Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why Ben Wants to Go to Ecuador

Until I can figure out how to set up a different username for Ben, he'll be posting as a guest :-) I asked him to be a regular contributor to our adventure blog! Here's his first post. I contemplated calling it "The Porkchop Perspective" ... and for those of you who know me best, you know why! :-) 


Over the recent holidays, I saw many family members and friends who asked me, “What made you decide to go to South America for a year???” My answer to this question varied a little, and I also answered in a briefer way than I would have liked to. This post is my expanded explanation to you, the reader, and my own personal musings on why Caitlin and I decided to plan a twelve-month trip to Ecuador!

Before I get into the reasons, I want to talk about why this question is even a question to begin with. If Caitlin and I announced this year that she was pregnant, no one would have asked us “Well, why would you go and do that?” I mean, we’re going to Ecuador for 365 days. Having a kid is a lifetime longer than that, but we’ve gotten some weird looks and confusion as to why we’d want to spend just a single year of our lives someplace other than our two-bedroom house in Orlando. Similarly, if my company promoted me and had to send me across the United States, or even to another country so I could do this bigger job with more responsibility and more pay, I don’t expect people would have asked, “Well, why would you go and do that?” That question wouldn’t come up because those are big events many people experience in their lives (or hope to experience) and they understand and can relate to the decision making behind starting a family or taking a promotion where you leave home. Deciding to travel long term in foreign countries is not, however, something people normally do, especially people at our age and life stage, so it takes some explanation to help others see where we are coming from.

And that’s why I’m writing this! So, let’s get into the reasons we are choosing to travel.

The first reason we’re traveling is because it’s a great way to get you out of your comfort zone. Living in another country where the language spoken is not your own, and where the culture is very different from yours, is a surefire way to force you out of your typical routine and social activities. Pretty much everything that has made you a better person in life so far has been something in which you needed to get out of your comfort zone. Think of learning to ride a bike, leaving for college, public speaking, or having the guts to ask your boss for that promotion you’ve had your eye on. Doing these things for the first time is always scary, and requires you to take some action that you’re not used to. But once you commit and follow through, you become that person who rode the bike, went to college, spoke in public, or got that promotion! What were you so afraid of?

This trip we are about to take falls into the same category. It is a little scary and exciting at the same time. Up to now, I have never had to purchase groceries using Spanish, or felt the inclination to dance to Latin music, but I am gonna do both of those things, and I bet it won’t be boring.

The next reason for going would be that the best way to learn a new language is to live in a country where people speak it. I wish I had taken advantage of the semesters in high school and college that I learned Spanish, but unfortunately I didn’t, and forgot pretty much all of it. Now is my chance to undo that. I don’t think I need to argue how valuable knowing Spanish is today. It is even more widely spoken than English. Knowing Spanish will help me appreciate a different culture, make friends I otherwise wouldn’t, sharpen my mind, and perhaps even open up some business opportunities. If you already speak more than just English, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Reason number three may be unexpected. It has to do with being a more interesting person. Many of the people that I look up to and try to learn from are all really interesting people. Tim Ferriss, Dane Maxwell, and Richard Branson are a few that come to mind. They are people who are not just wealthy, but people who are really interesting, too. I plan to be wealthy in my future, and I plan to have wealthy, interesting friends. Tai Lopez, when asked why millionaire investors would consider talking to him about business, responded by saying, “If you want to have wealthy friends, you have to earn their interest.” Give a millionaire a reason to talk with you and you may have a chance to make a friend. In other words – stand out from the pack.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t believe that by taking some long trip I will automatically have powerful friends, or that you need to take a long trip to gain them. What I am saying is that living out your own dreams already gets you closer to meeting and knowing people who inspire you—and becoming a person that inspires.

Lastly—and this one is my favorite—the best reason for taking an extended trip is to fulfill a deep human desire to explore and see the unknown. I call it “human” because I know that everyone feels it at some point in life. The desire to see what we haven’t seen beckons us. Without this desire, we would have never made it to the moon or discovered underwater caves (and those endeavors are way more risky than what we are doing). So this trip is not just the fulfillment of that desire, but the refusal to stifle or ignore it.

Now, while Ecuador is our first big trip, it won’t be our last! There will be other adventures, but living somewhere for twelve months won’t happen too often. I think the desire to explore can be partially satisfied with shorter vacations. Caitlin and I love our little vacations and cruises, but those trips only give us glimpses of other countries and are more entertainment-focused. We don’t have the chance to make new friends, learn a new language, learn to cook new foods and so on. Staying long-term forces us to slow down and experience the culture, rather than merely see it.

There are a hundred and one reasons not to commit to long-term travel, and there is never a perfect time to do it, either. For me, the pull of exploration and excitement is stronger than any reason to stay home. Most people would think it was more sensible to do this sort of thing right after college or once you retire. I can understand that perspective, and until recently, thought the same thing. Since Caitlin and I are not pursuing typical careers, though, we have nothing tying us to one spot. The mindset of “I’ll just do all the things I have always wanted to do once I retire,” is actually filled with more risk than one might think—it’s what most of us do, so it seems safe. But who says we’ll even make it to retirement? Sure, there’s risks traveling abroad at length for such a long time, but isn’t waiting 30-40 years to start on our bucket list a risk, too? Plus, let’s face it, there’d be much more risk if we waited to go live in Ecuador if we were in our 70’s instead of our 20’s or 30’s. So I guess we just have to choose which risk we want to take…and we’re choosing a different risk than most, which can appear to some people as if we’ve gone off the deep end!

So there you have it.  Those are the things that, for me, answer the question “Why are you doing this?” We leave on July 15, 2015 and are pumped about this new chapter of our lives!! If you have a question, or some other great reasons for long-term travel that I didn’t mention, I would be delighted if you shared them in the comments!

Hasta Luego!


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