Travel allows for the new you

 

By the famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok's Wat Pho temple

Maybe you feel the way we did before my wife Jammie and I decided to take a year to travel the world. Life felt entirely too cluttered. Our daily schedules were full of important obligations, useless time wasters, emergencies and commutes. Our apartment was cluttered with a bunch of stuff we never used. All the clutter got in the way of life.

Clutter consumed our lives with the unimportant. It distracted us from more important and meaningful pursuits. It was so hard to focus because our schedules were impossible and there was just too much junk surrounding us, fighting for attention.

The solution

This round-the-world trip (3 months each in Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Bombay) has been a godsend. In a way, it has given us a clean slate. We’ve been able to get rid of the clutter.  Here’s how this has happened and why I am absolutely convinced travel allows the new you to emerge:

Less stuff to carry

At first glance, airline luggage limits are a pain. It was frustrating to have to obsess so much about what we really needed to bring on the trip. We could only take one 50 lb check-in bag each. We had to make some difficult decisions.  What did we take and what did we leave?  What was nice but not necessary? What did we really need?  These were hard questions as we were leaving for a whole year.  I dreaded leaving something behind that I would really need and then have to buy again.  (And yes, there were a number of these items that we did leave behind only to have to re-buy in Bangkok.)

Now that we are here in Bangkok though, it is really fun looking around at our apartment. We basically only have what we need. There is a sparse, zen-like feel to the place. Our stuff doesn’t stress me out the way our belongings did in our apartment in Northern California.

Less in the daily schedule

I used to be the king of over-commitment. I had a full workload at my job and on top of that I would pack business mixers, various community club commitments, volunteer work, a busy social schedule, etc. Cutting all that out with this trip has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.  The new you that travel allows can really be whomever you want.  Your schedule is your own.  This has been an amazing realization.

Less forced upon you

I want to drill down here and address meetings specifically. Meetings are often a waste of time. We all know this. But between work and other organizations that we are part of, most of us spend a lot of our time frustrated in nonproductive gabfests that go nowhere. This changes when you travel because the new you can say no before meeting creep sets in. You make the calls.  Did you feel as though your schedule controlled you back home?  The new you doesn’t need to put up with that.

Less needed to survive

Money can also be clutter. We need it, sure. But if I think back to life in Northern California and all the ways I ended up spending money, I find it shocking. Life now is more streamlined. No car insurance, no gas expenses, far less spent on the necessities (our monthly budget for all our expenses here in Bangkok is about $600).  The new you really does not need to keep up with the Joneses because you have left the Joneses at home with their white picket fence.

I could go on and on.  The longer Jammie are here in Thailand, the more we meet people that left Europe and the US years ago to live here and redefine their lives.  Their new approaches to life are more deliberate, more thought through than what they endured at home.  Travel allows this.  The new you is what you make it.

What is the first thing you would change about your life and schedule if you were on a long-term trip?  What would the new you look like?  I would love to hear in the comments!

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


 

 

16 thoughts on “Travel allows for the new you”

  1. Bjorn,

    You speak the truth brother! Being someone who appreciates minimalism and detests clutter, I can easily relate to your enjoyment of the simple life. How many things, and how much “stuff” do we own, that we hardly ever see and really don’t need? And the busy schedule? Who needs it!? It’s truly amazing what you discover when you’re forced to live life at a slower and simpler pace. I am glad that you and Jammie have that opportunity! Keep praying that I’ll get the necessary time off to come live with you guys for 2 weeks in June. Love you guys!

    1. Josh! Thanks for the comment bro. And what are you doing up at 4:00 AM:)?

      Based on your awesome house, I can tell you are a minimalist. Of all my friends’ houses, I think yours is probably one of the most “American zen”:) I am seriously hoping you can come out to Buenos Aires, man. I mean you would be welcome at any of the locations but Baires would be a lot of fun.

      BTW… we need to talk about the opportunities out here in Thailand, too. The potential to make very decent money and, much more importantly, SAVE a very respectable amount is huge out here. I mean, I keep meeting Westerners out here that are really making it. The other weekend we met two young Canadians that are teaching English and save so much (you earn American money and spend a fraction of what you would back home) that they have bought a summer house in Canada and have traveled all over Asia. That could be you. Let’s chat soon.

  2. I loved your definition of meetings: nonproductive gabfests. Before I left my job to become a stay-at-home mom, meetings made me cranky. So glad to be rid of them! So true! And yes, I can imagine how a move like this can help to redefine what’s woethwhile in life. We get drowned by all sorts of clutter so easily!

    1. I am so glad that we are finally going to get to meet you, Marlise. Thanks so much for the comment! I can tell that we will have to quiz you on effective parenting skills. We are not there yet but hopefully will be. And we would like to travel with kids… DRAMA!!

  3. Hi there Bjorn! Nice blog. I spent my entire 20s and 30s traveling and living in other countries. My husband is a former Buddhist monk from Korea, so he never really had a lot of clutter in his life. For the past 7 years, we’ve settled into a nice life in Seattle with a great balance. He’s a yoga teacher and I’m a writer and ESL teacher. We often travel when we host yoga/writing retreats! Our next one is in Hawaii ^_^! Enjoy your travels. I’ve spent a great deal of time in both Bangkok and Bombay. Haven’t been to Berlin or Buenos Aires yet! Enjoy!
    Katherine Jenkins recently posted…365 Inspirations—42: Collaging with my HusbandMy Profile

    1. Katherine. I am so glad you took the time to comment! The two of you sound fascinating! And I really like the sound of your life in Seattle as well as all the travel you did before that. I just told Jammie about you and we were both really interested. Do the two of you have some set rules to prevent the chaos of the “rat race” from slowing you down? How do you draw your boundaries?

  4. Hmm, I thought I had left a comment, but it didn’t show up. Sorry if this is a duplicate. Anyway, I said that I lived overseas for seven years in three different countries, but my favorite by far was the three years I spent in Thailand. Reading your posts I can smell the incense, and the klongs! And feel the muggy heat. I had a wonderful time living and working there. You and your wife are having a wonderful adventure. I’ll be back to read more about it.
    Galen Pearl recently posted…World SpringMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much Galen! And yes, you had left a comment but it was on a previous post. I am so excited that I now have a new friend to quiz about Thailand:) Both my wife Jammie and I love your blog so expect an inordinate amount of comments from us! Thanks for your great thoughts and refreshing perspective!

  5. Bjorn – love how travel has opened up your life to simplicity and a new reality. YOu know what I’ve found most inspiring about travel? that it forces you to embrace uncertainty and change. YOu may love a spot like lets say Thailand but you’re going to be moving soon after that. like within 3 months. It shows you that things will change which is a profound lesson we can apply to every other aspect of our life.

    1. Great point! The transient nature of travel (ha!) is definitely something we do well to think about as a metaphor for life… Hey, so I am working on a guest post that I was hoping could run on Vishnu’s Virtues… I’ll email you some details soon… open to having a look?

  6. Love it… particularly the “less in daily schedule”- glad you feel liberated. I think what you’re doing is like a mental health year. De-clutter your mind, your physical stuff, your schedule… brilliant. So inspiring! Reminds me of being footloose and on the road for three years, except I was never in charge when I was in that theatre company. Ha ha.

  7. i’m so happy for you and jammie! :) living here and teaching English in Korea is definitely eye opening and redefining. it was strange to visit home after being gone for 18 months (though the time flew for me). my only real reverse culture shock was how friendly and chatty people are to total strangers in the grocery store. of course, it was out in the country. :D

    1. Heather!! Thanks for the comment… good to hear from a fellow relocation enthusiast. How long do you think you’ll do Korea for? Indefinitely?

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