Last week I reviewed Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, a hilarious and heartbreaking travel memoir. As I was digging into it, I realized it’s eerily similar to, but also quite different from, another book I like.
I read The 4-Hour Workweek a little over a year ago. Like Eat, Pray, Love it was such a good book that I bought a copy for reference. I won’t offer you review, but if you’re at all interested in personal productivity, starting your own business, or working a little less in order to live the life you want, The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss is worth a read.
The main point of The 4-Hour Workweek is to be able to work just enough to live the life you want to lead — for some people that means traveling around the world, for others it means volunteering, and for others it means sitting in a little house in the woods overlooking a peaceful lake.
When I read The 4-Hour Workweek, I immediately started making plans for my “muse” (what Tim Ferriss calls your product/idea that will help you make enough money to get by). Once I had this stream of income in place I planned on traveling the world for months and months on end, perhaps eventually settling down on a lake in northern Minnesota or Canada and spending my days reading and hiking. To me, this was what I thought my ideal life look liked.
But reading Eat, Pray, Love made me rethink these grandiose plans to do, well, nothing.
Gilbert spends a year traveling the world, trying to figure her life out. At the end of Eat, Pray, Love, while getting ready to leave Bali and head back to the states she writes about the expatriate society in Bali:
“Everywhere in this town you see the same kind of character–westerners who have been so ill-treated and badly worn by life that they’ve dropped the whole struggle and decided camp out here in Bali indefinitely, where they can live in a gorgeous house for $200 a month, perhaps taking a young Balinese man or woman as a companion, where they can drink before noon without getting any static about it, where they can make a bit of money exporting a bit of furniture for somebody. But generally, all they are doing here is seeing to it that nothing serious will ever be asked of them again. These are not bums, mind you. This is a very high grade of people, multinational, talented and clever. But it seems to me that everyone I meet here used to be something once (generally “married” or “employed”); now they are all united by the absence of the one thing they seem to have surrendered completely and forever: ambition.”
Reading this, it hit me. I don’t want to lose my ambition. Right now, a good part of me wants to travel the world then settle down, peacefully and quietly — essentially ensuring “that nothing serious will ever be asked of [me] again.” But while this seems like a nice idea, I realized don’t actually want that. I want to be ambitious and live an interesting life. I still want to be somebody.
I recommend reading The 4-Hour Workweek. And I definitely want to spend a long period of time traveling. But I think that, as travelers, we need to remember not to lose our ambition. Each place we go we have a chance to make an impact. And we should do just that.