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This is a guest submission by Earl from WanderingEarl.com

Back in 1999, I left home for a 3-month, post-graduation backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. At the time, I wasn’t too concerned that my bank account consisted of only $1500 as my plan was to return home and enter the real world after those 3 months came to an end.

After all, I didn’t spend four years at university studying Sports Management for nothing. I wanted to become a sports agent and even as I boarded my flight to Bangkok, that is exactly what I hoped to be.

So it is easy to imagine the intense confusion that filled my mind barely a week later when I suddenly found myself wanting nothing more than to create a lifestyle that involved permanent travel.

How does one change their mind so quickly?

To put it simply, I found my passion.

And I found my passion while sitting on top of an ancient stone wall. Of course, this was not an ordinary ancient stone wall. It was the wall that surrounds the main temple of Angkor Wat, a 1000-year old city, the stunning remnants of which sit quietly in the middle of the Cambodian jungle.

The date was December 31, 1999, only the sixth day of my trip to Asia, and there I was celebrating the Millennium with thousands of local Cambodians – villagers, city-folk and Buddhist monks alike – all of whom made their way to Angkor for this special occasion.

As I sat on that wall, not wanting to even blink for fear that I was in a dream, as I watched the monks release their peace lanterns into the sky, as I shared Cambodian food and drinks with generous locals, I realized that putting myself directly in the middle of a foreign culture provided me with the most valuable educational experience possible.

I also realized that such cultural interactions seemed infinitely more rewarding to me than the life that I was headed for. At first I couldn’t believe what I was thinking, but after dwelling on these new thoughts for a few weeks and after confirming that I was indeed addicted to travel, I was eventually forced to admit that a life in the grind no longer interested me at all.

Now that I had discovered my passion, I felt it would be an absolute waste if I didn’t dedicate all of my energy to pursuing it and the exciting goals that accompanied this change of direction.

When I woke up one morning in the town of Pakse, Laos, I decided that I was no longer a traveler on a post-graduation adventure around Asia. I was now a traveler on an open-ended mission to gain a first-hand education about the planet and the people who call it home. Reading about India, Syria, Mozambique and El Salvador was no longer an option. I knew that I could not settle for anything less than experiencing these cultures for myself.

And so my life of travel began.

It’s now been over 11 years and I’m still on the road.

Goodbye To The Grind

In a sense, I never actually quit the grind. I quit the idea of it and decided to avoid it altogether. When my initial $1500 dwindled down to my final $200 while in Thailand back in March of 2000, I knew that I had two options. I could either return home, enter that ‘real world’ and try to save up some money for more traveling or I could take a deep breath and confidently leap into the unknown.

Into the unknown I went.

It turned out that the unknown wasn’t so frightening after all. I quickly stumbled upon an opportunity to teach English in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which was followed by an opportunity to be a Tour Manager on board cruise ships. From there things just kept falling into place, allowing me to continue working, living, traveling and volunteering around the world.

It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’m a firm believer that the refusal to accept anything but the achievement of your goals is the key to overcoming even the most daunting of challenges that are thrown in our way.

As for me, I’ve had to deal with family and friends who, instead of support for my change of plans, expressed nothing but shock and, in some cases, complete disappointment. All I kept hearing for years was that I was acting irresponsibly and that I was merely passing through a ‘phase’. I knew differently but it was impossible to convince others of this fact.

There have also been times when I had no idea how I was going to earn money as I watched my funds shrink more and more with each passing day. There were times when I was all alone in the middle of some foreign land, terribly sick and unable to even get out of bed. There are still plenty of times when I wish I had a friend to share my experiences with or when I wonder if traveling is actually making me dumber.

But despite these tough moments, I eventually snap out of it and I soon find myself walking through the streets of Delhi or Damascus or Prague or Buenos Aires. My troubles begin to fade as I begin to explore new places and meet new people once again. With eyes and ears open wide I continue learning about the world while forming bonds with incredible people, people whom I would never have come into contact with had I not chosen to live a life of travel.

Before I know it, I’m wandering around with the biggest smile on my face once again, knowing full well that despite all of the struggles, there is no other lifestyle that I’d rather be living.

A Life Without Regrets

As far as I’m concerned, I figure that I have 80 years or so to spend on this planet and I just don’t see any reason not to enjoy this short period of time as much as humanly possible. I don’t see the point of slaving away in a dead-end job or spending my life at the mercy of a mortgage.

I’d much rather live each day to its fullest, to wake up every morning ecstatic about life and to ensure that when my 80 years are up, I don’t have that long list of regrets that so many people end up with.

And if this means no house in the suburbs, no fancy job title and no large screen plasma television, so it goes. I’d rather leave those things to the people who want them so that I can continue enjoying the freedom of being able to pack up my backpack on any given day and travel anywhere in the world that I so desire.

Of course, I understand fully well that travel is my own passion, and that everybody has different goals in life. However, the truth is, regardless of what each of our passions may be, we all have the exact same decision to make.

Do we want a life full of regrets or a life full of remarkable memories?

Addicted to the first-hand education that world travel provides, Earl now writes about his nomadic adventures over at WanderingEarl.com.

His posts focus not so much on the sights he visits, but on the human interactions and lessons he learns along the way. Earl also aims to demonstrate that a life of travel is not some crazy fantasy but a very realistic and rewarding lifestyle option instead.

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