Today I turned 23. In Thailand. Over the past few months, I've been lucky enough to travel to Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. I've made friends from all over the world.
The trip was not without its risks ...
So before I forget, I want to document a few lessons I learned away from these things. These might not apply to everyone, they probably don't. But I want to take the time to write them down for myself and maybe other people will find them interesting 😃.
Lesson 1: No one knows you better than yourself.
Looking towards others for advice is often a way to postpone making a decision. Opinions are valuable, but only a piece of the puzzle.
In the age of the internet, it's become easy to crowdsource many of our decisions. Where should I go to dinner? (yelp) What company should I join (glassdoor) how should I live my life? (social media, youtube, blogs, etc). These can be extremely useful tools but ultimately no one understands you better than you. Not your parents, not your significant others, and not strangers on the internet.
Traveling alone forces you to confront this head on. Every day you wake up with a blank slate and choose what to do. Will you do what society tells you to do? What some Youtuber you follow tells you to do? Or will you get off the beaten path? Trust your intuition, head into the unknown, get lost, and gasp maybe even go to a restaurant without reading reviews beforehand. The truth is, this is a false dichotomy. I love finding amazing restaurants via yelp AND exploring random places I've never read about. But too often I think we fall into the pattern of entrusting our decisions to others. Nobody knows you better than YOU.
Lesson 2: There is no secret to life.
To quote Jordan Peterson, "Life is Suffering". Of course, it's also wonderful, exhilarating, and super beautiful. But the point is that there will always be struggles. There is no easy fix. Not traveling, finishing school, or moving to a city. These things can help, but humans will always be imperfect creatures. Trying to improve yourself every day is admirable, but don't forget to love yourself, flaws and all in the process.
Lesson 3: I won the lottery.
Being born in America: this one is a cliche - but one that I so often forget. Traveling in other countries where the average wage is $340 per month (source) makes it abundantly clear that the driving reason that I am there traveling for 2 months, having the time of my life rather than working is because of the geography I lucked into. That doesn't mean that I should feel guilty - but I do think I have a responsibility to take advantage, live life to the fullest, and do what I can to make things better.
Being born during this amazing time: The one thing I will never fully understand about many of the fellow travelers I talked to, is the amount of technology pessimism. Despite the picture that the media tends to paint, things are better today than they ever have been.
Poverty over the last 200 years.
Yes - technology has, and will probably always lead to increased inequality, but it also makes things better for everyone. Go and ask someone in Cambodia of Myanmar - they'll tell you how much better life is today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. I met numerous locals that achieved a reasonable level of fluency in English purely from Youtube.
I met an 18-year-old kid in Myanmar who grew up with next to nothing. Using the internet he was able to learn English, save money, and eventually travel throughout Europe. Humans are hard-wired to always see the negatives.
The problems with social media, the dangers of artificial intelligence, the growing power of tech billionaires. These are real problems. But technologies dating back far before the age of computers has always had a downside. I believe we adopt new "technologies" because the good outweighs the bad.
Try to remember that the world is better than it ever has been. We live in an amazing time.
22 was an interesting year. Senior year of college - often referred to as "The best years of our lives" was a fun one, but not without its lows. So here's to making every consecutive year the best year of our lives.
Many more curries to come in year 23
Here's a list of a few things I want to do in year 23. It's definitely way too many things so if I manage to stick to 1 or 2 I'll be ecstatic. Remember, don't be a donkey.
Learn to surf. There's something about surfing that has always appealed to me from a young age. I dabbled when I was younger but was never consistent enough to get good. For the first time in a while, I live close to an ocean. If not now, then when?
Get back to playing the piano daily. Having a keyboard in our apartment last semester (Thanks Lindsey! when it wasn't stolen @Mukta) made me appreciate how much I had missed playing. I consistently found myself calmer and overall happier after practicing despite probably creating the opposite effect for my roommates by practicing the same two songs constantly 🤷♂️.
Start a profitable side business. I got a little closer to this one this year and learned a lot with my launch of noschool.io (currently discontinued). I'm still not sure exactly what's next, but I get a lot of joy out of working on side projects so this will probably be on my list every year until something clicks.
Of course, there is so so much more that I want to do this year. I'm moving to San Francisco in 10 days and that alone will be a huge undertaking. If you're in the area, please hit me up (firstname.lastname@example.org) - I need new friends :).
Thanks for reading, and for all of the birthday wishes!