Hello everyone here at Tynan.com -- I'm Sebastian Marshall, and I had the pleasure of having Tynan reach out to me around a couple years ago and linking up with him in Japan earlier this year. It was absolutely a blast of a trip and it was great to experience his deep thinking about the world. Under a surface of a steady levity, there is a deep well of philosophical insight.
The main way I spend my time these days is through GiveGetWin, an idea that radically rethinks how nonprofits and philanthropy can exist in this modern century. We take people who are amazing -- like Tynan -- and they'll donate their product, service, or time. Then people can get the product, service, or session for a donation to charity.
We look to make everyone win by really looking at incentives and understanding what's in it for the provider of the service (in Tynan's case, he loves connecting with his readers on different topics, meeting new amazing people, and fleshing out his ideas on important topics while helping people -- others might be more interested in promoting a book, marketing exposure, or testing a new product idea, etc.) So the provider gets their goals met, the donor/buyer gets something amazing at favorable pricing and the feeling of doing good, and our core volunteer team get to the most amazing lab in the world for honing skills, doing good, and connecting with their heroes.
Anyway, enough with the "blah blah blah" preface! When we run deals, we usually do an interview and bring some insights of the people. I wanted to share this interview and announce Tynan's deal directly on here first, since a lot of people were disappointed when his last appearance at GiveGetWin sold out so fast. This one is very specific -- "Hardcore Adventuring Prep" -- a way to connect with Tynan on the topic of planning and executing your next grand adventure or international travel, whether you're a beginner or a veteran. This interview offers some of his thoughts on the topic.
So... You're Thinking About Adventuring? by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
I always thought of myself as the kind of person who was going to travel a lot, and then Tim Ferriss's book came out. I thought, this guy is my age and he's traveled a lot. If I want to do this, I should do this now. If I keep waiting to travel, it's never going to happen. I'll have to decide and go.
I was playing Risk at a friend's house, and looking at the map, I decided -- I'm going to do it. I'm going to leave and travel. January 1st, I'm going to sell everything I own and travel.
My friend Todd was there, he said, "I'll do that too." We sold everything we owned, got little backpacks, and headed out for our first trip.
Really, I think that's the best way. The most important thing if you want to do it is to pick a date 3 to 6 months in advance, and say, "No matter what, I'm leaving on that day." There's really never a perfect time to uproot your life and do a major trip. So, just pick a day and everything will fall into place.
Or if you want to do a smaller trip, pick it much sooner -- maybe two months.
For the first-time traveler, I'm definitely biased towards Asia. You get a lot of experience for very little time and money. I'm also a fan of Europe, but it's more subtle. You don't get as many culture shock experiences. But at the same time, I think just having a random fascination with anywhere is good enough to go there.
Remember that you're never going to get things 100% ready, and preparation depends on if you're thinking about long-term travel or just a week or two. If you're talking about a short trip, you need to nothing except get a visa for the place.
If you're in the Northeast and want to go to California, you think nothing much of it and you just go. But going to Europe takes about the same amount of time. People live in these places all year around, and they have the same stuff in their country as you have here. As I've traveled more, I start bringing the bare minimum, do almost no preparation, and just show up.
If you're doing long-term travel, you want to minimize your obligations, especially financial obligations. You don't want to feel you have to get back to take care of stuff.
If you're going to be gone for a year or more, sell everything. Everything is going to depreciate so much over a year that it will cost you nothing to re-buy all the exact same stuff when you get back if you're going to be gone for a year.
You'll probably be scared. I think most people will be. I was. We flew to Panama with no plans, nowhere to stay... we just kind of left. Everyone learns they're capable of more than they thought. Travel is less about seeing the sights and more about seeing what you're capable of.
This is big: realize that everywhere in the world, real people live there. You can make it work. Travel builds self-reliance. You'll be scared the first time, and then you'll never be scared again.
For accommodation, it really depends on where you're going. One tip I have, it's good to stay in a hostel the first three to four days. People there are eager to make friends, and it's a good way to meet people who want to also explore the area.
People think you must be spending a lot of money if you're traveling long-term, but it's not true. If you're somewhere for at least a month, you can get an apartment and that lowers cost. You can live like a local and cook.
If you're going to somewhere like Thailand or China, it's much cheaper to figure it out on the ground. It's cheaper to just show up.
Food you'll figure out as you go. When I first started traveling, I was a hardcore vegan and didn't eat flour, sugar, or bad oils. But I just made sure to dedicate the rest day to finding a healthy restaurant I could eat at, and could eat all my meals there after that if I wanted to.
In Taipei, I found one good spot, and only ate at that spot because it was the only one that fit what I wanted. I ate every single meal there.
But, it worked.
If you don't have a restrictive diet, you'll be totally fine. Even if you do have a restrictive diet, you can just dedicate your first day to find one place you can eat at. You'll always be able to find food, so you won't need to panic.
When I travel inside a country, like traveling within Japan by train, I recommend stocking up on snacks that you know you like to eat. For me, getting nuts bought me extra time to find a good healthy place in the next city.
For most people from Western countries, visas are usually not a big deal. Most people don't realize that you can just show up in most countries and get a visa on arrival.
You can go to the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand to get a visa for Vietnam. Sometimes it takes a week to get a visa and they'll keep your passport during that time, but if you really want to, you can easily do a trip where you need no visas at all.
As for affording this type of traveling. I'd note that long-term travel is cheaper than short-term travel.
I think that people have a distorted view about what travel costs. When you go somewhere for a weekend, the costs are high. The plane ticket is a significant cost, and you don't have much time so you should probably just stay in a hotel. You end up paying airfare on peak days since you probably want to go Friday to Monday. You don't have a kitchen in the hotel, so you eat out every single meal. And because it's your one short vacation, you're paying for expensive events and tours.
There's a big difference between "vacation" and long-term travel. There's some overlap, but they can be very different things. When you travel long-term, even 2-3 weeks, you can rent out an apartment. You can scope out a cheap local place to eat, or cook your own food. You can just explore the city instead of doing a tourist thing every possible second. And when you divide the cost of a plane ticket over 20 days instead of 2 days, it's much lower.
If you're quite low on money, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Panama, and many other places are very cheap. You can travel around, see good sights, eat good food, and it's cheaper per month than paying the rent back home.
As long as you have a way to make money traveling, it's actually cheaper to travel than to stay home. When people ask me about the cost, I don't think of it that way -- I actually spend less money while traveling.
I used to think, you know, a loaf of bread in America and elsewhere probably cost the same. I mean, same ingredients, roughly the same difficulty to make it, right? But it's not like that. In Thailand, I remember paying 60 cents to eat a Pad Thai. I was blown away. Until you experience it, you don't realize how much cheaper it is to live in these places.
Ten years it was barely possible to make money while traveling, and still not practical. Now people can have regular jobs and travel. Traveling is actually a great time to try a startup or project, because it lowers the cost of living so much. I have friends who launched their product, Minall, a cheap backpack on Kickstarter. They relocated from New Zealand to Vietnam to do it because it was so much cheaper.
Step number one if you want to do this is to create a buffer. $5000 is enough for anyone with even a bit of frugality. If you're going long-term, you'll sell all your stuff. You might get a few thousand for that, more if you have a car.
To start, pick somewhere really cheap so you have a runway. $5000 lasts you make a couple months in the U.S., but might be six months in Panama or a year in Southeast Asia. That gives you time to get a business started.
I think people overestimate the difference on how they're going to operate in different places. As long as you can afford the time to figure it out, you can figure out a way to work from anywhere.
A lot of people get interested when I write on travel gear, because I spent a lot of time looking to find the perfect gear.
I think there's a stereotypical backpacker, who has the 50 liter backpack, then the smaller backpack attached, and they have a sleeping bag and bedroll. It might be nice to have that, but I think people don't realize how much that stops you from having new experiences.
It's hard to lug stuff across a city, and it makes you stick out like a sore thumb as a backpacker tourist. I think locals treat you really differently, and there's a certain contempt for people with a giant backpack.
I like the Tom Bihn backpack, it's really durable, well-organized, and small. I've talked with Tom, and him and his people love backpacks. If you're going to have a backpack that's small, you need small, light, durable, multi-purpose stuff.
You end up spending more money on efficient stuff, but it ends up being durable. I've had the same down jacket for 6 years now, and it still looks great.
Remember you're not just paying for gear, you're paying for a better experience.
I always wonder what people have in huge backpacks… clothes probably? Clothes take up a lot of space. You see people bringing inefficient clothing, sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans, extra pair of sneakers… my biggest tip for clothing is go as much wool as possible. Merino Wool is my biggest tip. The best two brands for it are Icebreaker and Smartwool.
Wool never smells bad. You can wear it for weeks on end. You can wash it with shampoo, which is very convenient. It dries quickly, so if you get caught in the rain, you'll be dry in 15 to 30 minutes. (With cotton, you'd be soaked for hours.)
In my entire life, I own one pair of pants, two shirts, two pairs of underwear, and one hoodie. I wash it in the washing machine once in a while (or the shower), and no one even notices. It's a big life simplifier. When you're traveling, you have extra decisions you have to make: where to eat, where to go next… but we only have a finite amount of decisionmaking power. To not have to worry about that reduces friction a lot. Even when I don't travel, I like to not have to think about it. I dress this way even when I'm stationary.
Cotton is soft and it's cheap, but has almost no other good qualities about it. For wool, there's a mental image of the sweater your grandma gave you for Christmas. It's itchy and thick. But Merino Wool looks like cotton, it's thin threads that are weaved tight, and feels comfortable. It looks normal but it has superpowers that other fabric does not have.
I like to bring a Ma Bell X-Lite jacket. You can stuff it in a pants pocket if it's wrapped up tight, and I've gone skiing just wearing that. I also like the Marmit Mica. It blocks both wind and rain. When combined with Ma Bell X-Lite, you're waterproof, you've got heat trapped in, and can throw it all in the bottom of your backpack, taking up no space, and weigh maybe one pound combined.
A single thin laptop is worth paying for. Get the smallest Mac Air, or get a PC Ultrabook. For a camera, look at the Sony RX100. It's a compact camera, fits in your pocket, and there is literally no other camera that can be compared to it in the same class. The sensor and lens are closer to being an SLR than a compact camera. You can take amazing low-light night camera, people think it's from an SLR but it's compact.
Less stuff! I used to have a 28 liter backpack, which is also small. I thought I'd fill it with as many useful things as possible, a portable kettle bell, a cot, and things like that. But now I have a 19 liter backpack and I try to leave it as empty as possible, so it's usually half full.
It means less stuff to worry about losing, so I'm always trying to get rid of stuff.
But don't get stuck on gear -- just get started and go.
It comes back to realizing that people are living in these places without thousands of dollars of specialized gear. A really minimal set that gets you through most situations, you don't have to be 100% prepared for everything. I used to carry rain pants, and they were useful sometimes. I had overshoes and a weird goal for being 100% waterproof, but then I realized that most people in most places aren't waterproof. Sometimes people have anxiety for travel, so they buy gear to counter that. But it's not really necessary.
Travel can be life changing.
When I first started traveling, I did it because I thought I needed to see sights, I was frustrated with America (which I probably appreciate more now that I've seen other places), but when you see these cultures very different than yours, interact with people you wouldn't otherwise, see beautiful things in nature… I think you get a subtle shift in seeing how the world works. You connect with travelers, who tend to be smart outgoing people. I found it to be completely life-changing, because it changed my perspective on the world, humanity, and my horizons too. I never thought about outside of the U.S. except in very abstract ways. But now I feel very connected to Japan and China in a way I wouldn't otherwise, to have a foot there I wouldn't otherwise.
The questions I get most often after gear are always about fear. People are scared to do it, or nervous. My answer; "Just go do it. See what happens."
Tynan will be hosting a group class on "Hardcore Adventuring Prep" with all the proceeds going to charity. The price is $19.95, there are nine spots available, and you'll be able to connect hands-on with Tynan and like-minded adventures. Find out more and grab your spot by clicking here.