Many travelers will tell you their favourite part of the journey is making incredible friends and sharing life changing moments with them. You can instantly connect with them knowing your goals and aspirations are to see the beautiful corners of this wonderful planet we call home.
When Jesse Pham‘s name appeared in my mailbox offering to help me achieve my dreams of travelling long term it bought back memories of meeting like minded souls I had connected with on my travels so far and his inspiring words were too brilliant to keep to myself. So he has kindly agreed to share them with us here on Little Lottie! We’ve officially got the inside scoop from a man who left an average life behind with only a one way ticket to Sweden to explore the world, 3 years on he is still having the time of his life. SO what’s his secret?…
What made you pick Sweden as your first one way destination?
Before I dropped out of college – I was living with four international students during my first and only semester. Two were from Colombia, one was from Mexico and the other… was from Sweden.
Fast forward a year later, I was going through a deep depression, months into it there was a day where I hit a breaking point and needed to figure out away to travel ASAP – the fact I wasn’t living the life I wanted felt like I was torturing myself day after day…
So then I asked myself: what connections and resources do I have that can get me traveling the world now?
So I came up with an idea: Maybe I could stay with my old college roommate thats from Sweden.
Little did I know I was going to send a text message that would drastically change my life forever.
I can vividly remember there were so many self sabotaging and negative thoughts trying to prevent me from sending that text.
“Why would he want you to stay with him”
“Are you crazy there’s no way that’s gonna happen”
“You’re going to get rejected and look like an idiot”
“Just stay home until you have enough money to travel”
“You need to have a successful online business first”
It took me a few weeks to mustard up the courage and just ask but… wow am I very thankful I did it. My life would not be what it is today if I didn’t take the leap of faith.
Have you ever been close to running out of money?
Absolutely. There were a handful of times throughout the years. It’s a very challenging obstacle to overcome but the cool things is it forces you to be creative with the cards you’ve been dealt with. I have a pretty simple procedure that I follow whenever this happens: lower your spendings immediately. stay in an inexpensive country, cook meals at home, work long hours until I make more money, etc.
Is it all that bad? Not at all. The reality is it forces you to appreciate the little things in life. Besides what’s the worse that could happen? You could always call relatives and/or friends to help out, go home pay them back, save up again, keep traveling and avoid the same mistakes. It’s not like you’re going to die or something.
What great experience has stuck with you over the years?
There’s so many haha but there are a handful of moments I think back to frequently. If I could only choose one – I’d say my 22nd birthday party. I remember looking around seeing everyone having so much fun and enjoying themselves. My friends from across the globe: Spain, Sweden, Australia, United States, England, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Poland and more were there to celebrate my birthday.
Here’s a video with incredible moments from this week:
Someone said “wow, Jesse you’re friends are so cool. I can’t believe everyone traveled into town for your birthday. I wish my friends would do that for me…”
I stopped so I could suck everything in and be in the moment. During that pause I realized this was exactly something I desperately wished for during my darkest days.
During my depression period, moments before I turned 20 years old – I hit rock bottom, living in the middle of the desert, alone, out of shape, no friends, bad relationships with my family, no one to celebrate with, I was miserable and couldn’t believe that my life turned out the way it did. That day I made a wish that hopefully the life I’ve always dreamed about would come true.
Two years later, we’re back at my 22nd birthday and… that wish came true. Everything I had to go through, the adversity, sacrifices, countless obstacles, all the odds stacked against me, the sleepless nights staring at the ceiling question everything.
I found myself just shaking my head in disbelief and couldn’t believe how my life had turned out.
What bad experience has stuck with you over the years?
I find this question super funny haha I had a very traumatic experience in July 2014 when I flew into London and got detained by the immigration officers. In fact every time I have to go through customs I am extremely nervous (especially in the UK) because I’m haunted by that memory. It’s not so bad as it seems haha I actually view it as a cool story I can tell my grandkids one day.
If you want to hear the infamous immigration story in full detail you can watch the video below:
This is one of my best travel stories of all time that many find it super dramatic and entertaining.
Do you generally travel with no plan, not knowing where you will be next or do you prefer to have it mapped out?
I favor one side more than the other for sure – I definitely prefer to be spontaneous, just wing it and go with the flow. It’s just so much more exciting and fun when you travel the world this way. Personally I’ve seen too many people travel that have already booked a return ticket which down right sucks. They fail to acknowledge the fact that there’s now a limit and basically just restricted themselves from collecting more experiences.
One of the best things you can do is book a one way ticket. You have so much more flexibility to be adventurous, spontaneous and experience more freedom – something we all crave deep down. Many that do this end up having experiences they never could’ve imagined possible. There will be moments where you literally feel like you’re living in a dream because it’s just too good to be true.
Imagine you meet a group of amazing like minded people you get along with so well and they invite you to continue the adventure with them. But you say “Ahhh I wish could but I already booked my flight back home.” Then you find yourself sitting in the window seat on the next flight back home, overlooking the clouds reflecting on all your incredible experiences and can’t believe it’s come to an end. Once you get settled “back in reality” you don’t want to accept the harsh fact that everything you experienced overseas is over… You feel like you just woke up from an incredible dream and all you want to do is go back and relive it again. In my honest opinion, nothing’s worse than missing out on experiences that you would’ve remembered for the rest of your life.
What’s been your favourite country in your journey so far?
As of right now, THAILAND is my favorite because I love what the country attracts. Many people from all over the world come here on vacation. What I love most is seeing how every one is smiling, happy and enjoying life. The food is so damn delicious and jam packed with flavors that would make anyone’s tastebuds burst. Sticky rice and mango is something that makes my mouth drool uncontrollably. Not only does this place look like something straight out of Avatar, it has crystal clear, turquoise waters with white sandy beaches. Best of all it is afford for anyone. Truly represents paradise for me.
What’s been a food highlight for you, any cuisine that had you addicted?
Thai food is something that I will always enjoy but I’m currently in Spain so spanish food is growing onto me. I had no idea the food here was this delicious. However, Mexican food will always be my #1 favorite food in the world (maybe it’s because I’m from California). At the end of the day, I’m always willing to eat food from any country in the world. I’m not one to try bugs or anything in that nature but who knows what will happen.
Is there one item that has come in handy everywhere you’ve been that lives in your backpack?
My MacBook by far because these days you can do everything on it. I can work anywhere in the world and make a living with it. I store all my videos and photos. I create videos about my travels and share them with the world. I can learn anything I want on it. Stay connected with family, friends and new people I just met.
What’s the hardest thing about traveling long term?
This is a tricky one to answer because if traveling makes you happy then it shouldn’t necessary be viewed as hard. But I would guess the knee jerk response would be getting home sick, missing your family, friends and pets while overseas. The criticism you would get from adults claiming that it is irresponsible and they try to guilt trip you into their ways of living.
For me personally nothing much these days really. Things that were considered hard in the past (being away from family, the struggles, fear of the unknown and other things) are completely normal to me now. Any thing “hard” that comes across my path I just take it as a test and get through it because it’s something that’s apart of the journey and adds to the adventure.
What is your top tip for living the dream and staying on the road long term?
You have to be obsessed. You must have trust in yourself. You gotta have this deep burning fire inside that just never dies. Because in the beginning there’s gonna be a lot of internal resistance and your surrounding may say disheartening things as you make the transition. Don’t worry it will get better in the near future but you have to go through this first test.
The key point to remember here is that you cannot control the things that happen to you, but what you can control is how you react to them.
A lot of it is all in your mind just like anything else. You hear it all the time from the most successful people in history that the most important thing is the mindset. It keeps getting repeated because it’s 100% true. When you master your mind, you can accomplish anything.
Please don’t let the voices of others, drown your own voice leading you to give up. Too many allow that to happen and they are often the ones living with regret and repeatedly say “I wish…”
Do you see yourself settling down anywhere or returning home eventually?
The longest I’ve been outside the US was a solid 18 months from Jan 2014 to July 2015. To say I lived overseas 100% of the time over three years would not be true, but I did for the majority no doubt. As much as I would love to keep living overseas forever, I still have a role to fulfill as a son, brother,grandson, nephew and cousin. I make return trips home on average once a year then jet off after a few weeks. In the near future, I’ll return home frequently to spend more time with family.
Something we should not take for granted is our family. At the back of your mind, you must always remember that nothing lasts forever – your parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins and everything else. It’s a sad truth but it must be acknowledged.
Which is why I make an extra effort to be with my family whenever I’m visiting them throughout the US. When I’m with them I put away all distractions and really be there in the moment. You really learn to appreciate these special moments when you’re overseas again. Treat every moment as if it were your last because one day it just might be.
As far as settling down, I’ll start my family when I feel it’s the right time (assuming mid-30s). It’ll definitely be somewhere in Europe but I’ll put more thought into it down the line. Right now I’m still in my early 20s and need to experience as much as possible while I still can. I strongly believe during this period of your life you need to take risks and really keep pushing your boundaries. Nowadays everyone puts too much focus on comfort and what they can get. Instead they miss out on the most important and rewarding gift which is who you are becoming.
After years when you’ve grown in character, become a better version of yourself and lived up to your fullest potential. You’ll be coming from a better place to contribute your gift back to your own kids, family, friends and anyone that gets in contact with you. Of course I will continue to travel the world for the rest of my life as travel is one of the best blessings in life. However I will not be doing it nowhere near to the extremes as I am now. When you start your own family, you live for your spouse and children.
What golden advice do you give to anyone considering this lifestyle?
If ‘considering’ translates to “I really want to do it but…” then I say DO IT. I’m a huge believer in Listening To Your Gut Instructs aka follow your heart, the inner voice, butterflies in the stomach, etc.
Ever felt those times in life where you found yourself saying “it just feels right.” Let’s say you’re trying to decide if you should go on that trip overseas with your friends or not – and you decide to just go for it – then you come back home saying “that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” That’s the result of listening to your gut.
Many people are not aware of this but your gut/heart region has intuition (separate from your brain).
Look anyone can do this. It’s easier than ever. This whole ’long term travel’ lifestyle will be considered the norm in the coming years. You have my word on that. If you don’t believe me, consider how technology has just grown exponentially in the past two decades alone. Today kids have iPads, when we had gameboys. Let that thought settle for a bit. Traveling to the moon will be available to you within your lifetime. Just to give you an idea where technology is going. We are living in a best time in history and far too many people today are taking it for granted.
So let’s say you want to make a drastic lifestyle change. All you have to do right now is…
Give yourself permission to do it. Sounds simple but that’s just the reality of it. All you have to do right now is make the decision and give yourself the permission to create a lifestyle where you can travel the world whenever you want, for as long as you want.
Let me explain: too many people these days get tunnel vision and focus on one thing: OBSTACLES. At the end of the day obstacles = excuses. What’s the outcome? It holds you back. The more you put your attention onto it, your ‘Why I Can’t’ list becomes a never-ending one.
Here’s my GOLDEN tip that changed everything for me – Frame obstacles as opportunities. Stop focusing on the obstacles, focus on the opportunities.
When I made that realization in 2012, I kid you not, everything changed for me. I saw everything with a fresh new perspective and could no longer hide behind my excuses. Every single one of my concerns, fears, worries were exposed and viewed in a different light.
So let’s go through some common obstacles you maybe experiencing:
I can’t because my job at the office… do you really want to spend the majority of your life working in a cubicle, you only look forward to after work drinks, the weekend, holidays? Does this seem right to you? Do you look at your boss and say wow I wish to be in his/her position one day? Are you living the life you’ve always dreamed of? No? Do something about it then. Nobody will do it for you. You’re 100% in control of your own life.
It cost a lot of money to travel the world, I don’t have much… there’s countless of people who are doing it without spending a fortune so what’s stopping you? If you don’t have enough, manage your money so you make it work out. If you’ve spent a lot on flights, find better deals to save more money for traveling. Are you drinking Starbucks everyday? Start making coffee at home, you’ll save hundreds within the month.
It’s just too risky… You know people today are laying on their deathbeds constantly saying “I wish…” Can you imagine yourself having to live everyday with decades of painful regrets? Do you understand it eats people alive on the inside? Wishing you could turn back the clock so you could do it all over again.
Look you can afford to take massive risks right now. You aren’t married, have kids, have a mortgage and all that other stuff. As you get older you can’t just take off overseas whenever you want like you can now. Especially when you have a baby, need to pickup your kids from school, take them to soccer practice, make sure they do their homework and go to bed on time for school the next day. When you have kids your life revolves around them.
So when can you freely travel the world? Probably when your kids leave for college years later, but by then you probably don’t have the energy and are too busy with paying off the mortgage. Right now you don’t have any of that. You are risking so much more by accepting a mediocre life and damaging your soul. You should be taking risks right now because you can afford to while you’re still young and today is the youngest you’ll ever be for the rest of your life. You only have ONE LIFE, please make it count and live it to the fullest.
Jesse is certainly living the dream of many, exploring the world and calling some fascinating places home along the way. He has earned and built this life for himself by taking that all important leap to self discovery and is here to help others realise they can do the same! He has certainly inspired me to make my dreams a reality and I have now booked my one way ticket to Thailand on January 3rd 2017! Let the travels begin!!
Make sure you follow him as the adventures continue for some expert advice.
Who knows what your future could bring!
Little Lottie. xo