How It Feels To Become a Citizen Of The World
The most exciting experiences in my life happened while traveling. My most inspired and productive working days have been outside the office.
In December 2014 I left my apartment in Tel Aviv with ~27 kg luggage and moved to a randomly chosen city in Europe without a plan of coming back or any other plans for the future.
There Is No Perfect Timing
When I was 16 I knew that there is no bright future in Belarus, the last dictatorship country in Europe, where I was born. I immigrated to Israel alone, finished the high school in there and started my 3-year military service.
I was learning so much of the transition to a new country. And it was making me even more curious about other countries. This strong desire to explore and to experience new places started burning inside of me.
After finishing the military service and working full time in a startup, I founded my own studio, hoping that being independent would finally allow me to travel more. My co-founders were pretty excited about the idea of traveling as well. But the reality happened to be far from the dream — one of my co-founders became a father and both of them started a very demanding project that didn’t allow us to work remotely.
It became clear to me that the perfect timing and circumstances will never come. I made the decision to move to a random country in Europe on the day my rent contract expires and all the rest would work out. And it did. Even though it was the worst timing for a leaving for the business, both of my partners understood and fully supported me with this decision.
So now I had about 1.5 month to say all goodbyes & minimise my material life from a full household into a couple of dozens of kilogram. I had to get rid of my dishes, clothes, bike, washing machine, stereo system, posters, books and more and more…
“The things you own, end up owning you. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything” — Tyler Durden
Getting Rid Of Stuff
We don’t need most of the stuff we own right now and we know it. Getting rid of them felt so damn good. I sold or gave away to friends and charity almost everything I owned including very small things. I sold my coat I owned from army-times on eBay for $50 (Americans are really excited about everything related to Israeli army), I sold HDMI cables for $5 through local Craigslist-like app, I donated about 30kg of clothes to the local children’s shelter organisation, sold my professional books through the Facebook group of local designers, gave my bike to a friend so his wife can join him riding his fixie.
It feels good to think, that these things will bring value to others now and it also gave me some extra money for traveling.
To become truly mobile I adopted an approach of owning “the best” things with a high quality bar. It feels much better to own one a bag of things I rely on, instead of having tons of shit I owned back in Tel Aviv.
And even now, after I left I have a “buy one, get rid of one” rule. I’m thinking twice before buying anything new, since it has to take a space of something I already have in my bag.
It’s a Lonely Journey Only If You Decide So
Leaving to a completely new place wasn’t something new for me. Yet 16 years old me moving to Israel had much less fears, than 24 years old me leaving Israel. The thought of releasing control of everyday life and going for something unknown could be stressing and make anybody anxious. But on the other hand, unknown is exciting and this is the side I was trying to look at.
My biggest fear was that I’d feel lonely. I was going by myself to cities and countries where I knew nobody. And of course after moving sometimes I felt lonely. Exactly like sometimes I felt lonely in Tel Aviv.
As you may know there is no correlation between feeling lonely and actually being alone, so you can feel lonely even if you have a large social circle. Since I was “keeping in touch” with many friends through Facebook or WhatsApp, being located far didn’t really matter.
In fact traveling made me much more social and feel less lonely overall. Turns out that there are enough people around that would love to get to know you in every place (unless you’re in Paris). In addition it made me realise who are the people I really care about in Tel Aviv.
It Feels Good
Since I left, my anxiety levels reduced significantly.
I feel a little bit disconnected from my ״natural״ environment, and it allows to feel less socially pressured by people around. I let myself do things and get into situations I’d usually avoid at home. I’m more open for new connections and new experiences. Since there is no need of satisfying others anymore, there is more place for doing what I really want, and understand better what my desires are.
During traveling the environment feels less distracting than at home. The calls, SMS and IM-notifications are still there, but they become less interrupting, since I feel less pressured to respond immediately anymore. And the best part is that I found out that it doesn’t have a negative effect on my work.
Being mobile and minimalistic opened the doors in my own city as well. Since I left I had to come to Tel Aviv for two weeks to work on a Y-Combinator application with my co-founders. And for those two weeks I lived on a boat in Jaffa port that I always dreamed of doing, but I couldn’t do this living my previous lifestyle.
Living in different countries and cultures gives a better perspective on life. I understand how small I actually was. Realising this is stressing but at the same time it is inspiring for solving bigger and more meaningful problems as a professional and as a human being.
I don’t know. And it’s fine. I’m doing what feels right for me for this specific moment and it constantly opens new doors for me. Bunch of my firends are going to WWDC this year, so I’m going to meet them in San Francisco and participate Layers conference there. One of my dreams was seeing Jamie xx live and he has a gig in Portland just a month after WWDC, so I’m heading there right after. Those opportunities would never be so easy to accomplish being in my apartment in Tel Aviv.
Any time I had this conversation with my friends they said how jealous they are that I’m able to work and travel in the same time. My usual answer is “So why don’t you do it by yourself? You’re single, freelancer, you don’t have a mortgage to pay, just do it”. A common reply that I get were “I don’t have the courage”. And this is great that they are honest about it, because it’s not easy for everyone.
If this is your case, try to acknowledge your fears and start exposing yourself to them with small steps. Next time you’re going to a vacation try to extend your stay for couple of days that you’ll dedicate to work. Go for a couple of weeks abroad or even just another city and live there for a while. See how it feels. Get rid of the shit you don’t need. Be brave. Good luck.