A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

50 Reasons to Take a Mini-Retirement Now #44 March 5, 2010

Technology masks tradition.

When I was traveling throughout Southeast Asia, some of my favorite photos I took were of men and women working in rice paddy fields.  I walked past many rice farmers dressed in pointy straw hats, their ankles deep in mud, as they threw stalks of rice into the ground of a steep mountain slope.  It was nothing I had ever seen before. It was serene, it was beautiful.

Now flash forward to the future and imagine a rice planting machine. It is not as serene, nor so beautiful. On one hand, I am a proponent of technology because the work, for rice farmers in Southeast Asia today and other parts of underdeveloped nations who are using traditional methods, is extremely laborious and tedious taking away  time spent with family and friends.  However, with that being said, witnessing first hand these traditional methods while they still exist is indescribable, and is something I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have seen in my lifetime, because, like everything in this world, change is inevitable.

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Taking a Mini-Retirement Now: Reason #48 February 22, 2010

Four to five weeks holiday isn’t a dream it’s standard in Western European countries.

If you think that a four to five-week holiday is a dream it’s not; in fact, it’s a reality in Western Europe and other countries around the world.

After traveling around the world for 10 months and now living in Italy for the past year, going back to the United States is going to be a challenge.  I still don’t understand this American ideology that one needs to work 60…70..80 hours a week, taking virtually no vacation (two weeks on average) while trying to move up the corporate ladder.  The European economy, in general, is a sound economy and average employees receive four to five weeks holiday, in some countries siesta’s during the day, and in general, they don’t stay at the office longer than they have to; whereas, in the States, the more hours you put in gives you bragging rights.

“I worked 70 hours last week,” one employee says to the other.

“Oh yeah, well I worked 80 hours, slept in my office and still haven’t showered today,” the other retorts with a coffee-induced- shaky-smile.

I don’t even want to imagine what this conversation will be like in ten years if this workaholic lifestyle continues. Things could get pretty smelly (pun intended).

The point is, four to five week holidays seem like an absolute, unattainable dream for Americans; one, that is often times in our hopes but out of reach. However, it is not unattainable. Millions of Europeans and citizens from other countries live this dream each year.  They have a balanced lifestyle of work and play; this is their philosophy for life.

We, as over-worked, stressed out Americans, need to reanalyze our work ideology.  Really, I promise, you’re not being a slacker if you work fewer hours; in fact, it’s the smart thing to do. Aren’t you a better employee when you aren’t anxious and strung out on caffeine?  Aren’t you a more productive employee when you get a good night’s  rest?  Aren’t you a more efficient employee when you choose a working method that suits you as long as you produce results?

Weekends are essential for recuperating from the work week, just as four to five weeks of vacation are to recuperating from the work year.  Don’t feel guilty for wanting to take off on holiday for four to five weeks; rather, Americans, you should be feeling pissed-off that you’re not already.  And, look at the Boston Tea Party–with enough pissed off Americans, we can change the rules.

 

Taking a Mini-Retirement Now: # Number 49 February 21, 2010

The only time you ever truly have is the present.

What if you die?  What if you become disabled? What if you lose interest in the dreams you hold now?

What if you dream to trek through the Amazon jungle, and by the time you are ready to, it’s deforested?  What if your dream is to stand in Rome’s Colossuem and you never get the chance because it has been destroyed?  What if you want to do a home stay with a hillside tribe in Sapa, Vietnam, but they have dispersed and moved to the cities? Environmental destruction happens. Wars happens. Globalization happens.  Change happens.

If you hold a dream now, then strive to do it sooner than later; because, as life goes on the opportunity may be lost.

Don’t think if, think when…then make it happen.

 

Taking a Mini-Retirement Now: Reason #50 February 18, 2010

Money can always be replaced, but the body cannot.

Scenerio 1: You slave away at your desk job with a picture of Machu Picchu tacked to your cubicle wall. The day after your retirement party, age 65, you board a plan for Peru and realize that you are not fit enough to climb the strenous hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and instead board the tourist bus along with 50 other seniors and are driven to the entrance.  You snap a few photos and casually graze about the ruins but the crowds of people ruin your shots. You look at your watch and realize that you need to take your heart medicine and five other multi-colored pills that are stuffed in your pocket so you head to the cafe’ where you order a hamburger and fries off the tourist menu because spicy food, which you once loved, now gives you indigestion and heartburn. You go back outside but the sun is hot and your back begins to hurt, after a few more tourist infested shots, you take the bus back to your luxury hotel where you take off your shoes, and lay down for an afternoon nap.

Scenerio 2: You are on the corporate track but know that you can work and make money for the rest of your life, so you decide to head out for a 4 week adventure and that Peru would be a perfect antidote for your wonder lust heart.  You fly into Lima, take a rickety bus to Cusco where you ride with the locals, sit next to a woman with a caged chicken on her lap and make friends with the man in front of you.  Although you can’t speak a lick of Spanish you manage to “talk” with gestures over pulls from a bottle of homemade pisco.  Only minutes after arriving in Cusco you make friends with some other travelers at a hostel and decide to join them the next day on the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu. You trek through green pastures, rolling hills, high mountains, valley floors, across streams and even rivers.  You get to know travelers from around the world, share stories over the campfire at night and are waken up each morning with coca tea served at your tent flap. After 7 days of intensive hiking you arrive at Aguas Calientes for your first real hot shower.  The next morning you wake, start hiking in the dark, and arrive at Inti Punku (the sun gate) just as the sun is coming up over the mountain peaks. You watch in awe and your body shivers as you feel incredibly small in comparison to the magnificent ancient ruins. After an hour of taking postcard perfect early morning photos, the tourist buses begin to arrive and the ruins become overrun with overweight seniors. You decide to head back down to Aguas Caliente to enjoy a mid-day beer on the hostel’s balcony while recounting your hiking adventure with your new group of friends.

 

50 Reasons You Should Take a Mini-Retirement Now

It has now been 2 years and 5 days since I left the United States to travel the world and take on the life of an expat. Of course it hasn’t been all roses, as there are many sacrifices you make when uprooting yourself to lead this type of vagabond lifestyle, but if anyone ever asked me whether I regret the choice I made: absolutely not.

Life is not to be lived in the “future”. Life is not about, “someday I will do that…”, life is about now or never. Be daring, be bold and as Nike’s infamous slogan goes, Just do it.

And, while you’re plotting your escape, check back daily for a little motivation and inspiration to keep you on course.  Also, check out another great source of inspiration, author and travel guru, Timothy Ferris, who more or less coined the new meaning of the word “mini-retirement” and is a huge inspiration towards keeping me from heading back to the 9 to 5.