After 1 month in Chiang Mai, I realized just how deeply happy I was with it.
Edit: this draft was not reviewed & published to my Email list a bit late.
Chaing Mai is beautiful, has mountains, nature, waterfalls, extremely cheap (yet luxurious) accommodation, delicious food, and so much more.
It’s not all perfect- Bangkok for example is much better for dating, and Sofia, Bulgaria cools down quite a bit.
Leaving a destination is always the true test to how much I liked it or didn’t. Do I wish to return, or am I happy to leave?
In Vietnam I was so excited to leave that I got to the airport extra early- I missed Thailand, and Vietnam was a bit too chaotic for my tastes (as in they literally don’t stop for you at cross-walks and have to endanger your life to cross the road).
I spent 4 days in Vietnam, and now almost a week in Bangkok. I feel torn as what to do next, as often I do while traveling.
With the whole world at my fingertips, it’s hard to make a decision! But recently I’ve observed that my choices are becoming more and more narrow.
For example 2 years ago when I just started I researched the endless destinations and even created a post on my blog about all the places I wanted to go and things I wanted to do.
It included dozens of countries and wild adventures that would no doubt create memories for life.
However, I’ve noticed that there’s a “yin and yang” to life. You can adventure and be crazy, but you also need familiarity, comfort, etc.
One psychologist (I forgot whom) said there were 6 basic psychological needs of humans. One was familiarity, and then the one right after was spontaneity.
On one hand you need routine, comfort, and familiarity. But on the other hand you need some stimulation and newness. A dash of uncertainty makes for some excitement!
That’s where this post begins. It’s a bit wrong to say “an end to adventure” because of course adventure will not end.
I’d probably really enjoy staying in one city for 1 year, but no doubt by the end of it I might again be writing up a list of endless destinations that I would now know I can’t possibly complete within even a reasonable time period.
A better way of saying this would be “a temporary end to adventure.” Let’s dive into this.
2 Years of Adventure
I can’t believe I am writing this. It’s still fresh in my mind marveling at those individuals who claimed to have traveled to a dozen countries, speak 3 languages, and make money online.
There was just something about it that drew me in. Now I’m in, and have been, and what I’m discovering is that this is not the one-way trip that I thought it would be.
Every nomad ends their journey. I’ve wrote about this before, when I was mentally snapping in Thailand last year (but that was more-so due to heart-break, surgery, and isolation).
In the past 2 years I’ve actually visited 14 or 15 countries- which means I’m excluding unintentional layovers.
I’ve learned to speak some French, a few phrases in Dutch, Finnish, and Hungarian, some basic Bulgarian, and some Thai. My German has been slightly improved. There’s probably some others in there.
This fact is even more shocking- I’ve “lived” (which in my book means spending 1 month minimum in the country) in Phoenix; Montreal, Canada; Heidelberg (debatable as it was broken up), Germany; Sofia, Bulgaria; Pafos, Cyprus; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Canggu, Bali. This is 6 or 7 countries, depending on how you count it!
I don’t know what I expected would happen after I did all of this to be honest. I looked up to those who had accomplished such feats, as if something would change.
Alas, everywhere you go, there you are. I am still just me, at the end of the day. I’ve “done” so much but nothing really changed. At the same time, I’ve changed completely & grown so much.
Does that make sense? If you’ve aggressively pursued any goal you can probably understand me.
Now let’s be completely, brutally honest. I was hardly happy during all of this traveling.
There have been some exceptional moments, such as falling madly in love, hooking up in Thailand, riding a motorbike, surfing, and those unforgettable nights with friends.
The growth itself is beautiful and amazing also. Simply looking back onto my days in Montreal for example, I see that technically I wasn’t in the best state (financially, physically, emotionally), but I was growing so much and so I look back on those days fondly.
But there comes a point that every new country is.. well, as they say in Thailand: same same.
By the time I entered my most recent “new” country- Vietnam- I was hardly impressed. I walked down the famous party street excited, but I had context for it- it was like KhaoSan, in Bangkok.
The temples, bridges, rivers, nature, etc. all fade into the same thing. Yeah, it’s beautiful, and profound, but you can have too much of it and become numb to it all.
You still experience culture shock, but in a different way. It’s almost annoying and you’re getting severely diminishing returns from your efforts.
Think of it like this: the difference between $1 and $10 is a lot, but the difference between 10 million and 25 million not so much in terms of lifestyle change.
With an extra $9- from starting at $1- you can suddenly afford significantly better food and even restaurant food.
When you’ve already got 10 million to enjoy on life, an extra 15 million, while substantially greater than the $9 improvement in the other, will not drastically improve the individual’s life.
The same is true about travel. It becomes fatiguing. You start having other needs, and prioritizing other things that the destinations.
For example, I wrote that I wanted to visit a water-park, Chiang Rai, get a tattoo, or visit Pai while staying in Chiang Mai. I did none of that and give 0 fucks about doing it. Another fucking temple or experience hardly turns me on.
In hindsight, this created a lot of troubles for me and my ex when we were visiting some European countries together. All I wanted to do was work in a cafe, while she wanted to go to museums.
My brain could literally not handle any new stimulation, so I desperately wished to return to the same restaurants & cafes over and over. Only now can I see why we had clashes.
The same thing that brought you pleasure can bring you pain. There is a balance to everything.
The problem comes when you associate the activity with pleasure it’s easy to lose perspective which is that it may not be pleasing you anymore… but because it brought you pleasure then, it’s easy to keep up the activity (see: every addiction).
Constantly packing bags, saying goodbye, adopting to new languages & culture customs, searching for drinkable water, restaurants, etc. seriously begins to consume a ton of energy.
With other commitments such as work, relationships, and personal enjoyment time, it becomes near impossible to fulfill everything while on the road.
It simply gets to be “too much.” I am writing this now in Bangkok, and I really want to love this city.
In fact, tonight was absolutely fun. I enjoyed going out. It was great, but I am realizing that I can’t handle it… now.
A Narrowing of Travel Destinations
About 6 months ago I snapped from heart-break, isolation, and travel fatigue. I was unintentionally traveling at an absurd pace, I think an average of one new country every 2 weeks.
I didn’t even want to do that, but things were just getting fucked up and I wasn’t taking responsibility for my life.
I thought I wanted to move to Portland or Vegas, but I quickly realized upon returning to Phoenix that this was a form of escapism. I began to catch my grounding in Phoenix, and then I was planning on going back to Bulgaria.
But in my heart I really wanted to experience things in Bali & Thailand. I figured I’d knock out some goals there, then go.
Even in Phoenix then, my destination list was looking more like “Montreal, Sofia, Bali, and Thailand” compared to that ridiculous list of dozens of countries to visit.
Compare that to when I was down to go anywhere, intended on doing this and that and everything, etc. 2 years ago before I had set off!!
As I’ve traveled, the destinations list has shrunk so much. Other things have became priorities, and I’ve observed my own energetic limits with travel.
Right now in Bangkok I literally have 2 options: Chiang Mai or Sofia. I’ll probably do Chiang Mai 1 more month, then Sofia for 3 months. Then I’ve already decided I’ll return to Thailand to live for about 4 months.
Of course, that’s a rough, un-set plan. Things change. They probably will. But compare this to back when I was using “Google Flights Explore” to view every bloody country I could visit.
I was recently invited to Holland with free accommodation and cheap food, but turned it down.
I just can’t, anymore. Well, at least for the time being. I need to slow down.
A Plan For The Future
My plan for at least until the end of the year is to only visit destinations that I’ve previously visited and have a social circle, or ONLY visit a new place if it’s with friends and in the context of a vacation.
Work is such a priority now. So is fitness, social circle, and dating. After taking several girls home in Bangkok (not necessarily hooking up with them all), I’m really desiring something a bit more stable.
It’s really fascinating to see how I’ve changed like this. I thought I’d never settle like this, yet here I am, kind of nearing the end of the line.
I can intuitively see the future. Starting now I will only visit familiar destinations- specifically Chiang Mai, Sofia, Bali (maybe), Montreal, and Phoenix.
My travel is slowing down. I’ll begin to spend more and more time in each place. 1 month in Chiang Mai, and who knows maybe I’ll be tempted into another month.
Then Bulgaria, for 3 months. Then back to Thailand (Chiang Mai).
The only exception to this is Bangkok- I’ve got 2 week’s experience in Bangkok, and I told myself I’d give here a try for a month or two once I’m making more money and re-grounded.
There’s also one other exception, but it can be wrote about if it comes about.
Probably what will happen is I’ll spend considerably more time in Bulgaria & Chiang Mai, and I’ll split my time between the two or end up wishing to immigrate to Bulgaria or Chiang Mai.
Then that’ll happen, and I’ll start to really slow down my traveling.
Who knows, maybe it won’t happen like this. I still want to check out South America for example, but that could be years down the line rather than months.
Why is this happening? The biggest reason digital nomads and perpetual travelers start to slow down then “quit” traveling is the adaptation cost of every new destination.
The only ones who have successfully managed long-term travel is with consistent returning to favorite destinations with stable social bases, OR having a partner or community to travel with.
At best the adaptation period is about a week to a new city, if you’re planning on staying & working remotely.
While often pleasurable, significant energy is lost learning customs, finding restaurants, places to work, etc.
The simple act of discovering new roads is taxing on the brain. It becomes near-impossible, sometimes impossible to do other tasks when you have to adapt to a new place.
For example I haven’t done yoga since leaving Phoenix, despite being in yoga hot-spot Bali!
I was too busy with adventure, adaptation, and work and socializing that I while I did have the time I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to wish to invest in a yoga practice or find a teacher.
When you go back to places that are familiar, there is no adaptation cost, except to a small extent.
Every time I’ve gone back to Montreal for example has been a breeze- I know the city, metro, have friends, know restaurants, and cafes.
Same for Sofia, Bulgaria. I’d argue that I enjoyed Chiang Mai so much for the simple fact I was here last year, even if I didn’t enjoy it so much then. It is familiar now, I know where to go, and for that I required almost 0 energy with adapting myself to here.
There is a small cultural adaptation cost even if destinations are familiar. This can be painful and leave you crying in a car, feeling so misunderstood and out of a place (true story from me one time when I returned to America after years abroad and realized I had changed so much).
One reason I’m hesitant to go to Bulgaria now is that I realize I’ve culturally adapted to Southeast Asia and Thailand specifically. Certain habits, such as a slight bow, big smile, etc. would make me appear high and insane to Bulgarians.
Going from Thailand to USA to Bulgaria is better because USA isn’t as respectful as Thailand, and Bulgaria isn’t as respectful as USA (in terms of service & social customs). Going directly from Bulgaria to Thailand or vice versa is a more sudden, drastic, difficult change.
Things Always Change
Maybe I’ll get bored of staying in Chiang Mai or Sofia. In fact, it’s likely that’ll happen.
So that’s why I clarified earlier that this is a temporary “ending of adventure.”
That being said I do prefer the title “an end to adventure” because the past 2 years have been chaos, but now things will likely never be as chaotic again for the simple fact that I don’t want it to be chaotic.
2 Beautiful Years of Adventure (slowing down)
Looking back I can’t believe all of the experiences I’ve had. What the fuck?
It wasn’t long ago that I was a nobody from Nebraska, not respected by anybody. Now here I am, a “world traveler,” finally what I wanted to be, and living dreams I never could’ve imagined.
Look, I’m not trying to hype it up. It’s not like I’m high all the time. It becomes normal.
The point is just that looking back there’s a certain satisfaction for that it was done.
From what I know there are a couple different types of happiness, and one is growth-based. If you have grown a lot or achieved something difficult, you will always derive fulfillment from that.
I feel that way about this. Today is where I am consciously realizing my own needs and evening out from what was a chaotic, beautiful journey.
I wasn’t necessarily happy all the time. The whole 9 months fiasco that began in Cyprus and ended in Phoenix (with like 10 countries in between) was not a light period.
But I came out of the darkness. That’s what’s fulfilling. I learned, grew, and reset my own priorities.
I’m very grateful for that all of this was experienced! Like I said earlier, it’s not necessarily the end to adventure. Perhaps after re-grounding I’ll wish to do 3 months in Costa Rica, then Colombia, etc.
Just right now my priorities are about familiarity and comfort. Enjoy deep friendships and deeper relationships with women.
I really can’t believe it’s been 2 fucking years. Wow.
A New Beginning
It’s not an end- a new beginning. The chaotic, uncontrolled travel is coming to a close.
Now it’s more about focusing on business, enjoying a great social life, and developing other hobbies.
Travel is still without a doubt on the table- but not every power is meant to be used to its fullest capability. I can be anywhere anytime, but should I be? I think not.
Now it’s about cultivating relationships in those places that I love- Phoenix, Montreal, Sofia, and Chiang Mai. And when I’m ready, I’ll check out Bangkok more.
It seems everyone who also has traveled long-term has felt these things and gone through a similar path.
At first it’s crazy, exciting etc. and you love it. But then you find a home, or a group of people you really resonate with. Or you straight up fall in love.
Then you start to slow down, enjoy those places that are familiar, and focus more on fulfillment and social life.
After this the individual has one or two main bases, or settles down completely.
What Other Paths of Mastery Await?
A closing thought before this post is over. I do wonder, what other growth challenges does life offer?
In life you can become an expert athlete, develop a hobby or passion, contribute massive value, grow a business, and so much more.
Most people don’t commit to mastery and truly grow. So they stagnate and live life in a derp state.
One of the beautiful things about this travel experience is that it prevented me from derping.
I had to be massively awake and focused to do this. I’ve grown so much and learned about who I am and what I want so much so that being fulfilled is much easier.
So now I wonder: what other paths of mastery await? If I commit to business mastery, will I receive similar epiphanies and shocking growth?
At any rate, doing something bold or challenging seems to be one of the keys to fulfillment in life.
This is something no one can take credit for but me. I planed piano for over a decade, but my parents forced me to do that (and then I later did it out of habit). Piano is not a true accomplishment in my books. This is.
In the end everything changes- you start out in yin, then shift to yang, and then balance..
First, to desperately wish to travel like crazy, then, to do. Then, to find a happy medium, a true fulfillment.
Maybe the same with every path of mastery..