You are probably stuck in a bubble

For over 2 years I’ve traveled basically non-stop, with over a dozen countries hit and at least 6 where I spent a month or longer.

The travel community is all about “being open, having new experiences, etc.” But now I don’t think anyone is really traveling- it’s just a bubble.

People may change their location. You can go from Australia to Chaing Mai. However I think a very rare few (1-5%) actually have deep, authentic, local travel experiences.

In reflection on this startling realization, it’s made me think about all of the bubbles that exist in the world.

As it is said in the book Reality Transurfing Steps I-V, we all exist in a separate Universe that is layered on top of each other. The more I’ve traveled & experienced different cultures the more I see this to be true.

We all inhabit the same physical plane but very rarely do we actually leave our little bubble for a new experience.

Let’s dive deep into this by examining my personal experiences from traveling. Stay aware of your own bubbles, and don’t get distracted by my writing about travel. Take the concepts that are important for you.

The Chiang Mai Bubble

Chiang Mai is a popular travel destination, and for good reason. It’s beautiful, things are cheap, and the local culture is welcoming.

With an abundance of hostels, cafes, and restaurants it’s understandable why travelers from all around the globe would wish to come here.

The thing is, most of these travelers fly from all around the world yet never really get out of their bubble!

They all go to the same cafes, restaurants, etc. in the same places, as if to create a “Little America” or “Little UK” or “Little Europe” in Chiang Mai. I’ve observed this in other places such as Bali which had a “Little Russia.”

Is it still traveling? Of course. And if it’s what makes people genuinely happy, then let it be so.

But we must label it for what it is, and that’s simply making a “Little Europe/America” in Asia and not genuinely experiencing Asia for what it has to offer!

In living here for several months now I’ve had tourists tell me all kinds of things about Thai culture and Thailand. They’re so opinionated yet have no real experience.

Perhaps the biggest Western bubble in Chiang Mai has to do with the party scene. All of the Westerners go to a club called “Zoe in Yellow.” Some Thais go there but not often.

I have some Thai friends that go there, and one of them particularly enjoys “hunting” British men. There are several ladyboys and other Thai girls that are there for no other reason than for the western men.

Again this is all totally okay… But it’s not an authentic Thai experience. You minus well go to a club in London or New York and you’ll have basically the same thing.

The demographics of Northern Thailand skew towards a predominantly Thai population (of course). Yet why is that more than 50% of the people in this club are white?

All this club area is an area for the “travelers” and “expats” to hang out.

Is it an authentic travel experience to go to Chiang Mai and hang out only with other travelers & expats? Sure it’s fun, but this is not real Thailand.

Popping the Travel Bubble

A simple 10-15 minute motorbike ride away from this Western-style club is a giant Thai club which has probably 10x more people.

The venue is truly local. As a foreigner, the first thing you’ll notice walking in is that you’re the only foreigner. I went yesterday and besides the friends I took there was not a single other white person there, for example.

The venue is epically insane also- it’s giant, and has ultra-high-quality sound system. There is regular live performances and dances on stage. People actually dance rather than sit around all lame.

It’s actually terrifying walking in. You realize you’re the only foreigner, people are dancing like crazy, there’s an insane live performance- it’s a true local Thai club.

As is the true Thai experience if you’d like to go to the toilet and pee (as a male) you may be shocked to discover that someone is giving you a massage! It is normal in this club to receive a nice shoulder massage as you pee at the urinal (though you should definitely leave a little tip).

How many people who have “traveled” to Thailand know that such a thing is normal? They don’t because all they do is hang around “little Western World” where things are set up just like the West.

I’ve observed this degree of segregation everywhere I’ve traveled. In Bali for example I was shocked to discover that Canggu was primarily European/American, but a simple 20 minute’s ride up North takes you to places so far off the beaten path that people stare at you wondering what you’re doing in their little village.

I can’t help but wonder then: why do people even travel if they don’t really integrate into the local culture or experience anything authentic?

In Asia it is rather easy to see this segregation due to the color of people’s skin. If I hang out in the Santitham area of Chiang Mai I will see only 1-3% white people. If I go to the backpacker area I see 50% white “travelers.”

The thing is Santitham isn’t far from the backpacker area at all. You could walk there or take a super fast taxi.

Another white-ish area is the “Nimman” area in Chiang Mai. You see maybe 20% white people.

You want to know the shocking thing in all this? The epic Thai club is a fucking 10 minute walk from Nimman.

Nothing about any of this makes sense! This astonishing Thai club should have at least 1-5 white people considering its close proximity to an area where about 20% of the people observed are white expats!

Yet they don’t go. Because these “travelers” live in their own bubble.

No one foreign has heard of this club. Not even people who have “lived” here for many months.

Dissecting the Bubble

Now this isn’t meant to be a hate post or anything by any means. I get travel can be exhausting and hanging around people who get you or sticking to familiar delights can be comforting.

Many of these people claim to be traveling though, and there were times I thought I was traveling when in fact I had not.

Sure I saw things, but I didn’t experience anything profoundly different. Too often was I trapped in a bubble. My location changed but not my experience.

Realizing these things have made me question if travel is even worth it- I was going to make that the original post of the title but I instead decided to make this more relatable because the implications of this bubble are greater than I initially realized.

All these “travelers” come here and I watch & listen to them go to the same places over and over. Nothing is profoundly unique about what they are experiencing. They are not experiencing what is local and true.

Again no hate on any of them. And I don’t mean to be racist when I say “white” or “Asians” or whatever. As stated earlier it’s simply an easy determinant of how many foreigners are in a certain area.

It’s just weird, you know? It’s like an invisible force drew a literal force-field around a certain part of Chiang Mai where the “travelers” hang out so that they can’t interfere with the true locals.

A simple 5-10 minute bike ride can take you out of an area with 25% white “travelers” into an area where you are given a second glance for being white (not because people are racist but because it’s obvious you’re a foreigner and people are surprised to see you not stuck in the travel bubble).

The travel bubble is huge. It’s what I’m using as an example for all bubbles that exist in the world!

So many people claim to travel. I’ve claimed to travel. Have I really though? How many people have truly traveled? They go to the same places as everyone else, stay in their little bubbles so much so to the degree that you can literally draw an invisible line in the city to segregate the travelers from everyone else!

Examining My Bubble

In realizing that all is just a bubble, I’ve had some profound reflections on my own life.

First let’s examine my experiences in Bulgaria. I’ve spent about 9 months there and it was often some of the happiest times of my life (excluding the past few months which have been epic).

The longer I stayed in Bulgaria the larger of an “ROI” (return on investment) I had on being there.

By month 9 I was still learning about Bulgarian culture and integrating. Despite having several local friends we were still discovering differences in all kinds of little things.

Compare that to many of the other countries I’ve traveled to where I’ve only stayed for a few days or weeks. It was definitely cool seeing the sights, but it wasn’t a profoundly deep and amazing experience.

It is quite egoic to claim you’ve visited “x number of countries” because it speaks very little of how deep you’ve gone in each country.

Going deep on 2-3 countries is a significantly deeper experience than buzzing through 15 countries on 3 days each, which is what most travelers do.

The great fallacy here is that more countries = more experience. But that’s just not the case.

I’ve also learned this for example with sex. Every guy it seems wants to fuck the most number of girls as possible… But why?

It’s better to have one awesome partner so that the quality of sex is great & consistent rather than 100 terrible partners. Trust me sometimes finally getting in bed with a 10 is not fun (in fact the recent “10” I was with was so bad/weird it really illustrated this truth to me).

To add onto this point I observed that in some places such as Bali I was hardly experiencing any true Balinese culture. It was still a great experience, but I’ve realized it takes months or years to properly experience a country!

The more I’ve traveled, the less opinionated about each place I’ve become. I’ve understood so many nuances in regards to fulfillment in a place that it’s near impossible for me to give any opinion about a place.

Second, I’ve realized that I haven’t hardly lived in the USA. Sure, I’m from the USA. I’ve spent about 19 years worth of time in the USA.

Have I lived there? Nope. At most I’ve probably only truly lived & experience USA for about 1-3 months.

I’m realizing here in Thailand that to properly experience local culture and find deeper fulfillment it’ll take months or years of learning the language, getting local social circles, etc.

In traveling so much I’ve also realized just how contextual fulfillment in a place is- you can be happy anywhere.

Personal Lifestyle Changes

I’ve wrote earlier that I’m slowly down on travel. For the next year I won’t visit any new places and instead only stick to what’s familiar, unless it’s explicitly a vacation with pre-established friends.

After 2 years of constant sight-seeing, it’s become deeply apparent that the most fulfilling experiences were when I went deep, found a lover, had great friends, and a successful daily routine.

This means I’ll only be in Chiang Mai; Sofia, Bulgaria; Montreal, Canada; and Phoenix, Arizona.

I may swing by Bali because I have friends there. I haven’t been to Hong Kong but may go there for a 2-3 day vacation because I’ve 2 great friends there. See those are the only exceptions though.

The truth is that it’s very difficult to travel. It could just be that I’ve traveled enough to get the surface-level experiences out of the way. Who knows.

What I do know is that going deep on places is more important than going wide! In the attempt to experience too many people create their own little bubbles. They say they travel yet experience very little.

Examining All Bubbles

Now this was a lot of writing on travel, but it’s only one example of one of the many bubbles that exist in the world.

As long as you are conscious you are in a bubble it is okay. Most people aren’t though- they think they’ve traveled to Chiang Mai or Bali but hardly have. The deep experiences elude them.

There are many bubbles in the world! There is the financial bubble, self-help bubble, all kinds of bubbles which keep you trapped from moving towards what you really want to.

For example if you’re in a particular fitness bubble you may be held back from legitimately achieving your goals because the bubble thinks in a certain way. They say to do certain things which you unconsciously agree with which in the end hurts you.

The self-help bubble is a big one. People work on “improving themselves” for years yet never actually make progress. They “work on their business” yet never truly cash out.

The “hustle” bubble is an ultra-deadly one. People jerk themselves off on Instagram about how they’ve worked 70 hours… Again, what has truly been accomplished in those 70 horus? Nothing.

The travel bubble is bad if you are not conscious to it because you will think that you’ve traveled when in fact you have only experienced a tiny fraction of what was available to experience. It holds you back from the true beauty & depth that is right there waiting for you to experience.

What Does a Bubble Do?

To summarize clearly, a bubble holds you back by making you think you’re making progress when in fact you are making less progress than what is truly possible- and by a substantial amount too.

Travel bubble: people physically go different places yet stay in their little Western world, going to the same cafes as everyone else which actually aren’t that great (or too expensive). People do this and miss out on experiences which are truly breathtaking, such as the real Thai club described above.

Entrepreneurship bubble: people jerk off about 80 hours per week yet make no real progress. People run around with their heads cut off like chickens. Profit isn’t super hard but it is when you spend 70 hours per week on BS and 10 on important stuff.

Self-help bubble: endless improvement & reading yet no real progress towards the goal (or super slow progress).

Dating bubble: same as above, constantly work on yourself yet never get a girlfriend.

Your bubble: ???

There are many bubbles out there. I have danced intimately with the travel one, especially since I try actively to break out of it.

But what one are you stuck in?

Hit me up and let me know (:

-Michael