Visiting and living in foreign countries can be invaluable on many levels, however it is not for everyone. There are many valid reasons for not traveling abroad. I am not talking about the typical excuses that people make like not enough money, family or career obligations. Those types of excuses can generally be overcome however, sometimes traveling can impede your own quest for personal excellence and that is too much of a sacrifice.
Why You Should Travel
Seeing the world opens your eyes to the diversity of humanity. Regardless of what country you may live in, your particular lifestyle and experiences are only a tiny fraction of what the world has to offer. Every single one of us is biased by the education we had, the media we watch, the people we are surrounded by and other aspects of our own particular culture. When everyone around us lives, acts and thinks a particular way, it is nearly impossible to consider other potentially better ways to spend our lives.
Traveling to and especially living in foreign countries, can cause a massive culture shock that enables you to ask yourself important life questions. For many visiting another culture, the immediate instinct is to assume that anything different is inferior. Why do they drive on the other side of the road? Why is everyone so lax and lazy? Why is it so difficult to do business? Why is there so much bureacracy? Why is everyone so corrupt?
If you can get through your own biases and prejudices, you will start to see that you can learn a great deal from any culture. Sadly, many expats living in foreign countries waste their opportunity abroad commiserating with their own country mates about how much life is better back home. Those that take the time to learn the local language, live as natives in that country and stay away from the expat community will most certainly have a more rewarding experience.
Don’t make Excuses
As with anything new and unknown, many people have a well developed repertoire of excuses to not travel abroad. Most of them are just that, excuses. If you real want to do something strongly enough, you can make the sacrifices and summon the perseverance necessary to do almost anything. If you don’t have enough money, cut back on some expenses and/or work extra hours. If you are worried about your career, become an expert by blogging about your field and you will likely have your choice of better paying opportunities around the world. If you have a family, there are few more rewarding experiences for children than living abroad. Most excuses for not leaving your home country are generally tied to over-consumption; most people have too many debt obligations to leave. It is very liberating if you can break that cycle and live for experiences rather then just purchasing goods.
When you Shouldn’t Travel
It is scary to give up your current way of life for something unknown and uncertain in another part of the world. However, fear alone is not good enough. Here are some reasons for avoiding living in foreign countries, however a very small percentage of people are bounded by these constraints.
Bricks and Mortar Business Owner
If you own a real physical company it can be difficult to be away from your business for extended periods. If you love your work and are earning a decent income, then all the best to your future success. Keep on developing your business and don’t worry about living abroad. Travel when you can and keep your focus on your business. You should be working towards creating the systems and processes necessary to have your business run itself. That is the difference between having a business or just a job. However, if you truly enjoy what you are doing there is no reason to expand or give it up.
Artists and Athletes
Most high level artists, musicians and athletes require a regular training and practice regime that isn’t suited toward living in foreign countries. To be great in any field requires years of dedication and sacrifice. It is difficult to put in that level of consistent effort when you are living a nomadic lifestyle. One way around this, is to live in other countries for long-term stays. That way you can get back into a regular routine necessary to excel at your calling. Changing countries and constantly acquainting yourself with new surroundings can be very exciting and rewarding but probably is not conducive to becoming world class in many disciplines.
There are also real physical constraints to a jet set citizen lifestyle. Try carrying around a cello or kayak around the world and you will quickly notice the difficulty of pursuing some dreams while traveling. It is possible to bring some tools for your profession, such as a guitar, computer, maybe even bicycle but they will be very limited for high-performance users. Trevor Stefiuk from the first jet set citizen interview, has a whole studio full of instruments and recording equipment. He can’t lug all that around with him from country to country, so he moved once and will stay put for the foreseeable future.
Many occupations such as doctors, lawyers and university professors make it very difficult to live abroad and still maintain the same position or standing in your field. If you have a great job that you enjoy, then you may have to forgo your dreams of living in distant locales. With many professional careers there are opportunities for sabbaticals and lucrative employment possibilities abroad so travel certainly isn’t impossible.
My recommendation is to travel as much and as often as you can. Just keep in mind that travel isn’t everything. My vision of a jet set citizen is someone who constantly strives for personal excellence towards a lifestyle of their own choosing. The purpose of travel should be personal development and contribution to other citizens of the world, not just self-indulgence. Visiting an exotic country to stay in western style hotels, eating western style food and buying tourist trinkets is not the type of travel I am talking about. Sometimes you will need to be tethered to a single location to achieve the most you can in life, but often you can continue your passion from all over the world.