Whether it’s been a few months or 2 years, you and your view of the world will have fundamentally changed.
You’ll have learned your place in the world, most crucially in relation to the residents of the developing countries you visited. From what I’ve seen, it seems people are far happier when they have far less. I’m sure you’ll have noticed this too. Smiles are everywhere and people are extremely friendly. They’re far more open than us in the “first world”. Maybe the complexity of our lives is too much of a strain on the human brain. Maybe the lack of real problems that we have forces us to make them up in our heads. When your focus is on making more money to acquire more stuff, we tend to blur the line between wants and needs.
You’ll feel that life is long. You probably have more cherished memories from your time away than the rest of your life combined. I know I did when I first went away. It almost feels like my life didn’t start until I first set foot out into the world on my first nomadic adventure. 3 months out in the world feels like 3 years. People that you knew for a week are closer to you than people you’ve known for a decade. When each day brings a new experience, it’s no surprise it feels like this. A normal year in a normal life might have a couple of notable experiences a month. When you’re nomadic it’s a couple of mind-expanding experiences a week, often more. Time is marked by experiences, so the more you fit into your life, the longer it will feel. Think of how many experiences you could fit into your life if you continued at this rate?
You also will have met other travelers from vastly different walks of life. You’ll have learned the quirks of other cultures, but maybe most importantly, your own. Maybe you didn’t realize what your culture was until you saw it in contrast to others, or it was pointed out to you. Americans are loud and proud, Dutch are honest to a fault, Brits and Canadians are too polite, Australians are unbelievably laidback. Are these stereotypes true? You now have first-hand evidence to inform your opinions of other cultures and your own, anecdotal though it is.
You’ll have learned about yourself. How do you respond when you’re surrounded by the complete unknown? Do you stare in wide-eyed wonder, exploring the new world you find yourself in, prodding and poking and finding out where the edges are? Or do you find shelter in your comfort zone, connecting with your roots at every opportunity? And either way, why is that? Why do you behave the way you do? These may be things you’ve never considered. Most people don’t. They’re surrounded by people that know them and places that they are familiar with THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. They have no contrast to rub up against, to create the friction that uncovers who they really are to themselves and to the world.
Most importantly, of all the lessons you will have learned is that life doesn’t have to look like how society told you it should. Life doesn’t have to be the American Dream. The degree, the corporate job and career, the stable relationship, the marriage too early, the mortgage, the kids, the divorce too late. The starting again at 38, sad and alone, looking at the youth that you wasted. The youth you spent waking up next to the person you didn’t love in the job that crushed your soul day after day. Living in a city that added nothing to your life. Why do people live where they live anyway? For a job, a family, friends - sure.
Maybe the American dream works for you. Maybe you were happy at home before you left, and maybe you’re even happier to be back. Back amongst your friends and family. Back amongst comfort. There’s nothing wrong with that! But living the alternative lifestyle you have on this Edumadic experience might have made you reflect on the lifestyle that was laid out before you. And maybe you don’t like what you see anymore. Maybe that path scares the shit out of you now. It won’t be immediate, and it might take a month or two of getting back to “normal life” to make you start thinking.
Every time I return home, these questions become louder and louder in my head. The lifestyle I left behind 5 years ago is as alien to me as living underwater.
Something not often talked about is that maybe the downsides outweigh the upsides. Maybe now that your eyes are open, you’ll never be satisfied at home amongst the normal world you escaped from for a moment. You’ve tasted freedom and now the prospect of being re-caged burns a hole in your soul.
Fortunately, it’s 2020. And there are more opportunities to live alternatively than ever in the history of humanity. We have the internet. The world’s knowledge is accessible at a moment’s notice through a rectangular object that can fit in your pocket. Do you realize how crazy that is? How freeing? You can literally ask any question imaginable and find an answer instantly. In the entire history of humanity, approximately 200,000 years, we’ve only had this superpower for the past 20. Humans have only been able to know everything that has been known for 0.01% of human existence, and you were alive when it happened!
The other side of the internet is its capacity to connect the world. The official term is Web 2.0, where we can reach and communicate with people from all over the globe. The hundreds of people I’ve met through my own personal travels and through running Edumadic are in my life every day if I want them to be. Nowadays we’re quick to criticize social media. Yes, there are negatives to it. The filtered lives. The fakeness. But when you have friends all over the world, social media is the only thing that keeps you connected to them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a place only to get a message from a friend I met years ago telling me they’re also there!
This is only possible because of social media. There’s no way they would have known I was there without it. Beyond the social side of the connectedness that the internet has brought us, the business opportunities it’s brought have been astounding. We reach people for a fraction of the price of old marketing methods through social media. We can be specific about who we get in front of, so our business is presented only to those who we know will be interested in it’s offering. Without the internet, Edumadic never would have reached the customers we have from across the globe. Without the internet, you never would have read this!
Despite what the news may have you think, the world is safer than ever. In 2012 a 16-year-old Dutch girl (Laura Dekker) circumnavigated the globe in a sailboat on her own, and the youngest person to visit every country in the world is female (Lexie Alford, 21)! If that’s not a testament to how safe the world is, I don’t know what else to tell you. I’ve personally traveled to 52 countries, and in every single one, I’ve met hundreds of young travelers, both male and female, traveling solo. The UN estimates that 20% of all travelers are young people. That’s 200 million people per year.
Now, what are you going to do with this stroke of luck of being born in this era where it’s never been easier to live differently?
Now that you’ve spent this time away, you probably understand that the world is not the scary place you’ve been taught that it can be. And you are capable of traveling solo. You can handle yourself in foreign countries. You can figure things out. The world has all of a sudden started to feel very small…
Now you just need to figure out how to fund all this travel that you want to do….
Maybe you’ve picked up the skills during your Edumadic journey that you can apply to this way of life. Certainly, you’ve proven to yourself that you can balance life and work on the road, and your experience doing so will be invaluable to a company that hires remote workers. Or maybe you’re considering striking out on your own as a freelancer. Now that you’ve seen a world of possibilities, you’re starting to see how you can uniquely fit into that digital nomad space.
And not all digital nomads have conventional jobs with a salary. Some are freelancers, contractors, online coaches etc. Whatever they call themselves, they sell their skills on a project by project basis. Maybe you could do that? If you learned something like Social Media, Digital Marketing, or Coding, you’ll be following a well-trodden path. These skills are in high demand and are the bread and butter of the digital nomad world.
But there are other ways to join the ranks of the digital nomads too, more than I could list here. Some are obvious (like starting a business), others you’ll have to get more creative. The important thing to note is that the remote workforce is growing exponentially year over year. More and more companies are investing in their employees’ work/life balance rather than investing in office spaces. Finding a full-time job with a fully distributed company isn’t impossible. There are so many ways to find remote employment that goes beyond freelancing and teaching English online.
Maybe all the things you’ve learned have led you to the realization that you are more in charge of your own destiny than you think. Especially with the internet in your tool belt. The combination of knowledge and connectedness has meant an explosion of entrepreneurship. More nomads who have a unique perception of the world around them have been able to identify gaps in specific markets and build businesses to address and fill those gaps. Maybe you’ve discovered a unique business angle during your travels too! There is an abundance of business ideas out there just waiting to be discovered.
For many participants of our programs, their lives and world views are completely changed, far beyond their academic achievements during the programs.
The biggest takeaways after such a life-altering trip will allow you to
I could go on and try to make more sense of all of the complex emotions that you’ll return home with, but that’s ultimately up to you to sort through the after-effects of travel. Let the experiences sit with you, and share them with those who want to learn about your experiences, but do it in your own time.
Processing everything that unfolded will leave you with so much to think about and consider. The next step(s) might seem scary, and even too rigid for you. But now you know what else is out there waiting for you in the world. And you’ll be able to return to those adventures again in due time. You’ve already taken the biggest leap of all, and I applaud your bravery!
This is the final chapter of The Edumadic Playbook: How to combine online learning and world travel. You can learn more about the book and get yourself a copy here.