#7 Andrew “Authentic Traveling”
18 minute read
I’ve been excited to bring you this latest ‘people’ feature for some time now.
I first got to know Andrew via a Twitter conversation, and after checking out his website, Authentic Traveling, I just knew that I had to get him here on Lossul.com. There was just something about the mission of his website and the use of the term ‘authentic’ that really resonated with me.
The suggestion was brought up right before Andrew set off travelling, and he said that he was interested but that it would need to wait until he came back. I wished him a safe trip and said to feel free to look me up on his return.
He said that he would.
And he did.
This to me underlines the very term authentic, because not only does Andrew choose to travel authentically, but he also conducts himself authentically.
For that very reason it brings me great pleasure to be able to introduce all of you to Andrew of Authentic Traveling.
Elliot – Hi Andrew, and welcome to Lossul.com. It’s a pleasure to have you here and to catch up with you while you’re fresh from your most recent trip.
The name of your blog is something that immediately appealed to me and I think it will intrigue a lot of my readers also. Could you please share with us exactly what Authentic Traveling means to you, and also give us a little bit of a background story as to how you found yourself where you are today?
Andrew – It’s a great honor to be here; I’ve been a big fan of your site for some time, and I believe we share many of the same goals.
Authentic Traveling is my way of helping others. It’s an obsession, really. Travel has been, and continues to be, the greatest source of change and empowerment in my life. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case for other travelers. I’m often told by people that they know there’s something more to traveling – they’ve heard about it, they can feel it, they can sense it – but they can’t quite grasp it themselves. As a result, they return home feeling exhausted and unfulfilled rather than exhilarated.
Authentic Traveling really stems from my own failures. I know how it feels to be completely lost in life, despite continually having the best intentions. I spent over 7 years working incredibly hard to earn an advanced degree in a highly-specific field only to realize that what I had been after was making me miserable. I then went through a phase where I tried my hand at nearly every conceivable type of profession – from chef to computer programmer – only to end up feeling even more confused.
Fortunately, through most of this I had the good fortune of living in international tourist hubs, which gave me the opportunity to both travel extensively and exchange ideas with people from around the world. Slowly, these experiences helped me to cultivate a new understanding of who I was and what I wanted from life.
Elliot – I think feeling lost in life is something that the majority of people are able to relate to. But whereas some people will be happy to remain in that position and to simply accept that it’s ‘just how life is’, others will continue to push boundaries and to follow new paths in search of their purpose.
It’s inspirational that you had the strength to listen to your heart and to close such a huge chapter after 7 years of hard work. Following your transition from this time and onto trying out all these different professions that you mentioned, at what point did you begin the travelling? Was travelling something you’d always done and already had an interest in? Or did this come about as a result of the changes you made in your life?
Andrew – Honestly, it didn’t even feel like an option to do anything else; it just seemed like what I “had” to do.
I was fortunate growing up in that my parents would regularly take me on family vacations – first around the U.S., and eventually, when I got older, abroad. This early exposure to life on the road, along with my extremely curious nature, made it almost inevitable that I would continue traveling as an adult.
Elliot – Well you’ve certainly followed through and done what you felt you had to do. That’s incredible.
For a number of years now you’ve lived in many different places throughout the world and have worked in a number of professions along the way. Could you tell us where this journey began and what you did there, and then share with us how your journey progressed from that point onwards?
Andrew – I suppose my journey really began in Florence, Italy, where – after completing my MA in Italian Renaissance Art History – I taught study abroad students from around the globe at an American university. This experience was immensely rewarding; there’s nothing quite like watching talented young minds discover new things about the world and themselves.
Naturally, we spent the vast majority of our time outside the classroom, traveling throughout Italy and Europe. I began to notice what a difference location made when explaining new concepts to the students. While they understood the ideas we discussed in the classroom (I was lucky enough to teach some brilliant students), the proverbial light bulb really turned on when we were out exploring. The depth and conviction of their insights was so much greater during and after trips than on campus. And it wasn’t like I was saying or doing anything different! I realized then that travel was a powerful tool to enhance learning.
At the same time, I learned something about myself; while I LOVED teaching, Academia itself was making me miserable. So, after some soul searching, I decided I would no longer pursue the profession I’d studied so long to be a part of. Fortunately, I was interested in a lot of things. I explored careers in cooking, computer programming, marketing, sales, and even dabbled with being an artist. Yet while I found some success, I never really felt fulfilled. There was always something missing.
Finally, I realized what it was! I hadn’t been directly fulfilling my desire to contribute to the happiness of others. That had been why I’d originally been attracted to teaching, and that, I decided, was my new purpose.
Elliot – I think what you’ve said about travelling being a powerful tool to enhance learning is so incredibly true. We can read things in books and we can see things on television, but nothing compares to actually being there and experiencing things first hand, seeing everything with your own two eyes and developing your own opinions and perspectives.
It sounds like you experienced something of an epiphany when you discovered your purpose to contribute to the happiness of others. In what ways are you able to achieve this through Authentic Travelling? And for anybody that is feeling lost and unsure of their own purpose in life, what can they do and what actions can they take which will help them to discover that?
Andrew – Yes, it absolutely was an epiphany. Later this year I will be introducing a revolutionary tool which I think will greatly enhance people’s ability to create happiness and purpose in their lives. But in the meantime, I hope Authentic Traveling provides readers with a starting point from which they can explore the world and better themselves. Whether someone is sitting at home or traveling through the bazaars of Marrakesh, I want to inspire them to ask new questions, connect to different cultures, and take advantage of all the incredible things that are out there. Simply put, I want them to truly live.
Unfortunately, feeling lost and uncertain about our purpose in life is very common. In the United States, for instance, our entire educational system is designed around crafting people to fill a specific role – the banker, the lawyer, the dentist – without any real regard for human needs. We wrongfully equate professional success in these roles with personal happiness. As a result, many people are either overworking themselves in a misguided effort to find purpose via success, or are feeling disillusioned because their hard work hasn’t resulted in the fulfilment they thought it would.
Recognizing this fallacy is the most important step. Once you know the truth, you have the power to escape this cycle and create a purpose-driven life. To keep things brief, I’ll address two of the most important things you can do to start things off.
First, explore your values. I say explore rather than identify for a specific reason. Often, our values can become distorted by past experiences or society as a whole. As such, we may be placing importance on things that bring us little, if any, happiness. For example, someone may be an incredibly loving person who craves human connection. Yet, a series of bad relationships has led them to value isolation and privacy above candidness. As long as they continue to live according to this new value system, they will never truly be fulfilled.
It often takes leaving your current surroundings – where remnants of other people’s values are found in your daily actions – to truly understand what is important to you. Travel provides the perfect opportunity to consider other value systems and evaluate your own notions. Living “authentically” when on the road – eating what the locals eat, sleeping where the locals sleep, thinking how the locals think – is my favorite way of doing this. The more you can immerse yourself in the local way of life, the better.
Once you’ve figured out what your values are, you can then move on to my second suggestion; figuring out what your superpowers are. Everyone has something that sets them apart from others. Maybe you’re a great listener, maybe you’re talented with numbers, maybe you’ve got a knack for teaching. Whatever the skill set, it’s important to recognize that you have the ability to transform the lives of others through these gifts. For it is only through contributing to the happiness of others that you can ever truly be fulfilled.
Knowing what your values and superpowers are allows you to wake up each and every morning with a specific goal to reach for and guide markers to help you get there. It’s amazing how quickly your past concerns vanish when you have something bigger – something outside yourself – to focus on. That, in my opinion, is living an authentic life.
Elliot – I really like that answer and I think you’ve provided some really valuable insights there.
I am in complete agreement with what you said about how in western culture we’re taught to believe in a certain definition of what success is. Usually this revolves around income and status, and we buy into this belief as though it’s the absolute definition of leading a successful life.
But actually I think the real definition of success is something that only we can define for ourselves, as individuals, because otherwise we run the risk of leading a life that is completely unfulfilling. We hear stories all the time about people that have made millions and yet still feel empty and unhappy. And this takes us onto the point you make about figuring out your values and finding something that is bigger than yourself, and outside of yourself, to focus on.
What would you say your own definition of success is? And how does this relate to searching for this externally?
Andrew – That’s a great question, Elliot – and one that I find incredibly important to address. Most people say they are looking for success in life, but if you cannot define what that is, how are you possibly going to be able to reach your goals?
My definition of success is closely tied to my last answer. Being successful to me means that I’m using my superpowers to help improve my life and the lives of others in accordance with my values. In the most basic terms, it’s a successful day if I use my talents for good.
As you can see, it’s necessary to know what your values are before you can look for success. This is an internal observation. At the same time, your actions are outward facing, being based on the wants and needs of others. So success is both an internal and an external act; one of respect for ourselves and those around us.
Elliot – It’s funny that you should mention the people that are around us, because this takes me nicely onto my next question.
Your website features some really insightful interviews with people who are local to the areas in which you travel. What inspired you to start featuring interviews with locals? How do you go about getting people on board? And do you have any interesting stories that you can share about any of these interviews?
Andrew – I’ve always been interested in the human condition – what people think, how they live, what their dreams are – and so when I’m traveling I try to investigate this. Once I had the website up, it only became natural that I’d start sharing what I was learning with others through the interview features.
Having said that, I don’t begin every conversation with the intent of landing an interview at the end. Rather, I just speak to the people I encounter – whether in line at the grocery store, at a bar, or on a train – and if we have a connection, things will naturally progress from there. I think there’s a basic desire to share your story and help others if you can, which is exactly what I’m trying to do with my Authentic Living and How to Live Like a Local series.
The only time I’ve ever had trouble getting people to open up was during a recent trip to Cuba, but given the current political situation there, it was understandable. However, I did share a laugh over an attempt to discuss baseball with some Cubans. I was walking down the street when I stumbled upon a group of men huddled around an old television in the street. Apparently there was near the end of an important game. Being a huge baseball fan myself, I stopped to watch. One of the men noticed me and approached me. Using a mixture of Spanish and pantomimes, we discussed our love of the game for a few minutes – and for a moment I thought I’d have my coveted Cuban interview. That is, until the TV suddenly died! Then, in a moment of panic, the man excused himself as he and his friends rushed off to a neighbor’s house to try and catch the end of the game.
Elliot – Oh no! You were so near, yet so far from landing the interview! Oh well, there’s only one thing for that…you’ll have to visit Cuba again one day!
What I really like about that story is that it conjures up a wonderful image of you very much engaging with people as though you’re a local too. It’s staying very true to the message you promote with Authentic Travelling.
With regards to living like a local, very often when people travel we hear them say how they’d love to live in such-and-such a place, but very often that’s because they’ve only had chance to see the best of that place and for a relatively short period of time. It’s easy to idealise. Would you say that there is a big difference between living in and visiting somewhere? What would you say these differences are? And is there such a thing as a perfect place to live?
Andrew – That’s a great question, Elliot. Based on personal experience, I can say that there is a huge difference between visiting and living somewhere. As you said, the very things most people do on vacations – see top museums, eat at top restaurants, sleep in nice hotels – result in an incomplete understanding of the places they visit. I can’t blame anyone for this; after all, life at home can be stressful, and sometimes it’s just nice to escape from reality. But it’s easy to forget that what you’re experiencing isn’t indicative of real life.
To escape this and instead live like a local, you need to embrace the other aspects of life in the place you are visiting. This may mean changing what you eat, where you sleep, with whom you talk, or even how you think. The more time you spend doing this, the better. Practices like these open your eyes to daily life and make you reconsider – both positively and negatively – where you are.
As for your last question, no, I do not believe that a perfect place to live exists – at least not now. And I’m OK with that. Much like how your muscles must lift heavy objects to get stronger, our minds must face continual adversity to grow more resilient. The unchallenged spirit withers away.
However, neuroscience does suggest that certain mental exercises can actually reprogram how our brain responds to – and therefore how we perceive – reality. Taken far enough, some day in the future humans may be able to reprogram their minds into a constant state of bliss regardless of physical location or external stimuli. But is that something we want?
Elliot – That’s a very interesting question to pose, but for the me the answer to that is a resounding NO. To be in a constant state of bliss just wouldn’t be human. We feel pain, we fail with endeavours, we lose people we love, our hearts get broken; that’s life, and the hurt, the fear, the anguish, and the suffering, all of this is part of the human experience. Where we need to reprogram our minds is in how we respond to this and how we come back from it.
Many choose to remain crushed and to take on the victim mentality, rather than fighting to get back to their feet and to move forwards and find meaning. When we’re hurt and we find ourselves at our lowest ebb, we cannot just block that out; we need to feel the sadness, the anger, the emptiness, the grief, the suffering, and the loneliness, because it is these lowest moments that can eventually be used to help us gather the momentum that can propel us back to where we were, and potentially, to a place of greater strength. Some of the greatest art and some of the most inspiring stories are born from origins of pain.
To reprogram our minds into a constant state of bliss, even in the face of suffering, would be no different to taking drugs; it’s not reality, and it’s not true happiness. It’s just faking it. It’s papering over the cracks.
Bliss is found in between the darker moments of life, but it takes these darker moments to really appreciate the gifts of life; to find all the hidden beauty. That is what creates true bliss.
Wow, okay, you really set me off there. I think you and I could have some really interesting conversations Andrew!
Well in a moment we’re going to have to start wrapping this up, but before we start to bring things to a close, your website offers a lot of valuable information such as how to get the best from travel and how to budget better. Could you give my readers a brief overview as to what they can expect to find when they visit your site? And also, what can we expect to see from yourself and Authentic Travelling over the coming months?
Andrew – I agree; we could definitely have some great conversations. I’ll have to let you know next time I’m in the UK!
I hope Authentic Traveling in its various forms (the website, YouTube videos, ebooks) brings readers inspiration, insights, and practical tips on how to explore the world and themselves: to take that next step, whether in travel, business, or life.
I don’t have everything figured out and I don’t pretend to be a guru – I’m still in my 20s, after all. But I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some pretty cool things, to meet some incredible people, and to learn a ton of lessons. If my example can help others to do the same, I’ll have completed my goal.
As for the future, I’m releasing my free eBook – The Cure for the Common Trip: 9 Habits for Exceptional Travel – which you can sign up to download here. As the title suggests, it’s a simple how-to guide (based both on my own experiences and those of other adventurers) for anyone who is interesting in having more meaningful travel experiences.
I will also be creating a lot more videos, which I’ll share on my YouTube channel. I’ve shot a ton of footage with my drone and camera over my last couple of trips, and I’m super excited to share what comes out of this – I’m hopeful that it will be really informative and entertaining, almost like a more thoughtful version of a TV travel show.
Elliot – Hey absolutely, just let me know when you make it over to these shores and I’ll be happy to buy you a beer and swap some stories.
And thank you for sharing all your upcoming plans with us and I’ll be sure to check out your eBook (I’ve signed up for it) and keep an eye out for your videos on You Tube. The drone footage sounds really interesting!
Well before I bring this feature to a close, I have a tradition to uphold which you may already be familiar with. It’s time for the completely random and totally nonsensical question, but hey, it’s all in the name of fun.
Imagine you’re stood outside one evening, just enjoying a cold beer and contemplating life. Out of nowhere some bright lights appear in the sky and they start to get bigger and brighter as they draw closer to you. After hovering above you for a short time, your eyes adjust and you realise it’s a UFO (okay, bare with me Andrew). A beam of light shoots out of the bottom of the craft and then a shadowy figure glides down and then appears in front of you. It’s an alien (seriously, bare with me Andrew). He/she/it starts walking towards you and you cannot tell whether he/she/it is a friend or foe. The alien begins to speak (don’t laugh at me Andrew) and declares…
“Take me to your leader”
You anticipate that whoever the alien meets will determine the outcome of their visit; whether it be a friendly conclusion where we trade intergalactic fruit and vegetables, or whether they decide to wipe out all human existence. My question is, out of all the people on this planet, who would you take the alien to meet and why?
Andrew – Wow, I wasn’t expecting that as the final question, but I like it!
I instantly knew whom I WOULDN’T send them to, but it’s requiring a bit more thought to figure out this ambassador.
If you give me a bit of leeway and allow me to pick someone who is no longer living (it’s a hypothetical, after all), I would say the famed cosmologist and thinker Carl Sagan. As anyone who’s read his work or seen the TV series Cosmos can attest, Sagan was as thoughtful as he was brilliant. His was a message of science-based peace and understanding that few have matched.
Having spent much of his life promoting the search for and the attempt to communicate with extra terrestrials – he even designed Pioneer plaque, the first psychical message sent into space – I think Sagan would be especially adept at this role.
Well sadly that brings this feature to a close, but I do hope that you’ll follow up with Andrew and check out his work. You can visit his website, You Tube channel, and also sign up for his free eBook.
If there is one thought to close this feature with then let this be it. A lot of people out there will present an image on the surface that is so very different to what lies underneath, but these people only let themselves down in the end when their true nature rises to the surface. Andrew though, has been a real delight to work with and has shown nothing but integrity throughout the duration of this project. These are the kind of people that we need in this world. Integrity is everything.
Andrew, I wish you every success for the future and I want to thank you for being a part of Lossul.com.
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