It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Like everyone else, I’ve been paying attention to what has been happening to the financial markets the last few weeks. It is pretty easy to get depressed about how things are going down. Because of the profile of this website, I get a lot of emails from people asking questions about traveling. Recently, I’ve been getting questions from people asking if they should continue with the plans they had for traveling. Many people have planned trips and now are having doubts about going. My answer to everyone is unambiguous and straightforward:

Go, and go now.

The question is a simple one: do you want to be around for the good times or the bad times? Why in the hell do you want to stick around for a depression, then take off once things start getting better?

Right now in Cambodia I can, if I want, easily live on $20 a day. That’s $10 for my own room with AC and a bathroom, figure $1-3 per meal. Toss in a bit more if you want some drinks and to take a tuk tuk around town, and you are still looking at not much. Hell, I could cut that figure in half if I really wanted to. Had I never left on this trip, I’d be paying a mortgage on a house (HA!), paying $4 a gallon for gas ( an all-time high), car insurance, property taxes, and much more for food (also an all-time high).

If you want to know exactly why sitting at the edge of Mount Bromo makes you better, I can’t tell you, but it does.
If you want to know exactly why sitting at the edge of Mount Bromo makes you better, I can’t tell you, but it does.
I sold my house (good move), have no debt, and other than an IRA, have nothing in publicly traded stocks. Financially speaking, I’d rather be here, than there.

But all the talk of money and finances aside, in the end, none of that really matters. The ultimate asset you possess is what is between your ears. Traveling can only help you. It won’t make you dumber. The experience you gain is easily worth the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, if not more. It isn’t just the knowledge you pick up about other people and places either. With limited internet and almost no television, I’ve plowed through more books, audiobooks and podcasts over the last 19 months than I have the previous five years. I’ve been reading a lot of history, but also a fair amount on monetary policy, business in China, and even some fiction (which I seldom read). I’m a better photographer, I’ve learned some basic Photoshop, and have even gotten my feet wet with video editing. I certainly have more skills now than the day I sold my house.

If there is one person who I’d have to credit for giving me inspiration for my trip, it would have to be Jim Rogers. Jim was the partner of George Soros and made a ton of money as an investor. After they sold their investment firm, he took several trips through China on motorcycle as well as an around the world in 1990-2 and in 1999-2002. (He makes me look like a travel noob). While he clearly demonstrated his investment chops before he took his big trips, he subsequent travels certainly haven’t hurt. Watch this video of him back in November of last year (part 1 and part 2). He basically predicted everything that is happening today and put his money where his mouth is. My of his perspectives on foreign markets came from having been there himself. He and his family recently moved to Singapore so his daughters could learn Chinese.

He was doing a travel blog and podcasting back when everyone was still using Geocities. I remember going through his entire site over the course of a day. I spent hours going through all his entries. This site is not small part due to what he did.

But I digress…

My point is, if traveling is something you want to do, don’t let the current climate deter you. If anything, it should spur you. You are responsible for you. No one is going to make you better. Once the dust settles, and it eventually will, you can come out of it in better shape than you entered. One way to do that is to go see the rest of the world.

It is especially important for Americans to do this, because quite frankly, we are not very good travelers. While every Dutch and British kid goes off on some gap year trip after high school, the number of Americans you meet traveling is very small. The experience will make you stand out all that much more when you get back.

And if you aren’t American, you owe it to yourself to visit some part of the US which isn’t New York, Las Vegas, Disney World or LA. Yes, the way we treat tourists at the border is stupid and I apologize on behalf of the Immigration and the Transportation Security Administration, but we are much better once you get past the government doorknobs who work at the airport. Lots of Europeans tend to avoid America, I think because they think they understand it from TV. Trust me, you don’t. Its a big country and every region is different.

20 thoughts on “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”

  1. Fantastic article Gary. I saved as much of my wages during the richest 10 year period Ireland has ever experienced and now I’m planning a trip to New Zealand for the year to engage my passion for running marathons and meeting lots of new and interesting people.

  2. over here in the UK the situation is not either any better and the pound does not seem it will do any better soon. my partner has been just made redundant and we feel this is the best time to go off traveling the world which will do in only few weeks

  3. Gary,
    This is the best thing I've read since the financial system in the U.S. imploded. And your good advice is free :^)

  4. you should come to costa rica! you would love it, especially the cocos island where theres millions of beautiful underwater biodiversity!

  5. Excellent point about going now. I'm going to have a few more people take a look at this post, as it drives home what I've been saying for a long time.

  6. Another new reader chiming in…Great article (and web site!) and the topic couldn't be more “à propos”.

    I agree with Gary. If you feel you have to “wait for the right time”, it will only become more difficult to leave. There's no time like the present!

  7. you live the life many wish they could do. I thought I may be at the level one day. I got married and there's more to risk currently. Maybe I should have taken the risk a few years ago. I should have. But I don't look at it as the end. I still got some good years ahead of me. All I want to say, I really do envy you right now and that is the right way of thinking.

  8. My years spent traveling are prized possessions. My life was enriched. After 8 years, I came home with a husband and now we have a 5 year old.

    Enjoy your journey

  9. New reader here is well and I am enjoying the site.

    Great posting and your point about foreigners believing they understand America from watching TV is spot on. I don't know how many times I have had to tell foreigners that America is not what you see on TV as well as you cannot stereotype the entire country due to one thing. America is too big and diverse to be stereotyped.

  10. I stumbled across your blog when I was googling travel blogs. Your site is great! I think it's so awesome that you gave up so much to travel! I love traveling and blogging about all of the places I've visited, and of course giving my opinions on all the places I go to.

  11. Morning Gary, Ewen here. You are so right about America, everyone should go and spend some time wandering. Small town USA is a fabulous place. If you would like to meet some really kind friendly people, go to a small Mid-West American town.

  12. Great post Gary! Im leaving on my RTW the beginning Apr, even though I haven't thought twice about leaving. Your post was very motivational. Thank You

  13. Ah, except every Brit and Dutch high school student doesn't take a gap year. But taking time between school and 'starting real life' is certainly more encouraged in Europe than in the US. Absolutely agree with you that travel is educational.

    • The use of the word “every” in that case would be an example of hyperbole, as I do not actually believe that 100% of all British and Dutch go on a gap year trip. It only seems like it when you are on the road.

  14. Awesome post. As always you hit the nail directly on the head. Why the heck stick around for the bad times, and leave when things start to get good! The dollar is bad, but most of the worlds currency is even worse right now. If you are American, now is the time to travel! With the market and exchange rate fluctuations, if you play it right, it's like free money!

    If you don't mind, I'd love to link to your post on my site.

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