Country Hopping, Tri-Annually: On the Road with Colin Wright

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

After meeting Colin Wright in Austin, I made my way to his blog, Exile Lifestyle. We reached out recently and asked about his experience making a new country his home three times a year.

Tell us about yourself.

Every four months, I move to a new country based on votes from readers of my blog. While there, I live like a local as much as possible, meet new people, and try new things. I make my living from my books, which run the gamut from narrative travel stories to fiction to how-to’s.

What inspired you to make travel part of your life?

Travel always seemed like the ultimate expression of my innate desire to learn and experience something new. I always knew we got biased information about global cultures and I dreamed of cutting through that, drawing my own conclusions and getting the facts from being on the ground. After some success in the business world, I was able to pursue that dream, which had always seemed a bit out of reach for a middle class kid from the midwest.

Why did you decide to structure your travel by moving three times a year?

Part of my desire to see the world was wanting to compare different places by living in them. Experiencing several cultures to better ascertain what made them unique was important to me, and this structure ensures I visit a lot of places, and still understand the daily ins and outs of each culture. Living abroad for four months is surprisingly challenging because of passport laws. In most countries, US citizens are only allowed to stay for 90 days (three months), which means in addition to the challenge of settling in and living, I have to border hop before my four months are up to renew my time.

Will you ever change this model of travel?

Four months at a time with mini-adventures in between is my ideal at the moment, and traveling more or less frequently doesn’t bring me the same joy. So maybe, but not soon.

5-(1)1 How do you save the money you need for your trips?

I earn money through my writing, speaking engagements and teaching workshops. Plus, I’m careful with money. I hate paying too much for a ticket. I’m far more likely to find something else to do for three weeks while waiting for a discount than to pay a few hundred extra dollars to leave at a convenient time. Call it stubbornness.

Luckily, because my schedule is flexible and I pack light, if the price is right I’m able to either wait for the flight I want, or be at the airport in an hour, ready to go.

The great debate: aisle or window?

Window! You’re 30,000 feet above the planet; enjoy the view!

Have you met any fun or interesting people on the road?

So many! There was…

…the airline pilot in New Zealand who convinced me to go skydiving by promising I could ride in the cockpit of the commercial plane he piloted.

…the social media worker in Kolkata who invited me into her home and helped me set up my phone, apartment, and social life when I arrived.

…the bearded commune-dweller in Albuquerque who awakened me with live accordion music when I crashed at his place midway through a 48-state Greyhound bus trip.

The landscape in a new place can be amazing, but to me, the people landscape is more fascinating by far.

Best travel tips. Go:

Travel with an unlocked, inexpensive-looking phone.

This keeps thieves from targeting you, and allows you to swap out SIM cards to use a local network, rather than paying roaming fees.

Do your best to live like a local.

Deviate from the well-tread path to see how a city actually operates, and enjoy it for the scars as much as the flourishes.

Take time to just BE in a place.

Give yourself a few seconds or minutes to experience moments in 3D — sights, sounds, tastes, smells — before you reduce it to the 2D of an image or video.

Tell us something interesting about you that hasn’t been covered already.

I’m a minimalist, which for me means I focus on the things that make me happiest and eschew the rest. This applies to possessions, relationships, work, and just about everything else. In practice, it also means I carry around every single thing I own. Two bags — one laptop bag, and one carry-on — hold all my stuff, and I can bring it all with me without checking anything.

Where are you headed next?

I just tallied the votes from my blog, and my next country is Czech Republic! I’m in the process of setting up shop there with everything I own.

Follow Colin’s journey on his blog, Exile Lifestyle, or via Twitter and Instagram.

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