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The Philosophy Of Journey: How Anyone Can Travel The World

Updated on September 2, 2016
The Journey. Ryan Shannon in San Francisco, California in front of one of the many amazing murals in the Mission District.
The Journey. Ryan Shannon in San Francisco, California in front of one of the many amazing murals in the Mission District.
“What does your tattoo say?”

This is often the first question that pops out of everyone's mouth upon meeting them for the first time as soon as they catch a glimpse of the small text tattooed on the back side of my forearm. I lift my arm up so they can get a better look. Journey, emboldened in lowercase serif font, is what is symbolically written out (and no, not after the band from the 80’s).

This tattoo is enrooted in meaning, much deeper than the ink that is embedded in my skin. Something that I will never regret when I am older. Even if my skin starts to sag, even if it begins to weather; the story and my new philosophy on life inspired by this tattoo will never fade.

I would be lying if I said I contemplated what kind of tattoo I was going to get before hand, or if it had some special meaning like most people think that they must have in order to validate their tattoo. Really, it was a spur of the moment decision. I simply wanted a tattoo for the experience and the sensation of getting a tattoo. The tattoo was more about getting a tattoo, rather than the tattoo itself. It was that simple. Did it hurt as bad as everyone says? Does it even hurt at all? How long does it take? It was more of putting an "X" on the bucket list checklist box than anything else. And that's 100% okay in my book. But if I was going to be permanently stamping something on my body, I at least wanted something I could resonate with. Something I could show off to the world and display a little piece of who I am without even having to express myself in words. Alas, there was no word more perfect: journey.

Getting the tattoo was a journey in its own right. This was a point in my life where I was in the crux of heading back to my hometown after my "move" to Miami ( which ended up being more like an extended vacation of three months) and spontaneously conjured up a plan to head East and discover Japan, of all places.

But let's back up. Before landing in Miami, I decided to pick up and leave my hometown: Bellingham, Washington, after graduating. Bellingham’s a suburban town, with a funky, hippy vibe, in the top left corner of the US (right next to Canada), and unbeknownst to me, one of the top retirement destinations in the US. This town had been everything I knew until I decided to pick up and leave its 32 square mile border that encapsulated me. It was probably a combination of the same gray, dreary weather day in and day out (yes, Bellingham is the least sunny city in the U.S. #1. How I survived there is still a mystery to this day), and seeing the same 80,885 residents' faces that lead me to pick up the day after I graduated.

I was ready to meet the other seven billion people that inhabit the world outside of Bellingham's confinement. I finally reached the age of “adulthood” and wanted a taste of absolutely unrefined freedom, and to truly explore the world with no limitations. And that's exactly what I did.

So where did I go to next?

Miami, naturally. And not just Miami. South Beach, Miami. The heart of it all. South Beach was everything Bellingham wasn't. Sun, beach, party, the crazy lifestyle. I packed everything I owned into an over-sized suitcase (something I will cover later... huge mistake. Traveling light is the way to go!) and a carry-on, busting at the seams with things I thought I needed.

And then a bus ride to Seattle, a skytrain to the SeaTac airport, a stopover in Detroit for several hours, and then I finally landed...with no place to go and absolutely no contacts or resources (if only I have read this blog before I left!). I had been so wrapped up in things before departing, that it swept past my mind to book a hostel or a place to stay before. So I waited around for my bag and booked the cheapest hostel possible.

For just $14 a night I was afforded a (not so comfortable bed) in a decent hostel in the heart of SoBe, just one block from the beach on Collins Avenue. The catch? There were 11 other people in the room. And one bathroom. With no A/C. In the middle of summer in sweaty, humid, tropical Florida. It wasn't exactly fun, but it was a place to stay until I found a job (which I did after stopping by the first Italian restaurant I saw on Lincoln Road and dropping off my resume. More on that later, and techniques for securing a source of income while travelling) and an "apartment" (which ended up being a pull out couch with a 40 year old drug addict still caught up in the party scene, and another roommate who was never really there, but decided it was a good idea to bring five full size boxes of stuff into our tiny 400 square foot apartment for three people).

This was just the start of the journey, and really it only went downhill from there. In the best way possible (if that makes sense). Through the meltdowns, crazy con landlords, clubbing, wallets thievery, insane roommates and work situations, I was being torn down. But, similar to how training a muscle breaks the muscle fibers down only to be re-synthesized to be stronger and bigger, I was being built into, not only a more avid traveler, but a highly adaptable human being. So from being vacuumed into this crazy lifestyle as a 18 year old, I was able to focus in on what I really want. I was beginning to realize that this life of paying bills just to survive until you die, putting myself in these awkward situations just to save money, having to escape the stresses of the workweek by "going out" constantly, and saving up for a vacation in order to finally be de-stressed for one single week just wasn't for me.

What did I want out of life? That was the question that remained.

The answer?

  • Laughter. Lots of laughter.
  • Happy moments.
  • Crazy memories.
  • Experiences.
  • No regrets.
  • To live a worthwhile life that not only satisfies myself and feeds into the things I am passionate about, but also helps others.
  • To travel. To see the world. To make discover the undiscovered.

While it may have been a bit rash and unplanned, I actively embraced this newfound mindset. I was set on Japan (with two weeks of Hawaii thrown in there before!). And that was it. I didn't know how exactly I was going to make it happen with just a few thousand in my bank account and being so young. But I thrived. And while the 2+ months I spent in Tokyo didn't go exactly as planned, I gained some tricks up my sleeve that allowed me to travel the world from that point on that I would like to share with anyone who wishes they could travel but thinks that they can't.

For many people, travel is thought to be an unattainable dream. They think it's not achievable in the here and now, but rather something to be put on the shelf for later in life. The only time to travel is when you are older, after you’ve retired with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank. Or, perhaps after saving up and cutting costs while working your nine to five job, just to take a week off to travel the world and return back to the monotonous working life. But why not now? Why not explore in your prime years while you’re still young (but for those of you who are a little older, remember it’s never too late to travel the world and there are still tons of resources that I will be covering that are relevant for you) and able to fully experience everything the world has to offer?

These thoughts are artificial barriers that prevent you from living a life true to yourself and travelling.

Allow me to walk you through a brief history of my life so that you understand why I chose to spend my life travelling right after high school, instead of taking the cookie cutter route of going off to university or entering into the workforce straight away. You see, I was a 4.0 student in high school. I had taken nearly every AP class available to me, spent my high school years with my nose in a book completing assignment after assignment after assignment in the hopes to land a spot in an Ivy League college. After studying for four to six more years in university, I would work as an intern or start somewhere at the bottom of the barrel in order to clime the “ladder”. After tentatively reaching the top and having other people working for me (hopefully by the age of 50, realistically by the age of 60 or 70), what is the point? What benefit does all the money and riches serve me when I am too old to climb the hills in San Francisco, to sail the world on a boat, to party all night and wake up feeling ready to take on the rest of the day in India?

Although I am just 20 years old, I broke free from the conventional thought process and said ‘screw school (at least for now), screw working in my little ol’ town, I am going to go off and experience the world’. Through travel, I have packed more life and experience into my years than many 80 year olds have just by exploring uncharted territory, taking risks, and actually pursuing what I love doing.

My inbox from social media is often flooded with messages asking me how I am able to travel so much. Or more specifically: how I afford to travel so much. This is the greatest thing that I can teach as a twenty year old who has now independently traveled four continents and has happily made a move to Europe (at least for now): it's not so much about the money as it is about the mindset.

In our modern society, especially in American culture, we have collectively defined success as how much a person makes, what they do for work, etc. Not for me. Success is living a life true to yourself and pursuing what you love. Success is working in order to live, not living to work. Success is maximizing pleasure and wanting what you have, not wanting the next best thing and putting yourself through hell to get it. This redefining of success and changing my mindset about travel is what lead to me pinning down the three virtues that I live by. The Ten Commandments of my life, and of my journey, if you will.

The Three Most Important Concepts of the Philosophy of The Journey:

1. Money is liquid. Not literally, obviously. You can touch money, feel the stacks of bills and change in your hands. But money comes and goes like the ebb and flow of waves at the beach. Often we think that money leads to happiness and that we must have a lot of it to travel. This is absolutely untrue. Money is simply a means of exchange representing quantity and quality of work in order to buy and sell things. We are trained from birth in Western culture that success equals money. While money is important to provide for your basic needs, (e.g. food, living a comfortable life, etc.) studies from Princeton show that $75,000 dollars in the US is the ideal amount to live a happy life. Anything beyond that yields no significant increases in happiness.

2. Time is the only valuable thing on earth. There is a term I first learned in economics called “Opportunity Cost”. This is extremely important. Basically, this definition states that when you buy one thing, you cannot buy another thing. If you do one thing for an hour, you cannot do another thing for an hour. It's a fairly simple concept to grasp, but it may be hard to live by. Think about the 40 hours you could have used doing things you love instead of working for somebody else and making money for them? Think about the wasted time spent arguing, focused on negative things in life. The ultimate goal in life is to spend 100% of your time doing things you love and enjoying yourself. We all have to make a living and we all have negative experiences in life we will inevitably endure, but why not actively seek out jobs that don't feel like "jobs" and choosing to make life about things we want to do rather than things we have to do?

3. Things are just things Say it with me: things are just things are just things. Do not give power to brands, to particular items, to worldly possessions. You can have the nicest car, the biggest house on the block, the newest Apple technology, but at the end of the day we aren't coming out of this life alive and can't take those items with us. In order for a human to survive we only need the essentials. Food, water, shelter... and since it'd be weird to be walking around naked in today's society: clothes. Maybe a laptop for work, important documents, a phone. But never be attached to them, and instead focus on spending on money and time on things that aren't physical.

Now before I dig further into the specifics and continue to post more on my methods of travel, one thing that I would like to make clear: my life is about travel and living a life full of adventure that's true to myself. A journey. Don’t expect to be living a lavish lifestyle, sleeping in fancy resorts and having all of the comforts of home wherever you are in the world. In fact, I have spent several nights sleeping at the airport, catching the bus like a local, and carrying only the items I need in either my backpack or carry-on. Just a few of the methods I have used to save money, which I will touch more on later.

My primary intention is not to advise you on financial success or provide you with “get rich quick” schemes. I will simply be touching on how I incorporate my philosophy of the Journey and pursue activities that are conducive in allowing me to travel the world for free or while turning a (often extremely modest) profit.

As somebody who has traveled to 15 countries and 15 cities domestically in the United States, I have learned how to travel completely self-sufficiently on my own dime. No, I do not live a glamorous life (in fact, I have just enough clothes to fit inside a medium sized suitcase), no you will not be going out all the time and being able to spend thousands of dollars on superficial things (there’s nothing wrong with a little pre-funk and buying your own Stella or PBS or any other cheap local beer and drinking it before hand). In fact, I consider myself a very basic and minimalist type of person, not very attached to my possessions. This is the way I live my life. Simply. So that I can simply travel the world and live for what I love. And in doing so, I am happy and satisfied with life. Choose to be free and live life as if money is just an object. Because life is short, and time is limited.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for future content or questions about my nomadic lifestyle. Journey on.

Where would YOU travel?

If you could travel to any continent in the world right now, where would you travel to?

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      A legendary traveler in making. But come on, don't be stingy...please share more details of your experiences with people, places, and your reflections!


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