January 30, 2018
As I type this it’s 2:27am in my hostel in Mexico City, 5 days after I started traveling, and I’m happy. I know this is going to sound super cheesy, but I’m not going to sacrifice realness to try to look “cool”.
I spent the day exploring the city, and the evening hanging out with people from all over the world, talking about everything from travels to politics and crypto. I’ve heard all kinds of stories about adventures in countries all over the world, from people way more interesting than me who’ve traveled everywhere. Most people are traveling alone, but we all share this common bond of loving to adventure and explore foreign cultures.
I’m still blown away at how interesting and well-traveled everyone is. People here have traveled the world and have all kinds of stories to tell. I’m like a suburban child among peers of the “world’s most interesting man” from the Dox Equis commercial. I honestly feel kind of inadequate, not only when it comes to travel stories, but culture, international politics, history, etc. I’ll nod and absorb the knowledge, but often have very little to offer.
The biggest eye-opener to me has been how interesting everybody is. Even in NYC, most of the people I interacted with were fairly boring. Work boring office job, sleep, work, sleep, repeat. It’s so prevalent and ingrained in our culture that I almost felt guilty for having wanderlust and wanting to try new things and see new places. Because that makes me an uncommitted engineer/employee, not “mature enough”, not fit for the “adult” world. Plus you’ve got six figures of student loan debt with ~7% interest, how can you even consider extensive traveling?
Since my very first job I’ve always had the desire to travel extensively (something I couldn’t do prior to my first job because I didn’t have any money). My dream from the very beginning was to get a remote job. For each of my 3 years in the workforce, I vowed to ask/tell my employer that I’d be working remotely this summer, and move to Barcelona. Each summer it never happened. At first I was too afraid because I figured they wouldn’t allow it, but the last summer I legitimately had convinced myself that I probably wouldn’t be happier abroad anyways.
See not only was I forgoing my own happiness, but I was becoming one of those boring people I had tried so hard to avoid becoming. By the time I got fired, I had almost completely lost my desire to travel, thinking that it was probably overrated anyways and might make me less productive. Had it not been for the fact that I was so fed up with NYC and its high cost of living, I might not even have left.
I’m so glad I left. My eyes have been opened. I met a guy from Whales who quit his job 3 times to travel, traveling for a year, and then returning back to the same employer each time (he was worried that they wouldn’t let him back this time). I met a woman who quit her job in NYC to travel, and ended up spending 2 years traveling the world and living in Australia. I met a guy from Chicago who had quit his last job to travel for a year, and now at the end of an epic 3 week trip to South America was planning to quit his job back home to travel. I met a chemist from England who had quit his job multiple times to travel, and had spent the last 6 months living in New Zealand and was on his way to trek through South America and hike through Patagonia. I partied with a Swiss software engineer who was on a 2 month vacation traveling through Latin America (yes, his company was letting him take a 2 month paid vacation) and a 25 year old who owns 15 vape shops in London and now travels the world (he recently bought a Bentley).
In a hostel, these are your average peers. In an average office, your average peers are boring, basic, and unambitious. And they have to be. If they were ambitious, they probably wouldn’t be working there.
I hate offices. Maybe it’s just American culture, but I hate how politically correct it is. I hate how you have to pretend like you love your job, that there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing, and that there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. Not all jobs are like that, but most are (especially software engineering jobs in NYC). It’s the one thing I missed the most about school, the freedom to speak your mind and be whoever you want, to question things, to criticize your bosses. Ultimately none of this has any effect on your grades (at least in the hard sciences). In an (American) company, your boss can literally fire you for anything, even if it has nothing to do with your performance. Most American workers live precarious lives on the brink, one arbitrary firing away from insolvency.
I’ve seen the light, and there’s no going back.
Written by Jeremy Bernier who left the NYC rat race to travel the world, work remotely, and find the meaning of life.