How time flies. Two years ago today I landed in Faro, Portugal to start, what I thought at the time was, a one-year trip around the world. Naively, I thought I could make the nearly 6,800-mile journey from Portugal to Japan in a mere 12 months and return home to “figure out the rest of my life". Fast forward 24 months later and I still haven’t even made it as far east as Laos or Cambodia, but I guess the destination was never really the point anyway. The two-year milestone snuck up on me, but looking back it’s amazing to see how much has changed since I began this “little" adventure of mine back in 2014.
I’ve now traveled for 24 months straight, passed through 26 different countries, and visited 97 different cities, made 342 new Facebook friends, spent 98% of the last two years objectively lost, visited 3 hospitals, had 2 cases of severe food poising, eaten an untold amount of questionable food, and STILL only have 1 pair of shoes! Surprisingly, I still live out of my trusty 40L backpack and use many of the same articles of clothing that I left with back in 2014.
Even I’m amazed by this fact - I assumed I would have been robbed at this point (knock on wood).
Where On Earth Are You?
Since I haven’t posted a single entry to the blog in the last 8 months, it seems the first order of business should be a quick update. I’ve received several messages from people wondering what the hell happened to me or if I’m even still alive, so for the record: I’m perfectly fine, eating well, healthy, and generally the same old absent-minded bum that you know and (only a few) love.
Today I write from a small coworking office in my adopted hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia while I listen to the call to prayer echo from the mosque across the street. Malaysia has become my “home away from home” this last year thanks in part to being one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that offer a free 3-month visa on arrival for tourists. Plus Kuala Lumpur has a huge international airport, incredible cheap food, and is generally just a great big city where I feel at home so it was a no-brainer. My next stops are Indonesia and Vietnam, but as usual, I haven’t planned much further.
What Are You Doing Next?
My travel routine has changed drastically since I first started and I’m no longer flying through cities at the breakneck pace of a vacationer. I still move around, but much less frequently and I usually spend weeks in a given city versus just a few days. The blog has suffered a lot the last few months due to a major shift in perspective: I no longer feel like I'm on a “trip” - this is just my new life! As such, my goals have evolved from being that of a gap year traveler to building a lifestyle of sustainable, long-term travel.
This doesn't mean I'll never return home. It just means I would be able to work from anywhere.
It is immensely difficult to make an income blogging and it would ultimately transform my hobby into work, so I sacrificed the blog in favor of a new career path in User Experience Design. UX is a relatively new industry, but it lies at the intersection of strategy consulting (which I did for years) and interface design (which I find fascinating). It might be hard to understand at first, but I know you’ve dealt with bad UX design before. Remember that time you wanted to throw your computer out the window because it was impossible to use, confusing as hell, and never seemed to do what you wanted? That's bad UX design in action, and it's my job to make sure that never happens again.
So if you know of anyone looking to build a digital product (app, website, software, etc.) send them my way: www.andrewtello.com
(Double points for the shameless plug!)
So that’s what I’ve been doing the last several months - working. Ironically, I’ve returned to the old 12-hour consulting workday plus weekends, but this time around I'm working to build my own business. It’s an uphill battle, but the ultimate goal is to be able to live and work from anywhere in the world - whether it’s Austin, Texas; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Santiago, Chile; or even Astana, Kazakhstan.
What Advice Do You Have For Me?
Every travel anniversary post I try to provide at least one little nugget of wisdom from my experiences in the hopes that it might help someone out there (six-month & one-year posts). For this post, I’d like share with you a phrase I feel summarizes everything I’ve learned in the last two years of travel. It is my ultimate maxim in life and consists of just three words - simplicity at it's finest. The phrase always helps me put things into perspective and, based on my own experience, is the key to happiness that we all seek in life. You ready?
"This will change."
Take a moment to think about it. Everything that is happening at this very moment - the unique combination of feelings, thoughts, people, situations, etc. you are experiencing right now - will never happen again. Over and over we hear how gratitude and awareness of the moment influence your happiness in life and this little phrase helps you accomplish both. I keep this phrase close by and periodically take a moment to just sit and appreciate my current situation for what it is.
So stop what you're doing right now, take a deep breath, look around, and think, "this will change".
Take a look at the 10 Things I Learned from My First Year of Backpacking post to see the other lessons from the road.
Simply being aware of what’s going on around you and understanding that this moment will never happen again immediately engenders such a feeling of gratitude that you can’t help but smile - especially if you're in a bad situation. I’ve used the phrase for so long now that I’ve actually caught myself being happy about being angry. Think about it deeply and regardless of whether you are happy, sad, depressed, thrilled, angry, joyful, etc. at the moment, you will be grateful for the experience.
Until Next Time!
The last two years have passed in what feels like a blink of an eye, but whenever I see the pins on my travel map I can vividly recall the specific feelings, thoughts, people, and events I encountered in each city. Every so often I look back at my very first travel post from two years ago and I can’t help but smile. I could never have imagined just how much my life would change when I boarded that flight to Portugal. Two years later that “crazy” trip has become my normal way of life, and now I'm venturing into new, uncharted career territory. Looking at that first post, I’m surprised to realize the Calvin & Hobbes quote at the end is still just as relevant now as it was the day I left. Who would have thought that a 26-year-old man (who's rapidly approaching 27) would still find relevance in a comic strip he read as a child? Calvin definitely got it right though:
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!"