20 Things I've Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years

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Gary Arndt is the man behind Everything Everywhere, one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, and one of Time Magazine’s “Top 25 Best Blogs of 2010.” Since March 2007, Gary has been traveling around the globe, having visited more than 70 countries and territories, and gaining worldly wisdom in the process.

Today, I’ve asked him to share some of that wisdom.

Enter Gary

On March 13, 2007, I handed over the keys to my house, put my possessions in storage and headed out to travel around the world with nothing but a backpack, my laptop and a camera.

Three and a half years and 70 countries later, I’ve gotten the equivalent of a Ph.D in general knowledge about the people and places of Planet Earth.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned…

1) People are generally good.



Many people are afraid of the world beyond their door, yet the vast majority of humans are not thieves, murderers or rapists. They are people just like you and me who are trying to get by, to help their families and go about living their lives. There is no race, religion or nationality that is exempt from this rule. How they go about living their lives might be different, but their general goals are the same.

2) The media lies.



If you only learned about other countries from the news, you’d think the world was a horrible place. The media will always sensationalize and simplify a story. I was in East Timor when the assassination attempts on President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão occurred in 2008. The stories in the news the next day were filed from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, not Dili. It was all secondhand news. I was in Bangkok during the political protests this year, but you’d never have any idea they were happening if you were not in the immediate area where the protests were taking place. The media makes us scared of the rest of the world, and we shouldn’t be.

3) The world is boring.



If there isn’t a natural disaster or an armed conflict, most places will never even be mentioned in the news. When is the last time you’ve heard Laos or Oman mentioned in a news story? What makes for good news are exceptional events, not ordinary events. Most of the world, just like your neighborhood, is pretty boring. It can be amazingly interesting, but to the locals, they just go about living their lives.

4) People don’t hate Americans.



I haven’t encountered a single case of anti-Americanism in the last three-and-a-half years. Not one. (And no, I don’t tell people I am Canadian.) If anything, people are fascinated by Americans and want to know more about the US. This isn’t to say they love our government or our policies, but they do not have an issue with Americans as people. Even in places you’d think would be very anti-American, such as the Middle East, I was welcomed by friendly people.

5) Americans aren’t as ignorant as you might think.



There is a stereotype that Americans don’t know much about the rest of the world. There is some truth to that, but it isn’t as bad as you might believe. The reason this stereotype exists is because most other countries on Earth pay very close attention to American news and politics. Most people view our ignorance in terms of reciprocity: i.e. “I know about your country, why don’t you know about mine?” The truth is, if you quizzed people about third-party countries other than the US, they are equally as ignorant. I confronted one German man about this, asking him who the Prime Minister of Japan was. He had no clue. The problem with America is that we suffer from the same problem as the rest of the world: an obsession with American news. The quality of news I read in other parts of the world is on par with what you will hear on NPR.

6) Americans don’t travel.



This stereotype is true. Americans don’t travel overseas as much as Brits, Dutch, Germans, Canadians or Scandinavians. There are some good reasons for this (big country, short vacation time) and bad ones (fear and ignorance). We don’t have a gap year culture like they have in the UK and we don’t tend to take vacations longer than a week. I can’t think of a single place I visited where I met Americans in numbers anywhere close to our relative population.

7) The rest of the world isn’t full of germs.



Many people travel with their own supply of water and an industrial vat of hand sanitizer. I can say in full honestly that I have never used hand sanitizer or gone out of my way to avoid contact with germs during my travels. It is true that in many places you can get nasty illnesses from drinking untreated water, but I don’t think this means you have be a traveling Howard Hughes. Unless you have a particularly weak immune system or other illness, I wouldn’t worry too much about local bugs.

8) You don’t need a lot stuff.



Condensing my life down from a 3,000 sq/ft house to a backpack was a lesson in knowing what really matters. I found I could get by just fine without 97% of the things I had sitting around my home. Now, if I purchase something, I think long and hard about it because anything I buy I will have to physically carry around. Because I have fewer possessions, I am more likely to buy things of higher quality and durability.

9) Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.



Yes, if you insist on staying in five-star hotels and luxury resorts, travel can be very expensive. However, it is possible to visit many parts of the world and only spend $10-30 per day. In addition to traveling cheap, you can also earn money on the road teaching English or working on an organic farm. I’ve met many people who have been able to travel on a little more than $1,000/month. I met one man from the Ukraine who spent a month in Egypt on $300.

10) Culture matters.



Many of our ideas for rescuing other countries all depend on them having similar incentives, values and attitudes as people in the West. This is not always true. I am reminded of when I walked past a Burger King in Hong Kong that was full of flowers. It looked like someone was having a funeral at the restaurant. It turned out to be people sending flowers in celebration of their grand opening. Opening a business was a reason to celebrate. In Samoa, I had a discussion with a taxi driver about why there were so few businesses of any type on the island of Savai’i. He told me that 90% of what he made had to go to his village. He had no problem helping his village, but they took so much that there was little incentive to work. Today, the majority of the GDP of Samoa consists of remittances sent back from the US or New Zealand. It is hard to make aid policies work when the culture isn’t in harmony with the aid donors’ expectations.

11) Culture changes.



Many people go overseas expecting to have an “authentic” experience, which really means they want to confirm some stereotype they have in their mind of happy people living in huts and villages. They are often disappointed to find urban people with technology. Visiting a different place doesn’t mean visiting a different time. It’s the 21st Century, and most people live in it. They are as likely to wear traditional clothes as Americans are to wear stove top hats like Abraham Lincoln. Cultures have always changed as new ideas, religions, technologies sprang up and different cultures mingled and traded with each other. Today is no different.

12) Everyone is proud of where they are from.



When you meet someone local in another country, most people will be quick to tell you something about their city/province/country that they are proud of. Pride and patriotism seem to be universal values. I remember trying to cross the street once in Palau, one of the smallest countries in the world, and a high school kid came up to me and said, “This is how we cross the street in PALAU!” Even crossing the street became an act to tell me about his pride for his country. People involved in making foreign policy should be very aware of this.

13) America and Canada share a common culture.



This may irk Canadians, but we really do share a common North American culture. If you meet someone overseas, it is almost impossible to tell if they are American or Canadian unless they have a particularly strong accent, or they pronounce the letter “z.” It is easier to tell where in England someone is from than it is to tell if someone is from Denver or Toronto. We would probably be better off referring to a “North American” culture than an “American” culture. What differences do exist (Quebec being the exception) are more like differences between states and regions of a similar country.

14) Most people have a deep desire to travel around the world.



Not shocking, but every day I meet people who are fascinated by what I do and how I live. The desire to travel is there, but fears and excuses usually prevent people from doing it. I understand that few people can drop what they are doing and travel around the world for three years, but traveling overseas for even a few months is within the realm of possibility for many people at some point in their lives. Even on an island in the middle of the Pacific, people who would probably never leave their home island talked to me of wishing they could see New York or London for themselves one day. I think the desire to explore and see new things is fundamental to the human experience.

15) You can find the internet almost everywhere.



I have been surprised at where I’ve found internet access. I’ve seen remote villages in the Solomon Islands with a packet radio link to another island for their internet access. I’ve been at an internet cafe in the Marshall Islands that accessed the web via a geosynchronous satellite. I’ve seen lodges in the rainforest of Borneo hooked up to the web. I once counted 27 open wifi signals in Taipei on a rooftop. We truly live in a wired world.

16) In developing countries, government is usually the problem.



I have been shocked at the level of corruption that exists in most developing countries. Even if it is technically a democracy, most nations are run by and for the benefit of the elites that control the institutions of power. Political killings, bribery, extortion and kickbacks are the norm in many places. There is little difference between the Mafia and the governments in some countries I’ve visited. The corruption in the Philippines was especially surprising. It isn’t just the people at the top who are corrupt. I’ve seen cops shake people down on the street for money, cigarettes or booze.

17) English is becoming universal.



I estimated that there were at least 35 native languages I would have had to have learned if I wanted to speak with locals in their own tongue. That does not include all the languages found in Papua New Guinea or Vanuatu or regional dialects. It is not possible for humans to learn that many languages. English has become the de facto second language for the world. We are almost to a point where there are only two languages you need to know: whatever your parents speak… and English. English has become so popular it has achieved an escape velocity outside of the control of the US and UK. Countries like Nigeria and India use it as a unifying language in their polyglot nations. Other countries in the Pacific do all their schooling in English because the market just isn’t there to translate textbooks into Samoan or Tongan.

18) Modernization is not Westernization.



Just because people use electricity and have running water doesn’t mean they are abandoning their culture to embrace western values. Technology and culture are totally different. Japan and South Korea are thoroughly modern countries, but are also thoroughly Asian. Modernization will certainly change a culture (see #11 above), but that doesn’t mean they are trying to mimic the West.

19) We view other nations by a different set of criteria than we view ourselves.



On the left, people who struggle the hardest for social change would decry changes in other countries that they view as a result of globalization. On the right, people who want to bring democracy to other countries would be up in arms at the suggestion that another country try to institute change in the US. In both cases, other nations are viewed by a different set of rules than we view ourselves. I don’t think most people around the world want the help or pity of the West. At best, they would like us to do no harm.

20) Everyone should travel.



At some point in your life, whether it is after college or when you retire, everyone should take an extended trip outside of their own country. The only way to really have a sense of how the world works is to see it yourself.

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You can subscribe to Gary’s blog, or follow him on Facebook.

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If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”

I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.

Odds and Ends:

Vegetarians vs. Meat-Eaters:

My recent guest post from Robb Wolf created something of a religious war between meat-eaters and vegetarians. The comments — 816 and counting — got ugly fast.

Whether you’re a die-hard meat-eater or plant-eater, I highly recommend watching the below video of Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals. He is a brilliant writer, and we were actually in the same class at Princeton. Take some time or let it run in the background as audio — the following discussion is worth it:

Posted on: October 30, 2010.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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442 comments on “20 Things I've Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years

  1. Awesome post, Gary. It’s great that you dispelled some of the “myths” about the world outside of the U.S. I was especially pleased to hear that you can find the internet almost everywhere. :)

    – Eric

    Like

    • I have to say…I’m usually skeptical about blogs in and tend to believe the majority of them are the innate ramblings of individuals who can’t write. With that said, I thoroughly appreciate you breaking this trend and posting interesting and cogent pieces. Much of what you wrote was incredibly helpful and insightful. I especially enjoyed your comment about there not being as much “Anti-American” sentiment as we’re led to believe. Granted, there are times when you will run into people who have a chip on their shoulder in regards to the U.S. (this was especially true when I was in Europe during the Bush years) but for the most part people are open minded and will take you as serious as anyone else, regardless of your nationality.

      Anyway, with all this said, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some advice on traveling alone outside of the U.S. and the advantages and disadvantages it affords an individual? I’m asking because I plan on embarking on a year long journey somewhere outside the country but have never traveled for length of time alone.

      Like

    • I’m sorry but I have to sgtrongly disagree about the world’s view of Americans.
      I have done alot of travelling and only on a few occassions have I met cultures and people who like Americans the first that comes to mind is Holland. Alot of countries/cultures like American money as you Americans are famous for being over generous with their cash.
      For example the last time I was in Morocco so many people asked me if I was American, when I said no they shout ‘good’ and spit inside their shirts! I have had people assume I was American and spit at me whilst walking down a street minding my own business.
      I could spend a long time reeling off countries that dislike Americans but that is not the point i’m trying to make here.
      Americans truly are largely an ignorant country and I suggest sir that you would like to believe people like American people but from a non-American the hatred I have seen all over the world towards your people and culture (and it seems behind your back and perhaps because you are ignorant to it) is huge and relatively universal.
      Sorry to have popped your ‘American bubble’ but I assume you do not believe a word I have said and thus proved the point I am trying to make!

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      • we are team america, world police…but I know most people outside the US are more intrigued by the actual person and can look past the fact that the country has done some wrongs in the past…people are generally good. That is still and will always be true. All is not lost for Americans abroad. The author knows this and is trying to help people get past the fear of anti-Americanism

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      • Danny i agree with you. Mostly people have this thiniking as they dont travel. They juust hear from people and start believing.
        Travelling is important think that people should do.

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      • While I can’t say much for the existence/non-existence of anti-American sentiments abroad, there is a point to be said about American ignorance. True, your German acquaintance couldn’t tell you who the prime minister of Japan is, but:
        a) neither could a lot of people (Americans just as much as anyone else)
        b) most of the issue with American ignorance is not their ignorance of facts like this.
        The problem most people see is in an ignorance of broad, basic common knowledge, international affairs in which they are directly related, current affairs in their own country … more or less, the “American news” that we are all apparently obsessed with.
        Granted this is not an America-specific phenomenon, but it undeniably is a frequent occurrence in America. And while most of the Americans I’ve met by no means even approach the ignorant, rude stereotype, all of the Americans I’ve met are travelling, which as stated opens your eyes to the bigger picture.

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      • I totally agree! I’ve been travelling for nearly 2 years now and I have to insist I am Australian and not American because people assume that I am some George Bush loving, war mongering, guantanamo torturing, child killer.

        Americans ARE by and large ignorant. I’m sorry but it’s true.

        Most of it is the fault of your education system, the majority of your population doesn’t know basic geography or world history.

        In Australia we even have a comedy tv show that goes around asking Americans basic information about world geography

        I have to say tho I have met some very educated and intelligent Californians in the hundreds of Americans I’ve met (tho they seem to be the only ones who have a clue?)

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      • Wow dude calm down. We get it you hate Americans. keep ranting no one cares. Oh and you are wrong. I was born here but have a Middle Eastern background (and have lived there), and no not everyone hates the U.S. it’s obvious that you felt the need to unload your pent up anger or something, but you really are wrong about the majority of what you’ve said. Americans are not ignorant, most people do not hate us, and thank god no one cares about what you have to say lol. chowda!!!!!!!!!

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      • Tim,

        Thanks for posting what you’ve experienced as far as other cultures’ response to your nationality. It’s encouraging in a way, whether or not people are being genuine. Bummer that people want to be rude in the comments section… Based on your post, I imagine that you have a respectful demeanor when you travel and hopefully the stereotypes people have learned can be seen merely as that.

        Thanks for the insight!

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      • I am not American and I can tell you now that I and everyone I know do not hate Americans themselves. We don’t like the government, the policies, the superiority with which they view other countries, but not the people. Everyone can tell you that they hated George Bush, but dont exactly blame all Americans for the invasion of Iraq.

        As for the ignorance of Americans, what was said in the blog is completely true. Do not forget that we speak English ( I speak English as a second language fluently) and when you learn a language, you are learning a culture. I watch American TV series, movies, read their magazines and so on. I can probably tell you more about America than Americans can. Ask me, however, about China, my knowledge won’t serve me beyond knowing that they have a great wall.

        Don’t completely disregard other peoples’ ideas, especially when they are speaking of greater experience, for that sir, is ignorance.

        Like

      • I don’t know what country you’re from, but I’m going to assume it’s Canada because you sound pretty butthurt =).

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      • To ZLB and the ones who live outside America but insult it anyway:

        America is not what you think. “But I’ve seen the news and heard the stories!”, you cry. Cool. I’ve seen news and heard stories about Mexico and Egypt and South Africa, etc. too. A lot of those places suck hard if they’re what I see on the news. …But they don’t. That’s what you get for being ridiculously gullible and relying too much on the news.

        The only acceptable criticism about a country is from people who make a logical, calm point (without trying to be condescending or superior) that are from a different country, or who live in the country themselves and know what it is like there. All others are just trying to blow their own horn. Badly.

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      • I agree wish her as well…

        Canadians have enough trouble with our own shaky cultural identity without having comments made about how we’re ubiquitous with the USA.

        It frustrates me to no end when im travelling abroad and have my own cultural identity presumptiously compared with that of the USA. In my mind there are some fundamental differences between our countries, often ones that are overlooked.

        While I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of the message of your post, this particular one bothers me…

        Thanks…

        Like

  2. Great article!

    As a combination of Point 1 and 12, I learned that people are very helpful and love to share the cluture and places they like.
    If you travel a lot you see that people have so much in common. Work, freetime and social life, kind of same problems and same pleasures.
    Live is short, but when it’s good, it’s last out.

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  3. I had the pleasure to meet Gary a few weeks ago. He’s a great guy with an excellent attitude to travel :)

    Disagree about the point about English (nearly everyone I meet in my travels doesn’t speak any English beyond “the book is on the table” and I’m glad about it :P ) – I think it depends on who you decide to gravitate towards. But everything else is spot on!

    People should definitely check out Gary’s blog to see his excellent photos!

    Everyone SHOULD travel and it really isn’t that expensive :)

    Like

    • I’d have to agree that English is becoming increasingly universal, Benny. I have traveled to three continents outside my native North America and, believe it or not, I was surprised that the English language was approaching a ubiquitous status—especially countries like Japan and Finland. I do, however, find many of the citizens in these countries are almost embarrassed to speak the English language unless they absolutely need to do so. I guess that action is outside their comfort zone. Just my two cents.

      Like

      • As I said Garrett, it depends on who you gravitate towards. Most travellers I’ve met (I’ve been on the road for 8 years) don’t get out of their comfort zone, especially if they believe “almost everyone” speaks English.

        If you keep meeting the fraction of the population who does speak English then your experiences will be tainted to believe they represent the majority. The lack of ability in the local language decides who you spend time with – you find who you are looking for; English speakers.

        Although I would imagine that in Finland the majority of people speak excellent English, I’m mostly referring to South America and Asia (although in Europe I have countless friends with no English abilities). I have never been to Japan, but I imagine outside of touristed parts of major cities you *will* find Japanese with poor to no English skills. If you happen to socialise with a demographic similar to yourself (young, interested in travel etc.) then of course you will see mostly amazing English speakers.

        And I think this lack of English truly universally is a good thing – travellers should attempt to learn the local language if they want to get more than a superficial glimpse of the culture, or just rely on the upper class to present the culture to them.

        It’s very easy. I find it ironic that the same people who argue that the whole world can speak a second language (i.e. English), insist that “not everyone” (i.e. themselves) have the natural talent to learn a second language. Surely if everyone can easily learn a second language, that’s an even better reason for travellers to do it too.

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  4. I love these points! Especially number 5, about American’s not being as ignorant as stereotyped. When I studied in Ireland for a semester, I was relieved to hear fellow students being just as lost as I was when class turned to current events in foreign countries. They knew Irish, US, and British events but generally little else.

    I think that anyone who wants to travel (and I realize that is most people) should print this out as a reminder. At a minimum, print out the headlines to.

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  5. I agree with a lot of points in this post.
    During my travels I usually trust people, and then they trust you back! There are also assholes everywhere, but you do not have to hang out with them.
    People do not hate Americans, but even in America there are some assholes, again, you do not have to hang out with them.
    I have not always been proud to be from Germany, but through traveling to other countries I developed a pride for my country.
    I lived and worked in Costa Rica as well as in the Yukon, Canada, and even had the internet in my wood cabin there, so agree to that point as well.
    Everyone should travel and you do not need a lot, besides the desire, the bravery, the naivety and the faith.
    I combined my traveling with working. I had the trust that I would meet the right people that guide me to my next step during my travels, so in Canada for example I ended up working as a horse wrangler in the Rocky Mountains, working on the oil fields and as a bus driver in Banff, Alberta and being a river guide on the Yukon River just by meeting the right people by chance.
    This post gives me the opportunity to talk about myself and agree with Gary and his points.
    Go travel and trust people!

    C.P.

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  6. This is a great post and makes me want to travel even more than I already do! You bring up a good point about the media scaring people, and that we feel scared of visiting other cultures because we worry they could be criminals (I’m sure the media has helped with that). It was nice to read that, and of course you are correct in saying, they’re just people like you and me.

    Thanks Gary!

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  7. Hey Tim,

    Have you flown a PPG? Powered Para-Glider?

    I’m learning how now and I’m excited about it, not just because I get to fly (do a video search on ppg glider or ppg fly) but also because everywhere you fly you can get great video of the scenery like nothing else that exists!

    I’m learning from Russell Stegemann and I can tell you its always been a dream of mine to fly. I used to want to learn to use a wingsuit, but now I’m all about learning how to fly a PPG, where I can take off from the ground.

    The crazy thing is that its actaully safer than parachuting, because in order to leave the ground, your chute has to be up, one of the biggest dangers to skydivers is that their chute won’t open or doesn’t open correctly.

    Safer than skydiving, but with more power to fly, isn’t that wild?

    Like

  8. Hi Tim,

    Nice post, quick read and a good refresh of lessons everyone should take to heart.

    As a father with 6 month old twins I have been trying to keep in mind the lessons I want to pass on to my children. #8 has always been a big one for me and a big struggle as well.

    Have you ever been able to convince a friend or family member that they don’t need half the stuff they buy or already have? I have some people very close to me that think “stuff” will make them happy. Do you have any success stories about changing someone’s mind about filling the empty spots in their lives with “stuff”?

    Like

  9. Once I met a probably 25 years old man in front of an atm in cologne, germany. I got into a conversation with him and he turned out to be from “Las Vegas”, staying here for an internship.

    He said “I am from Las Wayyygas” in a very proud way. He asked me: “What is special about Cologne”. I said: “Cologne is just a big city the same way Las Vegas is”.

    He replied: “But every city has it’s charme”. Well.

    But I know where he came from metaphorically speaking. He heard about the awesome cologne the same way we hear about the awesome Las Vegas, New York or Paris. And it’s proverbial charme.

    There is no such thing as charme a city could have. Living wherever you want, in the long run everything turns out to be boring. Average. Known.

    It is the people you meet who can have charming personalities. But a city is just this: a city.

    Like

  10. Once I met a probably 25 years old man in front of an atm in cologne, germany. I got into a conversation with him and he turned out to be from “Las Vegas”, staying here for an internship.

    He said “I am from Las Wayyygas” in a very proud way. He asked me: “What is special about Cologne”. I said: “Cologne is just a big city the same way Las Vegas is”.

    He replied: “But every city has it’s charm”. Well.

    But I know where he came from metaphorically speaking. He heard about the awesome cologne the same way we hear about the awesome Las Vegas, New York or Paris. And it’s proverbial charm.

    There is no such thing as charm a city could have. Living wherever you want, in the long run everything turns out to be boring. Average. Known.

    It is the people you meet who can have charming personalities. But a city is just this: a city.

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  11. It’s refreshing to hear that traveling is not as expensive, dangerous or whatever the news is spewing that day. I recently started my “muse” with every intention to travel the world also. I can’t wait! Post like these really motivate me to get out of my comfort zone and plan my traveling trips.

    Like

  12. Good post.

    Top 16:
    Yeah, the corruption in the Philippines is horrible. Ironically, Hagedorn (the mayor on your photo) seems to be one of the few respectable politicians in this country.

    Like

    • When I visited Puerto Princessa his name was slapped on everything that was in any way touched by government money. Any civic project seemed like an opportunity to campaign. If that’s clean, it just shows how bad the Philippines has become. Most Filipinos I know seem to think I underestimate the problem.

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      • I’m from Manila, Philippines. David was quite right, Hagedorn was one of the good mayors here. However if the project posters with Govt officials’ names on it was one of your observations of corruption, therefore corruption is here, because THOSE TYPE OF POSTERS are EVERYWHERE.

        I just want to suggest a better picture on #16:
        http://tinyurl.com/35mwqqj

        That is one real public fund waster. Anyway thank you Gary for the honest notice.

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      • Hello Gary,

        I think that is corruption. I want you to know that here in the Philippines, it is illegal to use civic project as an opportunity to campaign. Yes, there is a law the prohibits it since people are made to believe that the money comes from these politicians.

        That law was trampled upon during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. The former president use government’s money to bribe politicians. Her face was everywhere and almost every goverment program has the acronym PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo).

        The new president promises to curb corruption in the Philippines. It will take a long time before we Filipinos can clean our government. The former president made it difficult through midnight appointments.

        I hope you visit the Philippines again.

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      • …Oh, like Obama does in the dead of night, here in the U.S.?

        Gary thanks so much for your article. I appreciate a fine piece of work, especially when it motivates people to get outside their comfort zone and experience a true, full-fledged culture shock.

        I love the feeling of culture shock.. But I hate the feeling of reverse culture shock, once returning home… Home becomes all of a sudden, so depressing, compared to a ‘new’ world.

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    • It is so corrupt. I would agree 100% on what Gary mentioned. Philippines is beautiful, yet marred by too much ugly politics by the elites and oligarchs there! My God, what have we done to our country! People there still vote for the same crop of foolish politicians (like the current president and same banana senators).

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  13. Marvelous post, Gary, and the images are terrific as well.

    You’ve confirmed some of my observations as well as made me think about a few issues I hadn’t considered – in particular your points about the importance of culture, and how it morphs over time. Well done; thank you.

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  14. Wow Gary, my eyes have been opened! This is inspiring stuff and makes me (even more) want to get outside of the ‘States and get some countries under my belt!
    I also just signed up for, and am looking through your 50 Travel Photos pdf. So inspiring! Keep up the great work, I look forward to reading you more and getting to know you better!

    – JC

    P.S. – Tim, not sure if you knew this or not, but Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming is available for FREE online here: http://bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/exploring_luciddreaming.pdf
    I’ve been going through your archives and have been 1-week into Lucid Dreaming training. POWERFUL stuff man! Thanks for sharing!

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  15. This is so true. I have traveled quite a bit in the military and for personal reasons. I would agree with all 20 of these observations. As an American the most important things that you can when traveling are the simplest.

    1. Realize they love their country the way that you love yours. Even if they do not let them make the disagreement not you. Most people are proud of where they are from. Your dead on.

    2. Try their language. Even if you do not have any clue or ever studied it. This shows that you are interested in their culture. I have found that even when you butcher it, it becomes a common ground that eases the conversation dramatically, after they laugh at you.

    How have you seen them respond when you butcher their language Tim, do they respond they same way I have experienced?

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    • 100% agreed on language. I ALWAYS try. At the very least, it’s comedic relief, totally breaks the ice, and you can all have a laugh when you ask someone to “rape you” instead of “wake you”, as I did in Japanese (okashite kudasai vs. okoshite kudasai).

      I find language to be the best way to connect. People are hugely forgiving, except perhaps the French in a few cities, and Americans and Brits in almost all cities.

      Great point.

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      • My husband and I had a dream – do not freeze in the Russian winter. In late winter, we are basking in California and the Dominican Republic, beginning of autumn spent a month in the Bahamas, and now winter in the warm Florida!

        And before that I 39 years did not go out anywhere!

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      • Tim, I can think of nothing more gratifying when traveling than being able to speak at least a few words or phrases in someone else’s language. Recently I went to Colombia and met a gentleman from Malaysia on the same tour. Though I don’t speak Malay, he was tickled to death when I used the Malay phrase “rumusan bayi” (infant formula) which I learned through one of my earlier jobs!

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  16. hi gary,

    i was in bangkok during the protests this year as well. while much of the city operated as usual, grenades on the silom line (my station to work) and a rpg in my condo did actually cause a personal disruption.

    we never felt unsafe (minus the condo thing), but we also could not work. i had to move to singapore for several months to iron out things like work and cash flow.

    cg

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  17. This is really inspiring.

    I graduate from college at the end of December and I’ve set aside some time to try and live as a location-independent digital nomad for a while after that. If anything, this post is proof it’s really possible long-term, not just as a crazy kid without a “real” job.

    Btw Tim, I just started reading 4HWW and it’s awesome!

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  18. I agree with what’s been said about the rest of the world. The only thing that I’d add is that it’s fun and really gratifying to make friends in different countries. The Internet makes it much easier to keep in touch with these friends than it used to be when we relied on snail mail and making a phone call overseas was outrageously expensive.

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