After reading a book Lean Startup and article 5 reasons not to quit the job and travel around the world I want to invent a concept – lean traveling. Like cross-pollination among plants, lean concept was suddenly transferred to a traveling field. Lets begin the exploration of lean traveling with hypothesis – traveling is much more valuable if it is done lean.

What is lean traveling?

Be aware that the name “lean traveling” came purely out of my imagination, but the concept “lean” is not new and the principles of “lean traveling” are strongly backed with personal experience. So what is lean? Lean traveling could be understood as “traveling in the experiential way to reach long-term benefits”. Lean traveling is not a short-term pleasure, such as taking holiday on a beach or hiring 5 star hotel all inclusive. Lean traveling is an experience that sometimes includes struggle and pain. Lean traveling makes you not a tourist or just a traveler, but an experiential traveler, collecting experiences that help to feel better physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

experiential traveling -

experiential traveling – Credit:

Experiential physical traveling could be hiking in the mountains, skiing, outdoor trainings, where body is used to counterbalance the regular sitting in the office job. This type of holiday could mean sore but stronger body and fresher mind.

Experiential mental activity example could be a training course, where new competences are gained to help in career, relationship or home. The idea is not to get mind rested, but simply engage in different setting, different mental activities that give new inspirations after the traveling.

Emotional traveling could be creativity training course, camps, festivals, activities to engage and empty the glass of emotions. Music festivals are in this category, but just listening to music tends to be more pleasure comparing to listening to music and dancing, participating in the art workshops, being creative with friends. A good example is Burning Man festival, where you can construct art work in the desert and then burn after the festival ends.

Experiential spiritual traveling includes Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, where you can walk for several weeks alone to understand yourself better.

Lean traveling oriented to long term experience

Traveling is very different if it is done for a short-term as a break holiday from work or studies, or if it is a long-term traveling, quiting your job, finishing studies and traveling abroad, for one country or traveling around the world. No matter what is the length, lean traveling should include experiences benefiting in the long-term. However, traveling in the long-term has much higher complexity. For instance, travellers might start experiential jobs abroad, which later become not anymore experiential – just  money, but not inner satisfaction.

People, including myself tend to stick to something that does not work (anchoring effect) instead of accepting failure or limitation and trying something new. Iterate. Don’t put the anchors where you feel not right. I can tell this from my personal experience – after 3 years of stay in London I feel an urgent need of change. I have already made many steps last year to search for a change and this year it just intensified.

Even tough i had few experiences of short and long-term traveling and have certain vision of what traveling should be, it is far away from knowing all complete or for sure. On the opposite, I am discovering myself as a traveller every day and raise more questions than answers. I invite you to contribute to this philosophy and add your learning and experiences.

Lean traveling methodology illustrated with story

Lean methodology follows the sequence Build – > Measure – > Learn, while the planning process is opposite: Learn – > Measure – > Build. When planning lean traveling, we decide:

  • what is needed to learn or which experiences to gain from traveling
  • how to measure what you learned/gained and then
  • how to travel to accomplish the learning goal

traveling should be included as a regular activity, but is not something final, ultimate, that for itself makes a purpose

Let me discuss different elements of traveling with a personal story. My burning desire to travel abroad came from childhood. Books, movies and stories sparked an imagination of what is it like this “abroadship”. Due to family income limits, my first real trip abroad came only when I was 20 years old. Quite late, you would probably say. Perhaps this lateness had consequences – a desire to get out of “imaginary cage” too much, which resulted in bubble explosion. I am running / traveling from one place to another and somehow understood – traveling should be included as a regular activity, but is not something final, ultimate, that for itself makes a purpose. I feel traveling is one of the essential needs, but it should not be satisfied anyhow.

My first few trips were very inspiring (traveling to USA to participate in the Work and Travel programme, where working for 3 months in summer was finalized with 1 month road trip), but I never felt real depth of traveling, since trips were short and not sufficient to get to know the culture and atmosphere.

I attempted several times to get another taste of life abroad through Erasmus+ student exchange programme, but was unlucky two times to be selected for the programme. This kept the bubble of expectations and a secret desire to travel growing. I finished studies and got the job. The job was very interesting, inspiring and matching studies and aims. However, the feeling of missing a dream to travel long-term was always there.

7 years living abroad

Now I am already on the 7th year abroad. Long enough to make an audit of experiences as a long-term traveler. Curious  myself to reflect. Was it a good decision to quit a well paid and interesting job to travel abroad. Furthermore, what should I do going forward? Lets break it down.

Before audit, lets quickly turn back to the initial inspiration to write this article, perhaps it can provide some important explanation. It all started when testing the validity of my newest idea I came across the article 5 reasons not to quit the job and travel around the world written by Alexander Heine. Article summarised the point i wanted to validate – traveling should be meaningful and full of valuable experiences.

I wanted to return to the article and go under the surface, since 6 years ago I made the same decision – I quitted a well paid and interesting job for traveling abroad and study opportunity. The difference is that I had no intention of traveling around the world boldly as a tourist, but wanted to experience studying, living and working abroad, and then return home. I fulfilled my first vision, but haven’t returned home. Plus, I am also not the one “who has used that time wisely to “figure out” their life”. Wait a minute, this is important moment – was my 6 years adventure abroad waste of time? Here comes the audit.

First of all, let see what is in the background. It seems that my traveling matches natural demographic flow – I am one of the many emigrants from Lithuania (population decreased by -21% in last 25 years, according to Eurostat) and one of the many immigrants to United Kingdom (population increased by +13% in last 25 years). Did I make decision myself or was I influenced by environment?

Lets start with 6 years abroad short summary:

  • 1st year (2009 August): Decided to quit the job and got to study in Denmark. Voila, things are going very interesting. Studies begin .. and i understand that this is not exactly very beneficial type of studies – I thought prestigious business school CBS and top master programme AEF will offer something valuable to my bachelor and master degrees in Vilnius University and 4 years working experience, but it appeared massively designed programme for mass of people with no customisation and thus very little value for me.
  • 2nd year (2010): In order to address the poor quality of studies, I have done all possible extra curriculum activities, but finally found a student job that was well paid and exactly matching the field i wanted – finance. I greatly enjoyed the position, spent lots of time working and received great insights. However, my goal to get a good experience of studying abroad was fulfilled only on paper, thus applied and got selected to go on a half-year exchange in China, Shanghai. Luckily, agreed with my employer to resume work after coming back after the exchange. The business school CEIBS was among top 20 MBA schools in the world and it proved to match much closer my expectations to the result.
  • 3rd year (2011): After returning from exchange, started working as agreed in the same company. That was great – amazing job, flexibility to adjust time schedule and well paid. Then came master thesis writing time. Wanted to write an outstanding masterpiece, since this was the only opportunity for me to show what I am able, to test my boundaries and lay foundation for future. I did achieve all this, but with huge costs – it took me exactly one year of time to write. I realised that quantity should always come before the quality.
  • 4th year (2012): My girlfriend at that time was studying in London, so after graduating, quitted again my job and moved to a new place – London. This time traveled with the idea to start living with a girlfriend and starting my business.
  • 5th year (2013): Things falling apart with girlfriend. Not a great year.
  • 6th year (2014): New year resolution was immediately executed on two aims – becoming vegetarian and changing the accommodation. Bought a boat to live on. Traveled to attend three training courses in Poland, Lithuania and UK.
  • 7th year (2015): Traveled to Brasil to participate in entrepreneurship programme for 2 months. Lived with Brasilian family, traveled extensively in Brasil. Throughout the year traveled to attend five training courses in Hungary, UK, Italy and Poland.

Traveling is an experiment

I feel like quitting a job for traveling was innevitable. Despite any consequences, I just had to quit the job and travel abroad, otherwise would never be satisfied and always regret. It was deep inside that wanted to experience lifestyle away.

It feels neither great nor a waste of time, nor a bad decision, but also not a “figuring out life” experience. It is more like an experiment  and realisation of inner crave for experiences. Some experiments fail, some are successful. This experiment has not yet eneded, thus it is hard to conclude at this moment. Perhaps, any experiment leads somewhere new and it is more valuable to experiment and fail than not to experiment at all. I place lots of emphasis to test boundaries and expand the “living box”. Lots of time I have doubts, know for sure that there many unresolved issues, but also understand that it is important to keep moving, answers come in time and by producing quantity.

Don’t live in bubbles

My traveling is probably related to natural demographic flow, given we live in a very globalised world. However, traveling should be individual. It is good to test what is popular, but make a personal choice irrespective to what the crowd thinks (see lemming effect).

Quitting the job to travel became a trend. Unconsciously some travelers attempt to solve the problems at work. The result depends on whether traveling is done to get refreshed from the box-minded thinking or indeed escape the problems rather than face it. It also depends whether travelling is done long-term meaningfully with purpose to test different ways and rediscover yourself or traveling long-term as a tourist just to see different cultures. Is it done spontaneous or planned?

I found out that if work/life is constantly interrupted by burning desire, in this case travelling, be it around the world, and the desire is surpressed, the bubble will just grow and eventually explode by regrets, dissatisfaction or anyway traveling. I would not advise to live with hunger. Never grow the bubbles in yourself – if there is a burning desire to travel, just do it! What matters is the way you travel.

Opportunties invite opportunities

It is interesting that once traveling starts, it often leads to another traveling, opportunities expands, like you would never expect. We meet travelers on the way, who suggest something and that becomes so interesting that we get tempted and eventually do a twist. It definitely expands your options. On the way there are so many potential turns, just which to choose?

On the one hand, multiple possibilities are good, on the other not. Researches show that our happiness increases with every number of choice up to the point when there are too many choices. Beyond certain limit happiness goes down with every option included, since “costs” of time and effort to choose becomes higher than “benefit” of every new option.

we need both – a harbour for settled and comfortable life and a sea for out of comfort zone adventures

Traveling is lots of fun, but also unpredictability and volatility. As a result, we need both – a harbour for settled and comfortable life and a sea for out of comfort zone adventures. I try to shape my life with 90% stability and 10% volatility. Now think of how this strategy could be implemented living abroad long-term. It is very difficult emotionally and will probably lead to more stability over time to restore the balance. Some similar is with money – investments also should follow safe and risk proportions.

The best ways to enter new country to live long term

“Fortune favours the prepared mind.” – L.Pasteur said. Let me share some personal experiences, how it is better to start living abroad. Most important, start first with the regular job to know the market or with the university to get the circle of contacts, feel better the city. I did this right once and wrong second. Second time I moved because of girlfriend, turned down PhD offer and immediately started realising my passion – entrepreneurship. This is the hard and very inefficient way.

Traveling is great when done through irregular and a bit (or much) uncomfortable, but very rewarding ways to know yourself, culture, environment, people, such as I hosted and was hosted by so many different people and had so many positive experiences that it would take long time to reveal all of them. I used couchsurfing 1 month before finding an apartment in Denmark.

Traveling to a new country can be much easier, interesting, cheaper, helpful, meaningful, when agreeing to live with the local family. I found family to live with in Shanghai, China and Sao Paulo, Brasil. Living with family restricts in some way full creativity and freedom, but gives other things in exchange. It depends on the circumstances and what you really want to get out of it.

These days I want to travel only with some clear purpose, specific programme. There are so many programs abroad, that I think where have I been all my life to realize this only now? For instance, training courses – so amazing way to travel and learn. Please follow my opportunities to get abroad.

Traveling could be to a different country or to a different lifestyle. My lifestyle has changed in many ways when I started living on a boat.

Let me raise a question – if I don’t know myself at a later age, should I regret and feel uncomfortable about that or should I try the things like traveling crazily to discover myself? I am thinking of some trainings where I participated as one of the oldest participants and some of my same aged friends poke me saying they have done it when they were in school and university, not now. I reply, that it is better to do it now than never. If you have not experienced what you ought to experience in the childhood, perhaps you should experience now.

Santjago De Compostela pilgrimage trip in Spain – a trip, where you walk as much as you like (most often probably a week or two) strictly on your own to discover yourself. On the way you meet different people, but they pass away and you continue till you reach the final defined destination. So many friends mentioned this trip from the positive perspective, that it asks to be tried.

Switch on traveling and see different perspective

Traveling is like a break from the regular thoughts. If it does not solve anything (albeit 8 reasons why traveling is good for your health tells something), maybe does not need to, perhaps there is different purpose – to clear the thoughts, get inspirations, widen the choices. There is this traveling mode in life – once we switch on, our perspective becomes different, we start to notice things havent seen before. It counts even on the street that we walked million times before – swich on traveling mode and you will notice many new and interesting elements.

Question: are we talking about short or long traveling (if long, then all around the world or staying in one location – emigration)? Short traveling could be just laying near the beach (my unfavorite) or training courses, hiking, intensive stuff, changing the worldview. Long term traveling could be switching different countries as a tourist, seeing popular touristic places or very deep meaning trips and in line with your values, exploring perhaps some yoga places in India. What would working as a teacher or instructor in a developing country give you?

It feels like short-term trips out of comfort zone are very beneficial, while making decisions long-term have to be in line with strategic goal compass. Randomness is valuable, but planning stage is very important.

Are we biased on our age or situation – it might be that we value things more wildly in young age and more stable later or we are thinking more positive when we are uplifted and negative when we are in the bad mood. When I try to think of myself in terms of enthusiasm, I want to think I was more enthusiastic younger, but reading my diary disproves that. I somehow tend to idealise my being in Lithuania, but reading the diary from these days sounds like the happiness is somehow on the same level – there are the same good and low days as now. But I got lots of friends in Lithuania and here in London friends are difficult to find due to distance, migration and time constrains – it takes a while to build a network. How did I feel in Copenhagen? Want to belive it was better, but again reading diary looks not very different.

Are we living in cycles? Pulsing from lows to ups and again lows and ups. Is the happiness the aim of traveling? Or does the happiness include positive and negative emotions? Should I enjoy the suffering as long as I am out comfort zone and living meaningfully? It feels like we have to travel and do something that is important for our daily life, be completely in – true, dive fully, spend time as much as we can, but perhaps take some time still to sort out your things to have easier adaptation back?

I admire a friend for his goal to climb the highest mountain in every European country. It sounds great, since short travelling is well incorporated in his busy work life. It seems meaningful, challenging, interesting, rewarding.

Airbnb is a new sharing economy way to explore accommodation, offered by people who subrent their living space. I havent tried, but heard so many interesting comments and experiences, that it deserves a try some time.

My home is where my heart is

Perhaps a person needs to be an all time traveler! Even now, when I live in London I do not travel enough, blame myself for not using the time to do traveling on weekends and holidays.

After visiting many countries for a short time, I realized that many countries are very similar and only by staying a little bit longer you can start to feel the wibe of the place. Traveling with longer stay in one location is great.

What is traveling to you?

It became my flow of thoughts. Would be great to hear your opinion. Perhaps later these thoughts can be re-arranged, especially in the setting of more connecting the dots on the lean traveling. This time was more aimed to do some inventorisation of thoughts toward traveling. If it was interesting, please leave a comment to incentivize to digest all this material and continue exploring the concept or what is interesting to you.