In today’s Why We Travel, I speak with Mitch Glass who abandoned his life as a nomadic backpacker after falling in love at a dance class in Cali, Colombia. He has been in Colombia for three years and now runs “Project Untethered,” a website and newsletter that imparts skills and advice to adventure-craved
Describe your first transformative travel experience.
My first transformative travel experience was on my very first backpacking trip to Thailand. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Everything I knew about travel came from what I read on blogs. My original plan was to go on this one month trip to get adventure “out of my system”, then return home, finish my doctoral program, and climb the career ladder like everyone else. That plan changed in Thailand. In just a few short weeks, I met amazing people from all over the world, living a travel lifestyle that I didn’t even know existed. After hearing their adventures, I knew I couldn’t just go home and return to “normal” life. It was like my eyes were opened for the first time. There was a whole new world out there waiting for me. When I got home, I cancelled my doctoral program, bought a one-way ticket to Mexico, and have been wandering around Central and South America ever since.
Why is travel important to you personally?
I travel because it makes me feel alive. I love stepping outside my comfort zone and pushing my limits. I love learning about different cultures and experiencing how people live around the world. I love breaking out of my routine and seeing new places, meeting new people, and creating new memories. And now that I’ve learned different ways to earn money while traveling, I can do it forever—coming and going as I please.
How would you describe your travel “style”?
When I first started traveling, my style was a mix of shoestring and adventure—I spent as little as possible on food, transport, and accommodation so that I could splurge on adventure activities. I was living off savings and didn’t have any income. Now that I’m married and work online, my travel style has changed. For example, I still love staying at hostels, but now I use more Airbnbs where I can be more productive with work. Instead of walking everywhere with a heavy backpack, I’ll just hire a taxi (if I’m in a cheap country).
What tips do you have for travelers to make their experiences more meaningful?
Try to learn the language (at least the basics) and get to know locals. For the first several months of my trip, I only hung out with other travelers I met in hostels. It was fun, but after a while I realized I was missing the cultural element. I could hang out with these types of people anywhere. From then on, I looked for ways to spend more time with locals and less time with tourists.
What are your favorite travel-related books, movies, paintings, poems, songs, etc.?
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is what inspired me to shift from temporary traveler to permanently location independent. I highly recommend it to everyone. I also really liked The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is uniquely inspirational and teaches the importance of following your dreams.
First off, I don’t think everyone should travel like I do (long-term, indefinitely, etc)—it’s not for everyone. However, I DO think that everyone should travel at least once to a country where the culture is way different than theirs. Travel is the best way to kill ignorance. If you never travel, you’re mind is closed. You don’t know what you don’t know. And no matter how many books you read or documentaries you watch, you won’t understand the world until you experience it yourself.
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