I’m really excited to be featuring this interview with Colin Wright, ofExile Lifestyle. I first came across Colin in a travel eBook on Amazon, and I loved it so much I bought all of his books. And now, he’s graciously responding to an interview for me and here he is below, for your reading pleasure.
Hi Colin, thank you for this interview. Could you please tell us about yourself?
I’m an author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler. I’m the co-founder of Asymmetrical Press. I move to a new country every 4 months based on the votes of my readers, though at the moment I’m spending 6 months in Montana to focus on the publishing company and the authors whose work we’re putting on shelves.
Why did you decide to start travelling?
I’d always wanted to since I was a little kid, but it simply wasn’t in the cards most of my life. Coming from a middle class family with three siblings, there just wasn’t enough money in the budget to make it happen when I was younger, and by the time I was old enough to afford it myself, I always had work taking up my spare moments.
Travel, to me, was a gateway to the unfamiliar. The challenging. To new perspectives. I felt like I was living in a little box and all the windows were tinted. I wanted to get out of that box and see what things were like outside.
How long was it between when you realised you wanted to go travelling, and when you actually started travelling?
Well, I first left the country when I was 24, and I’d wanted to since I found out what travel was, so essentially my whole life up until that point. I had all these ambitions to make it happen before that, but none came to fruition.
My priorities were a little misaligned, looking back, but at the time the decisions made sense. Hindsight is like that.
How long have you been travelling now?
I’ve been traveling full-time for almost 4 years now! It’s wild to think that I’ve been up and moving that long, but yeah. It’s actually weird for me to be spending half a year in Montana, because it’s the longest I will have been in the US since 2009. I own furniture (a bed, a chair, a desk) for the first time since I left. Very strange feeling.
What’s your favourite country, and why?
I can’t really choose a favorite — each is beautiful and wonderful and flawed in its own way.
But in my opinion, New Zealand is the most naturally beautiful, Iceland has the most interesting recent history, India and Thailand were the most challenging (and I learned a whole lot, living in both places), Romania has a very pleasant quality of life, and Argentina has amazing food. The US — we’ve got a lot going for us — but the thing I appreciate the most is our highway system. You can get absolutely anywhere on it, and that’s not something most countries can boast.
What’s been your most memorable experience?
There have been way too many to choose just one!
How about this one: when I arrived in Kolkata, there was a young girl who connected with me via Twitter, then email, and offered to help me get my feet in the city when I landed. She came and picked me up at the airport, helped me get a SIM card for my phone, helped me find a place to rent, and made sure I was fed. She and her parents, who lived in a small place with little money, insisted I sleep in the only bed they had that night, all three of them sleeping on the floor so that I would be more comfortable. To be welcomed in that way — especially in a place that a lot of people will tell you to avoid — is just incredible. It’s a great feeling to show up someplace so unfamiliar and have someone waiting with open arms, thrilled to be able to show you around and treat you like a long-lost friend.
What’s your average cost of travel per week?
That’s a good question! Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s not something I’ve ever had to track. I know it’s a lot less than I used to spend living in Los Angeles, but it changes based on the country I’m in, what kind of place I’m renting, etc.
I’d estimate that, on average, I probably spend between $400 and $800 per month, but seldom more than that. I’m not stingy, but I do live frugally when left to my own devices. The only time I spend more is when I have friends in town or if I’m networking a lot.
What do you do to earn money?
These days, most of my money comes from my published work — my books and Exiles. I also do brand consulting on a very limited basis, and I just recently started teaching a class on design. I try to keep things flexible, and always have multiple income streams in case one or two dry up!
Did you have your income streams in place before you started travelling, or did they happen along the way?
I had one in place before I left, but in the past few years on the road, that one has been reduced to almost nothing, and a few others have taken precedence.
I think it’s important to be infinitely flexible and roll with the punches when you travel. If all your eggs are in one basket, you’re in a precarious situation, no matter how lucrative those eggs might be. Eggs break in transit, and you want to be sure you don’t get stuck somewhere without any dough. That would be a very bad situation.
What do you like and dislike about your lifestyle choice?
I love the freedom it allows me. For almost 4 years I’ve done what I’ve wanted when I’ve wanted, with few exceptions. I don’t set alarms (unless I have an interview to do or something along those lines), and I don’t invest my effort anywhere I don’t want to invest it. I get to work on that projects I believe in. I’ve never been happier, and each day is a little better than the last.
There are not a lot of downsides, frankly. Relationships of the traditional type are tough, but I’m not really into those, anyway. There’s a good deal of discomfort involved with traveling this frequently, but I don’t mind that — in fact, I kind of thrive on it. I make less money than I used to, but that number is growing steadily, and my lifestyle requires far less overhead to keep afloat, so I’ve actually got a net gain in quality of life, rather than a net drop.
How has it changed you?
I’m a lot more aware of who I am and how I got to be who I am. Relativism is key to almost everything I do and judgement I make. I’m also far more capable — you can’t expect others to swoop in and help you when you’re on the road, so you get accustomed to coming up with solutions when you need them. I feel like I’ve learned a whole lot about the world and the people in it — things that I thought I knew a lot about before, but I only felt that way because I was blinded to the scope of what was out there in the world.
What advice would you offer people who are thinking about doing the same thing?
Make sure you know where your money is coming from — it’s nice to think you’ll hit the road and then come up with a money-generating idea, but that doesn’t usually turn out very well. Avoid easy-money, easy-lifestyle scams. If someone tells you it’s easy to make this work, they’re probably trying to sell you something. It takes work and stubbornness and a good deal of failure along the way. If you’re willing to go through all that, it’s very possible, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
Also: be a good person. Don’t fall for the idea that you need to be a jerk to succeed. If you’re a jerk, people won’t want you to succeed. If you’re good to people and provide value to everyone you meet, you’ll have people helping you out in little ways all the time. Don’t underestimate what an asset having people cheering for you can be.
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