colin wright, the exile lifestyle
Meet Colin. In 2009 he put his lifestyle in the hands of his blog readers, and decided to move to a different country every few months based on their votes.
We took a second to catch up with Colin during his stay in the Philippines to find out a little more about his unconventional lifestyle, adventures, and how he spends his downtime.
Talk us through the decisions that led you to leave a high-flying life in LA to take the leap to travel the world in a rather unconventional manner!
I was living some version of the American dream: making a lot of money, running a successful business, nice townhouse near the beach on the Westside, that kind of thing. But I realized at one point, right after my 24th birthday, that I was also kind of miserable. I was becoming increasingly more unhealthy, not getting much sleep. My relationships were suffering, I was working all the time, and I was stressed pretty much constantly. What's more, I looked at the people I'd been looking up to and realized that although they were millionaires and billionaires, they were some of the most miserable people I'd ever met. They never stopped and took time for anything besides earning money, and I could see that I had no reason to think I wouldn't do the same, if I were to continue along that trajectory.
I'd always wanted to travel, and I'd been putting it off, thinking I'd earn a little more, than a little more, then a little more. I stopped and thought, you know, no matter how much money I have, I can't get my 20's back. Or my 30's. Or my 40's. I could always earn more money, but I could never get back that time. It was eye-opening, and forced me to take stock of everything.
I gave myself four months to change up everything, and then hit the road.
You dictate which country to visit next based upon blog votes - where is the most unusual place this has taken you?
Well, anyplace you go is unusual if you haven't been there before, and it's difficult to compare one place to another in that way, since they're all strange in different senses of the word. Kolkata in India was definitely the most foreign to me, though, having grown up primarily in the Midwest in the US. Day to day life was just so wildly different there, simply walking out the door was an adventure every day.
How many countries have you visited so far?
I've visited 35 or 40 countries, though not all of them for four months. I only count the ones I've spent more than a few days in, though; less than that and it's hard for me to get an idea of what a city is like.
Is there one place in the world you would never tire of returning to, and why?
I think I could go back to any place I've been before and enjoy it, though I do know that even my favorite places in the world tend to wear on me after 4 or 5 months. At that point, despite how much I love that city, I need to get out and get some novelty in my surroundings. I'll return again, sure, but I need some novel stimuli to keep me motivated and learning and challenged.
Could you ever envisage yourself ever sticking to one country, or taking a break from life on the road?
Maybe, but not now. My needs and opinions have changed, so it could happen at some point. At the moment, though, I don't prefer that. I like to stay long enough to learn a place and make a lot of friends and learn a particular lifestyle, but I'm able to enjoy it to the degree that I do because I know that there's an end-date, at which point I'll leave and try something new.
I've tried taking breaks, but when I do I always end up roadtripping or going on book tours. I'm pretty bad at holding still, I guess.
Your lifestyle is funded through your publishing company, how did you get into publishing?
When I was living in New Zealand, the internet was tragically bad, and it quickly became apparent that my branding work for clients wouldn't be feasible. I'd written a few books as promos for my blog when it first started, and I had a background in journalistic writing, so I thought maybe I could take a stab at writing and selling some books. I gave it a shot and it sold a lot of copies, made some money. Not as much as I was making before, but I figured that if I learned more about the business and figured out how to improve my work, I could make a real go of it.
Thankfully this turned out to be true, and I was making a full-time income with my books about eight months later.
If there is a ‘typical’ day in your life(!), what does it look like?
There's no typical, actually, though there are a few things I try to do each day. I've got a workout I can do from anywhere (all body weight resistance), I drink coffee in the morning (but not after 3pm), I write, I read. I walk around and explore.
photos: the day begins in mayoyao, philippines // the view from colin's balcony and a coffee to get in the writing mood.
There's a lot of variety with this loose structure, and I tend to write when I'm really feeling it, and I know the coffee, the walking, the reading, those are things that can put me in the writing mood. I tend to mix and match based on what's going on in my environment, too, so that I can take advantage of opportunities as they arise, and not have work standing in the way of some new experience I could be having.
You’re currently in the Philippines - what has your experience been like so far?
It's been lovely. I'm staying in a town in the middle of nowhere, tucked away in the jungle and mountains. It's called Mayoyao, and it doesn't have a bar, a restaurant, or a tourism industry. A great little place full of beautiful landscapes and friendly people, perfect for a writer or someone else who's looking for calm relaxation, solitude, and something entirely different from anyplace else.
If you only had space for a couple of books in your travel bag, what would they be?
I usually carry a Kindle, so this isn't a problem!
Honestly I don't reread books too regularly, so it would be the biggest possible collection of new reads that I could fit in my bag. I read a lot, typically a book every couple of days, so it's a pretty big appetite to take care of.
In terms of genre, I read a bit of everything. I like to learn things I didn't know were available to learn about, and I like fiction of all flavors.
How important is downtime for you?
It's vital. I'm about 50/50 introvert/extrovert, so I need at least half my time completely alone, so that I can relax, work out, read, write, and just process and think. That's part of why I love traveling: it's a great way to be as isolated as you want to be, as you can remain anonymous in a new town, or go out and socialize, making a million new friends. Entirely up to you, based on what you need in the moment.
How do you delegate time to relax whilst working for yourself?
I see it as an important aspect of personal development.
If you're exhausted, if you're running yourself into the ground, if you're not giving yourself the chance to sleep and relax and process, you're not working optimally, you're probably getting sick when you don't need to, and you're not enjoying life as much as you could be.
I'm a pretty driven person, so I've had to struggle more to relax than to work, and this is the approach that's helped me strike a wonderful balance, where I'm able to get everything done, but I'm also not constantly on the edge of being sick or wiped out.
This is particularly important when you're traveling, by the way. Lots of new germs, lots of new things to see and do, and lots of new time zones really stress your system, and if you aren't giving yourself time to recuperate, you're doing it wrong.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you chose to spend it?
Oh, probably doing more of what I already do. I really, really enjoy life, and feel incredibly fortunate to have the chance to do what I do. Having more of what I've already got would be splendid!