How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules


(Photo credit: Moyan Brenn)

This is a tactical post on travel from Ryan Holiday, who’s written on this blog before about the pragmatism of Stoicism and lessons learned as Director of Marketing for American Apparel.

To his 21 rules, I’ve added a few of my own tricks. Please share your own rules and tips in the comments!

Enter Ryan Holiday

Why are you traveling?

Because, you know, you don’t magically get a prize at the end of your life for having been to the most places. There is nothing inherently valuable in travel, no matter how hard the true believers try to convince us.

Seneca, the stoic philosopher, has a great line about the restlessness of those who seem compelled to travel. They go from resort to resort and climate to climate, he says, and continues:

“They make one journey after another and change spectacle for spectacle. As Lucretius says ‘Thus each man flees himself.’ But to what end if he does not escape himself? He pursues and dogs himself as his own most tedious companion. And so we must realize that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves.”

It’s hard for me see anything to envy in most people who travel. Because deep down that is what they are doing. Fleeing themselves and the lives they’ve created. Or worse, they’re telling themselves that they’re after self-discovery, exploration or new perspectives when really they are running towards distraction and self-indulgence.

Is that why you’re packing up your things and hitting the road?

Not that I don’t travel myself–I did my fair share this year alone. Both coasts of Australia. I was in Amsterdam for a speaking gig (and I found myself at a tulip farm with Tim where he caught a chicken with his bare hands). I researched for my next book in Rome. I went down to Brazil. I went to Copenhagen. I spent enough time in New York that it felt like I lived there. I road tripped across the United States more times than I can count–New Orleans to New York; New York to Miami; Miami to Austin… The list goes on. If there was a chance to go somewhere I’d never been, I tried to take it, especially if it was historic.

But are you, as Emerson once put it, “bringing ruins to the ruins?”… Read More

218 Comments / Leave a comment or question

4HWW Readers' Libraries in Nepal, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka Open Their Doors!


The Vang Lam preschool we built in Vietnam. So cute a lumberjack would cry! Now we have three more locations.

You all should be *very* proud.

I’m thrilled to share completion reports for the three libraries you supported and made possible. The funds were raised for my birthday campaign in 2011.

They’re finally done!

This post include photos of the dedication plaques for each library, as well as information about the impact that each library has had on the local community.

In a nutshell:

– The K-to-6 library in Cambodia will help 500 students per year become literate. 500 per year = 2,500 over the next 5 years.
– The Grades 1-5 library in Sri Lanka will help 2,000 students per year become literate. 2,000 per year = 10,000 over the next 5 years.
– The K-10 library in Nepal will help 550 students per year become literate. 550 per year = 2,750 over the next 5 years.

In the next 5 years, you all will have helped change the lives of more than 15,000 students. Not only that, but you will have helped add critical thinkers to the world who can perpetuate a virtuous cycle of solving problems. Cool, right?

Here are the dedication plaques for each school. Click to enlarge:

Now, the completion reports (and pics) for those interested… Read More

47 Comments / Leave a comment or question

How to Travel Through 20+ Countries with Free Room and Board


Casey Fenton founded, which connects millions of travelers with free accommodation around the world. (Photo by Alexandra Liss)

I met Alexandra Liss on a rainy day last September, outside of one of my favorite Thai restaurants in San Francisco.

Alex had just returned from six months abroad, traveling through 21 countries for free while shooting her full-length documentary, One Couch at a Time. She was wrapping up the film and had requested an interview with me.

Our topic of discussion? The Sharing Economy.

Startups that are part of this “sharing economy” — like TaskRabbit, AirBNB, Uber, and Sidecar — have given us unprecedented access to incredible experiences and resources, allowing many people to completely upgrade their lifestyles. By capitalizing on underused resources and new technology, people can live many strata above their income. In Alex’s case, she was able to raise $8,000 through Kickstarter to crowdfund her travel and the making of her film. She also lived rent-free during those six months, staying with more than 80 different strangers she’d met through

In this post, Alex shares exactly how she’s managed to become a couchsurfing guru, and the steps you can take to travel the world on next to no budget… Read More

123 Comments / Leave a comment or question

How to Ski Powder – 15 Tips for Learning in 24 Hours


(Photo: RunningClouds)

Last-minute packing is an art form, and most of my trips allow me to pack less than 10 pounds for a world tour.

This time, 10 pounds was just the starting point. My packing list was straight out of a James Bond movie:

“Avalanche kit?!?”
“Tracking beacon?!?!”

I was seeing it for the first time around 4pm in the afternoon. The next morning, I’d be departing for Chile for “cat” (snowcat) skiing in Patagonia, after six years of no snow sports. What the hell had I signed up for?

Baptism by Ice – 15 Key Lessons

This post is based on my lessons and experimentation with the PowderQuest crew, with special thanks to Mo and David.

The first day was sheer terror. The second day was an improvement — just laughable. Then, around the third day… Read More

103 Comments / Leave a comment or question

Belle Vue Clinic, Preventable Medical Disasters, and Stoic Lessons


(Photo: Dirty Bunny)

[Warning: This post is one of my rare rants, perhaps my only rant, written last week when the reality-bending fury was fresh. Almost never seen, like a snow leopard, my angry self has come out to stretch his arms a bit, perhaps punch a few deserving people after warming up. The reasons — primarily the safety of other people — will become clear shortly.]


Earlier today, a hospital superintendent snickered and offered me a feedback form if I had complaints. I declined, as I figured this blog would be a faster way of getting the message to the CEO in question, P. Tondon. Mr. Tondon, nice to meet you.

Forthwith, our promised programming… Read More

278 Comments / Leave a comment or question

My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)


(Photo: Sanctuary Photography)

34. I’m turning a glorious 34 this year, right about now.

It’s going to be a great natal year–-I can already feel it. Perhaps it will be good luck for you, too: in this post, I’m giving away a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world.

But back to that strange birthday gift…

Much to the chagrin of my momma-san, I’ve become quite difficult to buy presents for. Some friends even think I’m impossible to find presents for.

It’s not entirely true. I love handwritten letters, home-made brownies (like Fred Wilson), girlfriends dressed in next to nothing, and–-most of all-–when people do something nice for others.

In lieu of gifts this year, my birthday wish is to help the poorest kids in the world learn to read. I believe literacy, and the self-determinism it allows, is fundamental to solving the problems of this world. Want an alternative to extremist terrorist schools, to have fewer welfare states, or to prosper with better economies? Teach people to read and help themselves… Read More

331 Comments / Leave a comment or question