One of the great benefits of getting out and seeing the world may not be immediately obvious. Sure, seeing historic landmarks is great and being exposed to other cultures is wonderful but the people you meet along the way are often just as interesting. Maybe its because exploration and the unknown draws out interesting people. Maybe interesting people are more prone to chaffing under the 9 to 5 life at home. For whatever reason, your chances of meeting intriguing people seem to go up the further you are from home.
To illustrate my point here is a handful of people who we have had the pleasure of meeting recently. I hope these aren't annoyingly mysterious but these people trusted us with their stories so I feel that I should protect their privacy.
First up is a gentleman who lives in Thailand in a town of less than 500 people. He is the only westerner for miles around his adopted home and he is about as immersed in Thai culture as you can get. He makes his living from a website and newsletter which provides enough income to sustain his modest existence which is about as far from the rat race as you can get.
Next is an older gentleman who found himself laid off at 50. While he received a substantial severance payout his financial future was still in doubt. He has remedied this by spending 6 months of every year living and travelling around parts of the world with radically lower cost of living compared to his home country. That I know of, he is the only person we've met who has been to every ‘stan (Kazakhstan, Afghanistan etc).
Then we met a couple most of the way through a cycling journey from England to Singapore. They have previously cycled across north America and from Uluru to Sydney. They have regular jobs. They just put them on hold periodically when they head off for another adventure. Guys, if you happen to read this, thank you for your patience with our many questions. We found your story fascinating.
At the very same guest house we met one half of a couple who have been cycling, more or less at random, around the world for 7 years. The other half of the couple had to return home temporarily leaving his partner some time to kick back, rediscover television and chat to us! This is a lifestyle we had never even been aware of. Frankly, I'm not sure its a lifestyle we would ever seriously consider ourselves. I don't think I'm suited to aimless wandering. I am too much to-do list and not enough Zen. But while it may not be for everyone, given that all you need is at least 1 apartment or house that produces enough rental income, minus the mortgage, for you to afford street food while you cycle and camp your way around Vietnam, India or Morocco it is surprising that it isn't far more common.
A little later we met a young man who graduated university at age 16. He had a relatively short but productive career before chucking it in. Now in his late 20s he lives on a tropical island where he teaches scuba diving.
Rounding out the list is a guitarist in a band that may or may not have broken up. After extensive touring the group seemed to have split but reconciliation may be under way. I can't provide any additional information as I don't want to unduly alarm their fans and its not my news to break in any case. It has however been an interesting window into a world we have previously had little contact with.
This is a small subset of all of the people we have met since we got on a plane and headed out into the big wide world. Most of the hundreds of people we have encountered have been a pleasure to talk to. Some less so. However, almost everyone we have met has had interesting stories to tell. When was the last time you met someone genuinely amazing? Someone whose life fascinated you? There are thousands of inspiring, astonishing, adventurous people out there but you probably won't meet them at home.