I’ve posted on engineering forums before, with an offer to have people work in Indonesia for room, board, tax free salary, plus profit sharing. It’s never been met with interest, and here is a main reason why.
I’ve found that most people feel rather settled and are not inclined to fight inertia. Moving to another country is a really big deal for most people – too big a change to even seriously contemplate. Of the small percent that do contempate it, most prefer to keep it at the daydream level.
Whenever an intern has arrived I’ve always congratulated them on being part of a limited club – the club of people adventurous enough to travel as more than a tourist. It truly is a rare sort of bravery, and one that I respect.
And travelling is not just an existing character trait that is cool. The act of travelling builds character. People who travel for long periods of time come back as different people.
It takes character to overcome inertia and step out of the rut we’ve dug between our picket fence surrounded nest and our workplace. And then stepping outside that rut and exploring the world is what changes our character. It is the building of character momentum, so that we can become the type of person capable of taking more steps out of more ruts we never even knew that we were in.
Our characters are quickly visible through our posture and micro-expressions. As social animals we are fine tuned to pick up character traits, and habitually stepping outside of ones comfort zone is a character trait. Adventurers are sexy. Women prefer a well travelled man.
In a recent email I received:
I was overseas for a good three years, and when I got back I reconnected with a lot of guys. Some of them I hadn’t seen for about ten years.
The frustration was striking. No one was bitter (yet?) but I wrote in my journal of 30 or so old friends, only ONE was even arguably successful.
At least half of these 30 are very sharp guys, and they could all do well for themselves. But even the professional road cyclist, he was bragging about his hot girl he was talking to on tinder. Fair enough but girl lives in New Zealand. Sure, he travels a lot on the circuit, but it’s not like he’s in NZ every other weekend. Other guys are languishing in crappy teaching jobs, or working in food service.
What’s the moral of the story? Maybe I just know a lot of losers. Maybe, but the larger point is that there are thousands of guys out there who could use an opportunity like what you’re providing.
You travelled, and came back to a group of friends and good guys who did not bother to travel. Suddenly you start to see things from an outside perspective, and suddenly it’s clear to you what they can’t see at all; that they have limited their options. And since they have not set up habits of exploration, their characters will not be willing to be able to see other options or how limited their lives are. They have chosen comfort, and in doing so have become people who have no choice but to continue to choose comfort. Easy choices, limited life.
The picket fence has been used as metaphor countless times. People naturally want to nest, and yet we have competing urges for adventure and exploration. Too much wandering can leave a person feeling rootless, but too much nesting can leave a person feeling stuck in one long rut that leads from office back to the house.
This is why I’m trying to create nests in several cities; to fulfil both competing urges at once.
The first time you travel to a new country, the trees are different. The air smells different. The climate is different. The people are different. This difference wakes up the senses and gives a New Relationship Feeling to life. Life itself has a new car smell. You become invigorated, even a little awe struck, and this is rejuvenating. During this phase people often fall in love with the new country. It does not last of course, and the next relationship phase is disillusionment, followed either by hatred or open eyed compromise.
But by then returning to the home country is not the same option. By the time you have lived in a different culture long enough move out of infatuation and into disillusionment, you aren’t enmeshed in your own home culture any more, and are forever doomed to see your home culture through the eyes of an outsider. From now on you’ll also be disillusioned with your own town.
My solution is put down roots in cultivated gardens. To create planned oases where a tribe of like minded men gather to work on exciting business projects, live a great life, and meet interested tourists and locals.
As it’s possible to create a new rut anywhere, we’ll have compounds of bungaloes set up in multiple cities. After many months of living and working and becoming established in one location, there will be the option to travel to a new country and life will have that new car smell all over again.
All the while we’ll remain in touch with the roots we’ve created. There will be large screen TVs in the common rooms of the compounds used for video conferencing with the tribes in other cities. Friends will travel together. We’ll have compounds of bungaloes in Bali, South America, Japan, Sophia Bulgaria, and who knows where else.