Bad Movies and Deep Thoughts

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Wisdom of the Hostel-Dweller

It’s 11pm on a Monday night and I’m watching a movie that I can only assume is titled ‘Vin Diesel Drives Recklessly and Doesn’t Show Emotion.’ I just finished a meal consisting of a hard roll, cold, greasy rice and an array of unidentifiable somethings…I think they were supposed to be meat. It will be another 13 hours before I can get food with greater substance, but I don’t know what it will be, how much it will cost or if there will be even BE accessible food.

I’m on a bus between Mendoza and Bariloche and I’m engaged in self-reflection.

I’m deep in thought partially because there isn’t a whole lot else to do (aside from passively watching the aforementioned Hollywood popcorn flick) and partially because I’ve just spend the last week explaining myself – my lifestyle – to people, and honestly I’m not certain they’re wrong when they wonder out loud why I’m doing what I’m doing, and to what end.

“I can’t imagine any girl wanting to get involved with someone who will never settle down or be able to own more than 70 things,” a fellow hostel-dweller said to me the other day.

It’s true! Well, at least partially! I’ve been on a lot of wonderful dates, and had a really good time with some fantastic women these past few months, but invariably the point of contention is that I’ll be leaving soon. Honestly, I haven’t even been pursuing anything deeper than casual dates at this point, because it almost feels cruel (to me and to the other person) to risk getting really into someone and then just up and leave.

Response to my minimalistic tendencies tend to run the gamut (though most people feel the need to run home immediately and start getting rid of stuff after they hear about what I’m doing), but I can definitely understand why people would be turned off by the idea, especially in larger, more metropolitan cities. There are certain social standards to uphold, and though I’ve been doing a pretty solid job of running with the right crowd despite my lack of a large wardrobe or a lot of superfluous stuff, I wouldn’t be able to blame someone for echoing this concern.

Why Do I Do This?

“When are you going to stop?” I’m asked frequently.

I really have no idea.

“Why are you doing this?”

That’s a very good question, and to tell you the truth, I’m not completely sure.

On some level, it’s a purely selfish endeavor. I wanted to travel so I changed my lifestyle so that I could travel. I wanted to learn about different cultures and lifestyles, so I decided to travel long-term so I could spend the time required to learn about these things. I wanted to improve myself by experiencing novelty and hardships and uncertainty, so I change location frequently, allow others to decide where I go and plan as little as possible.

I also wanted to start writing again, and though being an entrepreneur who deals with sexy things (like high-end fashion brands) in a sexy place (like Los Angeles) can be interesting, I didn’t think it had enough oomph to give me a lot of really good material to write about. Not only that, but I was getting more than a little bored with the scene, and my lifestyle was becoming predictable.

Nope, I needed a change, so I made one.

On a completely different level, I have a long-term plan to completely tear apart the current US education system and to replace it with something much better. I have my ideas of what this would look like already, of course, but I’m also acutely aware of just how ignorant I am about the subject and wanted to learn as much as possible about how people learn in other cultures to see what is out there to be borrowed from or avoided. What’s working? What’s not? Who has ideas that are shaking things up and really teaching kids (as opposed to just preparing them for tests)? This I want to know.

Those are pretty good reasons, but are they enough to make you uproot your life, sell all your stuff, travel around from place to place, chit-chattering away in a language you only have a passing acquaintance with, never sure if your next step will take you into a situation you can’t handle or if the stable foundation you’ve taken for granted will disappear, leaving you anchorless in turbulent waters?

For me, the answer is yes.

What are your reasons? Are they enough?

“Personal

Unconventional Guides

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandre Guertin January 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Good luck on changing the current education system! I totally agree with you. With the new global economy and availability of knowledge, it would be great to have new “world” degree where you can take the classes that matter most to you, from the college you want around the world, and build your own personalized degree. Just a thought.

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Sajid Akhtar January 8, 2010 at 12:19 pm

A world degree….now that would be awesome. I actually believe this initiative is possible in the not too distant future – Just need to get a few major universities around the globe on board. I like it!

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Meg Flynn January 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm

It was very interesting to read your process in answering other’s opinion on your lifestyle and reconciling the less glamorous part of it with your ultimate goals. Tonight’s reading will be most of your blog archive, because the adventure sounds fascinating. (I do, i fact, want to run home and start getting rid of stuff already.)

@Alexandre: I agree, the challenge is a big one. And i like your idea of a “world degree”, what a fabulous experience to have as one starts life.

My ultimate goal in life is also to overhaul the American education system and I have plenty of ideas, but little concrete knowledge, as well. Let’s swap proposals sometime!

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Edward January 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

The first step to overhauling the the American education system is to overhaul peoples conception of it. People understand that the system is flawed, but once you put anything alternative on the table, it gets tuned out as being “hippy” “waste of time/money” “B.S.” or fake.

People think kids in public schools aren’t getting a proper education, but dismiss charter schools as “not providing a real education.” Online degrees are perceived as diploma mills and not on par with those from a traditional college. And even “design your own major” programs at traditional colleges get eye rolls.

I think the reason for this is that most people got whatever success they have by moving through the ranks of the traditional system and, deep down, resent it if others have a chance to take a better fitting “easier” route to the same goal.

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floreta January 7, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I think this lifestyle definitely is a sacrifice on the dating front; but so worth it!

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend, fellow traveler, bohemian soul (ok, that hostel guy..).

He said the same thing. The more out there you are w/ the nomadic lifestyle the least likely you’ll be able to find someone. I’d like to be devil’s advocate and beg to differ. I think it’s terribly romantic to meet someone on my travels who feels similar to me, and then we become lifetime adventurer partners. Sounds good to me! The odds of that happening are slim, though.

Of course, my impending trip is 9 days and counting.. Here so soon. Why do *I* do it? Why do we do any of it? Lifestyle design in general seems a bit like a selfish/hedonistic endeavor but I think there’s absolutely value there.. By taking care of yourself and your ‘whole’ needs you’re better able to help others. I’m trying to learn about myself so I can better interact with others, from all walks of life. I write so that I can make sense of my surroundings. And I’m excited to see how this plays out and what my path will look like, as I mold it. Definitely want to help others, but that part (the how) is still fuzzy to me.

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Brett - DareToExpress January 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Colin, you’re insane.

I think what you’re doing is awesome, but I wonder if you’ve reached the stage where you need to drop the Exile Lifestyle and go in a new direction. Or at least live in one place for longer than you already are now.

I’m still paying my dues to society (read: getting an education) so it’s not like I’m going to be able to embark on any serious trips for awhile. My reason to travel would be to try to find a place that I really love enough to call home. Hopefully my search won’t last too long.

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Rob Blasko January 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I think there’s a huge amount of “selfishness” involved in living something like the Exile Lifestyle. I went ahead and put that in quotes because it’s the good kind of selfish – the unsaturated fat of selfishness, really. Making the decision to embrace your dream life is rooted in personal gain (and happiness) – what tips the scale and makes it more meaningful though is your decision to explore how to better things greater than yourself. I’ve got a laundry list of dreams to better the world around me, and I hope that my experimenting with an untemplater life will help in refining how I can best contribute. That being said, I’ll leave the improvement of the U.S. education system to you dude…

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Monica January 7, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I’m definitely not the type of person who wants to sell everything and travel, but I think it’s cool that you do! I’m all for changing up the education system.

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Meg January 8, 2010 at 12:25 am

Haha, I can relate to these questions with my own passion. It’s namely, “Why do you spend so much on your cars?!?”

Well… It makes me happy.

And yes, just sometimes, that’s reason enough to do something.

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Colin Wright January 8, 2010 at 11:22 am

@Alexandre: Thank you, sir! Yeah, what you mentioned is definitely a big part of what I have in mind. I’ll probably extrapolate on this in some future post, either here or on Exile Lifestyle (or both), but for the moment I’ll just continue to ruminate, learn, and gently test the structural integrity of the current system!

@Meg: Thanks so much! Glad to have you as a reader! I’ll definitely keep you in the loop in regards to the education thing, since it seems like you’ve given it some thought and I’d love to get your input when I have something more concrete to get opinions on.

@Edward: Very good point…a big part of the change will need to be in the way people see ‘non-traditional’ education and to set up a solid brand for the movement. Fortunately that’s a big part of my plan :)

@Brett: Haha, that’s one of the biggest compliments I can get! I figure the crazier I get, the more fun I’ll have and the more useful I’ll be to those ‘sane’ people who hang around, not being crazy!

@floreta: I tend to agree..it’s not a standard dating situation, for sure, but I’ve found that in many situations the alternative lifestyle thing is actually beneficial, romantic-seeming, etc.

I think everyone has their own reasons for how they live their life, it’s just a matter of making sure that you ARE being true to what you need to be doing. There are so many options, and the only way you can be doing it wrong is to try to make your square peg fit in a round hole (that wasn’t intended to sound dirty, but it kind of does…see what happens when I respond to a blogger who writes erotica?).

@Rob: I love the unsaturated fat comparison! I agree that it’s selfish, and that selfishness isn’t always a bad thing. I’m a big supporter of the idea that you take care of yourself first and foremost, and then you’ll be a much better, stronger person more capable of helping out others. If we all did this, well, eventually there wouldn’t be any need to ‘sacrifice for others’, because everyone would already be taken care of!

@Monica: To each their own! I’ll keep you in the loop about the education shakeup!

@Meg: Absolutely! Find your passion and do what you can to live the lifestyle you want to live around that passion. Good for you for finding yours and becoming so engaged with it!

@Daniel: It’s true, but so many people assume that because we’re not living traditional lifestyles, we must not be capable of having any of the benefits of living within those traditional bounds (the people saying this are generally the ones who wouldn’t want to be involved with someone who is doing something non-traditional, obviously). That being said, the girls I’ve been going on dates with and having a good time with have been free-thinkers, rule-breakers and attitude-ridden chicks…which totally works for me :)

I imagine you’ve gotten the ‘when are you going to stop?’ question a whole lot more than I have, considering the duration of your travels thus far! I think your awesome is a good one, though. Who knows when you’ll be done? You’ll stop when you want to, when you’re not getting everything you want out of the lifestyle anymore. And when you feel like stopping, you’ll stop and figure out some other way to keep yourselves entertained and make waves.

Thanks for the comments, folks! Really appreciate it!

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Daniel Noll January 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

A lot to unpack here. I’m drawn to two quotes:
1) “I can’t imagine any girl wanting to get involved with someone who will never settle down or be able to own more than 70 things.”

This assumes that there aren’t women out there who are interested in a fluid lifestyle, have a carpe diem attitude, and are captivated by owning (or perhaps sharing) 70 things. The more you travel, the more you’ll be surprised that there are many women out there that fit that profile. Having said that, they might just come into your life at a time, at a place, and in a package that you’d least expect.

2) “When are you going to stop?”
Ahh, the classic life-segmenter’s guide to figuring out the rest of us and framing our lives into stages they can comprehend. It’s not entirely unlike “When are you coming back?” as in “When will you end this journey of yours and join us back where we think you belong?”

We get that a lot.

It’s my impression that success in life is an exercise in moving forward. For fluid lifestyle folks like us, it’s not a matter of “When to stop?” but rather “What’s next?”

We were recently asked “When are you going to stop?” I responded: As exhausting as our far-flung world travel is, we are not finished yet. We feel like there’s something more out there that we need to discover. And so long as that remains, we pursue it.

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Ben J Barra January 9, 2010 at 1:10 am

“On a completely different level, I have a long-term plan to completely tear apart the current US education system and to replace it with something much better.”

Amen and good luck! My fiance and I have talked about doing something similar to what you are doing as far as roaming the globe searching for what works and what doesn’t. She is a secondary ed teacher and I’m a cube rat. We’re trying to get our student loans paid off before embarking on our journey. If you ever want some perspective from the front lines, I’m sure she’d be happy to oblige.

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Steve McAllister January 10, 2010 at 12:17 am

I have to admit that I’m a little jealous if the life you’re creating for yourself. Fortunately, I’m also completely content with my current married life. I had a nice taste of the travelling life at the beginning of the decade and hopefully my wife and I will work out a way to do it together soon. In the meantime, thanks for the inspiration.

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Ann January 11, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I’m that girl, so don’t lose heart! I have found the love of my life and am in the process of freeing myself from the grind to strap a backpack on and see where my feet will take me. 70 things sounds about perfect. In the last four years of being (moderately) stable we have accumulated an entire room of possessions and it kinda makes me nauseous! Just sayin. . . there’s a lot to be said for not have 1 thousand things to organize and worry about. And there is seriously something to be said for waking up in an unfamiliar city, to an unfamiliar sunrise, on a mission to find something edible not knowing where the rest of the day will take you.

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Matthew Wong January 17, 2010 at 5:00 am

I can completely relate to your situation. I’d lived in Australia my whole life aside from the odd holiday here and there. I love to travel but things weren’t happening as I hoped in Australia and things were too comfortable which made it hard to break out of that funk. I ended up coming to China and have been here for 2 years almost. I actually work in youth education programs and so your post caught my attention. I do know that in terms of study abroad options, Obama promised 100,000 scholarships for study in China each year and vice versa:
http://blog.scholarships.com/news/obama-encourages-studying-in-china-as-budget-cuts-discourage-studying-in-state/

So I think the USA is definitely taking steps in the right direction to become more worldly. In terms of domestically I can’t speak for that but I’d be interested to hear from others!

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