The Joy of Going Far Away From Home

We can’t help but define ourselves in terms of how others see us. So being around nothing but new people allowed me to define myself anew.

— Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

During the 21 years I am on this planet, I’ve lived in 4 different countries and visited more than 25. And I hope to live in 40 more and visit 150 more.

It’s hard to describe the joy I get from going somewhere far away. Somewhere, where you don’t speak the language and can dissolve in the crowd, observing what’s around you.

Everything is new. Everyone is new. You yourself are new.

Living is not the same as ‘going’

When you are a tourist, you don’t see much. You don’t pay attention to the small things — and it’s precisely the small things that matter.

The corner store where you buy groceries and everything is extremely cheap compared to what you are used to back at home. The coffee you get at the local cafe and the guy who knows you and the exact amount of sugar (none) that you prefer.

The facade and surroundings get boring over time (and you have Google Images and Google Earth for that anyway).But it’s the little things that bring joy that matter most. They are different everywhere. And you don’t see these little things (you can’t) when you are a tourist. You only see the big things.

So don’t go places. Rather, live places.

Even if it’s for a week, try experiencing what it’s like to live in another country or city. Talk with people. Live like they do. Go to the same places, get the same coffee and shop at the same places. Act like you belong.

There are places that ‘get’ you and there are places that don’t

Wherever I am going, I like to imagine that I live there. What would it be like to wake up to this sun, eat this food, smell this aroma, breathe this air, hear this language. Everything is different everywhere.

When I was packing for Sicily to spend there a month and a half, I though it’ll be spectacular. I love Italy and I love Italian food (who doesn’t?). I’ve been to every major city in Italy before going to Sicily so I thought, why not?

People warned me that I’ll be surprised. Oh god they were right. I am not going to go in much detail, but I’ll just say that Palermo is not my type of city. Too exotic for me.

Prague, on the other hand, is absolutely my type of city. I went there twice this year (it’s close and the flights are cheap) and I want to go a third time. When I am in Prague, I feel that this city gets me with its old-fashioned buildings and the creative atmosphere.

For some reason, I think there better. I feel there better. Everything is clear.

I’ve never thought this Czech town would be a home for my soul, but for some reason I am drawn there. Being drawn to a particular city is a new kind of experience for me. Prague is my city version of the word ‘soulmate’.

Moscow is my home city. It has its perks: extremely cheap and high quality food, great service in every restaurant, cheap Airbnb’s, and (oh my!) the women that live there are the most beautiful in the world. Check for yourself.

But it also has its downsides. When people say that London weather is bad, I reply that you’ve never been to Moscow.

Moscow weather (unlike women) is the worst in the world. You can live in Moscow for 4 months: May–August included. Lately you can count September in as well. The other 7 months are dark, gloomy, cold, rainy, snowy and the pressure is so low (or high, I don’t know), you can’t live a day without 3 cups of coffee. Moscow in February is hell on Earth. In May, on the other hand, it’s not that bad at all.

Currently I live in London. And so far, we have a good relationship. It’s not too cold, it’s not too hot. It has amazing parks with a lot of different birds (it’s not a city, but really a huge zoo). I live right on the Thames and stare at the water every morning from my window. It’s good.

I can’t say I love London (as you would love a mother or a child), but I like it (as you would like a really good friend).

As I said, there are places that get you, and then there are places that don’t.

Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

I would love to live in different places

A lot of people call millenials the ‘rent generation’. That may be true. We tend to rent everything, and don’t buy large things (like houses, cars, etc.) and this gives us immense freedom. But I think that it’s just because we are still young.

Wait until millenials turn 40.

They’ll quickly become ‘buy as fast as possible because I need it now!’ generation.

I’ve still got a long way to go until I become that, so I’ll stick to the rent thing. I see a lot of value in not committing myself to a mortgage (or, for that matter, even a car lease) because I can do whatever I want. Freedom matters more than anything.

You can go wherever you want (even drunk) with a tap of your finger. You can live in any city in the world. And with the way our work changes, we’ll soon to be able to live in different places every year. Some people do that already.

And that’s what I would love for myself too.

Imagine spending the weekend in Prague, then going to Paris for a week, working from a cafe. The next weekend you are in London. After that, New York. Maybe you decide to waste a day or two in Florida? Or maybe you want to have fun in Hollywood. You choose. You are in charge.

There is a lot freedom to being debt-free (almost), child-free, commitment-free. At least for the time being.

The biggest joy of visiting other places

Is meeting other people.

When you meet knew people, you can be anyone. They don’t know you, you don’t know them and you’ll probably never meet again. That’s the biggest fun. You can walk up to anyone and be anyone. Not lie or pretend, but rather play and really think about who you want to be.

Like Joseph Gordod-Levitt said, you can define yourself anew. That’s the beauty of meeting someone new. And because we as humans are so shaped by our surroundings, by going to different places and changing environments, you can change yourself anyway you like, all the time.

I think that being somewhere where you have no history or past helps you define yourself the way you really want to be.

It helps you connect with yourself more. Be yourself more. Just be.

Isn’t it great?

Go out there, explore and be curious

My favorite person in the world (at least at the time of this writing) is Bill Bryson. Too bad he doesn’t know about my existence.

Why? Because this guy, being over 60, never loses his genuine child-like curiosity. He becomes interested in new things and learns all about them. And then he teaches us, through his books. Be it Europe, his home, England, nearly everything in the world, or his own body. It’s inspiring.

My message to you: be like Bill Bryson. Be curious. Be inspired. Be an explorer.

Go out there. See what’s there for yourself. Live somewhere. Be a ‘rent generation’. Don’t settle just yet.

I once saw a quote that I like to tell myself when I don’t know what to write about. It may inspire something within you too.

Everyone wants to be interesting. But to be interesting, you’ve got to first be interested.

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