Why are You Traveling the World?

By all measure I’d consider myself to have an above average life. I live in San Francisco and am gainfully employed at an up and coming start up which just went public.

I live in a great neighborhood and don’t suffer a brutal Bay Area commute. It is the place I’ve always called home and have friends and family within reach.

So why risk it all to travel the world for a year? That might sound like an obvious question but for someone who is in their 30’s it is actually more complex than it sounds. On paper I’m supposed to be getting married, having kids, settling down, moving up the career ladder… basically grown up stuff.

For me I tried so hard to grow up fast in my 20’s. I tried to take shortcuts to short circuit the inevitable cubicle life that lays ahead of most Bay Area residents. A lot of effort later with little to show for it. That’s the truth of the Bay Area grind. It feels like people minting millions everywhere except on the square foot you’re standing on.

I’m a person who always acts from analysis. That’s not to say I don’t take risks because I’m more than willing to, but I try to take calculated risks.

I decided to commit to this trip by promising a few things to myself. First, that I would try to hit major geography from Southeast Asia to the Middle East to North and South Africa and through South and Central America. And by design for cost and interest purposes I wanted to hit as many second and third world countries as possible since most first world countries tend to look and feel alike with different tourist traps. Bill Gates blogged about how he wished he traveled before he was 40 because when he finally did get to see the world he was too old to make any meaningful change like he could’ve when he was in his 20’s and 30’s. By seeing the world and how people live day to day I hope it endows me with not only a better perspective on how to live but also gives me more purpose behind what I choose to do for the rest of my life as a profession.

The second reason I wanted to travel was because all my life I’ve gone into things by preparing for every scenario before I hit the pavement. This means my life has had very few surprises which is good for safety but bad for adventure and “living”. I’ve solo traveled one time prior to this excursion and it was for a month through China and I had quite a bit of help from family. This trip was far less planned out and it was meant to have a “leap before you look” attitude in mind to challenge myself to accept the discomforts of not knowing what comes next… and as I’m finding out often not even knowing what comes right now.

The third reason I wanted to travel was to meet interesting people. I’ve found that in people in San Francisco move in a homogenous techie mode which is exciting at first but after +5 years it all becomes exhausting. There’s a feeling that Silicon Valley is moving the entire earth which is true to a certain extent… but isn’t there more to life than technology? What about humanity? The Bay Area and tech obsession comes at the cost of the human soul and spirit. Perhaps this trip was to tap into the humanity of the world before robots eat everything.

But traveling and meeting new faces even more just a moment can alter a life in a way that I’ve not found possible in everyday life. Much of this is because there is not intention beyond a purity of sharing ones life in it’s own words and the beauty of it is no two stories come close to sounding the same. Everyone is out here chasing their own specific dream, some running from their own demons, ultimately traveling it a freedom of expression.

This year of globetrotting was meant for me to discover and understand what’s “out there”. Even 2 weeks in I’m starting to understand that it’s not really Nelson understanding the world “out there” but rather the world changing Nelson. I don’t know where this road will take me and for once in my life I’m at peace with that. One day at a time.

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