Practical Activism: The #Give10 Comeback

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Here at wanderingforgood we talk a lot about travel (because it’s awesome), yet we care equally about the “good” part of our name and the “change the world” part of our mission.

As someone who loves the world, and has a strong passion for social justice, I’ve been experiencing a lot of overwhelm lately. Over the last weeks I’ve lost a lot of sleep at all the division, injustice, anger, and uncertainty that seems to be happening all around and watching things that I’m used to seeing in fragile nations happening in my own neighborhood. My heart hurts.

If you’re anything like me perhaps you waiver between putting your congressman on speed dial and wanting to escape to a tropical beach to bury your head in the sand and pretend that everything is okay. While a tropical beach does sound good right about now that the calendar is about to turn to February, I’ve been around the block and around the world to know that  ignoring and escaping doesn’t change anything.

So instead of escaping, I’ve been challenging myself to sit with this question:

How can I best use my own skills, knowledge and resources at this moment to make a difference in the things that matter to me? 

As I pondered what I care about and what I can uniquely contribute, I dawned on me that exactly six years ago at a time when I felt similarly overwhelmed, I created a project called #GIVE10 to use my skills, social platforms and professional do-gooding networks together in an effort to rally people to care about causes in the world.

Give10 worked like this: Each day we’d find someone doing good to make the world better, vett this organization through a network of individuals working in these issues on the ground, and invest in their work with a small $10 donation. Then we’d share about this organization, why we support their work, and encourage others to check them out and contribute their own 10$ is they saw fit. It was pretty awesome.

While the #GIVE10 community still exists (and yes you can join it for free at that link right now!), I have to admit that I haven’t been paying much attention to it in awhile. But all that’s about to change. Starting February 1, I’m committed to rebooting #GIVE10. I’m doing it because the world needs us to be active participants in spreading good right now more than ever. And I need it so I can sleep at night–knowing I’m doing my small part with the skills and resources I have.
I’ll begin with looking at organizations that are working on issues that are heavy on my heart right now: refugees, access to healthcare, climate, and racial and religious reconciliation.

Now, I recognize that the issues that I care about may not necessarily be the issues that are making you count sheep–and that’s why #Give10 is a community movement, not just a one person show giving away a bunch of $10 bills. For Give10 to be successful it relies on others to contribute and share their knowledge and passion about the organizations they care about.
The aim is that #Give10 will once again inspire others to take personal action in the way that only they can

Want to join in with #Give10? Here’s 3 simple things you can do:

  1.  Follow #Give10 now. (we promise to add some positive giving energy to your Facebook feed)
  2.  If you see a cause that resonates with you join us by giving your own $10 (or more) and/or by sharing it with others (#give10 on Twitter)
  3. Tell us about the causes you care about and why. We’re always looking for new organizations doing good work to highlight and give to.

Most importantly, recognize that it takes all of us to make a difference. I challenge you to take time today to sit with this question yourself and then make your own plan to address the issues that are important to you:

How can I best use my own skills, knowledge and resources at this moment to make my voice heard in the things that matter to me? 

In love and goodness.
Stephanie

PS. February is the perfect month to start something new! What are you going to do?

Bora Bora or Bust: Why aren’t you getting on the plane?

BOB - 3For several years I’ve been helping people learn how to travel for nearly free using points and miles. There’s something amazing about encouraging people to dream about a place they’ve never visited—one that would most likely never be accessible to them if they had to save the money to get there—and then show a few practical tools to make this a reality.

As I challenge people to learn to travel hack by working towards a goal of a dream destination, I’ve always shared my own dream of sleeping in an over-the-water bungalow in Bora Bora–falling asleep to the sound of the surf, waking up to the fish under my feet, and morning coffee with my toes in the brilliant blue water.

The funny thing was, however, after years of teaching people how to hack their way to Bora Bora, I’d still never actually been there myself.

I had the points, I’d done all the research. If there ever was anyone qualified to hack their way to Bora Bora, I was she. What was I waiting for?

In October I flew to New Zealand. As my plane crossed the Pacific on it’s 17 hour journey I watched as we flew directly over Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia on the inflight entertainment system flight tracker. Then it struck me. Was this the closest I was ever going to get to Bora Bora? A mile above it in the sky?

The wheels in my brain started turning. What was keeping me from going there if it wasn’t time or money? Why wasn’t I getting on the plane bound for Bora Bora? Was I subconsciously waiting for a significant moment. For my perfect traveling companion. For all the stars in the southern cross to align?

As I watched the sun rise at 37,000 feet, it literally dawned on me that I was waiting for no real reason. I was just putting it off because later felt easier than now. And then I thought some more. What other things was I putting off in my life like Bora Bora with no reason whatsoever?

Why is it that we put off our dreams and desires while waiting for the perfect time or circumstance to magically present itself? Aren’t we old enough to know that the magical present is the actual PRESENT? I made a pledge to myself to make it happen. And since I had to fly over Bora Bora again to get home from New Zealand —I decided that I would just do it now.

And as I typed the draft of this post from the deck of my over-the-water bungalow of my dreams, I can ensure you that NOW was the exact right time.

Whether you’re putting off a dream trip, calling your long lost family, waiting to pick up your pen to write your best-seller (points finger at self),  the lesson is this: The perfect time is now. If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it. 

I guess next time I teach this lesson I’ll be using my own photos and telling my own Bora Bora stories—and perhaps I’ll have to find another travel dream to share!

What are you waiting for?

Wonder how I actually hacked my way to Bora Bora? I knew you’d ask. Keep reading the bonus section below if you want to know how to plan this kind of trip.

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How’d I get there?

Here’s how my travel to Bora Bora worked, how I booked it, and what it cost. The route I took was a little bit different than the one I’ve laid out in my lesson plans, since I traveled via New Zealand rather than direct to Tahiti from my home base of Portland, OR. (Don’t worry, you can easily do this as a return trip originating in the US with flights on Hawaiian, AirFrance or AirTahiti Nui.)

PDX-LAX-SYD-AKL: 72,500 AA miles (or $11,000)

My first ticket was from Portland (PDX) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) on American Airlines with a stop in Los Angeles (LAX) and an intentional one day layover in Sydney, Australia (SYD). This ticket was First Class and cost a total of 72,500 American Airlines points with a dollar value of $11,000! As this ticket was on American and Qantas flights, I was able to search for and book the ticket online at aa.com. I booked this flight 10 months in advance as a one way award. (This ticket was purchased prior to American’s devaluation in early 2016- the current ticket cost for this same route one way is 90,000 AA Miles on a First Class saver award). Most of my miles on AA are earned from AA domestic flights and from my Citi AAdvantage credit card.

While the first half of my trip was booked very far in advance, all of the remaining flights were booked at the very last minute since I didn’t decide to fly home via Bora Bora until I was already in New Zealand.

AKL-PPT: 30,000 Miles (or $1,400)

Starting in New Zealand, I booked a flight from Auckland (AKL) to Papaetee, Tahiti (PPT) on Air Tahiti Nui using American Airlines Miles. The cost was 30,000 miles for a one way business class ticket at a cash value of $1,400 (or 15,000 for economy class). Booking this ticket required making a call to AA reservations as the tickets are not searchable online. It’s the only airline I’ve ever flown that gives you flowers for your hair and serves pre-flight mai-tai’s. (Also, I think I was also the only person on the flight traveling alone)

PPT-BOB-PPT: $220 each way in Travel Credits

Air Tahiti (not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui) has a monopoly of the French Polynesian skies and is the only way to get to Bora Bora once you’ve made it as far as Tahiti. I flew PPT to BOB and came back to Tahiti via Moorea—another island that connected to Papaetee by ferry. The only way to hack this leg is with lots of points on a credit card with a “travel eraser” or cash back travel credits like my Chase Sapphire Reserve. The cost of the flight is about $220 each way and doesn’t fluctuate much. I booked the flight directly through airtahiti.com to receive travel credits on my credit card. The most important thing to know about this flight is that you want a seat on the left side on the way out and right side on the way back. Catching a view of Bora Bora from the sky is worth the cost of the flight alone.

* Note: if you make it this far, and are hoping to use points to stay at hotels in Tahiti and Bora Bora, you’ll want to stock up on Starwood, Hilton or IHG points. These are the chains that operate properties around French Polynesia. I used points from my IHG and SPG Amex Credit cards to cover my hotel nights.

 PPT-HNL-KON: 27,500 Hawaiian Miles (or $950)

To get from Tahiti back across the Pacific to the US, there are very limited choices of Airlines: Air Tahiti Nui, Air France, and Hawaiian Airlines–and not all of these airlines fly to the island every day. Since I had a stash of Hawaiian airlines miles that I’d never used after signing up for a Hawaiian airlines credit card, I decided to take the once a week Hawaiian flight to Honolulu (HNL) and then connect onward to Kona (KON) for no additional cost. An economy class ticket for the 5 hour overnight flight was 27,500 (at a cash value of $950) and bookable online at Hawaiian Airlines. The same flight was also bookable online via AA.com using American Advantage points, but cost more at 37,500 points.

KOA-PHX-PDX :$220 (or 20,000 miles)

Since I had to fly through Hawaii anyway, I took the opportunity to explore the big island for a few days before heading the rest of the way home via American Airlines. There were dozens of flights to choose at all times of day from on an assortment of airlines for about $220 or 20,000 miles on American. I went with a paid AA flight so the redemption value was low. Buying the ticket allowed me to earn qualifying miles and a paid flight allowed me to request a complimentary upgrade with my status..

All together, I saved more than $14,010 on flights by using points and miles!  But more importantly than getting something of high value for a fraction of the cost. I finally got to see Bora Bora for myself!

Roots and Regrets: Travel Lessons from Italy

255770_10200641354510145_265673010_nMy first trip to Italy was in 1993. I was a young and hip backpacker, too cool for the universe—as most teenagers are—and especially too cool for my family. Or so I thought.

Now that I’m much older and a little wiser I’ve come to realize that this whole time my family is awesome.

My family has deep Italian roots. My father is Italian. His parents were Italian. My great grandparents were Italians straight off the boat. (See above, those were the immigration papers of my Grandmother’s mother).

I don’t know enough stories about that boat and why the patriarchs and matriarchs of my “Italian-American” family came to the “new” world of their time. Perhaps they were “explorers” rather than “settlers”. Maybe this is where my genes of adventure come from. If I am cool now, it is only because it is hereditary.

There is one story that I do remember well about my learning my family history. Sadly, it is both my own story and a story of regret.

In 1993 when I took my very first trip to Europe, my Italian grandparents were alive. They religiously hand wrote me letters nearly every week during the duration of my first study abroad semester in London. I’ll never forget my Grammy’s perfect cursive penmanship or the way she and Pappy always tucked 20$ bills into their tri-folded drugstore notepad letters.

As the end of my time in the U.K. neared, I prepared for my first backpacking trip through Italy–Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice were on the list. I was excited, and in advance of the trip received one of Grammy and Pappy’s letters with a 20$ travel bonus! This time, however, the letter wasn’t the ordinary update with the regular news of their local Italian choir and spaghetti dinner club they hosted. In preparation for my first trip to Italy, they had carefully created a list of the names and telephone numbers of all of my relatives in the cities I would be visiting so I could connect with my roots. It was a treasure map.

Unfortunately, the thing about teenagers and treasure maps, was that I wasn’t smart enough to know the value of this letter at the time. It was just a piece of the same old drug-store notepad paper from my grandparents with the names of people I didn’t know on it. I put the 20$ in my wallet, tucked the address list into my Let’s Go guide, and hit the road!

As a teenager I thought of my relatives as the people who I saw at family reunions and funerals. They were the ones who brought funny Italian dishes like cold pizza with no cheese they called tomato pie, and pinched my cheeks, and always asked me if I remembered their names. (And of course I didn’t.)

One day in Florence, where some of the relatives on the list lived, I pulled out the piece of paper from my guidebook, admired Grammy’s perfect cursive, and picked up a hostel payphone. And then I got scared and put the receiver down. I didn’t know who these people were. Maybe they were somehow related to my ‘old’ grandparents, but I didn’t know them, I didn’t know what to say to them, AND they didn’t speak English. Game over.

I never made that call. I put the list back in my book and never looked at it again. I had assumed that I was living my once in a lifetime chance to visit Italy and I didn’t want to waste it with cheek pinching strangers who might serve me funny food and not be able to talk to me in 18 year old English. I had no inkling that I’d spend the next 20+ years traveling.

I’ve been back to Italy at least ten times since, and I’ve thought about this moment dozens of times. I’d give anything to be able to pick up the phone, dial into the past, and get to know the family on that list. I’d call them all and mumble in my best incoherent Duo-Lingo Italian.

Sadly, I lost that paper, and within a few years after that trip I also lost both of my grandparents who were my connections to these living stories. For some reason, however, I’ve never lost that memory of putting down the receiver and making that choice not to call.

Sure, it was just a phone call in the past that I didn’t make, but moments like these also go by another name. We call them regret, and regret strangely has a way of sticking around—even longer than estranged relatives and cold cheese-less pizza.

Perhaps regret sticks and stings because it so badly doesn’t want us to forget the lesson it teaches. She stays with us to remind us to run the other way from our fears and failures. Not to condemn, but to condition us for the better and to prepare us for the future. To make us stronger and more willing to pick up the phone the next time we get the chance.

I’m headed back to Italy next week, making my own mission to chase my roots into the village where my great grandparents came from. I’m not sure what I’ll discover, but I know one thing that won’t be hanging out there: Regret.

You may never get a rewrite of that moment from your past, but you do get to write the end of your story.

###

 

 

The Art of Taking Up Space

CoverStory-Liniers-Eustace-Manspreading-879x1200-1454103357You’ve probably heard of the “manspread” – the cultural phenomenon that has taken the New York City subway by storm. If you haven’t, it may be time to Google it.

The topic of manspreading been laughed about on comedy shows and trending across social media networks. In fact, a “manspreading” illustration of the famed New Yorker caricature Eustace Tilley is currently gracing the coveted cover of the magazine’s 90th anniversary edition.

While the jokes are funny, I haven’t quite been able to understand this phenomenon, or the bigger question of why people, both women and men, put up with this.

While I don’t live in NYC, and don’t even pass through the big apple that often, I often see this same phenomenon happen in the skies where I tend to hang out quite a bit as a master travel hacker. Why is it that the man sitting next to me thinks his elbow, his knees or his side beer belly is welcome to take up half of my seat? And why do I naturally scoot over in my own seat to make room rather than say excuse me, but get the F#&* out of my space?

A rockstar friend of mine shared this poetry slam video with me this week, and it got me thinking about this topic. (It’s a few years old, but it’s good. You should watch it.)

While I consider myself to be a pretty independent and empowered woman, so many of these words resonated with a silenced voice deep inside me.

Sure, I’ve been told that I can do anything I want and be anything I want—and I fully believe this. But I’ve have also spent decades taking in the silent lessons that politeness trumps truth, soft is better than strong, presence requires apology, and pretty precedes professional. While our hearts desire big lives and success of epic proportions, our poorly-calibrated inner compass directs us with these misguided truths.

Ironically, the same figures in my life who applaud my opportunity and success, are the same who hint that I’m not ‘settled down’ because perhaps I’m too independent, too strong, and too smart to be a suitable partner. “Live large they say, but maybe not too big because no man wants to be with that.” I call bullshit on this.

We are all meant to live largely and to love others. That’s how the world works.

Isn’t it interesting that women are said to glow when they are pregnant? Perhaps this is the one time in their lives they are finally as an act of nature, un-apologetically taking up space, and people make room for it without question.

Perhaps we should all live like we’re expecting.

Though it’s easy to file this under “gender issues” this isn’t solely about women. The “manspreader” is symbolic of a much bigger cultural, and even global problem we face:

We must stop living in false belief that one person or any group of people has more right to take up more space than another.

Let me say that again:

We must stop living in false belief that one person or any group of people has more right to take up more space than another.

Male, Female, Red, Yellow, Black White—the challenge is for all of us:

Live in your fullness
Break your invisible boundaries

Show up more, Shut up less
Open up when you’d rather give up

Make space for others, but most importantly, fill the space that’s yours

And if this is just too philosophical for you, please remember this one simple thing:
Keep your knees off my seat and your elbow off my armrest.

The Paradox of Settling

settledown - 1“When are you going to settle down?” As a wander of more than 20 years, this is the question I’ve learned to field at least once a week. Friends, family, people I date, random acquaintances, and readers of the internet inquire about my ability to “settle” all of the time.

“Settle down?” It’s a simple question, and most often  curious and well-meaning. Yet, on most occasions whenever these words enter my ears this question triggers my inner world into a mild state of panic.

Part of my brain screams “YES!”. Part of my brain screams “NO!”. It’s paralyzing.

What does settling down even mean for goodness sake? As a traveler who has built much of her existence on the premise of not being long-term geographically committed to one place, this question instantaneously triggers my self doubt to the very core.

For a long time I thought this inner struggle was a sign I must be broken, but eventually I realized that this is a trick question.

You see, there is no right answer to the “When will you settle down?” question, because, my friend, there’s a paradox in the very concept of settling.

In the strange universe of the English language, the word “settle” has multiple and very different—perhaps even contradictory–meanings.

Settle: verb

1) To stop, let something rest, to build a place to dwell
2) To accept or agree to something less than the best, less than satisfactory, or below what you want or deserve

When I hear, “When will you settle down,” my panicked brain translates these mystery words into a variety of other things like:

Why can’t you to commit to anything?” or “When are you going to stop chasing your dreams and start doing stuff like regular people?” or “Will you ever grow up?”

After 20 years of breaking out in a sweat trying to make sense of this question I’ve finally learned a couple important things:

1. The Question is Actually Not About ME

If you’re a traveler, most people actually don’t care, beyond a mild curiosity, where you go or how long you stay there. The asker is usually just wondering “Are you going to stick around for awhile?” This usually isn’t a question that comes from a place of judgment, rather people want to know where they fit into your life.

When you don’t see the people you love very often, “when will you settle” is often an indirect way of stating “I really hope you’re going to be around more.”

2. The Real Question is for All of Us

While wanderers commonly gets asked this question most often, the real question is a little different, and it applies to all of us:

Can you be settled without settling?

Maybe the question for you is, “Can you be in a fixed location without taking less then you deserve”, or perhaps, “Can you be at a place of contentment and stillness without being in a fixed location?”

I’ve lived a very non-traditional life for most of the last 20+ years. Although it seems to some on the outside that I’ve been wandering aimlessly, I have been very “settled” into a global community and cause. I have been at home in my purpose-driven wandering. I have been settled without settling for years.

Three years ago I chose to move to a place where I could build a more sustainable geographically-based home and community. While I’ve unpacked and settled into Portland for now, I’m less about “settling down” and more about extraordinary living from a fixed address. It’s less settling and more striving for the new things that I want–making decisions for important things that are bigger than me—community, home, relationships, roots, etc.

A permanent address or our drive to be location interdependent doesn’t determine a settled or un-settled life.

Perhaps you’ve lived in the same home for 20 years, yet have given up on your dreams to be a painter or a writer or a supreme court justice (I hear there’s a job vacancy). If where you live makes you happy, great, but perhaps it’s time to choose to change something if life circumstances have driven you to settle for something less than what you were born to be.

We only have one chance in this life after all.

Stop settling. Start living your dreams.

When What You Have Isn’t What You Want

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We’ve all been there. In situations we’ve made from our own doing, or in situations dictated by circumstances we haven’t chosen–We desperately want something different than what we’ve been dealt. Or at minimum would like to alter our circumstances a bit to make life a little more comfortable.

I’ve been here myself, and it sucks. If you’ve waded into or treaded these waters, I’m sure you’ll agree. But, there is some good news: You don’t have to be miserable.

In most* situations, what you have isn’t what you want, you’ve got 3 choices:

1) Change Something.

If you don’t like something, Don’t sit around and complain about it. There’s a lot of stuff in our lives that we can change. Big stuff and small stuff.

If you aren’t good at changing things, start with the little things and get some experience. Anytime you find yourself complaining about something. Do whatever you can to change it.

  • Noisy neighbors in the hotel room you’ve been assigned?Ask to move.
  • Hate your job? Polish your resume .
  • Afraid to leave a relationship you should have gotten out of a long time ago? Start the conversation.
  • Don’t like the way your kids act since they turned into teenagers? Well, you probably shouldn’t give them away. (Keep Reading)

Even a small step in the direction of change, has the power to propel you into forward motion.

2) Choose Contentment

Unfortunately, we can’t change everything we don’t like. Sometimes we just have to live with it. But what can you do with the things you cannot dismiss or give away?

Enter contentment. You must change the way you think about it and experience it.

Now, I realize to most people “choosing contentment” sounds like an awful option—it seems like a fancy way to say, learn to live with it, pretend you’re happy, and stop hoping things could be different.

I’d be lying if I didn’t agree with this a little bit, but the trick to contentment is recognizing that is it a practice, not a solution. Contentment is like yoga or meditation–you will suck at it some days, probably most days, and that’s okay. It’s not about fixing yourself or fixing anything. It’s about learning to be at ease in your situation.

3) Wallow in Complacency

Option three when what you have isn’t what you want, is to do nothing. Seriously, people, this really shouldn’t ever be a choice. But I put it here because it is the default that I choose so often (and perhaps you too).

When you really should change something but you just don’t have the chutzpah, time, energy, or [insert your own excuse here], this is what you are actually choosing. If it’s a circumstance that isn’t exactly changeable, but you’d rather be miserable and let everyone else know it than work on your contentment practice, you have picked door number three. Woe is you.

This stuff isn’t easy my friend. We all have baggage and we must choose wisely basing our decisions on our own motives, circumstances, and options we are presented.

What’s it going to be? The choice is yours.

——–

** Note: I say most situations here, because life sometime throws us really big stuff like death, tragedy, abuse, disaster, and long-term stuff that we can’t change as much as we’d like more than anything to have a magic wand to reverse. Please know that I’m not suggesting changing your attitude as a fix to any of these situations. If these types of scenarios are what you’re experiencing check out the work of Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief.

5 Lessons from a Half a Life of Travel

TRAVEL LESSONS - 1 (1)It’s official. I’ve now been traveling over half of my life. And I don’t regret it for one minute.

Now that I’m twice as wise as I was when I got my first passport stamp on 01/26/93, I thought I’d share a few of the hundreds of lessons I’ve learned from 23 years on the road. Be warned, these aren’t the normal things people tell you on travel blogs.

1. Travel Will Not Help You Find Yourself

You can read Eat, Pray, Love as many times you want, and wish upon a star that getting on airplane to a distant land is going to unravel all your emotional baggage, solve your life problem, and reveal who you truly are inside, but this is fiction. YOU are not lost, and you will not find yourself by traveling.

In 23 years of travel, I didn’t find myself at all. I became myself. Travel, like any other life journey, will press you and shape you, make you uncomfortable, and open your eyes to new things that will change the way you think about the world and perhaps even your place in it.

Of course, you will definitely get actually lost at some point, but even then you won’t find yourself. Hopefully you’ll find where you were meant to be, or enjoy the discovery you didn’t mean to have.
2. There is No Such Thing as “Location Independent”

In the past few years the concept of being “location independent” is the trendy new terminology in the travel scene. This is a fancy way to say quit your office job and apartment, and “live and work on the road.” As a way of life, there is merit in modern day long-term wandering, but as a self proclaimed title, this is nonsense.

None of us are ever independent—especially as travelers. We are always interdependent on whatever place we find ourselves in and on whichever people we find ourselves among. You are always somewhere even if you don’t have a fixed address or a permanent cell phone number. (I mean, you do need an address after all to register for your points and miles earning credit cards to fund all this travel).

Call yourself whatever you want right now and #hashtag the hell out of it until it stops trending, but remember you can’t go everywhere without being anywhere. And after a half life of traveling, you may very well wish you had nourished some roots along the way.

3. The More You Learn, the Less You Know

Travel teaches you a lot, but it isn’t like school. The lessons you learn on the road are not cumulative. They are actually kind of reverse cumulative (if that’s a thing).

For example, you plan a trip to Italy and read all the books in preparation to learn as much as you can about the history, language, people, and culture. Even if you learn a lot in advance, when you get there  you realize that you know very little. Then you stay for a few months or even a few years, and you realize that even though your knowledge has increased exponentially, you truly understand that you aren’t an expert on Italy at all.

The more you you’ve been exposed to, the greater your understanding becomes that you know very little. After nearly a quarter century and the memory erasing effects of chronic jetlag, I’m pretty sure I now know nothing. Thank God for Google.

4. The World, Like You, is in a Constant State of Change

It’s a fact, I look absolutely nothing today like I did in my first passport picture in 1992. I have changed not only in how I look, but also in how I act and think, and how I see the world.

Guess what, the world has also changed a lot in in the past couple decades.

Since I first started traveling, I’ve been to Thailand more than 100 times. (In addition to being obsessed with Thai food, I also have lived and worked there for extended periods of time). You know what? The Thailand of 2016 looks very little like the Thailand of 1997. The country is never the same twice. There is always something new to be discovered. And I’ll keep going back every chance I get.

I’ve traveled to a number of countries with my friend Chris who has been to every UN recognized country in the world (that’s 193 of them if you’re wondering), and even he has barely scratched the surface of the globe (he also knows very little-see point 3).

My friend Lisa has a pet peeve about people who talk about “doing” countries. I like to say, “Oh, we did Colombia for Christmas,” because the thought of “doing” a country, and checking an entire nation and people group off your bucket list makes her crazy.

No matter how you personally feel about this terminology, countries aren’t something that you “Do”. They are art, life, and culture in motion. You can only experience a place in its present moment. Some countries you may go back to experience again, the others will keep right on changing after you’ve graced them with your presence and departed. They aren’t waiting for you to return to continue their progress.

Keep count of your countries, continent, and passport stamps however you like (and enjoy counting—it’s fun). But remember that you’ll never be done. The world is on constant refill. There will always be more to experience.

5. You CAN Start Any Time You Want

The pictures in my series of expired passports prove it. I’m not the young backpacker I was in 1993. I know less, I care more, and I like to shower when I travel (even on an airplane sometimes). Sometimes I have the fleeting thought—“Maybe you’re too old for this, maybe you should finally settle down.” And then I snap back into reality and remember this truth: There are NO age limits to travel. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still just getting started.

 When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I distinctly remember my guide telling the story of a 80+ year old woman he led to the summit a year before. Maybe he was telling that story to encourage us up the mountain on our 6th day of trekking in hail, but nevertheless, I hope in another 23 years, I’ll be that grandma training for Everest.

Traveling doesn’t care if you’re young or old. Families are traveling long term, empty nesters are spending their retirement on the road, heck, even elderly ladies have traded in knitting for mountain climbing.

The world is more accessible now than ever before. You don’t need any special skills to get on an airplane. The cost of international travel is no longer prohibitive. In fact, the airlines and credit card companies have made it easier than ever in history to fly for nearly free.

If you want to travel—be it a single getaway to a destination you’ve been dreaming about or selling all you have and trading in your 9-5 for a life of living and working on the road—it is possible.

What are you waiting for? Get out there: Find yourself, be location independent, master the world, and do as many countries as possible.

Or maybe just enjoy the journey, love the people you meet, and try to learn as much as you can along the way. You and the world will be much better because of it.

Onward.