries? there's always some kind of work permit you need to have


Getting an office job in an unknown country for a couple of months sounds so weird and alien and awesome


I wouldn't get an office job, I have worked in restaurants and similar, those colleagues are way more fun. Could be fun to try being a salaryman, but it's probably much harder, need work permits etc.

For that matter, I wouldn't get one here either, if I could earn the same as I do know as a sous chef I'd quit in a heartbeat...


I used to work for a company based outside the US, but with a significant US presence. A colleague embedded in another team in the foreign office for three months and ended extending it to four. Probably the easiest way to do it because the company sorted out visa issues (or if he kept it to 89 days, he'd just be traveling for business), and he had a job on both ends of it.


I have a question to people saying "get a local job"

What kind of jobs do you mean? Doesn't it look suspicious for a middle aged guy who looks from a different part of the world trying to get a job he clearly does not need?

To clarify, I don't feel above any job, when I first emigrated 12 years ago I was cleaning toilets and working construction, but I had no qualifications and I didnt meet anyone fun. I am also a TERRIBLE waiter.


I’m thinking of restaurant work and similar.

I don’t think you need to worry about that, in more exotic locations you will be so out of place anyway and they will have no way to judge if you’re rich or poor. And in any case people generally don’t care that much about others.

And even when they do, just accept it, it’s pretty unlikely anyone will resent you.


> Doesn't it look suspicious for a middle-aged guy who looks to be from a different part of the world trying to get a job he clearly does not need?

Not at all. If you can find a company which needs or wants an employee like you, whether it's due to your language and cultural background, or because of other skills which you possess, generally they'll just be really happy that they found you.


How do you manage to stay long-term on a foreign country, immigration-wise?


Depending on your nationality, a lot of countries have flexible tourist visas. For example, Americans can visit Armenia for 6 months, Albania for 12 months, Georgia for 12 months, India for 6 months at a time (up to 10 years), and so on.

In Europe, you also have many countries outside of the Schengen area, meaning that you can do three months in one then hop to another. E.g. spend 3 months in Berlin, then 3 months in Kyiv, then 3 months in Paris, then three months in Belgrade.


I would be careful getting in and out of Schengen. That would probably work a couple of time. But immigration can refuse it without causes, too.


Maybe in the future post-COVID it will be more strict, but my experience has been that it isn’t.


Not being strict makes it harder. You can sometimes get in and out without the proper proof that you actually left (your passport isn't always stamped when you cross the border). Then when you do finally get someone asking questions you can't prove the dates and they won't let you in.


Just make sure you get the right Visa. I have a work Visa for India, but I'm allowed to got to India for work reasons, I'd need a different Visa to be a tourist. Sometimes countries get funny about that.


As long as you don't need to look for employment locally, it's relatively easy and inexpensive to get a long-term (12 months plus) visa. I enquired with immigration lawyers in three different EU countries where this was possible, and ended up obtaining a three-year visa in a fourth country. I would estimate this cost about 500 EUR.

If you have a lot of money (hundreds of thousands up to millions), you can effectively buy residency in most countries around the world.

Other countries allow border-running to renew your visa, some countries issue longer visa's on arrival, etc, etc.

Mostly, this all depends on your financial means, which country you choose to spend a longer time in, your levels of determination, and the skill of the immigration lawyer you choose.


Talk to other expats who have already stayed long-term in your country of interest. Anybody who has been there for enough time will know their way around the immigration & visa system and people are usually very happy to share what they know.


It can be a huge hassle if you are independently employed, even in a country with lax visa requirements.


1. is a good point, but I wouldn't be too focused on it - just realise that it's ok to do that, so that when you find somewhere you like, or when you're tired from the go go go, you do actually stop and enjoy yourself. Eventually you'll feel like moving on and getting back to it.

I've done three long trips quitting a job first (~20 months, ~12 months, ~6 months) and the first two had several month or more stops, and many week or more stops. A mix is good.


have you found that your life has changed after returning from your travels?


I love watching local TV stations for a bit to get the vibe


When I quit my job and went travelling I used this framework:

1. Go via land. You see everything in between all the places you should see as a tourist. You immerse yourself in how a place actually feels. You meet people who aren’t just trying to extract money from you. I cycled, because I like cycling, but any form of transport works.

2. My algorithm was something like “Go east. Stay somewhere if it’s interesting, until you get bored. Continue going east.” I didn’t have a fixed itinerary, but I did have some framework.

That was the basis of it, I think. I cycled from London to Italy, stopped for a while in Italy, cycled on to Greece, then fell in love (with the place and somebody in particular). I met some of my best friends, worked on side projects, volunteered for charities, and ended up staying there for several months. I skipped forward to India on a plane, cycled across India, then returned back to Greece.

My partner in Greece wanted to visit the Middle East and Central Asia, but she wasn’t quite as excited about cycling through the desert as I was, so we bought a van and drove — to Central Asia, and everything in between.

My framework worked extraordinarily well. If I have one regret, I think it was not making an effort to interact with more people. You do that a lot more naturally when travelling by land, but you still need to put in effort to make it happen.

For example, I was up late in a bar in an Italian village, and met one of the locals. It was a long cycle ride back to the place I was staying so he offered me his spare room. Turns out he lived with his parents and the next day his elderly Italian mother cooked us pasta for lunch. Possibly one of the best meals of my life.

I wish I had done more of that. Just hanging out in bars and making friends. And not tourist bars — real bars. Knowing the local language better would probably help.


I've never done a trip this long, but I have to say I like your idea of traveling by land, especially by bicycle. I'm reminded of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and his commentary of "being in the scene" instead of "watching it on the TV that is a car window" (paraphrasing here).

Also going by land is cheaper, and lower impact for those who care about that. It does cut your options, requires more time, and at least in America there's an awful lot of nothing in between even the non-touristy places.

I hiked the Haute Route (Switzerland and France) with my father and his friends in 2019, and while it was only two weeks, it was such a wonderful experience.


That exact same sentiment from ZAMM inspired me too.

I’m glad I did it on a bicycle rather than a motorbike. There’s something more human-scale and less intimidating about it.

Well, in relatively populated places like Europe and India at least. I imagine I might feel differently if I cycled through the empty bits of the US or Kazakhstan.


To get a feel of what it's like to cycle through vast swaths of empty land, I highly suggest "A bivvy, a phone and a drone: cycling home from China." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmdxs_0yYwc

This man literally rode through Eurasia up to the UK, sleeping on the side of the road. I stumbled upon it recently and found it quite endearing.


Why did I follow him...? I don't know. Why do things happen as they do in dreams? All I know is that, when he beckoned... I had to follow him. From that moment, we traveled together, East. Always... into the East


For those curious, this is a quote from Marius in the game Diablo


Sounds like an incredible experience. Were you able to transition back into working easily?


One of the side-projects I built on the trip turned into my full-time job. :)


That's awesome.


Where did you find places to sleep? Hotels are not guaranteed, and camping is not allowed everywhere. Without having a pre-planned journey, it seems a bit risky.


It was never a problem in 2 years of traveling. My priority order was hostel, Airbnb, camping, hotel. Camping got higher priority if there was good nature or it was expensive.

Airbnbs (the kind where you stay in somebody's spare room, not a whole place to yourself) are plentiful and cheap outside major cities, and mean you get to meet locals. I had so many good experiences doing that. More often than not I would book an Airbnb in the afternoon for that night, when I had figured out how far I would get that day.

Homestays are abundant and cheap in India and other parts of Asia. $10 for dinner/bed/breakfast. I didn't camp in India once because they were so cheap and abundant -- I'd rather eat delicious food and meet a local family.

Wild camping is much more of a normal thing outside of the US, even if it is technically not allowed. You just find somewhere discreet. In Europe, I was discreet but always welcomed if somebody found me. In Asia nobody gives a shit, you can just do what you like.


It depends. You can ask permission to pitch up overnight on someone's land, or you can discreetly find a hidden spot.

Most people are friendly and unafraid of strangers.


What was it like cycling in India? Did you feel safe? I mean from both the traffic and crime.

I'm thinking about doing this at some point, but I get nervous sometimes when I see the traffic in the cities there. Maybe its not as bad on the roads outside the cities?


The traffic was wild. As you say, the traffic is less bad outside of cities, and if you avoid the busier roads. But even still, lots of trucks barreling down small dirt roads, weaving in and out of cows, and things like that.

I felt very safe in terms of crime. Subjectively I felt safe, but also objectively crime rates are low in India, I think. (Obviously hard to compare crime rates and I forget the exact metric I am basing this off.)

Even though my bike and laptop were probably a year's salary for somebody there, I never felt like it or myself were in danger.

Toward the end of the trip I remember being chased by a scooter honking at me and waving me down. He handed me my wallet. Turned out I had left the zipper on my bag open and my wallet had fallen out. He found it on the ground, saw me in the distance, and chased after me to hand it back. I had maybe $100 in cash in there (which is like $1000 adjusting for purchasing power) and of course it was all there.

Everyone in India is so kind and welcoming. There is no concept of personal space or privacy, but that also means everybody is your friend.


I have spent probably about a year in total in india over various trips, cities and rurally a bit of cycling though usually just for getting around locally. It’s much easier outside big cities, wrt traffic. It seems a bit easier in the south, too. I’ve never felt remotely worried about crime from a personal safety POV, but having something lifted from you on a sleeper train is not that unlikely (those steel-cable net bag things you can padlock to something to contain your bag are handy). It was never an issue in homesteads, and getting your washing done regardless of how sketchy a place you think you’re staying always just seems to work - you always get your clothes back and never anyone else’s. A bit like takuhaibin in Japan - accept it’s magic and just relax and enjoy yourself more.


How old were you when you did the trip? How long was the trip, 3 months/1 year? Did you work before to finance the trip? What was the total cost?


Late 20s. 2 years overall, but that was interspersed with doing work in Athens. I would say maybe 1 year of travel and 1 year of working, overall.

I had spent ~10 years working in tech so I had some savings. Contract work also helped.

Not sure what the total cost was exactly, but the cycling part was cheap. It's ridiculously cheap if you're in Asia or cheaper parts of Europe (Greece, eastern Europe, etc). It got more expensive when I bought a van...


What languages do you speak?

Great stories btw also, it sounds like you really made the most of traveling and doing so much by bicycle is quite a feat!


when travelling i always make it a point to use couchsurfing or similar communities to find hosts to stay with. it's the easiest way to get in touch with locals. and they are expecting you.

similar to your story, one of my most memorable unplanned experiences was missing a train at christmas eve in poland, and then joining christmas dinner with a host i found on short notice.


Did not quit my job, but instead went full remote in 2018 (age 55 at the time).

Still doing it, but the pandemic forced me to stay in one country for just about a year now.

In that year I put down roots, got long term visas and maybe will spend another few years there while we see how things shape out this and next year.

But ya, 2-3 months minimum in a place is what you need, with just a small backpack.

Make local friends.

Don't hang around or go out with other tourists or expats. This is the kiss of death.

Make it a rule to eat only the food of the city or the country that you find yourself in.

Learn a few words of the language "hello", "thank you", "bathroom", "stop", etc.

Don't think people are less than you. They're not. They want the same things as you.

As an introvert, being forced to make friends with people who speak another language and look the opposite of me (black guy in Asia), was exactly the ticket.

Well recommended to do it.

The main thing I would say - is have a mission when you travel. Seeing the sights and drinking the bars and mingling with other tourists and shtupping the local girls is fun, but not a mission.

You will get bored after some time of doing that.

Have some particular work or meaning to each day to keep you grounded, and you can do the moving around for a super-long time.

You will find that you'll set some schedules for work, play and discoveries - regardless of where you are.

Just don't quit your job. Instead go remote (even if you have savings). Ok?


I did something similar a few years back. I went fully remote while working at a startup and traveled through Asia. While I agree with many points, my experience was more of a mixed bag.

1. Not every job is suitable to do while traveling. Especially if it's kind of unstable like early stage startups. Putting of fires at work on a flaky internet connection while sweating from heat is not that fun and leaves you quite exhausted. It's also hard to plan for anything more serious, if you have to be available when anything breaks.

2. You really need to stay in one place much longer when having a job (2-3 months), as you will have much less free time to enjoy wherever you are.

3. If you work 5 days a week it will limit you excursions into less developed places (with really bad internet) to only 2 days. Quite often these places are what's the best about area you are in.

4. I think going out with expats is not a complete no, no. Just don't do that exclusively. You can get some great tips and avoid many stupid mistakes thanks to other fellow travelers. Especially when you are in a new place that's really different from what you already know.

5. Try to connect with people as much as possible. At the end of the day, that's what you'll remember and what will affect you the most.


As someone following your footsteps a few decades behind, this is gold, thank you. One question, how do you handle work commitments with the uncertainty of travel? One of my best adventures is being stuck on an island for the night due to unforeseen circumstances, alas without much in the way of network connectivity.


I’ve never really had a problem with internet etc.

On travel days I let people know I’m offline.

I stay in Airbnb’s a lot and find a coffee shop backup nearby usually.

I have local SIM card when generous data plan when I arrive at the airport. This is good tor sharing with my computer in a pinch.

Asia has great internet - better than Europe, Australia or North America so that is rarely a problem.

Transport is generally reliable and effective and on time so one rarely will be away and offline for a while.

Being unavailable is truly not something that comes up on the radar more than a couple times a year.

(Unless you woke up naked in a drug induced stupor in a ladyboy’s room in Pattaya 2 days after an all-nighter) hahaha.


Well that last sentence took quite a turn haha. Thanks for the insights.


so happy to have more open access to SIM cards and data packages now in case of an emergency when we used to travel. I remember my family used to go no phones just local payphones and maps.


> Have some particular work or meaning to each day to keep you grounded, and you can do the moving around for a super-long time.

What kind of mission can you suggest someone might have while traveling that will keep them grounded?


I really meant have projects related to work or hobby. Don’t just travel.

Example some people do YouTube channel.

Some do side projects.

Others attend short term language classes in the country they’re visiting.

Some start businesses.

Have a purpose - or you’ll end up drinking and partying every night.


Thanks


Fascinating mind if you share some more details? Do you have kids? How about family? Do you consider a city your anchor or you feel totally like a world citizen


Yes I do have a kid. She will move here with me when she finishes high school (currently lives with her mom).

This kind of life is not really compatible for younger children unless you have the funds to travel with them and can home school them as you go.

I try to maintain at least 3 permanent or semi-permanent bases in 3 countries but that’s now down to 2 because of the pandemic.

Yes, it’s good to have a few anchor cities where you put down some roots and make good local friends - they can help you settle in. A bunch of fellow tourists or expats are not deep in the culture and will not be of great help which is why I don’t pal around with them.

It’s quite easy to start a business in other countries if you have local friends to point you in the right directions and translate for you. Another reason not to hang around other tourists. And that will diversify your income - not every business needs to be online.

No one knows how the world will turn out in the next few years, so I believe in hedging my bets and having options both in income and second and tertiary places to potentially live if needs be.

Sort of like a prepper - but international.

Follow the Nomad Capitalist channel on YouTube. It’s a good resource and has great tips.


Fantastic details and stories, thank you.

fyi your website in your profile is not resolving.


Weird - must have been some temporary dns issues. Thanks.


I'm interested in a lot of these responses because they don't reflect my experience - I wonder if that's the result of sampling bias (e.g. people with good travel experiences are drawn to this thread) or if I'm the aberration.

Granted, I didn't quit my job, but after graduate school I moved to Germany from the US and took a job consulting. For three years I lived in places like Berlin, Madrid, Split...etc for 3-9 months at a time. There were enjoyable things about it, sure, but I really underestimated how difficult it was to discard your entire social circle and start over. A few years ago I moved back to the US, in a city where a lot of my friends had moved to, and it was probably the most positive decision I've ever made in my life.

I also feel like my time abroad didn't "broaden my horizons" all that much, and I find myself skeptical about the claims that international travel makes you a better person. I think what you get out of travel is heavily based on how you decide to relate to places and people, and merely leaving your country does not guarantee this will change.


There's probably a strong interaction effect with charisma. People who have an easy time making friends tend to see extended travel periods as a non-stop adventure of fresh experiences. Whereas if you're more of an introvert who takes a long time to warm to people, it can be a protracted period of crushing isolation.


If you are an introvert traveling, I strongly recommend lots of reading. Bring a nice camp chair (I have tried several, my current favorite is the Helinox Sunset with rockers and a small camp-stool-turned-ottoman) and sit in the shady spots in parks. Find the best library reading rooms, museums, etc. and just read. Draw if you’re into that.

Negotiate this time with your extroverted traveling partners if necessary.


3-9 months seems long for the average American in terms of travel, but it really isn't long enough to gain a social foothold and enough understanding in the local language to feel a certain connectedness to the place. I absolutely think any travel abroad does broaden one's horizons, but perhaps not to the extent that it's touted in pop culture. I served in the US Peace Corps for two years, and the experience utterly shattered the person I was before, and re-formed me into someone far more understanding, compassionate, empathetic, etc. But that type of experience is highly focused with a great emphasis on cultural integration and language-learning.


I definitely agree that 3-9 months (especially at the low end of that range) isn't enough to feel sufficiently rooted somewhere, but one quick thing I would add is that I did all of this while speaking German fluently already, so my time in Germany at least was not consumed by trying to surmount any language barrier. I'm just someone who makes friends through my existing friends (instead of strangers), so starting from zero isn't something I do well.


Thanks for providing the opposite perspective, it's important to know that going abroad doesn't make your life magically better.


I am going to put in the most plain brutal way - if you're white (and good looking), you will have the most amazing time traveling internationally.

It is depressing but this is the cold hard truth.


I'd love to hear concretely what you guys who traveled actually gained from traveling the world? Because I always hear that it's really exciting and you get to go to exciting places - but what exactly did you gain in terms of perspectives besides your instagram pictures and cocktail stories? I've never get beyond this superficial in hearing people's travel stories online and IRL.

Maybe it's just me; but the idea of going from one place to another for 2 weeks, to take pictures and get led around by locals tourist industry is the very definition of Western Consumerism. If you want to immersed into a culture, wouldn't you want to commit to learning the language and go to your local city's meetup for that language - instead of going to a foreign country with a phrasebook. If you want to dance, wouldn't you want take a class for salsa, shuffle, tango at your local club instead of a single experience at a beach bar at some exotic locale. If you want to meet new people and break out of your comfort zone, wouldn't you want to make friends locally where you can build up that friendship or relationship consistently by dinners, outings instead of a single chance encounter? Listening to live music at some exotic place vs. going to local musicians jams where you're up on the stage playing, take instagram pictures of Prague vs. urban sketching your local city streetscape… I could keep going.

Maybe I'm wrong. Please tell me know what you've personally gained from traveling the world!


You have a very stereotypical view of what "traveling the world" is, so it's not surprising that you're dismissive.

> If you want to immersed into a culture, wouldn't you want to commit to learning the language and go to your local city's meetup for that language - instead of going to a foreign country with a phrasebook.

Meet-ups are not even remotely comparable to actually being there. This is especially true for non-Western countries that haven't been permeated by Starbucks/McDonalds global American culture. The idea that Google Street View and a Wikipedia article can replace real life is absolutely absurd.

Personally, it would take books to write about how living abroad has concretely impacted my life. I don't even know where to start. It has exposed me to ideas and places that I previously had zero knowledge of.

I'll summarize by saying the trajectory of my life has been shifted dramatically by traveling, and this is obvious when I compare myself to the people I grew up around.


So far in some of the comments. I've gotten the same answer, "it changed my life!"; "I heard some new stories from the countries I stayed and it changed my perspective!"; "and I'm different from people back home now!"; and a subtle swipe that OP is dismissive and maybe "small-minded"; and I love it and appreciate your guys feedback!

Allow me to share my experience of being immersed in American culture for 25 years as a Chinese immigrant. It may seem off-topic but if you guys'll bear with me - I have also a lot of Chinese friends, some of whom are graduate students who even stay in US for several years. To them, experiencing America means going to an "American party", maybe go clubbing, going to the Yellowstone Nat'l park, the gun range or the Burning man, and most of all - making an American friend or the ultimate pinnacle getting an American boyfriend or girlfriend! I hope y'all agree with me that American spirit is not encapsulated in just getting an American boyfriend or going to Burning Man! But are my Chinese friends' self-centered efforts to (understandably) efforts to "become more confident", "self-reliant", get "exposed to ideas and places [they] had zero experiences in"; so that when they go back to China and compare themselves to Chinese compatriots, it's "obvious that [their] trajectory has changed compared to other [plebeian folks] back home".

Just my humble opinions, most human beings have remarkably similar values across different culture, we all want paradoxically to belong to the herd and also distinguish ourselves from the herd. And yet 25 years of living in America, I've been so self-centered at my own "culture refinement" all this time that I rarely and truly listened to others around me and their experiences.


Traveling abroad was the first time I witnessed absolute poverty in person.

It also let me see for myself some of the obvious shortcomings of countries usually held up as our betters. It was a shock. But, it also let me experience some of the things that really were better. It was both a reminder that home is doing some things right after all- but could do other things better.

(Depending on your politics, you normally tend to see your own country as either entirely behind or entirely the best)

It felt like civic education. Not unlike studying history and government.


You may have been immersed in American culture, but has any of it perrmeated you, or have you stayed within a Chinese bubble, in America, as your friends seems to have? I think that's a totally different thing.


>>Just my humble opinions, most human beings have remarkably similar values across different culture, we all want paradoxically to belong to the herd and also distinguish ourselves from the herd.

We want to be normal but not common.


I have lived abroad for about 7 years now. It has dramatically changed how I think about the world, what my values are, and what I want in my own future. It is miles beyond "I heard some new stories from the countries I stayed and it changed my perspective!"


The OP asked for concrete examples and not vague sweeping statements and here you are doing exactly this. As someone with the same sentiment and question as the OP I'm disappointed.


Vague sweeping statements? I’m literally an entirely different person because I decided to spend years abroad. That isn’t concrete enough for you?

I grew up in a decayed industrial town in the Midwest. My parents didn’t go to college and I had very little interest in traveling or foreign cultures. If you were to predict my life based on my family and socioeconomic background, I’d be still living in the same empty town as everyone else I grew up with.

Instead, I was lucky enough to get a remote job as a customer service agent. At some point after that, I realized I could work from anywhere, so I used it as an opportunity to visit Japan and then Europe.

Now, I’ve lived in / visited over twenty countries, have a deep interest in foreign languages, and am in the process of getting foreign citizenship. It wasn’t a deliberate, “eureka!” moment, but a gradual exposure to new ideas and people. That’s how life works in general IMO.

The world is a big place and people have different values. Traveling is the single easiest way to understand this. It is really that simple.

As an American, I’ve noticed that this attitude of disinterest toward the outside world is common, even encouraged. It’s not a good thing and frankly it’s the source of a lot of problems with the country today.


> As an American, I’ve noticed that this attitude of disinterest toward the outside world is common, even encouraged. It’s not a good thing and frankly it’s the source of a lot of problems with the country today.

As an American, I've noticed that self-flagellation of the kind exhibited in this comment is extremely common, as is fetishization of travel/other cultures. This difference in our perspectives may have to do with where we grew up "decayed industrial town in the Midwest" (you) vs. "bastion of liberal globalism" (me).

Anyway, the reason people are pushing back against your comments here is because they have a "I have attained enlightenment and you can too" vibe. I just don't associate enlightenment with hanging around on hackernews arguing about whether traveling has led you to enlightenment.

Anyway, I don't question that seeing the world up close and personal has been important part of your life. I only doubt that it is universalizable. I think your experiences have to do with your unique personality and circumstances and can't be generalized.


You are projecting your own biases and worldview on to my comment, which says more about you than me. Nowhere did I fetishize foreign cultures or put down America in general.

And yes, decaying industrial town is an exact description, not self-flagellation.


> Nowhere did I [...] put down America in general.

> As an American, I’ve noticed that this attitude of disinterest toward the outside world is common, even encouraged. It’s not a good thing and frankly it’s the source of a lot of problems with the country today.


In no way does that indicate I’m anti-American or engaging in self-flagellation.

Having a minor criticism of one’s country is a healthy, normal thing.


We've established that you did "put down America in general". We can disagree over whether that constitutes self-flagellation. Moving on, I didn't say you are "anti-American" nor did I say that there's anything wrong with "criticizing one's country". I will say that criticizing a culture is hard because cultures are not uniform, which was my point ("decayed industrial town in the Midwest" and "bastion of liberal globalism" are very different in terms of "disinterest in the outside world").

I don't question your experiences, I only pointed out that they are yours, and I doubt they can be universalized. The kind of meaning that you're talking about just isn't one-size-fits-all.


Ah, so a US citizen living in the middle of nowhere learned something by seeing civilisation. This is an example of why the OP asked for more details. Now I know that your experience isn't applicable to a lot of people who already live in a city, have friends in other countries, have travelled a bit, etc.


Your reply is kind of insulting, honestly. Not appreciated.

As I said, most people (including those that live in a city, or have friends in other countries, etc.) still view the world in their own local way. It has nothing to do with cities or civilization, as the inside of any college classroom would make clear. Actually living in another country and delving into their culture for a sustained period of time is not the same as reading about it in a book.

Perhaps you think you’re already enlightened and already know everything. If that’s the case, there isn’t much I can do.


I agree the GP was cruel and demeaning and at least partly wrong.

But it's been asked for someone to describe the specific changes in their worldview that resulted from living abroad (and specifically the ones that could not have been garnered by other means).

If it's about gaining understanding, what specifically have you come to understand that has been really valuable to you?

Is it like "After seeing first-hand the way asian countries do urban planning and public transportation I have a much better foundation for forming opinions about the way things should be done in the USA"?

Or "After spending a month living and eating as the Italians do, I had an epiphany about how to live a healthy, meaningful life and when I got back to the states I completely rearranged my method going through life, converting to a diet of wine and fish and making lots of new kinds of social connections that I otherwise would not have"?

Those (pretend) experiences sound profound, meaningful, and worthwhile.

It's not totally clear though that the benefits couldn't be had without living abroad by a sufficiently imaginative person with the correct literary diet etc. Then again, it would be the height of arrogance to think oneself so imaginative as to be able to comprehend every important facet of human culture from afar.


"It's not totally clear though that the benefits couldn't be had without living abroad by a sufficiently imaginative person with the correct literary diet etc." -

I see observations like this one as being totally off (and I may have been guilty of having slightly similar, although way more nuanced, views years ago). Can someone playing volleyball and being sufficiently imaginative understand/feel playing football (the European one)? From a theoretical point of view, they may have a sorta intellectual understanding of it. Both sports involve a ball, they are both team sports, there is a referee etc. But until you do it, you have no real understanding of the differences in the practice of the sports. You don't get, in the sense that you don't feel, the positions, the dynamics, the different energetic systems that are taxed.

And it is the same for traveling as described here. Sure, you can have a sorta understanding of Cuba, the mix of poverty and ambition, the political ideas that motivated the revolution and the quite different reality of day-to-day living. Sounds like Detroit, does not it? Maybe. Or you may think, getting back to my previous example, that you don't need to go to Brazil to experience playing football, you can just go to a park in SF, play a pick-up game, and get the same football experience as you would get in Brazil. Intuitively and logically, the answer is no, you cannot. Because it is not just the action, it is the action in a particular context.

When I was in Cuba years ago, I understood much better than I could have imagined, through a mix of observation and participation, the dynamics emerging from the interaction between top-down politics and local (black) markets. I understood much better (through observation!) how romantic relationship develops when people are looking for a way out and have developed quite ingenious ways of tricking "whales". Would have been possible to get the same understanding in my hometown or in the town I have been living in for more than 15 years? I don't think so.

I went to Argentina for some time. I got to know better how different cultures (Italian, Spanish, Native) may get mixed together, but still maintain visible and distinguishable cultural roots. And now I can see the mix and the roots in other situations and in other contexts.

Experiencing different cultures made my life incredibly (with respect to my previous perspective) more profound, interesting, and adventurous.


Eh, I would say the notion that the benefits of travel can be neatly summarized in a list of Reasons Why It's Worth Your Time is sort of beyond the point. In fact, I'd say that's one of my main takeaways from traveling so much: realizing the limitations of the Western "rationalist" worldview that demands logical reasons for everything, as if Man were a computer program.

It's a bit like asking someone what they've learned about life in the past 5 years. The answer is likely, a lot of things, more than one can conceivably verbalize at the drop of a hat or even verbalize at all. Language is a tool added on top of reality, not reality itself. As I explained above, it's about a much deeper expanding of one's perspectives, which has absolutely nothing to do with education or information. It's about realizing that different cultures have unique starting points as to what they consider valuable or admirable, then experiencing that for yourself.

This, I think, is something really relevant when it comes to the US. Most of us have a hard time divorcing the idea of wealth from excellence. Being rich alone is enough to earn you respect, no matter how vulgar or manipulative the source of wealth. Many other places (say, France or Japan) don't unify the two and the consequences are very observable.

I could say things like, "The public transportation system in Japan is amazing and makes me wish we had it in the US," or "the outdoor heaters in Paris make street culture much richer," but frankly these seem so insignificant that it's almost laughable to use them as a justification for traveling. It's akin to watching a deeply moving film and then suggesting others watch it because "the colors were nice." Not everything requires argumentative justification, nor should it.


So your experience invalidates someone else's experience?

It's ironic since what you said invalidates the 90% of "middle america" experience - where they never really leave hone/farm/city and country bumpkin life... doesn't mean it's wrong or write - but one can find enlightenment in travel that you take for granted.


I wouldn't consider living abroad for 7 years travelling (unless you change location often?), although I absolutely agree that actually living in some different country for years might deeply change you as a person.

However, I agree with OP that most travel stories (staying a few days to a month in the same place) sound very superficial and I also struggle to figure out why I should be travelling more often.


I moved around quite a bit. Depends on where you draw the line between traveling and living abroad, I suppose.


I would like to address several of your posts together, using my own experiences.

As a fellow Chinese who lived in Europe for a couple years and lived in several cities across Canada, each a couple years (so not 2 week travels):

1. It forced me to abandon my old friends and make new friends. Is this a good thing? not necessarily. An easy thing? absolutely not. A good thing? I think so. First of all, distance kills friendships. And I'm forced to make new friends when I feel lonely. When I have new friends, I learn about their cultures, about their hobbies. I spent 20+ years in China and never got drawn into bodybuilding, now I do it everyday because my new foreigner friends introduced me to it and it becomes an integrated part of my life and source of happyness. I still keep in touch with a few close close friends remotely, who lives all over the world now.

2. It forced me to do things I normally won't do/step out of my comfort zone. This is related to your comment:

>Which when I thought about it is super ridiculous, why can't I enjoy these things if I was going by myself??? Or put in another way, why can't we see our local city and people in our local community with the same freshness, open-ness and kindness as we'd if we were tourists or backpackers traveling in a distant land?

You certain can, but it's difficult. Human brain is designed to find patterns. We get used to things fast. There's no incentive for us to step out of our comfort zone in familiar environments. Once we know about a shortcut, we'll always take it. It's the not knowing of the shortcuts that forced me to be out of my comfort zone a lot (and back to 1, I wont force myself to make new friends if I dont have to). Things like, I public speak a lot more than before, I try actively making friends, and again I workout daily now.

3. By doing all 1 and 2, I gained new perspectives about myself. About what really makes me happy. If I didn't live abroad, I'll probably anchor my happiness a bit more on the traditional Chinese values such as having a big place in the tier 1 cities in China and having kid(s), and make sure the kid(s) excel in all the stuff, just like my high school classmates are doing right now. Now instead I saw so many different ways of living one's life. So many different ways of finding happyness, I incorpated those into how I define my happiness. I do things that truly make me happy rather than things my peers are doing. On the flip side, I dont give fucks to many things anymore, because I saw ppl who dont give fucks to those and they are fine. I wont know those people in my old city with my old circle, or at least not as many.

4. It satisfied my curiousity. You can know a lot about the world by means other than traveling and experiencing in person. But can you be sure the experience is the same? Different or not, I was curious to know.

5. Lastly, if I can change history about myself, I'd travel sooner in my life. This is probably related to 3. People say traveling broaden's one's perspectives. Concretely I think what that means is it makes you better at problem solving. With more perspectives, you either gain new approaches to solving problems, or some problems become too trivia you give little amount of fucks than you previously would, or some problems become irrelevant to you. One example I think is I'm not as easily influenced by commericals, marketing, or news as much. And many of those are intentionally stress inducing. When I see things that are utterly important in one culture are not important elsewhere, it helped me stop accepting messages that tell me what's important.

I dont have a foreigner partner btw lol.


>Just my humble opinions, most human beings have remarkably similar values across different culture

China, a country that idolises Americanism.

America, a country that is Americanism.

Take this from a New Zealander (a country that has mass immigration from China and a fanciful view of America), if you were to go to South America and stand on the street of a town in say Colombia, you might wonder if we were the same species.


You forgot to add:

America, a country and a people that shits on China. Daily.

Just ask anyone here on HN or Reddit. And Twitter, especially Twitter.


> I've never get beyond this superficial in hearing people's travel stories online and IRL.

I think most people aren't very articulate, they cant express their experiences well. Or maybe don't self reflect well. But anything you experience will leave an effect on you.

Food, locations and just getting dropped into to situations you wouldn't normally be in are the biggest things about traveling. There's a lot of little things that can leave an impact. Some things are just seeing how similar people around the world really are too. I've discovered a lot of new food and learned about food from traveling. A cookbook, youtube and imported ingredients aren't quite the same.(I saw in your other post your a chinese immigrant, do you think I could claim to know about chinese food without visting and eating in china?) I took one off cooking classes in kyoto, bali and morroco and learned a lot about the culture and what i learned left a lasting effect on me. I found I really like indonesian food, mie goreng is a regular weeknight dinner for me now.

There is a lot to write i think what I gained from travel,probabaly to much for a forum post. One other thing i want to mention is seeing nature is impactful. Going to the carribean and seeing dead coral reefs really drives home the damage humans are doing to this planet. You probably won't see that in your suburb, or realize it in a city.


>I found I really like indonesian food, mie goreng is a regular weeknight dinner for me now.

That's awesome. You've inspired me to look up some recipes and try to attempt it (keyword: attempt).

> One other thing i want to mention is seeing nature is impactful. Going to the carribean and seeing dead coral reefs really drives home the damage humans are doing to this planet.

I hear what you're trying to communicate; sometimes experiences are more powerful than its equivalent wiki or statistical infographics format; somethings are meant to be experienced, not a pre-conceived notion transmitted and interpreted secondhand in a book or a documentary or online post.


I found that going to new places lights up my brain in a way that doesn't happen otherwise. Going somewhere new is something we are supposed to do I think, there is special machinery that turns on. You step off the plane at midnight in Istanbul, or off the ferry in the Lofoten, or off the shinkansen in Kyoto and everything is different... the quality of the light, the weight of the air, how it smells, sounds, tastes... and you realise how much of your conscious experience is rooted in the ineffable features of your environemnt. You can't get this from moving around in the same city or country even. Your brain does a kind of experiential 'etc etc etc' when it gets used to a place. The times of my life when I traveled for long periods are dense with rich, vivid memories, whereas I can't remember if I had breakfast today.


Well said. It feels as if all your senses are fully open and totally engaged in a foreign place, whereas most are sated and asleep back home.


0. Experience joy. If you haven't you won't get it. The same kind of awe and joy you might have experienced the first time a compiler you wrote finishes without errors and you are able to run the executable.

1. I'd like to think it made me less intense and easier to work with at my (remote) job

2. I became more extroverted

3. I've embraced extreme uncertainty and became much more flexible and creative. Pivoting in life doesn't scare me. I thrive when things are in flux and I have to improvise.

4. It helped me discover my passion for street photography

5. I met amazing people and created a circle of friends

6. I met my wife

7. The pandemic has been a non-event for me

8. I have not experienced winter in 10 years

9. Amazing food. Nothing wrong with food in the US but it's not as good as most people think, especially if you are poor. Unless you live in NYC and you can afford it.

10. When I woke up pre-pandemic on Sat morning I had 100 postcard-worthy places to choose from that most people only dream about visiting in their lifetime. All within a one or two hour flight radius. When most people contemplate driving 4 hours up north to a state park, I was debating if Hong Kong or Bali are worth the extra hours of flight only for the weekend.

To sum it all up, if the thought of getting drunk with random non-English speaking people in a small bar in Tokyo you stumbled upon, or going astray and walking though a field in Myanmar to take you to a small village with no roads and interacting with the people there who are wearing traditional clothing doesn't excite you, than you won't get it. But that's ok, we all enjoy different things.


>I have not experienced winter in 10 years

As someone who travels in order to get more winter, not less, I don't see this one as a benefit! But the rest makes sense.


Well, just rephrase it

> I have not experienced summer in 10 years

That sounds depressing though.


Haha, like I said - to each their own. To be honest I'm starting to miss winter a little bit too.


Thanks for the concrete examples! I love it.

> The pandemic has been a non-event for me

> When I woke up pre-pandemic on Sat morning I had 100 postcard-worthy places to choose from

These statements appear contradictory.


> These statements appear contradictory.

You are right, they appear to be. Professionally, the only change is that now everybody is a little more like me and I'm less of a curiosity. On a personal level, we had a baby when the pandemic broke out last year so we've been more or less grounded because of that.


You are largely right. Western ideas of tourism feed off this idea "I'm a traveller, everyone else is a tourist sheep." Asian tourists generally don't seem to have the same pretensions and are happy getting coached around.

Walking around busy temples and stuff can be pretty hard because people don't want anyone else in their photo. It has to look like they just chanced upon this ancient temple in the jungle, rather than getting a minibus there with 20 other people.

Sometimes the more savvy local tour companies cotton on to this and market to "travellers", but I liked it when locals just called us all "tourists" because that's really what we are. Yes, it's another form of consumerism.

I spent a year backpacking and it was mostly seeing cool places. I don't think it really changed me, but then I have worked and studied abroad before (there I go, pointing out how I'm not like the others!!). Considering those experiences too, I think there are two main things you're missing:

1) People who genuinely find hostel slogans like "live at the edge of your existence" deeply inspirational are probably late teens/early 20s and so for them it's all wrapped up in being independent, moving out of their childhood home, experimenting etc. Possibly the first time they've been out of their home culture and so even standard, Western backpacker hostels is a big jump.

2) A lot of people really find scary and challenging things you might be more comfortable with. Lots of people live within a few miles of where they grew up. If they go abroad, it's a package holiday on a resort full of people from their home country. Maybe a city break to be adventurous. Even though backpacking in SE Asia etc is heavily commodified, it's still a pretty small fraction of people who would even consider it.


Thank you for your thoughtful response! I think there's 100% value for people in their 20's to take any opportunity to meet new people, go on an adventure and force yourself into (and learn from) uncomfortable and fun situations!

I wish that we could keep and activate this wanderlust, open-ness and spontaneity regardless of what context we're in (why I posed the question, what perspectives people gained from their travel?). I know I had this hold over me, like I'd only enjoy a certain "couples activities" like ice skating, trying out new restaurants or paint nite - based on the context of going on a date. Which when I thought about it is super ridiculous, why can't I enjoy these things if I was going by myself??? Or put in another way, why can't we see our local city and people in our local community with the same freshness, open-ness and kindness as we'd if we were tourists or backpackers traveling in a distant land?


Yes, I hadn't thought of it like that. Travelling is also a time when it's considered normal to be alone and to chat to new people, reinvent yourself if you really want to. For many, that only happens a couple of times in their lives, if at all. (And again, that's why people stay local and don't move countries, because they don't want to do that).

Meetup.com is the closest I've got to what you describe, but not quite the same. It's a pity, I agree.


I can resonate with a lot of this, I have to tell people I’m around after they say something about an area/activity potentially being “too touristy” that “its okay to be a tourist”

yes, travelers are tourists, but catering to this subset can be different and you can capitalize on it

they want certain kinds of cafes, they want less trafficked but still bustling areas, they want furnished rentals


I've been to around 50 countries across 6 continents, hitchhiked tens of thousands of kilometres and never have I even taken a single picture.

These experiences are not for others, they are for yourself and they give you the capacity to understand stories and circumstances that otherwise would be foreign to you.


I take pictures (but relatively few - maybe a couple times in a week-long trip) just to look at them in the future - they're great for bringing out memories of a certain place, situation in life etc.


I take lots of photos, but mostly as part of the experience not being the experience. I'm not gonna waste time setting up for selfies or clearing out people to get a group photo or any nonsense like that - most of my pictures will never have me in it - but they're photos that show my take on the history, culture, scenery and beauty of the area that i'm experiencing and I love to share that with friends/family people who may not be able to do it.

I travel for curiosity - so photography helps me capture it in a way that i can go back and study the history, find other photos, see how its changed, connect the dots, fill in timelines - learn more and discover more that i may not have been able to do with being consumed in being there in the moment.

The only selfie i ever took was me standing on top of a 14er... which was a huge accomplishment for me at the time but i never share that with anyone but my family - otherwise they'd never believe it :)

never understood the fascination with NOT taking photos but also i've never understood those who take photos to make them the center of attention either (the instagrammers)


Do you keep a journal though?


I’ve gained perspective that I can get into important rooms because of my background, easier than I can in my own country. It makes considering to fight for inclusion in my home country seem to be a waste of my life and that I can choose causes to spend energy on without feeling like I was neglecting an obligation to my gender or heritage or race/ethnicity.

I’ve gained perspective that there are a mixture of political systems in countries that have redeeming benefits and seem more advanced than my home country. This tells me that I don't have to subscribe to the limiting choices presented to me, by people in my home country. Or perhaps that there might be an opportunity to inspire the people in the future.

I’ve gained in depth knowledge of obscure regulations in obscure autonomous regions that I find useful.

I’ve gained perspective that I can be seen as more desirable in some places for dating, hook ups, I can be accepted by families readily as an individual. In my home country, the go-to is to make this as awkward as possible, and it has been nice and endearing to understand how and why this isn’t the experience everywhere.

It helps me really resonate with the concept of going where you are treated the best, and building a life where that is possible. This has been a overwriting of the indoctrination of tying my identity to my national, even its currency, which is now absurd to me.


Thank you for your honest and personal answers! As an Asian guy living in America and reading between the lines re: your xp dating and how different cultures treat you, I can relate to a lot what you're saying.

>It helps me really resonate with the concept of going where you are treated the best, and building a life where that is possible.

Maybe it's me becoming institutionalized and just used to this by now in America lol; but I have a different perspective on this, oppression is universal (Puritans, Germans, Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews in 1700-1800's) and creativity is driven by constraints (blues/jazz was born on plantations, Cosa Nostras arose out of Italian Americans being shut of WASP society, the humor/hutzpah in spite of overt and covert anti-semitism is seen in Mel Brooks movies).


oppression towards you is not universal, and the constraints you refer to don’t have to be oppression based

there are plenty of art forms and styles born from privilege

but are you an artist? Is this diamond forging pressure even beneficial to you?

to me, I am long past the idea of trying to proselytize or debate about how an advantage in another society could or couldn't work in a much larger less homogenous society, and can simply see how I can choose which one I want to be in when I want to be in it


You do not seem like you want to change your mind - and that is fine. If you are doing a cost/benefit analysis, then you are doing it wrong. You mock western consumerism but radiate tells of "western overoptimization" attacking everything as a task that can be broken down to individual parts, prioritized and optimized. That is in my opinion a very reductionist way to go about your life.

Traveling the world can open your eyes to other ways of living a life. It can teach you something about yourself if you are open to it. It can teach you to be more confident and self-reliant.

You will likely dismiss this and if I wrote long explanations of what I learned myself you would come up with faster, better or more "local" ways to get the same outcome - and that is fine. You do you. Then I do me.


Thanks for your critique! Your "over-optimization" comment (vs. presumably being more spontaneous and improvising as your travel or just in everyday life) is very valid. I will say that my original feeling is not even "squeezing the most out of the paste-tube" or "maximizing profits" of some objective - it's more about commitment, whether be a subject or to people. Travel to me is like watching TED talks of experienced professors or artists in their field - it makes me feel very smart for 15 minutes listening; but in no way skilled nor committed as a practitioner of that field who dedicate time to their craft everyday over years.


There are tangible benefits to world trip "optimization". We started planning our 1 year, 14-country trip, 1 year in advance.

There are places (some national parks, certain hiking trails) where you need to make reservation well in advance.

It also allows being in countries in their cool, dry or bloom season.

Finally, it allows lower budget for the trip as you can reduce travel time..


There are tangible benefits to world trip "optimization". We started planning our 1 year, 14-country trip, 1 year in advance.

There are places (some national parks, certain hiking trails) where you need to make reservation well in advance.

It also allows being in countries in their cool, dry or bloom season.

Finally, it allows lower budget for the trip as you can reduce travel time..


I spent 3.5 months backpacking in India and Southeast Asia. I saw incredible places and stood in a hundred postcards. For me though, people are what had the most impact.

Tens of thousands of Hindus come to die in Varanasi each year. If you die and are cremated there, you are freed from the cycle of rebirth and can attain salvation. I stood with an Indian friend on the edge of tears as I watched them burn the dead. He asked me why I was sad, and I told him I was sad for the dead. He said do not be sad, this is the way they wanted to die.

We were warned never to get a train ticket on Indian Railways below 2nd class. It wasn't safe. There were only enough 2nd class tickets for my friends, so I went to 3rd class alone, in the middle of the night, and went to sleep in a top bunk, the warnings echoing in my mind. When I awoke my 5 neighbors were speaking softly to each other. They shared food with me they had brought from their homes. We showed each other where we had come from and pictures of our families. I didn't speak the same language.

Cambodia had 25% of its people starved or murdered less than a decade before I was born: Year Zero. Anyone educated was the first to go. We hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the temples around Siem Reap. He was the son of farmers. At one temple we came out the entrance and snuck up on him while he waited for us. In his lap he held open a book in English, and tucked into it a smaller book. It was a Khmer-English dictionary.

I had a lot of good times meeting people at hostels and going to bars with other travelers, a few of whom have become dear friends. You could easily stay with tour groups, never leave the westernized areas of anywhere you go, and take lots of selfies in incredible places. It brings money to the local economy.

It's up to you though. If that's not what you want, getting away from it is as simple as walking 2 blocks in any direction.


"Many Hindus come to die in Varanasi." Sorry this is an exaggeration , very few old people mostly around that region , most of them women abandoned by their family .


I updated "many" to "tens of thousands", since the word "many" is too subject to interpretation.


Interesting, although I don't believe there is a 3rd class anymore. That was a British era thing from what I know.


I find travel/experiences is a terrible way to make yourself a more interesting person. Some people can tell a story about a drunken brawl in a foreign country and make it boring. Another person can describe getting coffee in the morning and leave people hanging on their every word.


This is so true. There is no preparation for how little people care about your travel experiences.


This. When people talk about break-ups, you learn something about human nature like people's different attachment styles and each person's unique emotional vulnerabilities and their resilience in spite of it. When people talk about their careers and work stories and when you really listen, you learn about what people truly value (getting money vs. an academic pursuit, integrity vs. personal expediency); with travel stories, there is no character arc, more like a pastiche, a camera pan of the landscape they traveled to.


Maybe in this case, you could learn what they considered beauty.


> I find travel/experiences is a terrible way to make yourself a more interesting person.

Maybe this is not to point of travel :-)


I suppose one thing I've brought back is the ability to conceive of travel in a way that doesn't involve Instagram pictures and getting led around by the tourist industry for 2 weeks. Reading your post and suggestions, it sounds as though that's something you might not yet posses.

I'll admit that I do have quite a few good cocktail stories, but very few of them happened anywhere near a major city or tourist destination. Occasionally you may hear me telling an anecdote about briefly intersecting with the Tourist Industry as they were whisked past the interesting thing I was up to on their way to the next photo op, but for the most part the people on that ride are in fact having the experience you describe.

Mostly, the things you take away are experiences so you're also correct that they're not particularly tangible. But they're valuable.

But I suppose if we're forced to provide examples, I can report having collected a wife overseas. A girl I certainly wouldn't have met at a salsa class in the 'states, with a mindset similar to mine that had led her to also be halfway around the world from her home for enough months overlapping for me to wear her down and convince her to bring me home with her.

(I guess that technically makes me her concrete benefit, but close enough).

Give it a try some time (for real, no 2 week package holidays) and I hope you'll find it worthwhile!


It taught me that I never want to leave my home again. I'm happiest sitting in front of my computer.

Feels good to have "been there, done that" so I don't need to worry about what-ifs.


That's funny, I kind of feel the same way.

I've been lucky enough to travel internationally and domestically a fair bit and yeah it's pretty cool, but I truly enjoy being at home coding things, learning things and experimenting with stuff.


This in part is why I don’t mind travelling alone. Everything happens on my terms


Related:

It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.

Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.


I thought like you in my early 20s. I remember thinking that travelling was a waste of money. Until my first travel. I visited New York and it completely blew my mind. That was almost 10 years ago and I can still remember the first time I got out of the subway, I was speechless. Sure it looked like all the movies I had seen but being actually there and feeling the life in that city was such a mind blowing experience. It was also my first time in the US. At the end I don't think I really "gained" anything from it, but it allowed me to experience a place that was so different from where I lived all my life.

Obviously each city is a different experience. I visited San Francisco and it was kinda meh. I visited Tokyo and it was dope. You can't really know until you actually go over there. :)


> I visited New York and it completely blew my mind. [...] I visited San Francisco and it was kinda meh.

Haha, my experience was the exact opposite of yours. The first time I visited NYC, I thought it felt dystopian and was glad to leave. Easily the least favorite city I have visited. But my first time visiting the west coast was intoxicating. Growing up I lived in a few different states in the southeastern U.S. and even lived in Paris, France for three years. I traveled Europe extensively both as a child and in my late teens and thought some places were interesting and nice to visit, but the first time I arrived in the Bay Area I thought "What is this place?! I have to move here."

I had traveled there for a Hackathon in 2010, and the first place I visited after leaving the airport was Palo Alto. It just blew my mind to see sunny weather, blue skies, trees with leaves, and green grass in December. And once I saw San Francisco, I was hooked. The beautiful terrain just captivated me. There were giant cliffs, ocean views, rolling hills, and interesting plants everywhere. Plus, I really missed the walkable cities in Europe.

My wife and I just moved away from the Bay Area in October after living there for almost three years to be closer to family, but I miss it everyday and hope to go back at some point. I miss the food and tech scene (although I still have my same job, remotely now), but I think what really captivated me is the climate and terrain. It's just otherworldly compared to what I was used to in the southeast.

> I visited Tokyo and it was dope

Tokyo seems like somewhere that I would really enjoy living, culture-wise (although my impression is that the climate is pretty similar to where I grew up). Hoping to visit after the pandemic. Any tips on where to go? More interested in unique local experiences and maybe taking trains to some other cities than tourist attractions.


Tokyo will probably feel as dystopian as New York. The main areas are extremely densely populated, there are lights, videos, musics and noises everywhere, always hundreds of things happening around you. It's impressive. It's personally what I enjoy but I get why it's not for everyone. But by definition, it's a unique experience and the tourists are completely outnumbered so it feels really local. I was actually surprised each time I saw a tourist in the street. There are also some big parks in Tokyo for when you want to take a break from all the craziness.

About destinations where life goes a bit slower, it's hard to not recommend the classic ones, especially if it's your first time in Japan. 2 days in Kyoto, 2 days in Osaka, 1 day trip in Nara, 1 day trip in Kamakura, 1 night in a onsen… This is the traditional Japan. Since those cities are smaller and all the attractions are listed on every traveling books/sites, you will definitely see a lot of tourists, but you can't go to Japan and not visit those places at least once!


The things that jump out at me:

-Seeing another societal system in practice and realizing that there are things from back home (CA, USA) which I took for granted which actually worked better than anywhere I went. The corollary is things I took for granted that were actually horribly broken and easily done better everywhere else.

-If you're gone long enough, coming back to your own culture can actually give you culture shock, which is about as unique an experience as I've had. It is somewhat related to the above. Hard to put this one in to words... kind of a "dancing about architecture" thing. It's a new set of eyes.

-Perspective broadening interactions around relative wealth, prosperity, historical inertia, and personal responsibility. It became much more clear to me and much less hypothetical how some poverty is legitimately just lazy people and some poverty is circumstantial.

-I'm not ashamed to admit this one even a little: If you managed to extend your comfort zone while traveling, you win dinner party conversations when you return. I climbed big dangerous mountains and traveled to unique place. Nobody cares about the algorithm I worked out on a Thai beach, but everybody wants to know about North Korea.

-You develop the skill of being comfortable inside your own skull. Assuming you are traveling alone, there will be lots of time without a stranger to talk to. That's a lot of down time to spend with yourself and really examine your own thoughts.

-You develop a self reliance related to not needing a lot. Once you realize you are fine just fine with a book and an afternoon and maybe spending the night sleeping in a park (that the locals say is safe!), the world is less menacing.


It is absolutely worthwhile doing any of the immersion techniques you mentioned. Volunteer work would probably be the most important thing that you're missing. And I don't mean 'gap year help build a library' kind of volunteering, that stuff is implicitly pre-college, instagram stories and expat heavy. I mean exchanging a few hours of light work for bed and board (the language exchange is free). You can be pretty picky in most countries with sites like workaway or helpx, and probably find a little family to hole up with and do work remotely. And yes, you will find (single) people of all ages doing this.

EDIT: i see I'm supposed to say how traveling changed my life personally. pretty simple if you are me because studying language is my favourite hobby, and, as an amateur linguist, it is essential for my life satisfaction to immerse in something new every couple of years.


I have not traveled the "world", but I have been to a few places. I think I know where you are coming from, but your comment about going to a local city's meetup for a language doesn't make sense. As an adult, immersion is often the best way to pick up a new language. How many Americans who learn Spanish can actually speak it? I also deplore the instagram crowd, but perhaps I am extreme, I rarely take photos. At the end of the day, I believe people are the same everywhere, but they are also different. This dichotomy makes traveling interesting - when you figure out for yourself how a different culture is similar or different than your own.


I think its a matter of taste. I have friends who say what big deal about mountains or beaches ..its the same everywhere.I accept that its their taste , and there nothing to look down upon it. To me every mountain n beach has a beauty to it when you hike them . To me when you travel , there are many aspects which you can experience , the people , the smell , the weather , the noise and chatter on the streets ,the food ( the most important aspect of my travel) . I love to visit offbeat villages and towns , personally that where i experience the feel of travel . These are experiences which IG cannot express


Of everything I learned and experienced in traveling one thing stands out above all the others: "self improvement is the primary good in your life"

Traveling involves a lot of hedonism, and one day while traveling you suddenly realize you are on a hedonic treadmill. The first amazing meal you eat is life changing. The second one is about 50% as novel and good as that. Then you're comparing the next meal to 2 others, and the meal after that to 3 others... The cycle continues until you have consumed the earth and achieved emptiness. What remains is yourself. Once there is nothing left to consume to satisfy yourself you really have to ask whats next. The answer is building, and probably building yourself.

The lessons I learned about myself were some of the most hard:

  - I understood escapism is not the answer
  - I got a realistic set of priorities for my life
  - I challenged and surprised myself socially
  - I learned what really matters and what doesn't
More explicit examples of things I appreciate from having traveled:

  - Someone broke down to me why china is the way it is from an informed and educated position in a way I found mostly compelling
  - Visiting Shenzhen made me afraid for America
  - I experienced Hong Kong before china destroyed it.
  - I watched history in real time (NK trump, HK, covid)
  - I saw a Chinese person shrink to 1/4 their size when a conversation got political
  - I see video of foreign countries and I see streets I have literally walked on
  - I experienced being a guest in multiple different cultures and was culture shocked to my core.
  - I saw the insides of homes and buildings in different cultures as well as the different ways things were constructed
  - I experienced the inhumanity that poverty causes
  - I experienced real life poverty and actual real happening today slavery
  - I have seen the costs of not having rule of law
  - I have seen pollution on the scale you cannot even imagine until you experience it
  - I experienced my own privilege in very visceral ways
  - I have experienced cultures without workers rights and its effects
  - I have experienced multiple civil protests in other countries
  - I have seen what its like to be in a functioning democracy
  - I have been in a country where the voting system makes sense
  - I have been around police officers that made me feel more safe instead of less safe
  - I have made multiple friends I still talk to
  - I almost fell in love
  - I visited a major holy site and saw religion being practiced in a way I never had before.
  - I have seen cultures in decline and cultures on the rise and how the people in them act and function
  - I experienced being in cities older than my country
  - I met people from parts of the world I wasn't aware of, with histories I'd never heard of
  - I saw foreign propaganda first hand
  - I found ways of life I liked better (and not) than what I grew up in
  - I saw both how good things can be and how bad things can be
  - I experienced pro-diversity cultures and anti-diversity cultures and their effects
  - I was exposed to multiple different non conventional ways of life
  - I have several outstanding invites and opportunities to visit people I have met who were also traveling.
  - I saved one person's life with some first aid
  - I learned several new skills


Great comment, could you expand on "Someone broke down to me why china is the way it is from an informed and educated position in a way I found mostly compelling"?


The thing that most needed explaining to a westerner is the great firewall of china and lack of freedom of speech. The argument that was made was foreign media dominance would result in 1 billion people being too unwieldy to effectively govern. Without it you have literal peasants with no education being directly exposed to potential (and probable) western manipulation. That manipulation could be political (overthrow the government) or economic (buy American goods) and the cost is direct exploitation of Chinese people and a failure of society to operate at scale. Words like century of humiliation, opium, forced open, and the like were used here too. Western exploitation and manipulation of China is not taught or explained in American schools, nor is it really taught that western powers came in and ransacked the country, to what extent they did, nor the mechanisms by which they (we) did it.

The standout paradigm shift for me was the statement "we want to democratize, but we cannot because our public is uneducated, you cannot have democracy without education." After seeing Hong Kong, I decide that I don't really believe china wants to democratize and this was likely a lie the person I talked to believed themselves, but I believe in the second half of the statement. Growing up in America you never really analyze democracy or its properties, you just understand that it's good and the correct way of life as any good indoctrination will do. Live free or die. A pretty important property of democracy to consider is that it will function as well as the half of its most poorly educated people. It doesn't take much observation of how bad faith republicans are to see the consequences of a society dominated by its least educated people. There is a clear tradeoff between individual sacrifices of rights and the well being of society overall that I think can be argued for successfully here even if I disagree with it personally. Not being the dominant culture ups the stakes on loose controls.

The overall idea of protectionism being necessary but unideal was compelling to me. The overall idea of hard limitations on how society can operate based on the properties of that society was compelling to me. There was a mental shift from right and wrong, to pros and cons and tradeoffs, which is much more healthy discussion to be having.

Another key concept that was explained was the idea of planned vs actual corruption. It was explained that there is a planned acceptable level of corruption in China, and that this is mostly seen as lubrication, a guarantee, or a bounty to get stuff done. Unfortunately, rather than corruption growing linearly in a planned way, it was growing exponentially in an unplanned way and this was causing problems.

The IP theft was somewhat of a "your country was built on it, too" thing. There was a bit of "you have so much, you should share." Somewhat similar with the "we were colonized, now we want to colonize" idea. I think there was a bit of "you wield power or it gets wielded against you." I don't agree at all, but returning abuse you've received onto the world is an unfortunately human thing to do.

I would not utter the words Taiwan, Uighur, Tibet, or Falun Gong while in China, because that seems foolish, so I didn't get any kind of satisfying explanation for those, and there probably isn't one that would be acceptable or satisfying. I suspect at best the explanation would be "look what America did to native Americans," or other justification by precedent.

China knows it benefits from outside experts and it has 1000 talents and other things to get Chinese people, especially, back in the country, but with english being nil, and a culture that is fairly anti-foreigner that is an uphill battle, so there was significant worry about the pace of innovation.

There was a bit of reference to the term "locusts" (not by me) and the reputation Chinese tourists have. There was a fair amount of acknowledgement but also explanation of sudden wealth growth and historic lack of education resulting in low class behavior.

Some of the more high profile IP theft cases (vials in bags) were explained by the idea that that behavior had been consistently happening and it was understood by all parties involved that it was happening, until one day feds showed up. I didn't buy that so much.

There was also a fair amount of "we're nobodies, so we're not at risk" talk when it comes to speech, but I can't operate in a society like that because it's far too much exposure to vulnerability.

I got a mild run down of some of the mechanics of corruption, good faith corruption, and bad faith corruption.

I definitely started to get a lot of the understanding that dealing with the incredible amounts of poverty, dealing with large amounts of systemic corruption, dealing with entrenched power structures, and balancing that against hostile foreign super powers that would almost certainly exploit you was a pretty incredible task. As evil as I think china (the government) is for what it is doing, when you look at its struggles it paints a picture you have to respect, it gives a lot of empathy to the struggles of a Chinese well edcuated person, it makes you feel empathy for the average ignorant person.

I think of all the takeaways I had it was just how significant fear was as a primary policy motivator. Generally, unethical behavior is understood to be a product of unchecked ambition and therefore comically evil, but the idea that most of the unethical behavior is motivated out of fear was fairly compelling.


> - I experienced Hong Kong before china destroyed it.

I've just got to inject some skepticism on this point. This is such a knee-jerk opinion that's popular to parrot, because it feels right to say.

Maybe some small degree of it is true -- but you were able to come to this sweeping conclusion for all of Hong Kong, all of its people, based on your visit? I would question how in day to day life of people there (in working, living, buying, commuting, socializing), you came to this opinion. You saw something objectively changed? People upending their lives? How were you able to visit the city then?

Or were you just reading and regurgitating the news and stories told by the headline-grabbing people who thought this?

This is like if someone from Europe visited the US, and made the bold claim of feeling sorry for Americans because life had been fundamentally destroyed by the Trump presidency years.

I just don't buy these dramatic pronouncements. Not that I don't think China has damaged Hong Kong in some respects, but I just am skeptical that a short visit by some tourist can conclude some deep, fundamental change to a city's persona.

Your point about Shenzhen, I do believe though.


> I've just got to inject some skepticism on this point.

I'll answer you, but first I want you to give me a good faith explanation of what I mean when I say "hong kong was destroyed" and a guess of why I might say that or believe it, one that doesn't assume I'm a sheep or manipulated by media.


Sorry, I'm confused, you want me to tell you what you're thinking, based on 4 words you typed?


Sorry, I said good faith explanation, but I meant good faith guess.

I want you to explain what "Hong Kong destroyed" might mean when I say it because if we're not speaking the same language then we can't hope to see eye to eye. Clearly the city is still standing filled with people who aren't dead. Clearly it's not "destroyed" in that way.

I want you to guess why I would say it, which means brainstorming potential ideas. In good faith means taking those potential ideas and evaluating them yourself, if you don't find them remotely compelling, chances are I won't either. To say or think I believe something that isn't at the very least plausible to you is bad faith.

You accused me of potentially "parroting knee jerk opinions," which I interpret as meaning you cannot imagine why a functioning person capable of critical thinking might believe it or say it.

I will start by explaining why I think someone might find the statement "Hong Kong has been destroyed" spurious: Hong Kong is clearly still standing and the day to day life of a person in Hong Kong probably isn't significantly different than it was 2-4 years ago, businesses still function, people can still feed themselves, I doubt there is military in the streets, the average person can probably still say what they want. If the day to day life of a person isn't really that different, then it's kind of hard to argue that there has been a fundamental change, much less a "destruction."


Understood.

Well, you might mean "destroyed" from the point of view of someone who wants to advocate for Hong Kong independence from China.

Or destroyed from the point of view of someone wanting to publish certain news articles criticizing China. Or whether your university/school teachers are allowed to even mention Hong Kong independence.

Or from the point of view of investors worried about the independence of the financial system from interference / controls in the longer term. Or that they might be extradited to China for financial crimes (or even political reasons) that previously weren't a concern.

Obviously, I'm not unaware of those points of view and situations.

On the other hand, for someone running a business in Hong Kong, working a 9-to-5 job, or even at a typical multinational corporation, or growing up going to school, or settling in for retirement, or traveling to/from the city, life shows no hour-by-hour or day-to-day difference for the vast majority of people.

Whether on balance, these factors would lead someone to declare that a city (or the idea of a city) has been "destroyed" overall is I guess what we're debating.

I take the point of view that jumping without further clarification to say that Hong Kong has been destroyed, is just a bit of a fashionable hyperbolic opinion to put out there -- an opinion that heavily overweights the concerns (even legitimate concerns) of a, let's call it 1%, special subset of the population. Are you one of that group / are you from Hong Kong? If not, how did you join the concerns of the group for whom the city appears to have been destroyed, rather than the rest of the city for whom it continues with no perceptible change in daily life?


I come from the direction that a place is most aptly defined by it’s culture. Buildings are inert. Infrastructure isn’t very distinguishable other than good and bad. Businesses are fairly interchangeable. People come and go. If you sum up the entirety of a place's values, interactions, and operations, its very way of life, I would call that culture.

So when I say “Hong Kong was destroyed,” the meaning is that there was a destruction of its culture. The word destruction is emotionally charged because a Chinese person probably doesn’t see what is fundamentally a replacement of Hong Kong culture (pretty western) with Chinese culture as destruction. So what you picked up on and dislike (the difference between explicit reality, and my coloring of it) probably has its heart in this interpretation. If you were a Chinese (nationality) person you might, somewhat rightly, feel insulted or wronged by this interpretation of events. I definitely agree it is somewhat hyperbolic, not because it is "fashionable," but because it's an emotional reaction to an atrocious appearing saga.

My first hand experience in Hong Kong is that it was one of the most open and diversity friendly places in Asia. It felt free. I had political conversations people felt safe having. People were fairly vibrant. It was filled with money and ambitious people. I met more rich people in Hong Kong than anywhere else by far. English was better in Hong Kong than anywhere else in Asia by several orders of magnitude. It was, apparently, a bastion of rule of law, rather than rule by law. It certainly seemed well run. I could use the internet.

My experience in China is that it was the least diversity friendly place in Asia. It's the only place I traveled I experienced direct racism (at me and at others). It did not feel remotely free. I experienced people scared to have political conversations. Some areas felt vibrant, and some areas did not. I have never gotten the sense that china was a place with rule of law. I have heard first hand from one American English teacher arrested for saying the wrong thing, and another who was threatened with it. The internet is restricted and free thought is denied. When I said the wrong thing it was “corrected,” like I can’t have my own opinion or at the very least it's dangerous to.

I talked with a fair number of Hong Kong people while in Hong Kong. China was very much seen as an enemy. They certainly had the opinion that china conducted itself as an oppressing force, forcibly migrating people in, forcibly redistributing resources, forcing political change via edict, gutting of the legal system, corrupting the rule of law, and imposing cultural changes. Hong Kong people I met in other countries shifted from vibrant to discouraged over time. I have not heard any Hong Kong person praise China once.

Add in the very good marketing/propaganda by the protestors and there is a very compelling case to me that china’s goal is not to integrate Hong Kong, but to dominate or extinguish Hong Kong culture entirely, which in my estimation has been successful.

How much grassroots pro china press was there? None, because they had no moral or just claim to do what they did. It was all about power, and china executed its power. I could not imagine myself as a Chinese person at all, but when I was in Hong Kong I felt like a Hong Kong person. I can empathize with the videos I saw. I can empathize with the statements I read. I can empathize with the people I talked to. I can empathize with the outrage that made it to the internet. I cannot see how a good person would find ruling of another people without their consent palatable, much less with their explicit protest.

A free people have been turned into an oppressed people and, to me, that is the destruction of a free culture, a culture tied directly to the city.

> how did you join the concerns of the group for whom the city appears to have been destroyed?

Those are the people I talked to. Those are the stories that made it to media I read. I have never seen, heard, or experienced anything that contradicts my interpretation of the situation except by people exerting power (Chinese government) in a way that made me feel it was bad faith propaganda.

The Hong Kong protests were to some degree freedom porn to Americans. Our indoctrination from birth glorifies exactly what the protestors were doing to the highest most patriotic thing one can do. From the revolution to the civil rights movement, the protests resonate with our curriculum on multiple levels. When comparing our history to what we see, Hong Kong protestors are clearly and unequivocally the good guys.

On related points: The framing that this is a fight that only matters to the 1% is a framing I personally consider to be mostly Chinese propaganda, but I can see why a reasonable person would find it compelling. The framing that this is an American plot to mess with the Chinese government is something I guess there is historical precedent for and certainly alignment for, but it's hard to excuse the authoritarian response. I don't find it even remotely compelling personally.


I grew up in Latin America and and moved to the US for university. I have lived and worked in the US my entire adult life (other than a brief stint as a tour guide in Mexico). I'm very pale, so I was often treated with distain growing up because I was assumed to be a rich tourist. Regularly I would be ripped off and lied to because of my skin color.

After working as a tour guide, I realized I hated to be seen as a tourist, because it felt so superficial. Showing people around places I lived in, they missed the most important parts: the people.

Then I realized something very important, travel with another person bonds you together in a unique way.

Sharing a meal with someone builds a little bit of trust between you, it links you together. Travel with another person is that, but 100x stronger. This is why many people break up while traveling, they get to a new level of intimacy very quickly and realize they can't stand each other, they just didn't really know each other before, but it took travel to actually let them see the other person.

Similarly, I met my wife while working as a tour guide. She was a trainee guide, and I was the trainer. Being the only two who spoke the language, we had to rely on each other in very unique ways. When the the whole tour group got sick except for us, we had to take care of them. I got to know this woman in very close proximity and intimacy. We quickly learned that we matched very well together, and 15 years later we still agree getting married was the best decision of our lives.

So travel in my mind is much less about seeing new things, but it's all about seeing new things with another person, and bonding with them, either romantically or platonically. Many of my strongest friends were made traveling, because we shared something together.


If I had to list one thing it would be this:

People everywhere, regardless of their race, religion, politics, or wealth are generally decent and primarily interested in making a better living for themselves and their family.

Some may see this as an obvious fact about human nature. However, for someone like me who grew up viewing the world through the lens of the US media, I used to think otherwise. Travel fundamentally changed my views in this regard.


But you don’t know what you want to do, until you experience it. And you experience so many new activities when travelling. Like food. There is so much good in different countries that you will not get at a dozen restaurants of the same country.

People actually treat you differently if your travelling in their country. They are a lot nicer to you, and want to show you around, and include the unique parts of their culture.


When I was a child, everyday so many things were new for me, summer holidays took seemingly forever because there was a small adventure behind every corner. Interactions with people and the nature were very often memorable, instructive, sometimes life-changing. Food was usually some kind of experience, sometimes even frightening. Using different tools and machines for the first time, mindblowing superpowers in my hands. Getting hurt in various ways for the first time. Emotions, learning, surprises, memories, touching and tasting and smelling the wonderful world. That was the childhood.

Then the adulthood arrived - a successful one so far. But during the adulthood, days started to went by noticeably faster. I couldn't tell what I had for lunch two days before, how I spent last Monday or how I felt two months ago. And I started to understand why old people say that life unfolds slowly when you're young and then years pass like weeks. I think this happens to many people once they no longer (or rarely) meet the unexpected, try new things, get kissed/hurt/deceived/smiled at/laughed at/gifted/fed/etc/etc in previously unknown ways in different settings. They start making far fewer memories compared to when they were kids.

When I started traveling to different countries and cultures, I realised that - at least for me - this is bringing back my childhood wonder and the slow passing of time. I can sit a whole day on a pavement in Cambodia and watch the street, or watch the day in life of a Cuban fisherman, or eat fruit or insect that I have never heard of before, feel and hear the morning around a Buddhist temple, then Hindu temple, Confucian temple, learn scuba-diving and see on my own eyes what we've done to the marine world, or spend a night with my wife on a train station in the middle of nowhere, and it all has a profound impact on who I am as a person, a friend, a partner. I cannot tell exactly who I would be if I have spent these days in the small Czech town where I grew up, of course. After having done some 3 years of traveling (backpacking mostly) I am very likely less bored, less scared of the unknown, more curious and definitely feeling very much more alive and appreciative of what the world and especially the natural world really is. This personal experience cannot be substituted by literature, documentaries or local meetup groups. But I understand that for some people these may be enough. I would rather never come back to live in one place than stop traveling entirely.


Personally I learnt to be less judgmental of people. From media you compartmentalize everyone into neat little boxes to make sense of the world. We find other people's values ridiculous when we hear/read about it but only when we go and live with them we find out it makes sense. It may be wrong but it makes sense. And there is a good chance if you were brought up in that same society you may have had the same behavior. I've learned to empathize only when I experienced this first hand.


Firstly: agree that there are some aspects of travelling that will be looked down upon in the future, particularly exploiting the difference in the cost of living. But travelling was massively beneficial for me. I'll focus on the biggest trip, which was a year backpacking.

> what you guys who traveled actually gained from traveling the world?

* I worked and rented in another country. So I had to work out how to do that, and work in a different type of business environment.

* Developed key life skills: organising things, budgeting extremely tightly, Coped with emergencies abroad.

* Building confidence. For example, driving all kinds of vehicle, learning to speak to and bond with anyone at all from a cold start.

* Staying with families in different countries and seeing how they lived, how they treated their kids, and their priorities. This was very formative in deciding how to live my life.

* Understanding the politics of the world better. I spent time with a guy from the Economist who had just spent months sleeping rough in India. I still think about his insights into the way the world works. I played cards with a relative of the president of fiji. Etc.

* Understanding the history of the world better - for example, the origins of the industrial revolution in the USA, or the Ho Chi Minh tunnels, or the fate of aboriginal people in Australia.

* Physical fitness. Learnt to scuba dive, climbed mountains, rock climbed, hiked a gazillion miles, hell just carrying 25kg for the year was a good workout. Some of this could have been done in my own country, but it would have been very different.

* Removing stress and having space. After a while the stresses of travelling become fairly routine and you have a lot of time to relax on journeys and think about what you want to do with your life. That really shaped how I've lived since. Just sitting in a bus on a long road in a very different country you can watch how people live and it gets you thinking. How close are their families? Do I want to live like that? How do informal networks replace more structured western timetables etc.

* Gratitude. Live with a cold bucket of water for a shower for a while. Sleep in a hut full of rats. You'll soon learn to appreciate that hot shower in your bathroom and the comfy bed. Honestly, even now there are few days I forget to appreciate that shower when I step into it. And this trip was over 10 years ago.

* A very Hacker News point for me: I found I really missed computers. I didn't think I'd be a geek for the rest of my life but after that trip I realised how much I just like machines. Being in a different environment brought that into sharp focus, being deprived of it then (as a real example) coming across a Linux box in a hut somewhere. They're so neat and tidy and orderly and enabling, you can be endlessly creative. I only had a burner phone (and that was only for a part of the year) and this was the era of internet cafes, so no nerding for a year.

* Spending quite a while in one place, indeed learning a bit of the language, reading about the culture, and then through local contacts really experiencing ceremonies that were pretty out there by western standards. It helped me understand the diversity of the world, where different cultures were at, and the size of cultural boundaries.

* Friends. Met a lot of travellers. I did hardly any of the "party" backpacking thing but I met people on the way, and one couple I met have become life long friends.

* Seeing the extent of human suffering in the world. I'm not sure I want to say too much about this, but it really hammers home the message - we have a long way to go, and there are many problems to devote your life to.

* Understanding a lot about the universality of the human condition by seeing the same patterns in different places. For example, social drug taking.

* Finding "paradise" in several places, which shall remain nameless, and having that experience of dozing in a hammock on a beautiful beach that isn't on a tourist brochure. It was a beautiful experience but it also made it clear to me that just enjoying life was not enough for me. Have to build something.


Just want to say thank you for this exhaustive list! I really appreciate it! There's many items I can say I appreciate… but I'll pick the one I enjoyed the most:

>After a while the stresses of travelling become fairly routine and you have a lot of time to relax on journeys and think about what you want to do with your life. That really shaped how I've lived since. Just sitting in a bus on a long road in a very different country you can watch how people live and it gets you thinking. How close are their families? Do I want to live like that? How do informal networks replace more structured western timetables etc.

(In contrast to how everyday we just go through life pre-programmed on a commute or an errand out in public, lost in some tape loop of rumination and internal anxieties… or doom-scrolling on our phones… completely filtering out the environment, our fellow human beings around us, and ourselves really; to take time to just think, even just notice your surrounding, acknowledge other people and be grateful… that is already a richer life!)

It's great that you've made friends and stayed in touch after the trip and became life-long friends - it's a testament to you and your friend… I wish I could've the same experience, it's easy to party but very hard to make a friend, I'm very jealous!


> thank you for this exhaustive list! I

Haha, this was by no means exhaustive :-) just what popped into my head over breakfast. I'd have to go through my travel journals to write properly about it.

> it's easy to party but very hard to make a friend, I'm very jealous!

Shared experience. Hike or travel for an extended time with people and some of them at least will become friends.


Thanks for your insightful reply. Could I kindly ask you to elaborate on this point? How did you find families to stay with? Thank you very much!

> Staying with families in different countries and seeing how they lived, how they treated their kids, and their priorities. This was very formative in deciding how to live my life.


Sure. In my case it was friends of family, and family of friends, sometimes a little distant but people were welcoming enough. Those were the best because you could stay a while and they were more relaxed with you, they usually wanted to show you around their town etc.

Also, sometimes I stayed in hostels that were small, family-run, more like a home than a hostel. So you saw the family life there too.

And some families rented out spare rooms. You used to meet people at a train station or other travel hub and size them up (does this happen now?). Sometimes get recommendations from other travellers going in the other direction. Important to note I wouldn't recommend this in general, particularly if you're female or travelling alone. And it requires a good deal of careful judgement and experience. I don't think I'd do this alone.

Maybe Airbnb makes this easier and safer nowadays. I've stayed in a lot of spare rooms in the US via Airbnb and had similar experiences.


The main reason is that by seeing how other countries and other cultures live, it challenges your idea that the Western way is the best (and only) way of living.

Why do we need huge houses and big cars and shiny new things? I see people in other countries that are just as happy and their kids are playing with a soccer ball made from old plastic bags. Westerners have so much and yet, really, we're no better off.


> Maybe it's just me; but the idea of going from one place to another for 2 weeks, to take pictures and get led around by locals tourist industry is the very definition of Western Consumerism.

If you're travelling like this, you're doing it wrong. Stay much longer, not with foreigners, learn the language, get a basic job. Live like an immigrant, not a tourist, and definitely not like an American tourist.


To each their own. They’re just different forms of travel.


What exactly is the point of travelling like a stereotypical American tourist? No adventure, no challenges to overcome, no learning. Just to be able to say you've "seen Florence"?


background: culturally mixed , travelled a lot as a kid(20+ countries), speak more than 3 languages

There are many mannerisms of speech that cultures use and you can learn a lot about them by the time/place it is used at.

Food: Ceremonies in preparing food + eating (slurping in Asian cultures normal vs western countries its rude). How many cultures share food for example or the type of food they eat can tell you a lot about the history of the place (ie a place that was a hub of trade back in the day that got exposure to tons of cultures (Philippines) vs western food of meat and potatoes).

I still go do the top 10 touristy things in a city/country but then always try to find what are the normal breakfast/lunch/dinners in the city/country and try them. Sitting down and observing people at a café or restaurant for example how the Greeks have tables looking towards the street, or how literally the country is all out at night.

What we've found is going to a bar and trying to strike some conversations with individuals.


I interacted with foreigners in a daily basis for the first time and got to learn how to speak english. Next, I found a remote job as a software engineer for an american company and have been travelling the world since then, for 5 years. I multiplied my earnings by 5x while having 10x more fun in life in a common day. That's a lot of personal gains.


Do you work at top company like faang?


No, I work for a Inc 500 company as a contractor


It taught me that it is ok to not be high on career/income ladder and there many niches outside tech that are worth to be living in and you can easily carve some for yourself.


Thanks for answering! I hope to find that niche (that's outside tech) one day too!


Traveled around south america for 2 years. 1 year backpacking thru hostels with 3 months in bolivia studying spanish then one year volunteering as an english teacher.


I'd love to have gone that immersion experience of learning Spanish; and use that language skill to practice and go full circle to be an ESOL teacher (was an ESOL volunteer teacher too)!


Nobody is talking about quitting their job to travel for 2 weeks. This is about months or years of travel.


I just left a lengthy reply to the parent that addresses this.


You're not wrong from a Pareto frontier standpoint. It's certainly the case that many western travelers are engaging in what can pejoratively be called lifestyle consumerism. But I'd caution you against throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And in fact, I'd urge you to look backwards in history to see evidence of the value of this kind of cultural exchange.

Cultural exchange is not a one time thing, but an ongoing process. Perhaps someone goes to Europe for utterly superficial reasons a couple of times and enjoys it. But maybe the next time they do it, they seek to actually set roots in and assimilate into the culture. Nobody really knows when or where the conversion point is; it's somewhat unique and up to the individual. I'll give you an example from my personal experience -- I didn't really get the hubbub and the point of "traveling to Europe" and had skeptically discarded it as something that Americans do in order to pass off a feeling of vague superiority and worldliness.

Even so, it was very challenging for my gruff preconceptions to last very long when I spent a few weeks in Lisbon. My friend and I met some amazing local folks who showed us the Portugal we wouldn't see on the tourist path. I was hooked. My eyes were opened to a "third path" between the grind and hustle of American culture, and the low key daze of bucolic village life. Hitting the dancefloors until 4am paired with spending beautiful afternoons on the waterfront, eating delicious seafood and walking until our feet hurt. It's true that we could do all of this in America, too. But it was just a lot more fun in Lisbon. My eyes were opened to the deep, rich history of cultural exchange with the Moors, and I never got tired of the architecture, the cuisine, and so on.

Had I "really" assimilated into the city? Well, not really. I didn't quite have the guts to go all in, but my friend did, and went on to spend the next 6 months there. And then we visited again next year. And maybe we'll buy property there at some point.

My point is that it's a little reductionist to reduce an extremely broad human interaction (traveling) into a fixed point. It's a beginning, not an end. Just because so many people never get past the beginning doesn't change the fact that much exists beyond it. Almost every major civilization and empire was born from trade routes that existed to serve this exact kind of exchange. Consider the greater Silk Road for one.

It's easy to become cynical about rampant consumerization and the dull, lifeless, almost suburban collapse of what could be such a rich experience into two dimensions and an instagram filter. But that is a loss on the part of the person who lives life that way. It doesn't reduce the potential of the experience itself.


After we got married back in 2010 my partner Natalie and I quit our jobs with the intent to travel the world for as long as we could get away with.

We ended up starting a startup together in Morocco, applied to YC from Luxor in Egypt, got accepted, moved to Mountain View and spent the next three years running a startup before getting acquired.

It kind of ruined the honeymoon!

Natalie wrote up the full story here: https://blog.natbat.net/post/61658401806/lanyrd-from-idea-to...


What is this startup about? The company page is dead.


Looking on Wayback, It's a collaboration system that 'links up' people with similar skills and interests who attend the same events and conferences. Was acquired by Eventbrite.


Lanyrd was a "social conference directory" - it helped people find conferences to go to based on who they followed on Twitter, maintain their own speaker profiles, track the schedule and catch up on slides, notes and videos afterwards.


Making it easier to print conference badges I think (probably drastically oversimplified).


I traveled for five years or so. I was having great time, but I've probably overdid it for year or two.

What worked well for me was quiting mixing backpacker circus with less known destination. It was fun to sleep at hostels, party with fellow travelers and have fun, but it gets old after while. I split my trips into 3 to 6 months chunks after which I just come back to one of my bases, recharge for a bit and then went to somewhere else. I usually mix things us so after 6 months in SE Asia, I went to Balkans, then Japan and then somewhere more popular with backpackers like Argentina.

It is great experience to have, but I would not put much hope in being truly transformative. Now, almost, 10 years later it just feel like it never happen, memories are fading fast as I went with settled life.

People are often scared about their career outlook or other long term consequences, but I didn't experience any of those.


Yeah, I think going out to find yourself or being transformed is mostly a fools errand.

I also don't regret my travels but didn't find any of that.


Wherever you go, there you are.

At first I just found that line funny, but the more I've traveled, the truer I've found it to be. A change in scenery can be immensely helpful in many ways, but you'll still relate to the world in fundamentally the same way once you're somewhere else.


I love that line, and it captures the nub of something deep about how we do and don't evolve through new experiences.

I do think we underestimate how much impact travel and exposure to other cultures can have, we don't feel "transformed", I like to think of it a bit like having a child, before you do so, it's possible to be completely clueless about a whole bunch of stuff, afterwards, you're still the same person, but there are hundreds of ideas and topics that you are aware of and understand to some level that you didn't before. What's more, you can tell quickly whether another person has similar knowledge. Something like growing older and (hopefully) wiser, but accelerated and pushed in new directions.


I was in my 20's at the height of the travel bubble running around hostels and such and.. yeah. So many people "looking for themselves" but if you step back and look, it's just hedonism which will never make you happy long term. Partying with other young people who share some parts of your world view and lounging around beautiful places is really really fun for a while, but it's hardly a recipe for a meaningful life. I did certainly gain a lot from those experiences but I also am glad I didn't spend the next 10 years doing the same thing. My current version of it is to move somewhere for 5+ years - really shows you how shallowly you understand anything about a different country while traveling.


Aye, same. No "regurts" as the bad tattoo says, and glad I did it, but the main takeaway for me was "the grass is greener...". Taught me to appreciate what we have and what we don't.

And I guess we all need to learn that lesson eventually. I just wish I learned that in, say, Los Angeles or Denver or something, and not in a place that gave me bedbugs.


I suppose it depends on where you’re starting from. I started traveling at the end of 2019, and I’m still doing it. I’ve matured in all sorts of ways. For me, there was a lot I didn’t like about my life before I left. The problems that were local I left behind, and the problems that followed me I worked on.


Its exploration and finding things you didn't expect that leave an impression on you. The common story is because it happened to people not looking for it.

If you go looking for things to leave an impression on you, it probably wont happen.

You’re in the company of people that comfortably go to Croatia Yacht Week, Ibiza opening parties, Cannes Film Festival etc. Not just wage workers taking an aimless break to say they travelled, or college students on their gap year.


> Now, almost, 10 years later it just feel like it never happen, memories are fading fast as I went with settled life.

Dang. As a nerd in his late 20s thinking the same, you make it sound pretty bleak, tbh. I guess it's just time for me to settle down, then go explore the world with my partner because that's what matters EOD.


Counterpoint here: I travelled for about 8 months about 7 years ago (already? damn!) and it even though it didn't change me directly as a person, it did instill an ever-present hunger to see more of the world. More importantly, it made me marry my foreign travel-partner which has without a doubt been very transformative ;)


Memories of anything fade. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an effect.

I went to a spanish speaking country for eight months, learned Spanish, now still speak Spanish. And also came to know the country well. Still have friends from that time.

That’s absolutely transformative. The further you get from it the less it is relevant to your daily life, but it definitely has an impact.

But it also is no miracle. If you’re an (unhappy?) nerd at home you’ll be the same person abroad. As others mentioned “wherever you go, there you are” is just about the truest line there is relating to travel.


Very insightful point. Your current state depends on your previous state. You don't go through life unfazed. Every experience turns you into what you are the next day, which results in repeated transformations. A small change in your life then, e.g (deciding not to go to a Spanish-speaking country) would result in many changes, including your comment not existing, and me never having written this comment. Then it's funny to consider the chances that I would have gone on to make a life-changing decision because of this thread.

Pretty interesting stuff.


I'm not OP, but as someone who traveled for a few years without the goal of 'finding myself' i actually found the experience pretty transformative to my character. Yes, Some of the more 'backpacky' memories do fade(might also have to do with the excessive drinking associated with it).

I still found that by immersing yourself in other cultures and ways of living you can gain more perspective about your own goals in life and your personal choices.


My experience has been similar. I found in the short term I too wasn't transformed but after 15 years it is more apparent that the small changes that did take place during my travels have greatly shaped my life. A few things I can think off of the top of my head are: 1) I own few very things 2) I am far more frugal (especially when it comes to food.) 3) I take risk. 4) I value friendships as a great source of happiness. Little of of this was in my upbringing.


I am not really sentimental person and I refuse to take photos or even think about past much, so it is not bleak at all I just forget things very easily. I was driven by curiosity and after few years I was saturated. I still like to travel, it is just not only thing I am thinking about (and actually doing) day and night.

At that time I was also seeing new generation of wine makers back at my home that started to do things I always wanted to do and I felt that should be me. So I pack my bag, book a ticket and get my hands dirty (literally) by tending vines and making wine.


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