Success is subjective. What someone defines as “success” and “a lot of money” is likely different for the next 10 people you ask.
For me, part of success is living a life worth living, a life that’s interesting. And that’s why I’ve been traveling the USA for the last several months. I’ve been sharing my story and lessons learned on the road to a tiny secret travel newsletter. After I surveyed my main newsletter, they mostly voted to keep the content separate from my personal development content. However, I will post this one piece about it since I think the topics converge at times, and I think you’ll find this useful.
First, the boredom. I spent most of my twenties as building years. I got a job in a small city and improved my skills at my career year over year. In the beginning, I would’ve chose a bigger city if I could, but circumstance lead me to where I was. Initially, I was somewhat frustrated about it and unhappy. There wasn’t much to do and I had to drive far to do something interesting. My days were fairly mundane: work -> gym -> free time.
However, that slow, quiet life was a blessing in disguise. I learned to make the most of it, reflect, journal, study successful people, study the science of happiness, squeeze the juice out of every park, trail, attraction, and event in the area. I learned that happiness does not come from excessive, flashy external things that a large city can provide. I became happy through slowly building a small community of friends, helping others, the simple pleasures of nature, learning something new to cook, creating content for the web, and exercise.
But I also became complacent. I grew tired of walking the same basic park trails hundreds of times, dreamed of living and walking in a more beautiful natural trail one day, but did nothing about it. I was comfortable enough that I would’ve been fine repeating the same cycle for years to come. But, after an unexpected series of events that lead to a realization that I was getting old, I snapped out of that complacency.
To keep a long story short, here are some things I’ve learned while traveling:
- Some travel bloggers I follow once said that travel helps you learn more about yourself and be more open-minded to the world. It also helps you push your comfort zone and experience something new and unfamiliar. There’s some truth to that. I’ve been the only Asian in a line dancing class, for example. (Technically, I’ve done this before I traveled, but it’s even more so when you’re in a distinctly new place.)
- It’s okay if your twenties aren’t the most interesting. These were building years that were important to me. I spent them going to work and then to the gym and back home. And then, occasional trips or activities after work or on the weekend. I wouldn’t have been able to finance what I did without the years of first building my career skills to do what I do now.
- I had grown very comfortable with my job and where I lived over time. I was fairly content there. It’s crazy to think that if it weren’t for a few random events, I would have continued to live there, not seriously consider other job opportunities, and may have lived and died there. That would have lead to a much more boring life story, to have only lived in one place my whole life.
- I probably could’ve made a move to a larger city or a different job at least two or three years ago. It’s sinister how complacency and comfort creep in.
- There are obvious differences in different states and many commonalities as well. I find comfort in the commonalities and marvel at the differences. Many of the big dependable brands, like Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Target, and Best Buy stay around. Gym and grocery store brands are often different. The trees look different – skinnier and closer together. The culture and architecture changes. Some people actually have distinct Southern accents. Some places have unique, regional businesses that aren’t offered elsewhere, like speed oil changes, Waffle House, or Bojangles fried chicken.
- Every city has its trade-offs. NYC offers the best metro system I’ve ever encountered. I love it. I can get almost anywhere 24/7. And it’s better than the road rage that comes with driving. However, you also deal with plenty of mentally ill people yelling at you every day in public transit. The city has a lot to see and do but also high costs. Most locals don’t live in Manhattan.
- Thank goodness I live in a day and age of Airbnbs. I much prefer the homely, unique feel and amenities that come with it than having to live in a RV, car, or generic hotels. I’m so grateful for so many things that come with the era I live in. That said, everything has its trade-offs. I have yet to find a perfect Airbnb. You have to deal with accommodating super clean roommates or hosts or sharing a space.
- While minimalism has its benefits, there are items I miss having that I don’t have while traveling, such as an air frier.
- There are a few other people I’ve encountered doing a very similar thing as me as I’ve traveled. There will be many more to come in the future. We are the first pioneers of this method of travel and work since we choose where we go.
- I tend to focus a lot on what I’m leaving behind, but what about the chance that I may find something I like or something better along my journey?
- So far, I haven’t found my dream city yet. Every city has its upsides and downsides, so I have learned to come in without too many expectations. With all that said, I have experienced some magic moments with nature, cities, and life. I think I would choose many of these places I’ve lived since I could live there and it’s something new.
- Being on the move constantly isn’t all glamorous. It comes with some challenges. It causes me occasional anxiety and stress because of my negative, neurotic, dwelling personality type. Others may find it more enjoyable constantly, but I’ve learned to reduce my expectations on how great a city is and what I’ll get out of. I’ve also learned to focus less on myself and my needs and be more selfless. My anxieties often stem from my own fears of what will benefit me: how will I make new friends, how I still build a community in a new place, me, me, me.
- Moving to a new place is a bit difficult for everyone. It’s natural to feel like this. For now, it’s worth it for how enriching and fulfilling it has been.
- The Meetup.com Mobile App will display different and sometimes more events than Meetup.com Desktop. Or vice versa. It’s a nice hack to find something if there’s not much to do that day.
With all the good and bad that comes with it, I still have no regrets making this decision. This has been one of the most enriching, interesting years of my life. I’ve learned about myself, about the world, about different people, and what the country has to offer. I don’t regret my time spent in a small city because I learned to be happy without needing flashy new things in my environment all the time, find meaning, and find things to do and ways to grow.
I remember my last couple months before I moved away confirmed how bored I was of doing the same thing hundred of times. I was over going to the same shopping mall and park trails I was used to. My adventure so far has reaffirmed that I was ready for something new. I have seen some incredible mountain ranges and park trails. I always had a feeling there was more amazingness out there, but I never really experienced it until there.