Over the years, many people have asked me about motivation – what keeps me going – especially in times of adversity e.g. after the last newsletter of 2016 depicting countless challenges. So I decided to write down some of my thoughts and reflections, since I quit ”normal life” 9 years ago and became a full time traveller. At that time, nobody I knew would have gambled on me having my current life – and being a workaholic, I would have been the biggest sceptic.
What motivates me biking is no different from what has always motivated me in life:
- Passion for and dedication to what I do
- New challenges, learnings and experiences
Below, I describe how these factors have motivated and driven me my whole life followed by some reflections on societal norms and habitual thinking (conventional wisdom).
Motivation – passion for and dedication to what I do
From I was a child, I followed my passion for numbers, which made it fairly easy to be successful in both school and jobs, as previously described in the section Career.
Unlike what many people believe, my radical life changes didn’t happen overnight but as a year-long process where several other considerations didn’t work out. The last years I worked at Copenhagen Airport, I got more interested in people than numbers, because I encountered significantly better results coming from good vs. bad leadership and collaboration vs. silo-thinking. In 2009, after returning from a year-long backpack trip around the world, I tried to get a job in human resource but everywhere the reaction was the same – you have no formal education or proven experience (i.e. job title), so stick with a finance job. I had some interesting international job offers, but a rigid Danish tax system prevented me from leaving Denmark unless I took an 85% penalty tax on my private pension. Next, I tried to study psychology but in Denmark, it’s impossible to take a second education even paying myself (the first education was free). Finally, I tried to get into volunteer work, but despite offering free labour, high motivation and being well-travelled with no obligations (so I could be sent anywhere in the world on short notice), I was declined because – again – they wanted people with a track record in practical skills e.g. nurse, doctor, engineer or carpenter. Being unable to pursue what I was passionate about, I gave up “normal life”. At the time, it was of course frustrating but life is sometimes like that (you get what you need - not what you ask for), and today I’m glad I didn’t compromise, rejecting financial job offers for which I had little passion. If not, I would likely have had a mediocre “normal life” with a well-paid but unfulfilling finance job but more importantly, I wouldn’t have experienced the personal development and enlightenment, the last decade has offered.
At the time, I didn’t think of it consciously, but hindsight staying true to myself and being unwilling to compromise on core-values is what made the biggest difference in my life and the changes that followed. My 11-year relationship was a similar story. Our relationship was better than most, but the last years felt more like a friendship where convenience was the key word – same education, jobs, friends, etc. I lacked the great passion we once shared and though it was comfortable, I needed something more. Having just begun a big personal development, I also needed the alone time and space to find myself and thereby my happiness. Not having children was another great decision. I love kids but it never felt 100% right for me to have my own and not being fully committed when I got them, when would I ever be? To me, the responsibility of having kids is too great not to be 100% serious and committed. Not having kids is often met with disbelief because it’s” the greatest gift of all” – hopefully this goes for all parents though for many it seems more the proper thing to say than a heartfelt feeling e.g. the workaholics spending little time with their kids and the many people expressing a longing for the freedom I have.
Being rejected by society, social norms and conventional wisdom (in almost all aspects of my life), I chose my known path for happiness - back on the road travelling, enjoying nature and experiencing new cultures and people. As I always loved bicycling, it was an obvious choice to try combining cycling and travelling. From the day I bought my touring bike in 2010, I had the idea to bike around the world, but I found it valuable first to do a couple of trial runs around Europe, to get experience and see if I liked it. The biking was always great, but not the interaction with locals. My first trip through the Baltic countries, Finland and Sweden was not promising with little local interaction because of language barriers and less accommodating people. I almost abandoned the world tour, but decided to give it a second try biking some months around Balkan. Despite the language barriers, I met countless curious, friendly and helpful people making it a great and completely different experience – convincing me to do the world tour. I wasn’t convinced I would or could do the whole trip, but my considerations were simple:
- Biking around the world is like eating an elephant – one bite at the time instead of thinking of the whole project
- If I don’t like it, at least I gave it a chance and won’t regret later
- If I don’t like it, I can always find something else to do that I’m passionate about
Life is too short and time too precious not to do what I’m passionate about, so it’s important to live in and enjoy the moment instead of procrastinating everything – if it’s not important enough to do now, it likely isn’t important in 15-20 years. One of my personal development focus areas has been learning to live in the moment:
- Stop living the past whether it was better or worse than my current life. Treasure the good times and learn from times of adversity but don’t be stuck with it.
- Stop living in the future confronting all concerns/fear and eliminating big dreams that have a tendency of overshadowing the smaller everyday joys.
It’s a life decision to be happy from now on and for the rest of my life and when every day is happy, it’s a happy life – as simple as that.
Related to my current world biking trip
Obviously, this trip has been most fun and my happiness greatest when I have met countless wonderful people, experienced great nature/weather and had good roads and few bike problems.
This was the case for most of my biking - during two long summers - in North America, for which I have the greatest memories. Australia offered much beautiful nature but also challenging and often monotonous riding in less hospitable environment, primarily deserts. To my surprise, people were generally not particularly friendly and accommodating - the reason why I still have fond memories from this part of my trip is that the people I did get to know, all treated me like close family.
Asia offered beautiful and diverse nature but also much monotonous riding through jungles/forests and deserts. I knew this part of my trip would be challenging because of the language barriers, visa hassles, bad roads and few bike shops. Still, I never imagined the endless challenges and adversity making this leg of my trip, the least valued. Two things made it particularly challenging:
A) Few people were helpful and accommodating, many unfriendly and some even hostile (especially drivers). Part of the reason was the language barriers and different cultures, though from my trip around Balkan, I knew it didn’t have to be a problem if only people had been more open-minded and friendly.
B) Despite a completely refurbished bike, I had bike problems from the first day out of Singapore and most days riding the 18.300k to Istanbul. It was often frustrating and demotivating, but it reminded me of some things:
- Like life, to take the trip one day at the time and stay positive - there is no single truth as every event/experience is defined by my mind’s perception of it. My thoughts control my mind that controls my life, however like a muscle the mind needs practice to change habitual thought. I “just” need to replace negative thoughts with positive, which is less complicated than it sounds since the mind only holds one thought at the time. The brain is incredible with few limits to what can be achieved, as long as I focus on the self-image and destiny I want to have and set my mind to improving myself to reach it. Mind management is life management – a self-fulfilling prophesy (whether negative or positive).
- Consider pain, mistakes and adversity learning opportunities as every event has a reason and all setbacks hold a lesson. Even when I encounter big challenges, it’s nothing compared to the challenges most people on this planet face every day finding food, clean water and shelter. I live a very privileged life with no obligations and therefore no concerns. The alternative of living a “normal life” makes it easy to continue my current lifestyle.
- I’m a moody bicyclist/person, which means a few pleasant hours quickly erase the memories of many challenging days. A cup of morning coffee overlooking a river or beautiful mountains, wildlife along the road, beautiful weather, meeting friendly people, peaceful meditation, reading a good book, star gazing at night, etc.
- I love the simple life on the road where eating, drinking and camping are the only things I have to do while the rest of the day is enjoying the moment and what comes along. I love tranquillity, solitude and time for reflection and feeling one with nature, it’s the best place for me to find it – being disconnected from society’s hustle and bustle for long periods of time energises me and entail mind control, spiritual enlightenment and a peaceful soul.
- Avoid expectations – things seldom go the way I plan and expectations more often entail disappointment, Iran being a great example.
To the surprise of many people, it has never been a goal to finish the trip and if e.g. the bike was stolen or I stopped enjoying it, I would just quit and do something else. In my life, I’ve had great passions for what I did but hindsight it never felt like the purpose of my life, likely because I did it for me instead of a greater good. So the goal for the trip was finding a new meaning/purpose of life and although many people appreciate my help and are inspired by my philosophy of life as well as transformation towards a simpler and happier life, it still doesn’t feel like my purpose in life – not the “calling” I’m hoping to find. So I’ll keep searching for some way to positively influence other people’s lives. And while this could be considered discouraging, I perceive it as a great future opportunity to become even happier as I believe true and long lasting happiness comes from pursuing and achieving ones purpose in life.
Motivation - Freedom
I haven’t always realised it, but freedom (ability to influence my everyday life) is very important to me - without it I can’t thrive. When I played football/soccer, I was the libero being able to play all over the field. Being an accountant there were lots of legislation and rules but still lots of freedom (under responsibility) to carry out the jobs. And in Copenhagen Airport, my boss had great trust in me, giving me almost full freedom to carry out the financial part of the job as well as freedom to do countless additional interesting tasks. When later looking for a new job, I realised how much freedom meant to me when I had to turn down very lucrative offers that seemed to offer little freedom; it would have been prostitution, if I had taken the jobs.
Related to my current world biking trip
One of the things I truly appreciate when travelling, is the freedom to do whatever I feel like on a day-to-day basis. Backpacking offers a lot of freedom though sleeping often requires finding accommodation e.g. couchsurfing, hostels, friends or random people I meet. Biking alone on the other hand, offers full freedom because I wild camp almost all the time – and bicycling makes it easy to get off the road and hide unlike a motorbike or car. On the bike, I can go short or long, one way or another and layover when nature/people make it interesting or weather makes it necessary. Countless mornings, I take myself thinking what a privileged life I live and how I don’t miss my “previous” life and all the time I spent working (not to be confused with regretting it).
Motivation - New challenges, learnings and experiences
I have a big desire for knowledge and all my life I’ve loved learning new things. Although I generally always loved school, I thrived and did best in my favourite subjects. Being an accountant was great as there was an unlimited number of new task challenges plus many different customers in various lines of business. I initially wanted to be a partner but after 4 years, I realised two things – neither the old-fashioned accountant organisation/mindset, nor looking at companies from the outside without the possibility to influence things, were for me. I stayed another 2 years to travel 4-5 months a year off-season, but it was hard work as I felt little enthusiasm and commitment having decided to quit. From the outside, Copenhagen Airport had a great reputation, but despite being a listed company for 10 years, the mindset was still that of a public company. In my opinion, it was run unprofessionally, so there were endless challenges first in the finance department and later in the whole organisation. My ambitions, perfection and impatience entailed few days off (including weekends) the first 1½ years, which almost broke me. A two-month vacation to New Zealand provided much needed time for reflections, and gave me a more realistic perspective on the time horizon for the needed changes and the necessity for collaboration to achieve it.
Being a workaholic and constantly challenged at work, I never thought I could have a meaningful life without work. Interestingly, it turned out to be quite easy as I just found alternative ways of challenging myself. My desire for knowledge is stimulated by reading books and articles in a wide variety of topics from history to psychology, spiritual enlightenment and sustainable life.
Related to my current world biking trip
A decade ago, I was so accustomed to backpacking that I could pack my bag as fast as finding a matching shirt and tie. Biking turned out to be a great new challenge requiring knowledge about navigation and bike repair as well as a great new experience going places where few travellers went and therefore meeting many people who had never met a foreigner. Having biked more than 80,000k, it has become everyday life, and though I still love it, I feel the need for new challenges when I finish this world tour in Denmark in autumn 2017. If nothing else comes along, I will likely still be travelling but with new means of transportation e.g. sailing around the world, a motorbike trip around Africa or kayaking down the west coast of Greenland – time will tell. Whatever I choose to do, I’m confident it implies new challenges, learnings and experiences.
Reflections on societal norms and habitual thinking (conventional wisdom)
Being separated from normal life and the Danish society for almost a decade, it’s easier to have a more nuanced and objective view than when I was part of it – and travelling all over the world makes it easier to put things into a bigger perspective.
Rejecting the easy and “safe” choice (finance job) was a showdown with “normal life” and societal norms. 9 years ago when I decided to backpack around the world for a year, the support was endless, but when I later decided to quit “normal life” and travel permanently, most people overflowed with disbelief and some even with resistance. Below are some of the comments I received and my reflections upon them.
“You have studied and worked so hard for many years to build a career and now that you have it and can make a lot of money, you decide to quit - you’re throwing your life away”
It’s true, I studied and worked hard for many years but never to have a career or make money – it just came along doing what I was passionate about. When I lost my passion for finance, I needed a change but society on all levels rejected it (society - no additional education; companies – no career change; and people – disbelief). By providing a free education, the Danish system offers an equal and fair opportunity for all, which is admirable and something to proud of. The flipside however, is a system being so rigid that in reality it only supports people who comply with societal norms/normal life i.e. traditional education/career, house/car/children/dog and holidays in a summer house or resort. As society, we have a tendency of questioning and/or alienating all thinking and behaviour deviating from the social norms so people with a situation, thinking or lifestyle deviating even slightly from this, are not only on their own, but society puts up a lot of barriers and limitations. According to the Danish politicians, I (and others like me) are in high demand being well-educated and experienced but in the end, the rigid system and societal norms pushed me away.
“What are you running away from?” and “Why do you try to escape reality?”
Quitting normal life and my comfort zone was never a question of running away from anything. I just ended up in a situation that didn’t make me happy, so I decided to search for something better – finding myself and my happiness. We all have our own reality (perception of things) and the opportunity to influence our lives, which led me to this motto:
“I travel not to escape life – I travel for life not to escape me”
In Denmark, the job is a large (for many the only) part of people’s identity and talking to a stranger you will likely know their job long before you know their name. Consequently, becoming unemployed (as being dumped by a spouse, etc.) can – besides the personal suffering - be embarrassing and a big slap in the face:
- “What do other people think?” Being unemployed and telling people, I refused (from a societal point of view) great job offers, I was met with disbelief. Being voluntarily unemployed, I didn’t care about other people’s opinion of me, but it made me understand the importance of appearance and the group pressure to comply with social norms.
- “Who am I, when I no longer have my job?” was far more interesting to me and what I spent my time on, not only discovering who I was but more importantly considering who I wanted to be.
Being a workaholic, breaking out was a big step for me as most (all?) of my identity was in the job. Reflections on who I was without a job/career led to more interesting considerations about being a workaholic: “My employer wouldn’t attend my funeral, so who did I do this for and why?” Being very good at all the things I’ve been passionate about in life, I never felt I had to prove myself to others, so the simple answer was, I had to prove myself to myself. I loved my jobs and the ability to make a difference for my employees/colleagues, the companies I worked for and the customers, but after 6-7 years in each job, I felt I had accomplished the necessary changes and had to move on, as sitting back resting on the laurels is not my thing. I needed new challenges, learnings and experiences, but to avoid history repeating itself, I realised that I had to find my purpose in life doing something for the greater good. In that sense a finance job is unfulfilling contrary to being a doctor, nurse, phycologist or teacher where there is an opportunity to influence other people’s lives significantly – and why many of these people feel a calling.
Talking about appearance; when I lived in Denmark, I knew it was important but being away from Denmark for a long time, I realise that it’s even more important than I used to believe. Maybe since social norms doesn’t allow people being proud of their accomplishments because of a thing called “Jantelov” criticising individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. I’m sure most Danish people disagree appearance is important to them as they disagree with other Danish self-conceptions. Because we travel a lot around the world, most Danish people believe themselves to be curious, open-minded and accommodating, but staying in a hotel/resort and going on an organised tour with a guide to visit a pre-selected village, you don’t learn much about the local culture. This only happens when you live with and as the locals whether eating, drinking, talking, travelling, celebrating, mourning, etc.
Reality is that Danish people have enough in ourselves - ask any ex-pat, immigrant or refugee how difficult it is to become part of the Danish society. We never invite a foreigner out for a coffee/beer after work to get to know them and we never consider inviting them home, because it’s our sanctuary where only the few trusted are allowed. We are more nervous to lose something than having a great and different experience with a stranger. I know I'm generalising, but ask yourself when you last took the time to help a stranger – let alone took the time to get to know one. The good news for foreigners is, that once included in Danish people’s private circles, you will be embraced and treated as a close friend/family; though be patient, as it will likely take a long time and most foreigners never get there. The result is foreigners naturally hanging out with each other, which is poor for society and integration e.g. learning the language, humour and traditions as well as getting a job.
A few thoughts about time related to “running away” and “escaping reality”. To me time is the most precious thing we have, because it’s non-renewable and when it runs out we’re dead. No matter our age, we all know we can die tomorrow, so why are most people very careless about their time using it on less important things and procrastinating important things as if they will live forever? Below is depicted a classic table used for time management at work – essentially you want to do the very important but not urgent tasks (green), but as it turns out many tasks happen to be very urgent but of little importance (red). This happens when management (and yourself) don’t know how to prioritise and schedule tasks in accordance with importance.
This leads to another consideration: Why is that we only talk about time management at work but seldom in our spare/private time – is our private time considered less valuable in the eyes of society? Time management is life management, so I recommend changing your perception of time and start living as if every day is your last. Not in a reckless way doing stupid things (like quitting your job or robbing a bank), but as a reminder to:
- Live in the moment – enjoy the small everyday moments
- Stop procrastinating important private things and taking your family, kids, friends, etc. for granted. Relationships need to be nurtured to ensure long-term results and the time you don’t spend with them today never comes back. To help change your habits, begin scheduling the important private things in your calendar e.g. playtime with the kids or a romantic evening with your spouse – and keep your promises as you would with a business appointment.
- Be kind, friendly and generous towards all people. Your conscience is the only thing that truly matters at your deathbed.
“I understand you like travelling but when is enough, enough?” – “you should come home, buy a house and car, get married and have some kids, have a job and pay your taxes and then you will be happy” (Danish taxes are amongst – if not - the highest in the world)
It’s interesting how almost all of us assume our way or thinking, acting, way of life, etc. is the only right one – and therefore the basis on which we consciously and especially subconsciously assess and judge everything/everybody. From the individual level (me vs. a spouse, friend, neighbour, family or stranger) to bigger entities e.g. our work place (us vs. other departments, companies, etc.) and nationality (us vs. other countries, societies, cultures, traditions, etc.).
I never asked people to understand my choices, just to be happy on my behalf when I say I love my life. It’s a big misunderstanding when some people think, I believe my way of life is the only right one. As long as it’s a conscious decision that makes you happy, I really don’t care if you work yourself to death or take a sabbatical to take care of your family/disabled/poor people or start an ecological farm. Who am I to judge other people; their choices, lives and happiness?
Wishing happiness for all people, I do however hope everybody would regularly spend some time reflecting upon their life and happiness – be honest with yourself and others (especially your family), follow your passion(s) and find/pursue your life purpose. Many people claim not to have time for reflections, but who doesn’t have time to invest in a lifetime of happiness. Consider how much time you spend on your outer appearance (e.g. social media) and how little on inner appearance. Life is all about priorities and decisions and this one should be obvious to everybody. Set aside time (15-30 minutes every day) for reflections – to make it a habit, preferably in the same peaceful place and around the same time every day. Relevant reflections could be:
- What is my passion and purpose if life?
- Who am I and who do I want to be? Envision and visualize my desired self-image and constantly remind myself of it
- Reflect upon personal weaknesses and confront them to improve my self.
- What are my concerns and fear in life? Confront them as they’re draining energy and preventing the positive thinking necessary to reach the desired self-image and purpose in life
- How can I make tomorrow better than today? Reflect upon today’s experiences – what went wrong and what can I learn/change to prevent it from happening again?
- Am I truly happy? If not, what would it take to make me happy?
In my experience, few people have ever given happiness much thought. I think people are afraid of the thoughts, because it might have big consequences e.g. quitting a job, selling the house or getting a divorce. Instead, we keep ourselves busy in the hamster wheel, so we don’t have to consider it. Considering life and happiness might be difficult and maybe a bit unpleasant short term (getting to know your true self), but longer term your life will improve tremendously. In my experience, the biggest and most difficult decisions in life were the best I ever made, and hindsight I always wondered why I was so concerned and long to make them.
If you’re currently not pursuing your passion(s) and/or having found your life purpose, chances are that you’re not truly happy in your life. You might not be unhappy, but you no longer have the enthusiasm, motivation, energy and optimism that you once had. Think of the best moments from your childhood/youth where you felt free and carefree with lots of joy, creativity, imagination, etc. Retrieve that inner child/youth of yours by doing some of the things you always wanted to do (or loved to do but stopped doing) whether dancing, singing, painting, knitting, running a marathon or skydiving and you will quickly feel joy and energy coming back into your life. Acknowledge that changing your life is hard work (like losing weight) requiring perseverance, dedication and willpower to ensure long-lasting results. Stop making excuses for yourself (e.g. “being fat is in my genes” or “I’m lazy by nature”) and by reflecting honestly on your weaknesses, begin with some small changes by challenging your negative thoughts and everyday habits. Willpower and dedication make you continue especially in the beginning where it’s tempting to quit because you for instance feel sore from the exercise and results take some weeks to show. Difficult as it is, be aware that changing yourself is only the part of the challenge – the other part is convincing other people that you really want to change. Make a public pledge to commit yourself to the change and ask as many people as possible to support you in process.
A favourite question of mine is – “What would you do in life if there were absolutely no constraints?” Instead of telling what they dream of, most people start naming all the constraints e.g. “Can I ever get a good job again if I quit now?”, “I would have to sell my new car with a loss”, “I’m not qualified to pursue my dreams”, “What about the kids?” and “What about money for my retirement?”, etc. All these constraints are just excuses for not addressing the question – understandably because saying it out loud requires commitment and action. Or maybe you actually never thought about it and followed societal norms – what I refer to as “jumping in the river and going with the flow” – will you also follow the other lemmings running over the cliffside?
When you find your passion and life purpose, I’m not suggesting to quit your job tomorrow, but make a plan and start working in that direction. Make a public pledge to commit yourself to the task and get as many people around you to support you in the process. If you believe it and work hard, it’s very likely to happen because you will get a clear focus and allocate all your energy into reaching your goals. Energy is not a fixed size we use up – we have endless energy for doing what we have passion for but very little energy for tedious tasks and when allowing adversity to create negative thoughts. By doing what you’re passionate about, you won’t care about time as you’re happy just doing it (as playing or a hobby). The added benefit is that focusing your energy, you will also experience the great joy of living in the moment. Personally, I have the greatest “job” travelling the world, though it’s the worst paid (read: nothing).
The good news is that if you really want to, it’s never too late to make life changes - even radical. At 36, I realised I didn’t know myself which was a shock but also intriguing being curious to learn new things. When sharing my disbelief, being so ignorant about myself midlife, I got a good advice: “Be happy you have found out now as you still have half your life to figure out what to use it for – many people never come to realise and acknowledge this ignorance about themselves”. Travelling I’ve met countless people who made radical life changes even at a very late age e.g. an 85 year-old couple who began backpacking when they were 80. As Mark Twain famously said:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover".
Like being called selfish for not having children (having children seems selfish to me wanting to pass on your genes in an already overpopulated world), people have told me I’m very selfish breaking free from society: “If everyone did as you do, society would fall apart”. Firstly, it would never happen as most people prefer to stay in their (no change) comfort zone even when living a mediocre or difficult life. They might not realise it, but most people make life choices to live up to the expectations of family, society or for personal benefit e.g. money, prestige or power. Choosing your passion often conflicts with this, but it’s your life and only you know what makes you happy. Surprisingly many people I talk to don’t know their passion(s) – I believe we all have a passion so it’s more about acknowledging the existence. For many others however, the challenge is that their passion doesn’t fit societal norms – there is no formal education supporting it, or it’s not a “proper” job. Think out of the box and try to make it a living anyway – working is at least a third of your life and doing what you are passionate about, you would do it for free without considering career and money.
Secondly, looking at the current society with its ridiculous and unnecessary overconsumption, resource exploitation and pollution as well as an endless number of people with lifestyle diseases/challenges (obesity, stress, depression, loneliness, etc.), it might not be bad with some radical changes. I my view, most western countries have replaced the focus of a humanitarian lifestyle/mindset with one of consumerism/selfishness. In Denmark, we have outsourced compassion believing that high taxes makes everything the responsibility of society eliminating personal involvement/responsibility. With two working parents (and working grandparents) children are sent to nurseries, kindergartens, schools and youth centres that are believed to be responsible for their upbringing. Old people are sent to retirement homes and sick people to institutions where we might visit though their well-being is the responsibility of society. We might support aid organisations with financial contributions, but it seems a selfish deed merely buying indulgence soothing the bad conscience. I’m not suggesting people are bad, merely that society encourage this behaviour and therefore most people lack the awareness to personally help strangers. The unselfish deed is people with a loving heart getting physically and emotionally involved by volunteering to use their precious time and energy to do some actual work locally and more importantly around the world where the problems are much more profound. Denmark is (in all aspects) one of the most equal countries in the world, so it’s discouraging to watch the huge effort some people put into insignificant/non-existent Danish battles e.g. women’s rights, minority rights, poverty, etc. If you really want to make a difference, take a bigger perspective and fight for the billions of people around the world who lack these basic human rights.
In Denmark, people who do try to take some responsibility are often met with barriers from society, unions and public opinion e.g. a limit to how many hours you can work as a volunteer when you’re on social welfare; a lonely old woman being rejected from helping in a kindergarten because it’s union work; parents prevented from maintaining their child’s school classroom as it’s union work and the principal having a problem with other classrooms not being shined up - the list is endless. The result is a mediocre society with a huge bureaucracy where most people have allowed society to become responsible for their lives and thereby happiness as well as many people feeling no obligation to society and therefore (selfishly) claiming as much as possible for themselves. What happened to John F. Kennedy’s famous words:
“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”
Regarding unnecessary overconsumption, resource exploitation and pollution, I consider the following a good beginning to change the world into a more sustainable place:
- Ban all advertising (some argue that people can see through advertising but they can't which is proven by the fact that companies don't spend the money without a return)
- Eliminate all private loans except for buying real estate - this will immediately reduce consumption drasticly
- Tax (potentially) scarce resources e.g. animals/fish, minerals, sand, wood, water and air. Not just the actual use but also reducing the resource by e.g. polution.
- Regulate and tax transport of goods that can or already is produced in the receiving country - a good starting point is food
- Regulate the financial markets to eliminate all speculation because it is unhealthy for world society. The financial products and markets are now so complex, interrelated, intransparent and computer driven that nobody can oversee them which is why we will keep having global financial meltdowns until we go back to regulating and simplifying things. Of course this is complicated because it diminishes the profits of the powerful financial institutions so we need courageous politicians regulating and making the institutions responsible for their mistakes and losses. Interestingly politicians can discuss allocation of a few welfare millions for weeks but in a finincial crisis they allocate hundreds of billions in a split second fearing the gun that financial institutuions put to their head. Why would the financial institutions and markets learn when the politicians keep bailing them out. Speculation is everything not directly related to the underlying asset e.g futures, gearings, currency and interests. It should still be possible to buy saving bonds and shares in a company.
All politicians holding public office from parliament members to city mayors:
- Should require minimum 3-5 years of altruistic work. To ensure that the only qualified people have the right mindset for serving the greater good instead of personal interests.
- Should be unpaid or a minimum payment. To ensure that it’s not a way of making a living but an honorary position.
- Should be maximum two election periods before leaving for a normal job in society. To ensure nobody is stuck with their historic decisions, to eliminate long-term unhealthy relationships through corruption as well as allowing new thinking and change.
All this and much more should be the task for a new and completely different United Nations where all people come together to secure our future. However, living in a constantly increasing capitalistic world, most of this is of course unrealistic until we acknowledge and agree on the challenges and that radical changes are necessary for a more sustainable life on this planet. As human beings, we consider ourselves the clever species and still – because of greed - we eliminate our chances of surviving: note that we are the only species that takes more than we need! Most people know that we need radical change to leave a better world for the coming generations (most parents claim it a goal) and still we continue assiduously in the wrong direction towards our extinction. There are countless documents with recommendation for creating a more sustainable life on this planet, but the most well-written and comprehensive I’ve seen is the Earth Charter creating a new reference. As human beings our basic needs are clean drinking water, clean soil to grow our foods, clean air to breathe as well as clean oceans and huge forests/jungles to ensure diversity and ecology – making this our reference for all future decisions, we start moving in the right direction. Everybody who disagrees with this reference can drink polluted water or inhale polluted air and see how long they survive – it’s really not that complicated. You can read much more on:
I often get the question “when is enough, enough” related to how much travelling is interesting and relevant. It's a good question but it should relate to how much we need to work and save to live a good life - essentially how greedy do we need to be. Many people argue they work a lot to obtain financial freedom, but how big a bank account do you need to have financial freedom? Essentially, we all just need a simple shelter and food/water, so look around to see how many unnecessary things you own/buy. Spending less opens up for less work and thereby more time for socialising and free time to do things that makes most people happy. And of the many people who de facto have financial freedom, how many actually exploit it? If there was a free choice (or people felt there was a free choice), it seems unlikely that almost everybody choose the same everyday hamster wheel life – even with full financial freedom most people still feel better in the comfort zone of “normal life”.
It seems the more people have (career, possessions, bank account, etc.), the more concerned and fearful they are of losing it – feeling free, care(free) and happy doesn’t come from what you have on the outside but from mastering your inner self and reducing your needs. Happiness is an everyday journey so live and enjoy the moment and appreciate/be grateful for what you have now (especially non-material things like health, family, friends, etc.) instead of focusing on increasing future material wealth. Consciously or unconsciously many people compare their material (outer) life with others and therefore enough will never be enough but an eternal chase, never reaching a moving target. I claim, you can never be happy, if you always seek to have more material wealth than you already have – only when you master your inner self and are successful in your own eyes, you no longer need to be a success in the eyes of society because it doesn’t matter what others think. And the beauty of personal development (inner growth) is that you can’t compare it to others – you can only work on becoming superior to you former self.
Interestingly, many of the most generous, sincere and happy people I have met around the world, are the poorest – likely because they don’t compare themselves to others, have little to lose and are used to sharing the little they have. I always feel overwhelmed and humble when poor people open not only their homes but also their hearts to a stranger like me from a completely different culture and much more privileged part of the world.
Many people tell me they wish they could do what I do if they only had the money and courage. Regarding money, it’s imaginary and false pretence as most people (at least in the western world) could do what I do, if they sold all their possessions, stopped worrying about the future, and began living in the moment pursuing happiness - for more information on how little money it takes to live like I do, see the section How is this trip possible? Regarding courage to travel around the world, I mostly blame the politicians and the media for constantly creating fear and concern amongst people, though I understand it’s the most powerful tool to control them. However, I never stop being amazed how easily most people are influenced by all the bullshit stories – even when I share first hand impressions of safe travelling in so-called dangerous countries around the world (e.g. Colombia or South Africa), many people still prefer to believe the bad media stories and “conventional wisdom”. The constraints are in your mind and not reality, unless you allow it.
Even the more positive reactions have undertones of scepticism e.g. “I admire your courage”.
The only thing standing between most people and their dreams is the fear of failure – in the eyes of others but not your own if you embrace it as a learning opportunity. So courage refers to breaking free from social norms and the comfort zone/normal life to pursue freedom and happiness. In my experience, it required determination, perseverance and some sacrifices to break free, because people constantly challenged my change and behaviour when it began deviating from the norms. However, making the decision to change was the biggest step – afterwards, it turned out to be the best decision of my life.
I find it interesting how it can be considered courageous to pursue happiness? It seems more courageous (or crazy) to live a life where you’re not happy. Only when you leave your comfort zone and explore the unknown, you begin to liberate your full life potential. And only those having the courage to master themselves, can start fulfilling their lives and achieve their full life potential.
By breaking free, I took full responsibility for and control over my life (body, mind, spirit and soul) and I now live a simple, (care)free and happy life without stress from outer expectations, obligations and responsibilities. The journey of mastering my inner self is far from finished, but making good progress the last decade has encouraged and inspired me to continue the journey. Who knows what interesting experiences, revelations and epiphanies tomorrow brings?
You can read more about my Philosophy of life in a separate section under About me.