Quality of Life

Nessebar, Bulgaria

The benefits of immersion travel

Posted by | culture, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

A few weeks back I did a YouTube video on the subject (see bottom of the page for the embedded version for those of you who aren’t subscribed to the channel), but I wanted to cover the topic a little more in-depth in a blog post/newsletter so that you can understand more than what I rambled on about in the vid.

I promote immersion travel; that’s the basis of my immersion guides sold here through Marginal Boundaries, as well as in The Expat Guidebook. But there’s much more to it than simply the early retirement, absolute freedom and debt-free living. It’s also about The Human Experience. It’s mentioned in all of the guides but I haven’t ever written a blog post about what I mean by that…and exactly why I feel that immersion travel is superior to all other forms.

We are all of us One People living on One Planet. We all have the same blood flowing in our veins. Black, white, Asian, Canadian, African, homosexual, heterosexual, man, woman, child…it doesn’t matter. And one of the foremost reasons that those of us who do this for a living choose to do so…is because we get to connect with people on a personal level versus only ever exploring the world through the television, Internet, magazines and books. There’s something lost in the transition from human connection to media format, and while you can appreciate from afar you can never really know the people in another country…until you go there.

Something I think is lost in the backpacker lifestyle is cultural immersion. Flitting about, hostel to hostel, making brief stops in destinations to snap some photos for the blog, taste some new food, see some new sites, explore a new part of the world, experience a new adventure and so on and so forth, never really qualifies as knowing a destination. Experiencing, yes…at least from a traveler’s viewpoint, but you can never truly know a destination by only spending a few days, a few weeks or even just a few short months in it. If you want to experience the real culture you have to spend time immersing yourself in the depths of everything that makes that place so unique.

Forget the cost of living benefits. Forget the fact that for you, the universal healthcare plan allows you to save tens of thousands. Forget the relaxed pace of life and the sense of adventure and excitement of exploring a new place. Forget the international investment opportunities, lower tax rates and secondary passports/residencies. Immersion travel is also about connecting with the people. It’s about going native, learning how to understand the cultural sense of humor, the religion, the lifestyle and the people. 

The average backpacker only ever samples the wares, taking little bites of each cultural dish as they pass but never really dipping into any one portion more than the others and moving on to the next buffet once they are finished sampling the wares from the first one. It’s a lifestyle of adventure and exploration, no doubt, and it’s one that suits some people very well, but it’s not the type of travel that allows you to really sink your teeth into a dish.

Immersion travelers, on the other hand, are eating large portions of each dish, choosing to stay at one buffet and stuff themselves on as many helpings they can fit onto their plate, moving on from the appetizers to the main courses, the deserts, aperitifs and beyond. The thought of the next buffet is the last thing on their mind; they are intent on exploring the diversity at this table as fully and as completely as they can before they worry about the next one.

It’s an unfortunate aspect of backpacking and being nomadic; you never really get to explore the depths of a country. I may have spent days and weeks traveling to Macedonia while I was living in Bulgaria, and I may have gone to Greece and Italy multiple times, but I never really experienced those cultures because I was only ever passing through, spending a few nights here, a few nights there, taking pictures, hanging out with people at hostels, kicking back beers with fellow nomads and enjoying myself…but never really getting to know the people behind the place I was exploring.

Through immersion, however, one gains the ability to connect, to explore the full potential of The Human Experience, to become one with the culture you are living in. You spend weeks that turn into months that turn into a year and then into two years and before you know it you’ve set up a new home…which can either become your permanent base of operations or you can use it as one of many different hubs as you work your way around the globe, setting up bank accounts and secondary passports and citizenships for your investment opportunities and medical tourism. But by spending time there, by living on the ground, speaking the native tongue, making local friends, dating local people, shopping at the local markets day in and day out, getting to know the names of the street vendors and the shop owners and the discount days and the best subway routes and which hours are worst for traffic…only through immersion do you actually transition beyond just-passing-through. 

And only then can you truly know a destination and its people. A couple of nights of bar-hopping with locals while you are staying at the local hostel will never achieve the same level of connectivity that weekends of bar-hopping and hiking and movies and actual friendships and relationships can bring, and without that friendship, without those connections, you will never really experience the true nature of a city or a country. Instead, you are merely passing through, sampling the wares as you go.


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Me and Friends Backpacking in Colombia

Backpacking Versus Living Abroad as an Expat

Posted by | Colombia, Hiking, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 2 Comments

 

Backpacking is traveling around the world living the life of a vagabond. It’s surviving in hostels and scrounging up change to pay for street food and whatever local produce you can pick up on the cheap. It’s about sleeping in places without AC, without heat, without hot water, without modern amenities and without creature comforts…sometimes with little creepy, crawly friends who have six or more legs. It’s backpacks and free grass and dreadlocks and pub crawls and hostels and unshaven dudes/chics and LSD and beers and sweaty hostel sex and uncomfortable silences around sofas after a few joints have been passed around and the conversation moves into politics or religion. And while backpacking has become something of a young person’s “journey to prove themselves” before they head off to college, or a lifestyle for the international vagabond who just wants to “get away from it all”, there is a major difference between run-of-the-mill backpackers and professional expats /digital nomads.

Don’t get me wrong. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be a backpacker and still be a digital nomad, but backpackers are rarely professional in the sense that they need certain creature comforts and modern amenities to keep their business rolling. And, most backpackers are rarely interested in making sure they have connectivity, health coverage, backup plans, secondary passports, international investments and establishing long-term networks for business and family reasons. Instead, they are more focused on just “exploring the moment”, even if that means no connectivity and continual hostel (no pun intended) conditions for the length of the backpacking journey.

Hostel in Villa de Levya, Colombia

Hostel in Villa de Levya, Colombia

Backpackers feel at home in hostels, preferring to make their way country to country without any long-term requirements. Professional expats are there for immersion travel, investments, secondary residencies and passports and medical tourism and cheap schools for their kids. They are there to save money, to explore a culture, to experience cultural immersion and see every little nook and cranny a place has to offer. Backpackers stay for a night, or maybe a few nights, before moving onto the next hostel in the next city or country, continually on the go.

While this is nomadic by its very nature, it lacks the structure of a long-term plan. That’s not to say you can’t have a long-term plan and be a backpacker; I’m talking in generalist terms here. Backpackers tend to be those types of people who don’t really have a plan. They are wanderers, vagabonds (not in the criminal sense) without a home, continual nomads who are drifting from place to place without any real purpose other than to “explore”. And that’s certainly one way to see the world.

Professional expats, on the other hand, are looking at long-term apartments where they can get the best bang for their buck; they are looking at how long it will take to get access to the universal healthcare plan, how long until the new passport, how long until they can open up a local bank account, where they can store gold, how they can purchase property, where they can invest and who they can make business deals with. It’s about living an upper middle class or lower upper class existence on the cheap (at least compared to U.S. standards) so that you can reap the most rewards in terms of business.

Before you set out on the road you will have to make a decision as to which type of digital nomad you are going to be: a professional or a backpacker. They both enjoy culture and adventure and travel…they just do it in two very different ways. With that being said…which type of traveler are you, or which type do you want to be when you eventually make the transition into the location independent lifestyle?

You can see the entire 187 pictures in our Villa de Levya album over at our Facebook Page. 

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With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

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Puerto Morelos, Mexico

May in Mexico – A Month of Festivities

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

One of the most important aspects of the overall immersion travel experience is cultural and language immersion. And one of my favorite parts about Mexico and immersing myself in the culture here is that Mexicans love their fiestas. You can talk to any individual across the nation and you will hear the same thing: give Mexicans a reason to crack open a beer, uncork a bottle of tequila, throw some grub on the grill and take a day or two off work and there’s a universal cheer raised from the throats of all Mexicans around the world.

Initially I thought of it as somewhat of a joke when I first arrived and one of my friends (she is Mexican, from Chiapas) told me that Mexicans love fiestas so much that they will literally make days up just to have an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. Day of the Cleaning Lady, Day of the Lawnmower Dude, Day of the Window Washer…there is always a reason to have a party, and one need look no further than eyeshot for an idea of what could potentially be celebrated.

Friends on Isla Mujere

Me with some friends on Isla Mujeres, enjoying our own fiesta. Just because.

After having lived in Mexico for a year and a half now, I can firmly say that while I initially had my doubts about the validity of my friend’s statement, I now know for a fact that one of the best parts about living in Mexico is the fact that the people love to kick back and party. The end result = one of the most laid-back, relaxed places you will ever settle down as an expat / digital nomad.

The month of May is the perfect example of what I mean by that. It actually starts towards the end of April, if you want to be specific, with Dia de los Niños, or Day of the Children, which happens on April 30th. Then there’s Dia del Trabajo, or Labor Day on May 1st. That rolls right into Dia de la Santa Cruz, or Day of the Holy Cross on May 3rd. Right after that you have Cinco de Mayo on the 5th, then Mother’s Day on the 10th and Teacher’s Day on May 15th. And that’s without the local festivals that take place during the month, on top of the national festivals. For example, May 2 to May 20 is the Mexico City Festival (Festival de Mexico en el Centro Historico), which takes place in the historical district, or the May Festival (Actividades de Mayo) in Oaxaca from May 3rd to the 13th. There’s also the rest of the month to consider.

Those are just a handful of examples of things that are going on throughout the month of May all the way through the entirety of Mexico. And that’s just one month out of the year. While they may be a hard-working people, Mexicans also have a love of life that is lived out through their passion for enjoying social fiestas with friends, family and neighbors across the country. The passion that Colombians have for salsa is the passion that Mexicans have for their tequila and parties…and living here up close and personal as an expat / digital nomad is the only way to truly experience the real Mexico that exists behind the wall of misinformed.

It’s also one of those reasons I mentioned a few posts back when I talked about how my three month stay evolved into a year and a half with no permanent plans for leaving; there’s just too much going for Mexico for me to want to leave just yet. I’ve still got plenty of ground to cover in this country, and while I may jet out from time to time on business to other places for Live Like a Local immersion guides and Expat Guidebook work…I’m seeing a lifelong love affair developing with

Riviera Maya - Tulum

Riviera Maya – Tulum

Mexico. And besides, who can say no to afternoon siestas in a cabaña on the beach with ceviche,  grilled arrachera, cervezas, tequila, mota, chicas, fiestas, the spectacularviews and the never-ending festive attitude of the Latin people?

I sure can’t :) How many of you are along for the ride?

 

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With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

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LOTRO

My Secret Life as an Expat Gamer – Entertainment, Pure and Simple

Posted by | Gaming, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

This post is part of an ongoing series that is being written through April. It covers gaming or, more specifically, MMORPGs and how they have benefited me personally over the years in terms of business relationships as well as entertainment value while on the road living the nomadic existence. Stay tuned for later installments of “My Secret Life as an Expat Gamer”, as well as “The Secrets of My Success”, which is an upcoming series starting in May covering early retirement and how to get yourself out of debt and into living a life of absolute freedom as an expat in countries around the world.

When you get right down to it, playing video games is a form of entertainment. And like all forms of entertainment it’s a type of escapism where you can shed your daily responsibilities for a wide array of activities ranging from shooting pool, watching a movie, hanging out at the beach, surfing, skateboarding, reading a book or any other hobby/activity performed for pleasure’s sake.

Something that I think really sets the pace in the modern era is how when a new book series begins to become popular and gets made into a movie or a TV show, it is usually accompanied by at least one or two video games that can be played alongside the other media. In some cases it’s a stand-alone game that mirrors the source material, and in other cases it’s actually an interactive social media campaign meant to draw players in through a series of extra story lines and media that is otherwise unavailable to the normal viewers. Nothing sells more copies of a product than a social media campaign that gives the participants additional source material.

A perfect example of what I mean by this is the current phenomena that is The Walking Dead. It started out as a comic book/graphic novel, then moved into a television show, which has since spawned merchandising and more important to this conversation, a video game title as well. That means they are maximizing their exposure to far more people than just those who read comics; it’s targeted towards the television market as well as the gamers, which means they have a fairly wide spread of the “nerd” market. Yes. I’m a nerd. Yes. I know what boobhats are. Lawlz, woot, and I know the birthplace of the word/phrase newb/n00b.

Now, when you are traveling on the road there’s usually downtime here and there. I also happen to watch a lot of shows, one of which is The Walking Dead. For me…it’s the TV show that got me into the franchise. I never read the comic, and have no desire to. But I love the show I’ll be playing the video game at some point this summer, just because it’s part of a franchise I enjoy.

Which brings me to the point of this whole post: you don’t have to worry about missing your shows, games or anything else when you are on the road. Too many people think that a life of continual travel means giving up your shows, your games and your normal routines and that’s just not the case. All of this entertainment can be had anywhere in the world, so you can just as easily be camped out on the shores of Lake Michigan as you could be tucked away in the Rhodopes on the border of Greece; entertainment is global.

What are your favorite types of games to play when on the road or in between adventures? Leave a comment below and let me know!

 P.S. Who else played the Diablo III open beta this last weekend? :) I was in Playa for 5 hours on Saturday, but I still managed to level up a Wizard and Demon Hunter through the beta. Looking good so far, but Guild Wars 2 has my eye drawn towards its release date….I’ll be biding my time in SW:TOR until then :) 

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

Unplug from The System, cure yourself of The Greedy Bastard Syndrome, tap into your universal potential and create your own reality. Build a brand, travel the world and realize your cosmic consciousness.

Beyond Borders - The Social RevolutionGet Your Copy Today!

Tulum, Mexico

How my three month stay in Mexico evolved into over a year and a half

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 2 Comments

…and counting.

When I first came here I had no plans other than to stay for three months, do some scuba diving, see the local haunts and then continue moving south. Originally I had thought to make my way down country by country through Central America and then down the western coast of South America, coming up the eastern coast and then zig-zagging my way back up through the center of South America. It’s still in the book, but things have certainly changed a bit since then as well.

Puerto MorelosWhen I first started I was still only doing freelancing full time and I hadn’t yet begun to build the Marginal Boundaries community. I was supporting myself purely on my contract writing and freelance work, but then I received a couple of job offers to write travel guides based on all my years of being on the road, and after that a few conversations with friends led me to realize the potential for growing something into a company and networking with other people.

In any case…I’m still here, I have a residency visa for Mexico now, I have long-term plans for a part-time base of operations here in the Riviera Maya and all of my current Live Like a Local guidebook concepts are being headquartered from here, as well as other Marginal Boundaries productions that specifically related to Mexico, both in Chiapas as well as the Riviera Maya.

As far as Cancun goes, it’s a great city for expats. It has an international airport, a cheap cost of living, modern amenities and a healthy, bustling tourist industry. I live in Centro, in a middle class area where it’s most pioneer families who came here 40 years ago when the city was being built, as well as their kids (who are my age) and their families. And while the affordability of living in Cancun is a major benefit (I pay at most $800 a month for total costs, and that’s only if I’m splurging on things with my girlfriend), it’s the Latin culture that has kept me here for so long and has me making so many plans here in Mexico.

Isla MujeresThe best way to describe what I’m talking about is to think about the concept of time here. Worldwide, Mexico is known as the “land of tomorrow” because people here are notoriously relaxed when it comes to work. And Mexicans love their festivals with a passion that cannot be described. If there is a reason for beer, tequila, dancing and festivities, that’s sufficient. There is always something going on somewhere. And with that in mind…the general vibe is one of relaxation and a “live life as it comes at you” sort of approach. Not a lot of major plans are made, and the regular people just go about their daily lives with a very nonchalant approach. As a good friend here once told me, “It was Mexico yesterday. It will be Mexico tomorrow. There’s no reason to stress about anything.” After which a joint was lit and beers were cracked open.

It’s a simple fact that time disappears here in Mexico. And throughout most of Latin America. It was the same in Colombia, as well as in Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Serbia and Turkey and every other country I’ve been in. But when people ask me one of the major reasons I choose to stay in Mexico and why that initial three months turned into a current year and a half with no clear plans to make a permanent departure, I have to answer that it’s the way time here just stops and how beneficial that is for my sanity.

When someone tells you that they’ll be there in 30 minutes, they might mean up to an hour and a half. Social gathering that starts at 9 actually means people start showing up at 10:30 or 11. It means when a restaurant says they will be open at four in the afternoon and I show up, my friend is kicked back on one of the booths enjoying a nap at 4:30 because he was tired and wanted a nap. Didn’t matter that his sign said he’d be open at 4; he was sleeping and he’d get to it when he gets to it.

Ruins of TulumIt’s something that helps you appreciate life. Learning how to slow down gives you the opportunity to enjoy the little things in life, rather than those little things racing by in forgotten moments due to your hectic, 40+ hour a week grind at a job where you never see the light of day and can only leave when your boss allows you to. And forget multiple festivities throughout the week; you get a handful of national holidays per year and that’s it.

But it’s also the people who have kept me here in Mexico longer than I had originally planned. And the country itself. I have become intoxicated with Mexico. This is a vast country of relatively undeveloped potential, with hundreds of natural parks, ecosystems, ancient races of indigenous people stretching back over the millenia far beyond the Mayans that most people are familiar with, such as the Olmec.

In short, Mexico has a lot to offer in terms of explorability, and when you combine that with affordable medical care, a cheap cost of living, modern infrastructure and a government that is very friendly to foreigners…what’s not to like?

Isla BlancaFor those of you who have been living here longer than I have, I completely understand, because what was supposed to only be three months has since turned into a year and a half and as of present I have zero plans to leave Mexico permanently anytime soon. I may skip out for a few months here and there to travel and do research in other South American countries while I write more Live Like a Local guides, but I’m also planning more adventures here in this amazing country because there’s just so much to see!

What are some of your favorite places, foods or experiences here in Mexico?

 

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

Unplug from The System, cure yourself of The Greedy Bastard Syndrome, tap into your universal potential and create your own reality. Build a brand, travel the world and realize your cosmic consciousness.

Beyond Borders - The Social RevolutionGet Your Copy Today!