April 4, 2019 Update: In a post entitled THE FIRST STEP: How I've Been Traveling The World & Producing Music For 2+ Years, I talk about how I began to build the momentum towards living a semi-nomadic lifestyle. If you're on the verge of making a decision, I encourage you to read that post.
Here are the essential lessons of travel as witnessed through my own experiences.
THE ESSENTIAL LESSONS OF TRAVEL.
I'd like to share with you the most essential lessons I've learned as a result of my travels. As I write this, I'm just four months away from hitting the three-year anniversary of living a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Long-term world travel was always one of my biggest goals and dreams. But rather than constantly being on the move like traditional backpacking, I preferred to travel to several countries – experiencing life as a local, rather than quick-flashes of a touristic experience. If I felt like staying somewhere for a longer period of time to experience a locale in more depth, I wanted that to be a viable option. I normally like plant down and have a home base to use for my travels. I talk about this in more detail in the Nomadic Producer's Handbook.
The lessons I've learned are not just lessons that have helped me maximize my travel experiences. They are lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life, no matter where I decide to live in the future.
Hands down, one of the most essential lessons I've learned on the road has been the importance of discipline. On the outside, a lifestyle of complete freedom to be anywhere you want to be in the world at any time can be intoxicating. However, if you want to make sure to hit all of your life goals on target – whether they're business goals, relationships goals or otherwise, nothing will come to fruition without discipline.
This website, my music projects, the very lifestyle of traveling – none of it would have happened without consistent, determined, take-your-excuses-and-smash-them-against-the-wall action. Discipline is something that spills over into all areas of your life. You can't be undisciplined in some areas and expect to maintain the same discipline in others. For example, if you are undisciplined in maintaining your health and fitness goals, that same feeling of being lax on yourself will bleed over into the way you carry yourself when dealing with business and relationships. Discipline is not only a mindset, it's also a habit.
2. NOT TO Buy material things Unless I REALLY, TRULY Need Them.
Before embarking on my journey, I realized that one of the biggest things holding me back from taking that first step was all of the material things I owned. What was I going to do with my cars, motorcycle, living space, clothes, books, gifts, holiday decorations, electronics, memorabilia from childhood – just so much stuff! Selling, donating, or giving these items away was super liberating.
On the road, I realized that everything I buy, I must carry with me from one destination to the next. When you're on a short holiday, you can buy as much as you like, because you can just pack it up and take it back home with you. But what if the road is your home? And your home is constantly changing? While living my life in LA, I'd easily find myself buying clothes and electronics, buying new items to add-on to things I already had. Buying new things was a high that felt good at the time of purchase, but the high waned shortly after, leaving me with a home full of things I didn't really use much in the grand scheme of things. And when I did, it was often out of guilt for having bought something and not using it.
On the road, I had to start asking myself how necessary everything was. That extra shirt, it's taking up space, so unless I'm going to let go of an existing shirt, it makes no sense to add another one to my collection. Now, whenever I walk through a mall or a market, it doesn't even cross my mind to buy something anymore. And when it does, I usually let it go. To me, anything more than a week's worth of clothing is a luxury – at home or on the road.
I remember waiting in my hotel room in Delhi, India. I had joined an old friend on his India tour at the last minute, jetting over from Malaysia to catch him play at some clubs, right in time for my birthday. Given these last-minute circumstances, I had only one more day's worth of clean clothes with me. So I decided to use the hotel's laundry service. As I was waiting for the clothes to be sent to my room, I remember standing by the window and watching a family in a small hand-built shack, just across the way. As is common in India, opulence and destitution were neighbors within the same vicinity. In the distance, you could see the Dell building. As I was observing, there was a knock on my door. It was the hotel staff.
Staff: "I'm sorry sir, your clothes are not ready today, but tomorrow, they will be ready."
Me: "But, that's what you said yesterday. I have no more clothes to wear."
Staff: "I'm sorry, sir."
Lovely. The delivery that was initially supposed to take 24 hours, would end up taking almost three days. I was down to my last piece of boxers, last t-shirt, and last pair of socks. And I had already been wearing those for two days. THREE days of waiting for my laundry. What gives?! As I stood there, peering outside the window, I watched the family of four even closely. They had built a shack out in the open field, and this shack, they called home. A husband, a wife, and two kids. As I watched them, my words echoed in my mind: "I have no more clothes to wear."
I was upset, especially after having waited for so long for my clothes to arrive. I couldn't leave the room to go experience the city, and FOMO began to set in as my friend went about to make use of the day. Nevertheless, I laughed it off, accepted the circumstances for what they were and remained grateful for the clothes I already had on my back. As I stood there and watched these kids kicking around an old, beat-up bucket for fun, I realized that they'd probably been wearing the same clothes for days, maybe weeks. Laughter was abound like any group of kids playing. At that moment, it seemed as if their situation bothered me more than it bothered them. Those kids didn't have many toys, if any at all. They kicked around plastic bottles and cans and laughed their asses off doing it. The kids weren't aware of their perceived lack, since they had nothing else to compare it to. It was only lack compared with my own experience of life. Looking at them, I realized I have more than enough clothing to wear, even without the laundered clothes I was waiting on. Sure, I'd have to wash and reuse daily, but 2-3 days worth was sufficient. A week's worth? Now that is a luxury. A closet full? Now that seemed like overkill.
This has been one of the biggest changes in my lifestyle – the lack of material consumerism, the lack of wanting things just to want them, and the lack of feeling... lack. I found that I'm much better off saving and investing my money into experiences, relationships, business, education and quality food. And soft-synth plug-ins and sample packs, of course!
I've learned that the majority of things that bother us are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Our problems can seem grander than they actually are. But with a bit of gratitude and perspective, like with my experience in India, they diminish greatly. They seem unique to us, but it's even more likely that someone, somewhere in the world has gone through the same thing. Regardless, "problems" hold the greatest opportunities for growth. Instead of seeing problems, I began to see challenges.
Ripped off by cab drivers in Thailand. Again. Dammit! I downloaded an app and learned basic Thai each day. Soon, I was speaking minimal – yet effective – Thai to every cab driver. Rip-off incidents tanked.
Food poisoning in Cambodia. Well, that showed me the importance of having a genuinely caring, nurturing doctor to take care of you when you're ill. Look for that energy any time you choose a doctor.
A face covered in soot from motorcycling our way through the heavily polluted areas of Vietnam. Well, it certainly was an experience coming home each night and washing our faces to see a sink full of black water, but the whole experience did teach me the true value of living in an environment that has clean air. This, we can easily take for granted. I've also come to realize how important it is for global pressure to continue on countries like China and India, who contribute immensely to this problem of pollution. Granted, when populations are starving, pollution isn't a top priority, which is understandable. Nonetheless, taking care of our environment became an even more important subject matter for me.
In short, no matter what happens on the road, the only way to get past it is to accept it for what it is, remain optimistic, deal with it, learn from it and keep enjoying the adventure with a sense of humor. In hindsight, you notice exactly how much you've grown in character. A fine analogy for life too, isn't it?
4. Relationships Are Extremely Important For A Quality Life.
The small island of Okinawa in Japan has one of the highest proportion of hundred-year olds in the world. Why is that? Well, among a number of reasons, one of the biggest ones that scientists have found in common with cultures all around the world who live to be past 100 is a strong bond with friends and family. Relationships alone have more to do with the quality of your happiness and well-being than anything else in life. This Harvard study of 80 years confirms this.
When I was WWOOFing in Japan's Kumamoto area, I met an incredible old couple (we called them Otosan and Okasan) who not only lived happily and healthily, but also had a tremendous amount of vitality in their lives. It was New Year's Eve and they had shut down the bed and breakfast they were running, simply so they could host an evening of celebration with their immediate, closest friends. Surrounding the dinner table that night were the same friends who Mr. Otosan had climbed the Swiss alps with over 50 years ago, a friend who helped him build and move his home to their new location in the mountains about 30 years ago, and another friend who he has shared his life with from early childhood.y
Quality relationships are not disposable. Therapists and psychiatrists are no substitute for life-long relationships that are supportive, positive, and bring out the best in us. During my times away, I realized the importance of my friends and family back home and made an extra effort to have regular calls to stay in touch with them – even though our lifestyles were no longer in sync. On the same note, I've also learned to continue nourishing new relationships I have formed while traveling. Some of my current friends now are those who I met at conferences, exchange programs, parties, hostels, or shared bus rides with.
5. Maintain An Endless Curiosity For Life.
No matter how old you are, you can never know it all or see it all. If you ever feel bored, it's because you aren't challenging yourself enough. The open road is a reminder that there's so much to see at an given point in time, that even if you wanted to see it all in a lifetime, you couldn't. In that same light, you can never know it all when it comes to anything in life.
In my experience, the key to maintaining a youthful outlook on life is to maintain an endless curiosity for it. Ever see a child or a kitten in a new environment for the first time? That sense of wonder can be carried over into any new venture – whether it's a new experience, learning a new language, take courses in an unfamiliar topic, learning a new dance, anything! There are literally thousands of topics we can learn about, thousands of experiences to be had, and thousands of unexplored possibilities. Dig deep, there's always an adventure somewhere.
6. Live Each Day Like Your Visa Is Running Out.
When you enter a new country, your time there is generally limited. You may get 30 days, you may get 60 or 90 days, but no matter how long you are allowed to stay, your time is always limited. As those final days of my tourist visa start creeping up, I start to realize that my time in that country is running out. Sure, I can start planning for my next destination or plan a visa run, but the visa still comes with a fixed time limit.
With the scarcity of time, I start to value each day more and more. Have I seen the Taj Mahal yet? Wait, did I go hiking on Elephant Mountain yet? What about that one tea house on the hill? Ah, I really wanted to do this and that, and now there's not enough time left! It's easy to take the days for granted when we think we have an unlimited amount of time. But once our days are limited, we start to value them more and more.
After two years, this feeling that my "days are running out" has become a mindset. It's damn near hard for me to go to sleep on any given day, if I haven't felt productive towards my grand vision. If I haven't gotten one step closer to my purpose, I feel as though it's a day that's been wasted. Each day really is a blessing. And I've learned not to take any of it for granted. Because one day, your visa will run out for good.
7. Traveling Gives You Multiple Points Of Reference For life.
Every place I've lived has given me a different point of reference for living life. In Japan (one of my favorite countries in the world), I witnessed the present-day results of thousands of years of Japanese culture, the mindset of the people, their social norms, values, and overall priorities as a society. There's a reason why Japan has contributed so immensely to the world through its technological innovations and near-maniacal drive and work ethic. I could dive in and see how it's done. I internalized parts of it that I resonated with, while simply observing the rest.
The sabai sabai lifestyle of Thailand is a result of its own cultural norms and mindsets. Is your life a stressful wreck? Maybe the Thais have something to teach you about living in the moment and letting go of tomorrow's worries.
Every culture has something to teach us – none right, none wrong, just different and valuable in their own ways. When you experience life in different cultures, you gain valuable perspectives, which give you more options to design your own lifestyle and beliefs.
8. There Are Many Unconventional Ways Of Living.
In Myanmar, I met two fascinating brothers from the UK. They had been traveling for almost two years without having been back to their home country. One lived in Bali with his girlfriend. The other moved constantly from country-to-country with a goal of visiting every single nation in the world in his lifetime – now that's ambition! They ran an online business together with several employees back home.
At one point in running their business from an office, they realized they wanted to see the world and didn't really need a brick-and-mortar office. So they got rid of it and designed a lifestyle of working remotely, both for themselves and their employees. This wasn't just a business framework overhaul. It was a lifestyle overhaul. And they did it. While one brother felt perfectly fine living in Bali and exploring nearby countries as it suited him, the other was much more gung-ho of grabbing the world by its horns. He drove his car around the world – starting in the UK, driving through Central Asia, using ferries to ship his car to the USA, and continuing his journey onward to the next destination and the next.
Hardly a conventional way of living, but a way of living nonetheless. And it would be impossible to meet people who had designed their lives like this without welcoming the call of the open road. Traveling has allowed me to meet other travelers who have also gone about exploring unconventional ways of living. You may talk to a dozen travelers, some who work while traveling, others who are simply taking a sabbatical with no intention to work. At the end, you'll gain many different glimpses into alternate ways of living a lifestyle of travel. And then, even still, you may choose to live your life using a more conventional approach, which is okay! You would then make a decision knowing what your options are and what makes the most sense for you.
(Incidentally, if you're serious about expanding your global network in the dance music industry, I highly recommend basing your travels around essential dance music conferences around the world. You can get more details on which conferences to attend and how to make the most of them in my free "International Dance Music Conferences" guide. Click here to grab it.)
9. Fear is Bullshit.
“I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” ― Mark Twain
Careful! Stay away from South America, you might get the Zika virus! Don't go near North Korea, there's no embassy there! Sure, it's important to heed travel warnings and pay attention to areas where your life might be compromised, but most of the things we hear about on the news really aren't as detrimental as they're made out to be. Everyone's threshold for risk is different, but from my personal experience, most people's thresholds are a lot higher than they realize.
I recently found out about someone who DID contract the Zika virus in South America. Though it was a painful short-term experience to go through, she's alive and well now and said she would do it again, because the experience was still worth the risk. And North Korea? The same British brothers I mentioned earlier once said "f*ck-it-all" and went exploring the communist country. Would they visit again? According to them, no, but the experience of being taken everywhere by a government authority and being allowed only to take pictures of what the government allowed them to see was still an experience worth experiencing.
I'm not advising you to go against your logical wit, but I am advising you to take your fears with a grain of salt for things you really want to do. Most of your fears are imagined. And once you face them, you build more confidence and expand your comfort zone. The only antidote to fear is courage.
"When you can really allow yourself to be afraid, and you don’t resist the experience of fear, you are truly beginning to master fear." — Alan Watts
10. Health and Fitness Are A Top Priority.
THIS is one of the most important lessons and personal values I've learned NOT to sacrifice. Being on the road constantly tests you. You're exposed to different value systems, lifestyles, ways of thinking, ways of being – all of which give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your own core values. There are many things I did learn to let go of. And I learned that I don't necessarily have to accept something that I don't agree with, so as long as I don't judge it.
But one thing that has become non-negotiable in my life is health and fitness. Nothing will wear your body down and make your energy levels tank like tossing your health and diet aside. It is through my prioritization of health and fitness that the first item on this list – discipline – became a strong value. And that carried over into my music and business, as well. When I lack discipline in fitness, other areas of my life start to suffer. A solid habit of fitness keeps your body and mind in tip-top shape, so you can scale those mountains, engage fully and presently in those conversations, stay in-the-flow as you make those tunes, and be well on your way to enjoy another day within the grand adventure of life.
THE NOMADIC MUSIC PRODUCER'S HANDBOOK
The Nomadic Music Producer's Handbook is the result of over two years of trial-and-error as a nomadic DJ and music producer. I discuss ways you can earn an income remotely as you travel, landing DJ gigs, finding free meals and accommodations, staying fit while traveling, my take on mixing and mastering, preparing for travel, and much more.
The life you dream of is easily within reach – and whether you want to live a nomadic lifestyle for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, what I have to share in this book will help you get there on your own terms.
Don't let your dreams of long-term world travel and producing music escape you!