The Benefits of Travel for Writers with John McLean

The Benefits of Travel for Writers with John McLean

John McLean joined us on January 3rd to talk about:

  • How to make a living as a writer
  • How he uses his writing to fund his globetrotting adventures
  • How to travel on a budget
  • The mind-expanding power of traveling, and why this is important for writers
  • His year-long trip to eastern Europe, on which he embarks February 1st
  • And what it’s like to be named after the main character in the Die Hard movies

Learn more about John at Original Meetup event located here.

ONE: The Road More Traveled

What do all these people have in common?

  • Popular musicians
  • Movie stars
  • Professional Athletes
  • Motivational Gurus
  • Top keynote speakers
  • Standup comics
  • Wealthy people

All of these people travel almost constantly. Sometimes just for a night or two at a time—long enough to perform in one city and then move on to the next. And others for a week or even a few months at a time.

High performers today spend a tremendous amount of time on the road—in other cities and even other countries, interacting with people and experiencing all the many benefits of travel.

And yet…

Not a single motivational guru or self-help book EVER mentions this common trait among high performers. Now it could be nothing. All this travel could be merely coincidental to the ongoing success of high performers. Or…it could be something more. It’s at least possible that frequent travel provides tangible and intangible benefits that help some of us reach and sustain their high performance.

TWO: The First Ten Feet

Many travel books describe the joys of getting on a plane and finding yourself in a picture-postcard exotic locale—riding a motorcycle across China, or learning tango in Buenos Aires, or eating, praying and loving across a wide swath of the globe.

But doing all those things and more is the easy part of traveling the globe.

The very hardest distance to travel is the ten feet between your couch and your front door. It’s an almost insurmountable distance, but if you can find your way across it and then turn the knob and walk through the door, well, that’s when everything changes.

THREE: Good Is The Enemy of Great

You can have a good life—a very good life, indeed—by staying in your home town…by hunkering down on your couch for years and years on end.

But to achieve a great life, it helps to get outside of your comfort zone. That means exploring. Exploring yourself and exploring the world—which are, naturally, two sides of the very same coin.

Traveling for any length of time isn’t easy. At times it can be lonely, scary, stressful and every other negative emotion you can imagine.

But…if all of that leads to greater work then wouldn’t it be worth it?

If the struggle to spend more of your life in other parts of the world allows you to create better art, then don’t you owe it to your work to at least be open to the idea of traveling more frequently?

In the end, you can be ambitious and selfish for yourself—sleeping in your own bed each night and living a comfortable, good life. Or you can be ambitious and selfish for your cause, for your work, for your art.

You can cross that ten feet and walk out that door, or not. The choice is yours.

FOUR: Slow Travel

There are three distinct modes of travel.

Tourism: this is the customary method of going off on a holiday for a week or two at a time—for Americans that is, and about double that for Europeans. Tourism is a (very) temporary respite from the rat race.

Expat: a one-way journey to another country where you stay for years…or even the rest of your life. Popular expat locales for Americans include cities throughout Central and South America, as well as in Asia and Southeast Asia where the quality of life is exceptionally high compared to the low cost of living. The expat experience was once highly popular among artists, especially during the Lost Generation, when writers and painters and more from America, Spain, England and more would crowd together exchanging ideas with one another in Paris, Rome and Berlin.

Digital Nomad: Splitting the difference between Tourism and the Expat is what has become known as the Digital Nomad experience. This is also often referred to as Slow Travel, in which people go to one city for one to three months at time before moving on to the next. Holders of “high value” passports—such as the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada—can usually travel to the vast majority of countries in the world without visas or paperwork and stay for about 90 days, or three months. Whereas Expats find a place they like better than their home and find a way to stay there as long as possible, for Digital Nomads the clock is always ticking, always ticking—they land in a city knowing that their stay will only be temporary, that other adventures await just around the corner.

Sometimes entire companies are comprised of Digital Nomads. WordPress powers fully 20% of the world’s websites, and the company responsible for it, Automatic, is comprised entirely of 422 Digital Nomads in live in any and every far-flung corner of the globe they desire. The company has no fancy offices or cutting-edge headquarters anywhere in the world—and yet it has over 130 million unique visitors per month, slightly ahead of Facebook and just behind the #1 spot held by Google.

For the rest of our journey together we will specifically explore the Digital Nomad experience.

By the way, you will not find many (that is to say, any) travel hacks or other suggestions about how to navigate the world outside of you. Those kinds of things are well covered in a nearly infinite array of YouTube videos and travel blogs. Instead we will focus on the Digital Nomad lifestyle as it relates to the world within you.

FIVE: Digital Nomad

While Tourists bring enough money with them to last their entire trip and Expats either live off their retirement income or land full-time jobs in the local economy, Digital Nomads tend to earn their income online.

First time in the history of the world this is possible. Especially for writers, this lifestyle wasn’t even possible just five years ago. The world is changing and our way of interacting the world is changing with it.

The internet has given the entire class of what are known as Knowledge Workers the opportunity to pursue that work from anyplace in the world where they can find an internet connection.

Additionally, international airfares have continued to decline and an entire “sharing economy” of sites such as Couchsurfing, Trusted Housesitters and Air BnB have arisen that give Digital Nomads other options for affordable places to stay in the cities they visit. This is indeed the greatest and most convenient time in history in which to leave your couch and explore the world.

Note that the term Digital Nomad actually refers to two separate parts of ourselves.

There’s the “digital” side of ourselves—which has learned how to write books or couch others or drop ship products well enough to make enough money to, well, make their way through the world.

And then there’s the “nomad” aspect of who we are—that ancient part of ourselves that wants migrate and explore the world no less than our ancestors did when they walked, rode and sailed from Africa to every other corner of the globe.

Both of these Elements of ourselves—our digital side and our nomad side—must function well both individually and together in order to successfully embrace the Digital Nomad lifestyle.

SIX: Baby Steps

I published my first book, The Low Carb Revolution, in early 2012—in what is know fondly remembered as the Golden Age of Amazon.

This was a time when unknown writers like Amanda Hocking and John Locke and others self-published books on Amazon and made small—and sometimes not-so-small—fortunes without bothering with the middleman of traditional publishers.

I was fortunate that the Low Carb Revolution became an immediate and sustained success, which allowed me to get up off the couch of my comfortable house in Austin, Texas, cross the ten feet to the door, turn the handle and discover what was on the other side.

Now I didn’t go too very far at first. Frankly, I was terrified by the prospect of journeying halfway around the world—or even out of the country at all. So I started by going to Las Vegas. It was just a quick, $99 flight on Southwest Airlines, and so I knew that I could easily return home to Austin if living somewhere else didn’t work out for me.

After a few months there, I had gained the nerve to move farther afield—but only a little farther, as I relocated to sunny San Francisco. (Just kidding, I can say with certainty that I never once saw the sun in my two months in San Francisco.)

Only in San Francisco did I finally apply for and receive a passport. At the start of 2013, I did finally make the leap—traveling fully halfway around the world to Chiang Mai, Thailand, which was then and still remains a global mecca for Digital Nomads, thanks to a high quality of life, dirt cheap prices and internet cafes on every corner.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t enjoy living in Chiang Mai at all. Sure, the part of me that was “digital”—that is, my writer side—was then happily at work on my third book, a very naughty tome written specifically for single men that came to be called The Seduction Bible. And the part of me that was a “nomad” was pleased as punch to have made it to the far side of the planet.

However, just like you and everybody else in the world, I have many more than two parts. And those other parts of me didn’t enjoy being in Chiang Mai at all because there were simply no opportunities for them to come out and play.

After a fair bit of introspection, I realized that I personally needed to locate myself in the larger cities of the world, where all the many sides of me can get a chance to play their game.

So my next baby step was to find a flight to London, England where I happily spent the next six months letting all the parts of me—including elements of myself that I’d almost forgotten about—out to play.

Since then I’ve lived in Barcelona, Spain and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and London again. I’ve also spent two weeks on a cruise ship, transiting the Atlantic. By the time you read this, I may be living for a month or three in Krakow, Poland or Budapest, Hungary…or maybe even in your neck of the woods, wherever that happens to be!

SEVEN: The Ultimate Decluttering Experience

In early 2012, I lived in a spacious two-story, three-bedroom house in central Austin with all the furniture and books and art that I could fit inside the place. As I began ramping up to take the first baby step of a journey that would take me literally around the world, I began selling and/or giving away all of my possessions.

It wasn’t easy. I had a lot of stuff and much of that stuff had a lot of memories for me.

And it was especially difficult to get rid of my couch, since that meant I had nothing left to sit on while staring at the door and wondering if I was really going to walk through it and begin my adventures.

I deliberately chose not to put anything in storage, because that would just mean a monthly expense to hang on to things that I was only going to be able to see for a couple of weeks per year when I returned to Austin for the holidays.

Within a few months, I’d winnowed everything down to whatever I could put in my Jeep. I crashed with a friend for last couple of months in Austin, and when it was finally time to leave, everything I owned fit into a single suitcase.

If you’ve never done this before, you cannot imagine how incredibly liberating it is to be able to personally carry (okay, roll!) just about everything you own in a single bag—with the rest stuffed into your day bag.

Now your mileage may vary, but as a general rule on international flights you are allowed a suitcase that measures a total of 61” or less. (To get that number just add up the height, width and depth of your bag.) In addition, your suitcase normally must weigh 20 kg or less—which is 44 lbs.

That means the entire weight of your shoes and your clothes and your toiletries and every other little thing you require to have a reasonable quality of life must be less than a medium-size aardvark.

But wait, there’s more.

Or less, as the case may be…since we also need to include your suitcase in that weight. If you buy one of those cheap, big suitcases your local low cost emporium, it could 15 lbs. or more. If you shop around and find a super light suitcase, as I’ve done, you can find one that comes in at around 8 lbs. Either way, the total weight of your suitcases AND your possessions cannot exceed 44 lbs unless you want to pay a usurious excess baggage fee on every leg of your journey.

In my case, with super-duper 8 lb. suitcase, that still leaves only 36 lbs. for everything else.

Of course, the “digital” part of being a Digital Nomad necessarily requires that you bring along some combination of computers and power cords and connecting cables and external hard drives and such—but fortunately you’re allowed an additional 10 kgs—about 22 lbs.—in your day bag, so you can and should throw all your high-tech gear in there, not least since you don’t want to risk it getting broken or stolen in your checked baggage.

Virtually all Digital Nomads seem to start out with a suitcase that’s a single eyelash under the maximum allowable weight…and then over time they realize they simply do not need all the stuff they’ve been hauling around. Two pair of jeans will take you around the world plenty fine—you do not need three or four or six pairs.

A few shirts is plenty. As is a few pairs of shoes.

Less is always more.

EIGHT: Excavations

The secret to your success as an artist and entrepreneur is to learn how to excavate the rich mine of stories and ideas already buried deep within you. Every book you will ever write and every product you will ever create is already within you—just waiting for you to come find it and dig it up and share it with the world.

To accomplish this you need map-building skills—in order to discover the lay of the land and figure out which stories and products are buried where, in much the same way that a great deal of the art of being an archaeologist is determining where to dig. At the same time, you’ll also need excavation skills—in the case of writing, this would translate to the discipline to sit down every day and dig deeper into your inner story world through the magic of writing.

Long-term travel develops both of these skill sets. Arriving in each new city, no matter how small or large, requires that you build up an internal map of the place so you can navigate through it. Your brain needs to know where you’re staying in relation to where you can go get your work done each day and where to get your food and where to meet the other cool kids in that town so you can exchange ideas and information and hot tips.

Travel also requires that you excavate wherever you end up, that you dig deeper beneath the surface of things so that you come to know this new world better. And by discovering a new city, a new people, a new understanding of the world, you learn that much more about yourself and your own inner world.

And the more you learn about your inner world, the closer you can come to your own Inner Singularity.

NINE: The Inner Singularity

Around the world, start ups, universities and entire governments are throwing an endless supply of scientists and money at building an Artificial Intelligence that will arrive at an entirely new level of “thinking” that transcends anything possible by the machines of today.

Popularly known as The Singularity, this frenzy of research and application envisions a world where machines are not just smarter than we are, but so much smarter that no mere human can even comprehend just how smart they are. Futurists possess many different beliefs about what life will be like in the age of the Singularity—ranging from Ray Kurzweil’s view that humans and machines will be BFFs forever to Elon Musk’s fear that the machines will enslave humanity and put them to work in unavoidable Matrix-y dystopia.

There’s a great deal of dissension about when exactly The Singularity will take place—with estimates ranging from as soon as 2030 to as high as 2200—but no plugged-in thinker today seems to doubt that it will, inevitably, occur.

Where does that leave humanity?

As it turns out, in a very good place indeed. Even by the rosiest of estimates, we’ve got a few years left to get our own houses in order—to push our understanding of ourselves and the human experience farther than ever before…in short, to reach a singularity of our own, an experience we can refer to as the Inner Singularity.

Each human has the potential and the possibility to arrive at an entirely new level of understanding themselves and the world. Since the world has collapsed both because of the internet and the unprecedented ease of travel available to us, each of us has the opportunity to explore the world at a number of different levels and find our way to our personal Inner Singularity.

Travel is one of our greatest assets and allies on this journey—and the connections we form from the Digital Nomad experience may prove invaluable in helping us achieve our own Inner Singularity.

The bottom line is that we cannot prevent machines from achieving their own Singularity…but, if we put our minds to it, we can get there first.

TEN: The Strength Of Weak Ties

In our hometowns, we are customarily surrounded by what sociologists refer to as “strong ties.” These are family, friends and coworkers with whom we have, well, strong connections. The stronger the connection with someone, the more likely we are to share friends, values and ideas.

Indeed, as a general rule, we tend to be able to learn very little from the strong ties in our lives for the very good reason that their knowledge base and ours overlap almost exactly.

Opportunities to learn new information—which leads to new connections in our inner worlds and new pattern recognitions that can lead to great art and great empires—are far more likely to come from so called “weak ties”, people we’ve just me or with whom we have very little in common.

Since their knowledge base can be so radically different from our own, the opportunity for us to surprise and influence one another through new information is exceptionally high.

It can be difficult to meet a weak tie in your hometown—someone who can offer an idea or observation that sends you off in a new direction that leads you closer to your Inner Singularity. On the flip side, as a Digital Nomad, it becomes difficult not to meet these weak ties.

With every new country and city you visit, you’ll be surrounded by people you do not know and who do not know you. In fact, you may not know a single person in common—which is the very definition of a weak tie.

Make friends with these people. These are exactly the people you can learn the most from in your life as a Digital Nomad.

ELEVEN: Identity Negotiation

Every time we meet a new person, we go through a mutual process known as identity negotiation. Based on their actions and environment, we immediately form a model of who someone is. If you walk into a car dealership and a sharply dressed woman makes a beeline in your direction, pumps your hand and asks, “What will it take to get you into a new car today?”, then you have a pretty goddamn good idea that she’s an accomplished salesperson and, if you’re not careful, you will indeed be driving home in a new car today.

At the same time, you “offer” your own identity—which in this case would probably be some variation of your seriousness about buying a new car.

In other words, you reveal just enough about yourself so the other person can form an internal model of who you are—and they do the same for you—depending on the context and environment.

Naturally, you negotiate one type of “identity” if you’re on a first date and quite another if you’re being stopped by the police for a traffic violation.

In the course of an ordinary week or month in your hometown, you’ll typically cycle through most the primary elements that make up who you are. But, of course, you and I know that those are not all of the parts of you. You’re a much more complex being than that.

The beauty of long-term travel is that you will repeatedly find yourself in situations where you can allow different parts of yourself to emerge in your connections with others. You can engineer an identity negotiation where you allow other aspects of who you are to emerge and the other people you’re meeting—the weak ties—will simply have to accept you for who you are.

Arriving in a new city, in other words, you can be anyone. Which is to say, you can let even the most suppressed and oppressed parts of who you are out to play without fear of being judged by anybody you already know.

Back home you may be thought of a nerd or goofball or loner or loser.

On the road, your identity negotiation experiences can allow you to bring out other bright, shiny aspects of yourself that nobody particularly appreciates back home.

And through that experience you will grow. And by growing, you will come to understand yourself even better, and take another step toward your own Inner Singularity.

TWELVE: Friends In Small Places

All multicellular organisms are really just collections of cells known as eukaryotes. These are cells that get together with other million or more others to form every plant, animal and insect in the world. As a human, you’re a community of about 60-odd trillion of these cells.

Well, that’s what scientists believed…until quite recently.

Over the past decade the existence of a vast microbiome of tiny, single-celled organisms has been discovered on and inside our bodies. These bacteria and viruses are estimated to outnumber our human cells by at least a factor of 100 to 1, perhaps even 1000 to 1.

In other words, the eukaryotic cells that make up our bones and organs and squishy bits, account for less than 1% of the total cells in a working human body—or even a lazy human body, for that matter.

Put another way, approximately 99.99% of the DNA in your body is non-human.

But wait, there’s more. These bacteria and viruses are not simply freeloaders who are enjoying a free ride on our bodies. Instead, they provide significant contributions to our very ability to survive in a hostile world. You quite literally would not be able to digest the food you eat and take advantage of the available nutrients without the trillions of microbes in your gut. Indeed, these same microbes—or millions of other ones just like them—comprise over 90% of our immune system. Our gut microbiome is intimately connected with our emotions and moods. And much, much more.

Good microbes—known as commensuals, since they provide a mutual benefit for your body and themselves—are your best defense against the quadrillions of other microbes that attempt to establish a foothold on or in your body every minute of every day.

Now think back to the secret that most high performers share—frequent, sometimes never-ending, travel. It’s certain that the opportunities to world build and experiences weak ties and more that result from their travels could very well contribute to their ongoing ability to perform at a high level.

But just as important could be their exposure to the different microbes that flourish in different peoples in different parts of the world.

In the very same way that different software programs allow a machine to accomplish new and unique tasks, as our microbiome increases and flourishes, we gain the ability to access even more of ourselves and our potential.

And these microbes multiply and flourish and evolve in ways that no collection of 0’s and 1’s could ever keep up with.

In the race for The Singularity, machines have software programs on their side. Software programs written by humans—and even when executed by the best Agile Developement/Lean Start Up standards, can only incrementally grow on weekly levels.

Meanwhile, humans have microbes, which evolve and mutate their own programs in a dizzyingly brief span of hours—sometimes even minutes.

A conversation about the many applications of microbes to the human experience is the subject of an entire book—actually, the subject of many, many books—but for our purposes here as potential Digital Nomads, I’d like to offer you a bold thought.

Science cannot currently prove this thought either true or false. I’m just holding out in front of you as a suggestion. Something to think about. An opportunity, as the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös liked to say, “to open your brain.”

Since humans are biological and machines are (so far!) not, what if microbes are our secret weapon in the race to the Singularity?

If that were the case, then it would certainly make sense that the superior number of species of these that high performers “collect” during their frequent travels could very well be contributing to their ongoing success. I refer to this phenomenon as Anthrobiotics—which describes the microbes (biotics) we get from other humans (anthros.)

When you go to a week-long motivational seminar, is it the material that the guru is sharing with you that gets you all pumped up? Or is it the exposure to a bunch of microbes possessed by a bunch of fired up, motivated people that takes you to the next level?

Most likely of all, it’s a mixture of both.

Bottom line, if you want to reach the Singularity before machines do, you’re gonna need microbes on your side.

THIRTEEN: Order versus Chaos

In order to do great work—and if you’re not here to do great work, what’s that point of you?—you require a balance between order and chaos. Too much of either one will keep you from bringing out your very best.

Most of us err on the side of too much order. We create such a stable life, homestead, relationships and more in our lives that it becomes difficult to move in the direction of our dreams…since, once again, a good life is the mortal enemy of a great life.

Rockstars and writers from the Lost Generation typify going too far in the direction of chaos—living so far on the edge that they burn out and die at far too young an age. These range from the infamous 27 Club of beloved rockstars who died at that ridiculously early age, to writers like Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac and many others who drank themselves to death in their forties—their lives and their work cut off in their primes.

Only you can decide the best ratio of order and chaos in your life…with the primary determinant being your output of excellent work. If you feel that your life possesses too much order, becoming a Digital Nomad offers you a golden opportunity to change that balance. Of course, you might end up in the highly chaotic environment of one of the world’s great mega-cities, in which case it might require all the discipline you can summon just to maintain enough of a semblance of order to get any work done at all.

FOURTEEN: Comfort versus Discomfort

Particularly if  you are an American, it is far more comfortable to stay home than to hit the road.

Frankly, life is cushy in America compared to most other countries in the world. Summer or winter, our environments tend to be heated or cooled to within an inch of their lives. Most Americans experience the elements only during a short dash to or from their cars—which themselves have nuclear-powered cooling and heating systems that practically allow us to run around in shirt sleeves year-round.

As a Digital Nomad who stays only a few months in a location before moving on, you won’t usually have—or even need—a car at your disposal. Because of that you may be exposed to actual weather for the first time in a very long time. And that can be uncomfortable.

Even if you rent a lovely AirBnB apartment for your stay in a city, it may well be a little too chilly in winter or too steamy in summer for your comfort.

But the discomfort of being location independent is more than merely skin deep.

Traveling full-time can be scary. When you first arrive in a new city for a stay of one to three months, you may not know a single other person. Which means you will have no safety net, no infrastructure of others who can help you when times get tough.

And times will get tough.

There will be days where loneliness hangs over you like a dark fog. You will feel home-sick and isolated and anxious.

Of course, these are all just signs that you are outside of your comfort zone. And if you stick with your journey, your comfort zone will expand—and you will become stronger and more resilient than you ever thought possible.

And if that serves to help you bring out the best work of your life from within you, then it will have been very well worth it after all.

FIFTEEN: Picking A Destination

I’d like to offer you a strategy for choosing your destinations that you won’t find in any traditional travel books.

Rule #1: First chose what type of experience you want and/or need to have, and only then decide upon where you can find that experience.

You have many different elements of yourself. The importance of each of these rise and fall across the cycle of your life. At times you feel quite engaged with your spiritual side, while at others with your sexual side. (Of course, there’s no reason at all for these two parts of yourself to be mutually exclusive, but that’s a sentiment with which a great number of people would violently—quite literally…violently—disagree.)

If you have an aspect of yourself that’s a jazz musician, then traveling to a locale where you can jam with other musicians would make that part of you very happy, indeed.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s time for that part of you to take a break while you allow some other fun-loving or money-making element of yourself out to play.

If your current goal is to get the “digital” part of becoming a Digital Nomad on track, then venturing to a place where you can live on the cheap—such as the ever popular Chiang Mai, Thailand or the like—would allow you to focus your energies on accomplishing that with a minimum of stress about cost of living and so on.

At the same time, once you get your Digital Nomad squared away, you may find life in South East Asia to be too confining for the many other parts of you who want nothing more than an opportunity to come out and play.

Rule #2: Choose your destinations according to the people who live there rather than the architecture of the place.

Many short-term tourists and even a fair number of location-independent travelers decide upon where they will go next based largely on the physical infrastructure of a place—herded together under the general rubric of “things to see.”

I’ve read travel blogs by the dozen where the author states of a city, “There’s nothing to see here” or “You can see everything in a day.”

Now all too often they are talking about cities of 100 THOUSAND people or more—sometimes even in excess of a MILLION. And yet they blow through it in a few hours or a few days with the outrageous claim that there’s “nothing” there.

Rule #2 suggest that if the place is inhabited, then there is something to see. Your fellow human beings.

After all, they are going to be the ones who are the biggest influences in your life and work. These are the Weak Ties we explored earlier.

And these are the ones who can inspire you and offer you new ideas and new patterns to recognize that take you further in the direction of reaching your own Inner Singularity.

SIXTEEN: “My Brain Is Open”

More than any other intellectual pursuit, mathematicians famously peak when they are young. The imminent G.H.Hardy boldly stated in his seminal, A Mathematician’s Apology, that, “No mathematicians should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics is a young man’s game.”

There being no Nobel Prize for Mathematics, they created their own award (which is held in some circles as an even loftier achievement than a Nobel Prize) known as the Fields Medal. Beyond great mathematical accomplishment, the recipient of each year’s Fields Medal must also fulfill another requirement—be 39 years of age or younger.

In a lifetime, a solid mathematician might be responsible for fifty original papers for peer-reviewed publications that advance their field, while an outright rockstar might produce a hundred or so.

And then there’s Paul Erdös.

Prof. Erdös was a Hungarian mathematician whose career spanned the gamut of the 20th Century and who ended up publishing a staggering 1500 original papers.

How did he do it?

Well, for one he eschewed the traditional quiet, comfortable, orderly life of most mathematicians. Instead, starting at a young age he adopted a completely itinerant lifestyle. Paul Erdös was the original Digital Nomad—except in his case the “digital” referred to actual digits rather than the Interwebs.

For decades he had no home whatsoever. He traveled the world carrying a single battered suitcase, seeking out problems to solve and people to solve them with.

He would famously show up on the doorstep of a fellow mathematician in New Jersey or Melbourne or Prague and announce to them, “My brain is open.”

Without further ado, he would put down his suitcase and launch straight into working with them on the problem they were currently wrestling with—much to the confusion and even consternation of the other members of their household.

Some days or weeks later, once the problem was solved and the paper sharing it was complete, Erdös would hit the road once again. He was an intellectual bumblebee, who traveled not between cities but between minds, cross-pollinating them with ideas from the other minds he’d visited and serving as a tremendous force in advancing mathematics in the 20th Century.

Perhaps it had nothing to do with his itinerant ways and perpetual travel, but Prof. Erdös remained a vibrant, working and contributing mathematician right up until his death in his mid-eighties.

Or…perhaps his obsession with traveling and seeking out answers is precisely what kept him in the game long, long past many of his peers.

SEVENTEEN: The Door In Front Of You

“I wish that I had traveled less in my life—I wish that I hadn’t met so many amazing people, experienced such incredible adventures and produced such great work,” said nobody on their deathbed ever.

Your own personal Inner Singularity—your opportunity to bring together every part of yourself into a whole that’s much greater than the sum of your parts—now stands before you. It’s just on the other side of the door located ten feet or so from your couch.

And you are the only one who can stand up, cross that space and go through that door.

A whole wide world of excitement and connections and new understandings awaits you. Or, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe in your situation, the best possible choice is to stay right where you are and continue doing what you’re doing. Our journey together here has been merely to give you another option that you can take or not take, depending on what works best in your own life.

But either way, whether you stay or whether you go, I would encourage you to continue chasing your dreams, to continue putting your best self forward, to continue in your own personal adventure of reaching your Inner Singularity.

About John McLean

John McLean author photoJohn McLean writes books that help you change the world…within you.

He is a bestselling author, globetrotter and hypnotist.

In recent years, John McLean has lived in London, Barcelona, San Francisco, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Chiang Mai, Thailand. At this rate, he’ll probably end up in your neck of the woods soon.

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