Store Is Closed
The plan was straightforward—pack up and cycle around the world. It was to be an interactive learning experience. The road would be my teacher. I would share what it taught me through the cheap and global audience of the web. If everything went according to plan, the journey would take at least five years.
It took three years for me to prepare for my journey. It took me a month and a half of travel to realize that I wasn’t ready. With an emphasis on succinctness, I shall outline the train of logic that led me to pursue this endeavor, and the missteps that led me to failure.
Why Do It?
The tour stemmed from a simple question: what do I want out of life?
I am invigorated by the prospect of adventure. I enjoy exploring new places. Call it a childish curiosity of the unknown. When I see icy mountains or colorful seas, I am filled with a great desire to know of them with my own senses.
To elaborate a little further, it seems appropriate to cite Henry David Thoreau. In his essay entitled “Walking,” Thoreau refers to the saunterer:
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre“— to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer“, a saunterer — a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.
What I wanted out of life was to pursue my travels as Thoreau would see the art of walking. I wanted to go à la sainte terre, to the holy land. Not perhaps a physical place, but a state of being. To pursue life without the distractions of sedentary rituals. To go forth with a sense of emotional purity and mental clarity. The mode of travel was inconsequential so long as the spirit of exploration remained.
On this path, some may consider me a transcendentalist, emphasizing intuition or divinity. I would further identify myself as a scientist. It is not enough to see and appreciate the clouds with my naked senses, I feel as though I should know the cumulonimbus clouds or the cirrostratus clouds and why they form. I find great interest in the process of explaining and predicting complex events.
I could see myself wandering the world for many years, interacting with different cultures and biomes, happily breathing the air and cataloging the experience. It remained to shape my ideals into a reality.
Choosing a New Mode of Living
How does a person equally at home everywhere live? Where does he sleep at night? How does he get around? What winds fill his sails? It was a fascinating experience to envision myself as a nomad. I was particularly engaged at the outset with thoughts of where to start and how to get about.
As for getting about, I chose the bicycle above all other means of travel. Walking was too slow. The distance traversed by foot in a year seemed too short. Motorized vehicles are generally too fast, they tend to insulate the driver from the outside world, and to me they lack a certain sense of adventure. I’ve hitchhiked in the past and find it an interesting way to interact with people, but filled with long periods of wait and negotiations with local authorities. There are, of course, many other forms of travel, which, for one reason or another, failed to appeal to me as much as a bicycle (a motorcycle placed a close second.)
Using my backpacking and hitchhiking experience, I formulated what I thought to be a workable mode of living on the road. I came up with a list of equipment I would need to survive in a diverse range of climates with relative ease and comfort.
With this equipment, I estimated that I could comfortably exist at 20°F and above. I could survive colder temperatures at the cost of physical and mental health. Snow would be a problem, as the bike would have trouble working through accumulation. In addition, certain roads can push snow to the shoulder, leaving only a narrow corridor for vehicles to pass through.
My ideal cycling climate was between 50°F and 80°F. I preferred low humidity and sunny skies. Around these parameters, my course was laid. The tilt of the earth and it’s location in reference to the sun would cause my course to approach the equator in the North American summer and deviate from the equator in the North American winter. I would closely study localized climactic influences, refining my travels to certain places at certain times. Migratory patterns and other temporally consistent events would also enter into the equation. In essence, I would work with the weather as much as I could.
Political stability was also a major concern. In places where desperation was high and violence was a norm, I would have to change my appearance and cadence accordingly.
I knew how I wanted to get about; I knew roughly where I wanted to go. It remained to establish what and where to eat, where to sleep, and how to pay for it all.
Ideally, I would stay at a hotel every night and eat at restaurants. Unfortunately, with the financial resources at my disposal in the near future, I was limited to mostly camping and packing groceries.
My immediate financial outlook was bleak in part because I spent the majority of my time acquiring skills impertinent to society. Among the skills I possessed that could be seen as “high demand,” none were accredited by a university or other notable reference other than my own volition. Neither circumstance was crippling, it merely meant that greater time would be spent acquiring wealth.
I chose the restaurant industry as a means of producing an income, as it seemed to bring the best immediate results. Also, I reasoned that experience in a kitchen and waiting tables would prove a valuable asset in many countries.
With a solid plan in place and a means to gather resources, all that remained was a long series of repetitive actions. I woke up, prepared for work, put my effort into doing a good job, went home, wound down, slept, and did it all over again. Each day I put away a little more cash. Every once and a while I bought a piece of gear. I re-evaluated my plans from time to time and changed what didn’t seem to fit. I stared at the open road with a sense of longing, but carefully looked away and focused on the present.
In the years it took to get ready for my journey, many things changed. The owners of where I worked were intelligent business people. I absorbed a lot of information each day about the joys and challenges of an entrepreneur.
It was from these people that I learned of Robert Kiosaki and the cash flow quadrant. I learned that a poor person is often poor because he or she puts money into liabilities instead of assets. I learned that people who can’t come up with realistic budgets are prone to debt.
I also learned that people often focus on climbing the corporate ladder instead of owning it. I learned to appreciate the differences between an employee, a self-employed individual, a business owner, and an investor. As time progressed, I gathered a better understanding of the economy. With this information, I began to value the process of accumulating true wealth.
It was this new way of thinking that caused me to look more deeply into the potential of earning money from my travels. From time to time, I tossed around the idea of different business systems. Particularly, I was interested in the concept of squeezing wealth out of literary journalism. If somehow I could make money from sharing my experiences, I could theoretically continue my personal growth exponentially.
Of the many ways I could possibly share my experiences in a format that would benefit others, I decided that a book was the best method. I wanted to avoid writing in particular about the act of cycling, inasmuch as the valuable information learned along the way. I wanted to create something pertinent and lasting, shedding the drivel that pervades in so many contemporary writings.
These thoughts did not change my plans so greatly at first. It simply meant that I would have to be more careful gathering information. I had to acquire the right data on the road in a reliable manner.
Luckily, I had a few great role models. Through my financial studies, I was introduced to a weekly broadcast, the Financial Sense Newshour (FSN), with Jim Puplava and John Loeffler. The FSN broadcast is broken into three “hours,” or segments. The “1st Hour” is a market wrap-up with an analysis of technicals and fundamentals. The “2nd Hour” usually consists of a guest expert, who covers a diverse range of topics affecting the global economy. The “3rd Hour” is my favorite. In it, Jim Puplava and John Loeffler seamlessly integrate geopolitics, economy, climate, and other diverse perspectives into one coherent whole. The result is a snapshot of the world and an accurate deduction of things to come.
The contrast between what mainstream media covers and what is covered on the show is very revealing. Mainstream media, by its nature, tends to look at events through the rearview mirror. It also tends to project tendencies indefinitely; if something is happening now in a certain way, it’s going to keep on happening that way. A certain lack of foresight and hindsight is inherently lost in the coverage of “newsworthy” events. Detailed analysis is often avoided. This isn’t to say that mainstream media is worthless or absolutely corrupt. It is more analogous to a pool of random data filtered by political interests, advertising, cultural norms, a dash of shock value, and a genuine human concern to communicate important information. Taken as it is, mainstream media can become an index of its own, when paired with other means of acquiring information.
It was through the FSN broadcast that I learned the value of well-filtered information. With this insight, I was more capable of making informed decisions. This further inspired me to share meaningful information with others, and it gave me some ideas to work with.
I became further interested in the American economy and its infrastructure. Simple questions such “where does our energy come from?” and “how does my meal get to me?” took on a new meaning. I began to format my tour around answering these questions.
Enter High-Caliber Thinking
The first thing I realized when I began to ask high caliber questions was how many years it takes to refine such a body of knowledge . Investors like Puplava or Warren Buffet spend hours upon hours reading books and heavy publications just to understand trends and profit from them. It also requires access to skilled people, some of whom are in high demand.
Quickly, I began to dig my way further and further back into a base of understanding from which to begin asking the right questions. I quickly learned that there was a lot to study.
At this point, I was preparing for a global tour, reading as much as I could about weather, geology, and the economy, as well as working full time to save money. I was stretching myself thin and getting ever closer to my departure date.
A Global Audience through the Web
Approaching a year before my departure, my close friend began his studies of web design and development. As a means to practice his skills and keep in touch with me while I was on the road, he offered to markup a website for me.
I was very enthusiastic about the thought of having a website outside of a blogging service. I already had a laptop, a camera, and an audio recorder, so the potential of providing content-rich media was tremendous.
Because of my business training, the website quickly progressed into a potential to earn money. I reasoned that I could establish an affiliate-marketing program, reviewing equipment I value working with on the road. I could also provide a regular stream of image galleries and audio features for a small monthly fee.
As anyone familiar with business knows, a good business isn’t just about a good product or service. There are legal, tax, and other systemic concerns far beyond the scope of a simple exchange of widgets and currencies. A good business owner has to wear many hats in order to understand how to change things for the better. On top of my current workload, I had to acquire a basic understanding of business, of the web, and of literary journalism in less than a year.
Typically, a new business is more of a liability than an asset. It takes money in licensing fees, product/service delivery, and marketing, among other things. All the while, the prospect for a return on investment can take a year or years. The cost of starting a new business was not part of my budget and thus ate into my financial padding.
For the year it took to figure out what to do and the two years it took to prepare for it, another year or two of waiting seemed impossible, especially when I was less than six months from my departure date.
Seeing my opportunity approach, I began to suffer summit fever. It was clear that I had far too much to learn than could fit in six months. Likewise, I couldn’t drop my studies, as my presentation of information would be superficial and my business would be prone to inefficiencies. I was also depleting vital financial padding to finance an activity that would likely see no returns for at least six months.
In the face of these obstacles, I allowed myself to become diluted. Instead of waiting, or traveling a brief stint as a dry run, I dived headlong into the endeavor. I formed an LLC, designed a website, and acquired a merchant account for the business. I put up an extensive list of equipment articles on the website. I quit my job. I went into the Adirondacks for ten days as a dry run for my publication. I worked hard to get quality content up. I was exhausted before the tour began. Too many long nights and spread-out days set me up for faulty decision-making.
Despite my best efforts, I was still in Ballston Spa two months after my departure date. The cold winter descended upon New York but I was determined to get on the road no matter what.
- . "Growing an Apple Tree in a Container."Life on the Balcony.. February 9, 2009. 'http://lifeonthebalcony.com/growing-an-apple-tree-in-a-container/'.
- Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492 - Present. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005. Link