Laundry machines shot with a flash. Osaka, 2018
Laundry machines shot with a flash. Osaka, 2018

Dear friend,

For the last 10+ years, I’ve been living on the road, living abroad, and traveling the globe. But why?

Why I enjoy traveling

First of all, I like that traveling makes me uncomfortable, prevents me from becoming complacent, and prevents me from acquiring crap I don’t need.

Living on the road has forced me to travel light. Traveling has opened up my eyes to foreign cultures, and has helped me realize that humanity is more similar than dissimilar. Traveling has made me more tolerant and open minded to the customs, religions, and beliefs of others.

Traveling has also helped me have more solitude, quiet, and creative isolation in order to think, philosophize, reflect, meditate in order to create, come up with new ideas, and innovate.


Don’t get attached to anything

Now the tricky thing is this:

I don’t think you need to travel in order to innovate, find inspiration, reflect, meditate, or be “happy”. Traveling is beneficial and helpful, but not absolutely necessary.

So for myself, this is the practical takeaway:

Whenever possible, travel. When not possible to travel, don’t be sad and always seek to make the best out of any situation I have in my life.

For example, when I’m back in “boring” suburban Orange County (staying with Cindy’s family), I force myself to find the benefits and joys of being in the suburbs. I enjoy the cheap and delicious food, the presence of family, and going to the gym and walking around at the local park.

Make the best out of every situation in your life

Thus another lesson I’ve learned:

Regardless of your living or life situation, always extract the maximum benefits of your situation.

That means, be grateful for your upsides, benefits, and positive aspects. Disregard or ignore what you perceive to be a downside or negative.


The benefits of living at home

Funny enough, one of the things I enjoy most about being “settled down” in a more suburban environment is the ability to having access to a gym, with a squat rack, and the ability to do deadlifts. If I had my choice, I would always have convenient access to a gym.

But when I’m traveling or on the road, I don’t have access to a gym. So instead, I force myself to innovate and make the best out of my situation. I do more pushups, find parks to do chin-ups, and more lunges and one legged squats. I find new stretches and dynamic calisthenics to keep my muscles and mind fit.

Sometimes when traveling, I find myself longing for a gym. Now, I desire to always think to myself:

Right now, this present moment, is the best possible life and situation. Rather than longing for something I don’t have access to right now, I’m going to make the best out of my situation right now.

That means regardless if you’re stuck at home, or traveling abroad — always find joy in your present situation.


If you’re stuck in the office or at home

Practical ideas:

  1. If you’re bored at work, don’t desire to travel or be somewhere else. Rather than feeling miserable, figure out how to use that downtime to your best advantage. Use that time when you’re bored at work to blog, research, come up with new ideas, learn how to program, or even write poetry in a text editor (for your boss not to catch you). Be sneaky and sly; use Microsoft Excel or your email client to write your novel, in bits and pieces.
  2. Use your commute to take street photos. If stuck in a car, take photos when you’re at a red light (safely). Or use your commuting time to come up with ideas (audio dictate them as voice recordings, or write them in your phone on Evernote). Or listen to empowering podcasts or music.
  3. Use the best time you have in the morning (before work) to do your creative work. To start waking up early, force yourself to sleep early. In the evenings, take really hot baths (finishing with an icy cold shower) to pass out. Or take melatonin if you have trouble sleeping.

Traveling is more fun when it is cheap.

When it comes to traveling, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and you don’t need to go far.

For example, in Southern California, a simple southwest flight to Mexico City was phenomenal. I loved going to Portland, Seattle on the west coast. For Americans, go to New Orleans —one of the most underrated places to travel to in the world (I prefer NOLA over Paris).

New Orleans, 2015
New Orleans, 2015

Or you can just take your car, and drive to the neighboring city. The purpose isn’t to go really really far in traveling —the opportunity of traveling is to reset your brain, to explore novelty and variation, randomness and chance, in order to find new sources of inspiration, ideas, and concepts.

Red shirt and green background. Low perspective shot. New Orleans, woman and deer.
Red shirt and green background. Low perspective shot. New Orleans, woman and deer. Shot at -1 exposure compensation on RICOH GR II

When possible, live abroad

Another idea:

Traveling can be tiring. Whenever possible, live abroad instead of just traveling from one destination to another. For example, living in Vietnam for a year was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had. I was able to learn how to speak Vietnamese, live a new lifestyle, and truly soak in the culture.

Cindy with kiss on eye. Saigon, 2017
Cindy with kiss on eye. Shot inside hotel room. Saigon, 2017

If you desire to live abroad, realize you can always quit your job for a year or so, live abroad, then probably just get another job when you’re back home. Places I’d recommend include Saigon, Hanoi, Bangkok, which all have great coffee shops, great food, and are affordable to live in.


Create stuff while you’re traveling

Ultimately for me, when you’re traveling, the point isn’t to just have novel experiences, eat good food, and go sight seeing. Rather, traveling is a chance for you to reflect, meditate, and ultimately CREATE!

When you travel, bring your iPad, tablet, camera, phone, or laptop. Whatever tools you need to write, draw, sketch, reflect, program, photograph, come up with ideas, and make stuff. This is why making photos while you’re traveling is much more rewarding than just eating good food and shopping (passive activities).

Bring along a journal or diary during your travels, to reflect on your life— if you’re happy what direction your life is going, etc.

Start a blog when you’re abroad to record, document, and capture your experiences, thoughts, and photos. Publish your ideas publicly, rather than just letting them die on your hard drive, or evaporating into the digital ether on the cloud.


Don’t delay traveling

Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject
Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject

So my thoughts summed up:

  1. Travel to open up your mind, come up with new ideas, and ultimately to make more stuff, and create more stuff.
  2. Traveling doesn’t need to be expensive. Find cheap flights on kayak.com and stay at cheap Airbnb apartments, cook at home, or buy discounted food. Eating expensive food and staying at fancy hotels is overrated and gets boring.
  3. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to travel, always make the best use of whatever situation you have in life.

Be bold, be brave. Don’t be afraid of traveling. To be honest, most of the world speaks English now. If you have a smartphone, you got google maps, google translate, etc. It is so easy to travel now.

Laundry machines urban landscape. Osaka, 2018
Laundry machines urban landscape. Osaka, 2018

Also don’t delay your travels. Don’t wait until you’re 65+ and retired. You might not be in good mental or physical health then.

Never stop exploring!
ERIC


Travel Photography

Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

Travel photography tips video