(This is a guest post by Regan from RefinedMindset.com)
Travelling is one of those things that promises to change your life.
While travelling, you find yourself immersed in new worlds and surrounded by new people.
Your senses take to new heights as you experience new culture, food, nature, and events.
All of a sudden, the world becomes bigger…a lot bigger.
More than that, the world becomes infinitely more interesting and exciting. Life becomes an experience to learn from.
As you gain insight into how people live in other areas of the world, your perception of life naturally begins to grow.
Therefore, a seasoned traveller gains wisdom that the man grounded in his home town can never acquire.
I recently had the pleasure of taking my third extended trip to a third world country.
This time, something inside of me was calling me to South America. I had no idea what it was but I had every intention to find out. (If you ever get this feeling, seize it).
Within moments of landing in Medellin, Colombia, I knew life was about to change in some way.
It turns out that life changed far more than I ever could have imagined, even with my high expectations.
This change was brought about by three enlightening facts that I couldn’t have possibly learned anywhere but in a third world country.
This article will brush over those three lessons. However, these lessons need to be experienced, not just read.
#1. The Reality of Poverty
Arriving in a third world country always comes with the same initial reaction…“This is where I was excited to go? It looks so different compared to what I imagined.”
The pictures on the internet and in the magazines tend to stick to the beautiful parts of the country. The poverty is almost completely ignored.
Those of us lucky enough to be born in a first world country will always be shocked when we first see it. Sometimes, we might even be a little disgusted…Whether it is with their conditions or our excessiveness is uncertain.
When you begin to immerse yourself in this poverty, it brings something out of you. Something priceless…
With poverty comes gratitude.
Once you see and experience poverty, you will appreciate things back home more than you ever knew possible.
Do you wake up grateful for the heat in your room? Your guaranteed dinner tonight? Your safety as you walk the streets?
I know I never used to, but I sure do now. Honestly, I would never want to go back to living life without this contrast…
I feel rich no matter what the numbers in my bank say.
You can too when you see it for yourself.
#2. The Essence of Happiness
There comes another vital life lesson hidden in the misfortune of poverty.
I call this lesson “The Myth of Materialism”.
America is the richest land in the world. Ironically, America also has one of the highest rates of depression anywhere.
After being immersed in poverty, I was shocked to see that people are actually happier with far less.
This intrigued me. I needed to know why this was the case and where this happiness came from.
While it is unlikely that I unraveled all of the secrets to happiness, I did find two factors that people who have less do more of:
They Spend Quality Time With People
Luxurious homes and high-speed internet make it easy to stay inside and alone all day. Remove these and people come together as we are naturally wired to do.
We evolved in tribes. We need people in our lives on a biological level.
In third world countries, nothing comes before family and friends. As a result of their community, their well-being flourishes without money.
In the first world, we tend to put a lot of things before friends and family. Whether we realize it or not, nothing really fills this void.
After all, what is money worth if you have no one to share it with?
They Live Through Experiences
I had one of the most amazing days of my life without spending a single dollar.
At one point in my trip, I ended up finding a free place to stay in a town called Guatape.
Over the next few days, I got to know the owner of the place I was staying at.
One day, he took me on one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever been on. We crossed over raging rivers and passed through lush jungle containing numerous waterfalls and wildlife.
About halfway through the hike, my new friend kneeled down and told me this is what he had brought me here for…
As he stood up, he held a mushroom in his hand. “Golden Teachers” he said in his Colombian accent.
Once we found the one mushroom, they seemed to be everywhere.
We even had some leftovers.
I don’t know how long we were out there for after that, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Until the sun went down, we walked through nature and discussed the meaning of life as if we knew the exact answers…
Not once did we check the time and not once did anything about possessions or money cross our mouths.
That experience though? I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.
As I got to know this local, it was apparent he didn’t have much. Somehow his life was still enviable.
He had countless friends, a loving family, beautiful surroundings, and a life seemingly absent of any signs of stress…Isn’t that what we all want money for in the end anyways?
#3. Be Your Own Boss Isn’t Just Possible, It’s Necessary.
I arrived in Colombia with just $3000 in my bank and a little dream of making money from my laptop.
At home I was practically broke. However, first world broke is third world rich.
In Colombia, my living expenses were ⅓ of the cost of living in Canada. And it gets even better…
In Colombia, I lived in an apartment that was twice as nice as my apartment in Canada. I was right in the middle of the city with a view to die for.
On this same budget, I ate like a king, I drank twice as much beer and twice as much wine, and I had infinitely more experiences.
This raised an important question that I will never be able to shake…
Why slave your life away at home and work more just so you can spend more on the cost of living?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to work less and live more?
You see, if you can make ‘first world money’ from your laptop, it will go infinitely farther somewhere you actually enjoy being.
As someone with an online business, it doesn’t matter if you make a product sale in the U.S. or Colombia. It takes the same amount of work and you have the same amount of money to spend from that sale.
The only difference is how long and how much you can live off of that same amount of money.
Every hour I worked in Colombia was giving me at least 3x the return of what I would have got at home based on my living expenses…And this isn’t including the extra experiences.
You can’t experience life and all of its pleasures while your are stuck working a 9-5 job for forty years.
Therefore, it is essential to your happiness that you start a location independent business.
It becomes obvious that the only way to actually live your life is by being your own boss, even if being your own boss means making less money at first.
The Start Up
One of the biggest barriers people have in starting their own business is the ‘dry phase’.
During this period, your business provides no income and you likely need to maintain your day job to pay your bills.
Instead of trying to balance two jobs, you could move to a third world country, live cheap, and focus.
As mentioned above, I got to Colombia with only $3000. I was at the peak of my dry phase…no income was coming in.
However, the low cost of living in Colombia freed up the time to focus on my dreams.
My $3000 could last me four to five months, not just one or two like it would back home.
I’m sure you can agree that four months still isn’t a lot of time. This creates pressure. Pressure creates diamonds…Or just money.
It turns out free time combined with passion and pressure were the only missing ingredients for me.
In Canada I had spent a year trying to build my business while juggling a second job. In just six weeks in Colombia, I got my business off the ground and accomplished what seemed another year away.
Now it’s time for you to ask yourself a couple of questions:
Are you are using your lack of start up funds as an excuse? Is your job the only thing distracting you and keeping your commitment below what it needs to be?
Get On a Plane and Don’t Forget Your Laptop!
I wish nothing more than for you to have these same experiences and learn these same lessons for yourself.
All it takes is a little courage, a plane ticket, and a laptop for your new business and lifestyle.
To make sense of the first world, you must first experience the third world.
Then you can have a rounded approach to life and realize that the world is already yours.
(If you like this article, check out Regan’s blog RefinedMindset.com or his crash course on how to beat depression Man’s Guide to Well-Being: Take Control of Your Mood and Life)