Category Archives: Prison Break

Our Next 12-month Experiment

Enjoying a $0.67 Thai lunch:)
Enjoying a $0.67 Thai lunch:)

What’s next?  What happens after your travel year? Everyone’s asking us the same question so I figured it was time to answer it.

Now that we have sampled a series of 3-month relocations around the world in 2013, we’ve decided to test living in one of them, Bangkok, for longer.  What’s “longer”?  Well, another 12 months, of course!

Here’s why we picked Bangkok for 2014:

We can’t stop now!!  –  2013 was hands-down the best year of our lives so far.  Jettisoning the predictable grind of our Northern Californian lives and taking off on the adventure of our lives was the most invigorating thing either of us had done.  There is something about intentionally designing a new life in a new place that is extremely fulfilling.  Previously we had basically accepted the default life options that were right in front of us.  When we decided that was a dead end we took off on our 2013 world service trip.  We have not once regretted it.  We are going to continue rather than return to the old.

Meaningful service opportunities - Intentionally taking out a year of our lives for service has only given us an appetite to do more of it.  In the last few weeks we have hunted down a whole range of volunteer activities for next year.  In addition to our original Bangkok projects (orphanage and prison visits), we may be adding visits to refugees in their homes, volunteer journalism projects and high school teaching.

Unbeatable continued travel options - We are definitely not done traveling.  The only thing that is changing is the model.  Bangkok is the ideal hub for discount flights anywhere in Asia (and, coincidentally, anywhere in the world) because of its popularity as a tourist destination.  In 2014 we plan to make Bangkok our base but be able to visit other parts of Asia on a frequent basis.  This may actually end up meaning more travel than we did in 2013.

A job offer I could not refuse - I’ve said in previous posts that this year has brought a lot of really interesting job opportunities our way.  I want to say a big thank you to all the CultureMutt readers that have gone out of their way to provide us with these opportunities.  You guys are amazing!  We really appreciate your looking out for us!

There was one offer I simply could not refuse: Business Development for a US-based educational company.  More details on this job will have to come in another post but for now I will say that it is a dream come true and will allow us to make a solid living during our 2014 Bangkok Experiment.  Thanks for this opportunity goes to yet another CultureMutt reader.  You know who you are.  Thank you for sharing our vision and appetite for service and global adventure!

Quality of life for a lot less.  Nowhere we have lived (or heard of) allows you to live as well as you can in Bangkok for so little. The extremely low cost of living in Bangkok allows you to save more easily than anywhere else we’ve lived.  In a world where it is hard to get a job and often even harder to make ends meet, let alone save, working in Southeast Asia offers an amazing alternative.  If you have a degree from a Western country and a little bit of work experience under your belt, the job possibilities in a place like Thailand are endless.   Thousands of Westerners live and work in Bangkok for this reason.  There is more work, you can often find decent pay and your living expenses are (even conservatively speaking) a third of what you were spending on scraping by in the US or Europe.  I have gone over actual dollar figures and why it makes a lot of economic sense to live in a country like Thailand before but if you want a brief recap, check out “Things I wish I’d known about long-term world travel before I quit my job”.

The future is Asia.  The writing’s on the wall almost everywhere we look: there is absolutely no place on earth that can match the pace of progress in Asia.  Yes, there are also risks, of course.  Those who follow the news know that Thailand is not immune to political turmoil.  But the fundamentals of life and work availability have not really changed in decades (no matter what set of politicians is ousted).  And foreigners are generally safer living in Bangkok than they are in most American cities.

No other part of the world that we visited in 2013 can match the frenzied pace of progress and the giddy optimism of Asia.  Everywhere you look, there is construction.  There is an obsession with education and advancement that absolutely blows the US and Western Europe out of the water in comparison.  It may upset some to hear it, but it is true:  the 21st century is the Asian century.  The balance of world opportunity, wealth and influence has shifted East.  For Millennials it makes a lot of sense to follow this trend and go where the opportunity is.

More updates to come.  We are home with family in Los Angeles for the holidays and head back to Thailand in January.  Do you have any tips for us as we tackle our first longer term relocation?  Hit us up in the comments.



Is Edward Snowden Jason Bourne?
Edward Snowden, the real-life Jason Bourne?

John McCain went there over the weekend:  he compared Edward Snowden to Jason Bourne.  Well, at least in what he considered to be the minds of “a young generation”.

“There’s a young generation who believes he’s some kind of Jason Bourne,” said McCain to Fox News Sunday.

To back up his point, McCain shared his views on how this new American generation thinks: “Right now there’s kind of a generational change.  Young Americans do not trust this government.”

That may be true, but let’s focus on the deep stuff and get back to his Jason Bourne comment.  Just how Jason Bourne is Edward Snowden?  I’ll let you be the judge of that after you read through my super objective list of Bourne/Snowden similarities:

They have similar backgrounds.  Seriously.  Both have really boring names and come from boring towns somewhere in the US.  Neither one of them is a life of the party type.  Pretty chill, actually.  They are both military-trained (at least until Snowden broke both his legs and got out while still in training) and then went into intelligence work.

They date girls on tropical islands.  They both have a thing for not-a-model-but-still-attractive girls on tropical islands.

They dress alike.  Jason Bourne is no James Bond.  He dresses down and he dresses drab.  So does Edward Snowden.  I mean, that one shirt he seems to wear in all his pictures is getting seriously old.

They are both seen as traitors, at least by some.  The political class sees these guys as traitors.  Cool kids do not.

They leak juicy stuff to The Guardian.  This is almost spooky true but they both leak juicy intel to Britain’s The Guardian.  If you don’t believe me, go back and check the movies.

They have a thing for international travel.  They are both jetsetters.  They are all over the place in the game of cat and mouse with authorities.

Of course, the similarities dry up after a while.  Jason Bourne would never have gotten holed up in the Moscow airport for a month making Russian language flash cards.  But hey, for a real life guy, Snowden gets really close.  I think we’ve got someone to play Snowden when his movie comes out…



Approval is Overrated

At the Berlin Wall.  July, 2013.  7 months after declaring our independence from approval:)
At the Berlin Wall. July, 2013. 7 months after declaring our independence from approval:)

Here’s a handy rule for getting nothing done in life: Seek approval.  Have your family sign off on your every decision.  Get a job where the very lifting of a finger requires your boss’s signature.  Never do anything out of the ordinary or risky for fear of failure or ridicule from your peers.  Think that your friends have to agree with or be jealous of your decisions in life.  Live the entirety of your days, stepping around gingerly, all concerned with what people are thinking.

Don’t get me wrong.  Approval is nice.  It is nice to have family, bosses, pretty people or peers approve of what you are doing.  It feels all warm and fuzzy to get the thumbs up for all your major moves.  It is validating.  It is reassuring.  It feels right.  It’s all smiles.

Here’s the one little problem with that strategy:  It leads to absolutely nothing.  It does not change the world, it only deepens mediocrity’s rut.  All that a life of approval-seeking does is produce more of the same.  More people on anti-depressants.  More impressive pot bellies.  More cookie cutter houses that are built too fast and that ensnare their naive owners in too much debt.  More blah, day-to-day living, much of it spent commuting to a barely tolerable job doing something you don’t enjoy for people you don’t like.


If you have had enough of approval-fueled existence realize one thing:  No Pony Express is rushing to the rescue with a delivery of some cure for your own timidity.  Changing your life is going to take some really uncomfortable, bold moves on your part.  You will have to go against the grain.  You will need to ruffle some feathers.  You are going to get people talking about you.  And yes, you will have people disapprove.

If this sounds too awkward and you don’t think it is worth the trouble, do us both a favor and stop reading this.

If, however, a life more meaningful, exciting and intentionally-lived is of appeal, join me in my working Declaration of Independence from the Approval Culture:

From this instant, decide that you will do whatever it takes to absolutely and completely live these truths:

You don’t have to care about what everyone thinks.

This isn’t about being a rebel or being reckless.  This is a fundamental truth in life:  if you care too much about what other people think, you become imprisoned by the prevailing attitudes around you.  You are no better than those that stood by and condoned the worst atrocities in human history.  You are the epitome of small town thinking or big city politically-correct-and-impossibly-fashionable lifestyle adherence (equally despicable ends of the same plinky coin.) You are expendable and destined for the rubbish heap full of everyone else who blindly followed.

You were never destined to be imprisoned by your cubicle

As comforting as it is to have a measure of climate-controlled stability, you were never supposed to be holed up in your cubicle.  You can decorate the walls of that office cell with pictures of Yosemite and quotes about dancing like no one is watching.  You can pin up big-fonted affirmations of the riches, Riviera-lounging and adventure that will some day flood into your life.  But the reality is that if you are not gutsy enough to execute a prison break, the farthest you will go is down the hallway to the water cooler for another rousing conversation with the guy from Accounts Payable.

Your current income (READ: Capacity to take on even more debt) was never meant to define you or your future

There’s a predictable cycle for most reasonably competent types.  You finish school, get a foot in the door of some workplace as a coffee-fetcher that is paid the bare minimum.  You stay in the job, lured by the prospect of promotions and raises.   Time passes, youth and its sparky ideals fade and you may be able to impress those above enough to get a raise.  Either that or you just stay put long enough that your step wage increase makes those 10 to 40 years of doing the same thing add up to ensure that you are one of the better paid photocopiers around.

Either way, there is a huge temptation to think your worth and self-esteem should be tied to the way the system pays you.  It is hard to resist the endless cycle of approval-seeking at work and society. You obsess about the opinions of others so as to increase your standing, which (hopefully) will increase income and, because you are a slave to the system, your self-esteem. STOP BUYING INTO THIS.  It is a slow, painful, unrewarding death march.  You can liberate yourself.  Freedom and meaning are possible.

Prison Breaks Take Planning

If you see yourself (as I did for longer than I care to admit) described by the depressing verbiage above, it is often tempting to do something drastic, like march into your boss’s office right away and say you quit.  For some, this may be just right.  For most, however, an effective escape takes planning.

If you belong to the second pack, make sure you start planning TODAY.  If you are dissatisfied at work (or in any major life context), decide exactly where you want to be a year for now.  Do you want to be on the beach in Thailand? It’s pretty nice.  Do you want to be in a better job? You can.  Do you want to be your own boss? Hey, crazier things have happened.  Each of those options are possible.  And quite frankly, “possible” is enough reason for you to get off your butt and put your all into making it happen.  It’s up to you.  Is it going to be the orange cubical jumpsuit or is it going to be a life of fulfillment?  You can do this.  Dumber people have pulled this off with spectacular success.  Don’t sell yourself short.

The world is dying for you to do something different

Here’s the deepest reason of all for shunning the approval culture: You are called to a life of service.  The world is suffering from a malady that only you can cure.  This isn’t grandiose thinking.  It is reality.  Face up to it:  You are supposed to help people in a way that is unique to only you.  You can make this world better in a way that nobody else can even imagine.  You have something that nobody else does.  If you squelch this individuality by conforming to the oppression of approval seeking, the world will be all the worse for it.

Realize this isn’t about you.  The biggest reason to declare your independence from the approval culture has nothing to do with you.  It is unselfish.  It is altruistic.  It is about following a calling.  It is about finding and following the reason you are living and breathing.  It is about relishing the fact that you are different and it is about giving yourself entirely to making the most of this life and its ample opportunities for service.


“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

(Apple ad copy from back in the day when they were the scrappy new kid on the block)