A version of this article previously appeared on Medium.
Imagine the perfect long-term relationship. A partner that knows everything about you, keeps you informed on what’s going on in the world, and last but not least, always wants to know how you’re feeling.
When I’m recluse, Facebook is that for me. It’s always asking me, how are you feeling my dear? To which I reply, “Well honey, I’m feeling pretty damn lucky – listening to Daft Punk.”
Enter Facebook Status Updates
Have you ever wondered how tremendously valuable Facebook Mood Status Updates could be? How this data could powerfully be aggregated for us to predict how some decisions would be received in the future?
When the tragic Boston Bombings occurred earlier this year, we predictably witnessed trending hashtags like #prayforboston and #bostonstrong on Twitter. According to global tweet mood tracker Hedonometer, the Boston Bombing was officially Twitter’s ‘saddest day’ marked by a notable replacement of positive phrases for the words‘sad,’ ‘victim,’ and ‘tragedy.’
No doubt the catastrophe resulted in the aforementioned emotions but consider the brief economic downturn that may have occurred as a result. I remember scrolling through my Twitter feed, and I couldn’t help becoming more upset about the incident. I remember wanting to investigate to truly understand what happened. I recall relying on my go-to journalists to clarify the many questions that were bugging me.
Unsurprisingly, I was not browsing for shoes on Zappos, nor identifying which movie I wanted to see next on Fandango. Rather, I was focused on how I could be of service to anyone I knew in Boston that may have been impacted by the tragedy.
Thus, my emotions inadvertently affected my propensity to spendshort-term, and this obviously had an effect on many other aspects of my life, as well.
Emotions are powerfully influential in affective forecasting, which has marvelous applications in economics, psychology, and healthcare. Consider the Human Emotional Theory (HUEMO), that is thought to influence stock prices and cause shifts in entire stock markets.
According to the Cycle of Market Emotions, upturns in the market are characterized by the following emotions: optimism, excitement, thrill, and euphoria. On the contrary, downturns are characterized by: anxiety, denial, desperation, and panic.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you then that a wave of positive emotions would increase the average person’s propensity to spend or invest, while negative emotions lead to the contrary.
Just think about the holiday season. People are so exhilarated to spend that many go into debt to pay for presents. Though it would be best for us to completely detach our emotions, it’s an innate inclination for many of us.
Jarod Kitnz put it quite well:
“I made a graph of my emotions, a chart, and when I looked it over I was amazed to notice that the day Agatha broke up with me looked identical to the stock market crash of 1929. I thought I was the Irving Fisher of love.”
Okay, I get it, but how could this manipulate the future?
Because when you know exactly how everyone is feeling, you can probably time the market pretty damn well.
Why wouldn’t Google release a new feature when everyone (on a macro level) is generally positive? Why wouldn’t a company announce a new job opportunity when many others are boasting about their recent offerings of employment? Why wouldn’t Facebook completely change their layout when everyone is boasting about how much they love it (wait, never mind — they already do…)?
Anyways, they will and they should. Businesses can be able to more fully understand their consumers and how their decisions may be perceived in the future.
If you’d prefer to reduce your impulse to act on such conditions,investor Charlie Munger advocates we must negate our necessity to act on many of these feelings when making financial choices. He has said,
“A lot of people with high IQs are terrible investors because they’ve got terrible temperaments. You need to keep raw irrational emotion under control.”
Either way, it’s important to consider the potential broader applications of all this worthy information. Remember that this data is extremely valuable because it can examine populations at their most specific level. Just like targets for Facebook Advertisements can filtered by gender, age, education, employment, and interests, conclusions shouldn’t be drawn without considering the poster’s demographics.
But I suppose if we blindly assumed an economic upturn unknowingly due to millions of ecstatic status updates by prepubescent teens raving about a new Justin Bieber single, we’re quickly bound to get ourselves into another Great Recession.
I have returned! Finally. Many of you have e-mailed me asking me a number of questions, so I just thought I'd post something to let a lot of it out. I'd like to share some learnings from my time away.
Why did I leave in the first place?
Plenty of reasons. I wanted to explore people, culture, and new foods. I wanted to analyze the environments in which people live in and how people maintain lifelong healthiness into old age. The other reason was brain fog. It had hit me hard. I needed to disconnect from everything I had worked so hard to achieve to reset my creativity. I had a longing to switch on my phone's Airplane Mode for more than a month, and I wanted the little airplane figure to remind myself daily I needed to relax. So I decided to do what felt best and most natural at the time.
Pick up the backpack and just depart with a one way ticket overseas.
As a result, I spent a few months traveling Europe solo to learn intensively about other cultures. During my travels, I was fortunate to have the time and become inspired by over 30 books I was able to finish.
I'd like to share with you some key learnings while being away. I've spent a great deal of time contemplating to myself, so this experience is something I recommend to just about everyone. Hopefully, you'll get something out of the many things I went through. Cheers, take a deep breath, and hope you can make it all the way through:
1. Don't be afraid to do things alone - Many were shocked to hear I impulsively booked a one-way ticket and just left. Traveling solo was the best decision ever. I met tons of other travelers, so I was rarely truly alone. And on that note...
2. Have an open mind to making new friends anywhere. Waiting for the train? Make a friend. Eating? Make a friend. Waiting in line for the bathroom? You know what to do.
3. Even though you might miss your family, you can quickly make some really intimate friends- I made some (well-needed) bonds with many people. Be genuine and others will appreciate you for it. I did side excursions with many I could call my brothers and sisters. Your honesty can help you create instant family-like connections with others in similar circumstances.
4. You are fully in control of you - your words, emotions, and hookups. You learn how to empathize with others and how things will make other people feel. Plenty of times people were unfairly rude to me and put me in uncomfortable situations. Instead of fueling their fire, I simply walked away to never see them again.
5. No need to infect others with bitching, complaining, and annoying negativity. Pessimism is contagious and prevents others from wanting to be around you. I don't even want to begin on how many hostels I stayed at without hot water, functioning showerheads, and beds that felt like I was sleeping on nails. I loved it. Those places were more memorable and reminded me I was actually away from home.
6. Ask people for their advice and recommendations - Don't let others decide anything for you, but always ask for their input. I plan on exploring Southeast Asia, Australia, and South America in the next few years based on everything I learned from these places from friends I made. Find out the few things people remember most, whether it was a restaurant, hike, or nightclub, and check em' out!
7. Strive to make yourself just a little bit better everyday - When you feel like you've mastered something, start something else. Feel the need to become better at something daily. Start tackling your growing reading list. If you only have time for 3 pages, better something than nothing. You'll get there someday. This is how I was able to read so many books being away for only two months.
8. If you must deal with stress, increase it gradually throughout the day rather than all at once - Many Europeans I met started their day enjoying a cappuccino and brioche at the local cafe with friends. After a relaxing start, they would head over and start the day's work, check emails, and take care of business. Stop stressing first thing in the morning. Chill out, focus, and get on with it.
9. Technology is stressing you out - It's really nice not having a phone connection or accessible Internet. Try it. I was able to embrace more human connections than ever in my life. Imagine never being able to have your conversations interrupted by texts, e-mails, or push notifications. Sure, technology rocks! I couldn't live without my computer, phone, or Internet. But periodically, step the hell away and really appreciate being in other people's presence. In many of the places I stayed, the common rooms were full to the brink of silent and emotionless Wi-Fi seeking zombies.
10. Do things for you, regardless of what others will think of you - If they matter, they don't mind. If they mind, they don't matter. I wore my allegedly hideous "toe/amphibian shoes" everywhere I traveled to and dined alone at plenty of restaurants. I negated feelings of insecurity. Who really cares? In these situations, ask yourself, “What would Julius Caesar do?” He came, he saw, he conquered.
11. Get your priorities straight – Stop the bickering. Talk about the important things in life like building a positivity community, becoming a better person, and giving back to others. Please note gossiping wasn't on this list.
12. Don't be jealous of others. Collaboration > Competition - Envy is damaging. I'm not special, perfect, and have plenty of problems. You're probably cooler than I am but I'm cool with that. But when people tell me they're jealous that I'm traveling, please don't. Go out and do. I admit, I'm fortunate to have been able to do this. I've been saving since I was a little boy but it doesn't mean you can't either someday. In terms of collaboration, I'm more than happy to help you with whatever you need so you can likewise live your dream. Find others that would also like to form these types of partnerships with you to help you reach your goals.
13. Become uncomfortable with comfort - It's okay to relax but remember that fear is debilitating. Live without worrying and handle your problems with ease. And when you feel like you're not growing yourself, make a drastic change in your life that forces you to adapt. Many times, I purposefully didn’t book trains or flights until the day-of. This helped me stay alert.
14. You will experience a different perspective – This contrast will be help you realize the beauty in new places, objects, and of course, people. Just an example – I used to despise graffiti art. I never understood it and thought it was revolting. I joined a few new friends on an Alternative Subculture Tour in Berlin and learned that about the true meaning behind these works. The meaning is astounding: nonviolently demonstrating far more political, economical, and cultural injustices than I imagined. It's now a personal game for me to analyze every single piece I come across.
15. Remember to reflect why you are grateful for your friends. Share that with them. Be honest. What makes them unique? Are they funny? Are they charming? Are they genuine? If you find that there is nothing for you to be grateful for, ask yourself why they're your friend.
16. To best experience the richness of traveling, frequently engage with locals - One of the best ways to get immediately integrated is to ask natives how they spend their time. Never hang with tourists. Meet some locals that are your age and ask where to hang out. The experience will be much more enjoyable. I found some of the coolest places I've ever been through this method.
17. Many are in it for themselves - Well, it depends. I mean, so many people seem genuine but have hidden agendas once you get to their core. This is why it's CRUCIAL to have a supportive family or good friends. And amazing mentors that want to see you succeed.
18. There are plenty of business opportunities out there - I recognized plenty of new opportunities. It helped me become more cognizant of what's demanded in the world, how you can fulfill other people's needs, and how to provide value to others.
19. If you see solitude, socialize. Most people could use a hug or motivation. You will definitely have some mutual interests. Whether it's a smoothie flavor, guilty pleasure, or favorite yoga pose, you'll eventually uncover something. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to find out what that is. Sometimes it takes a few days, but you should always uncover an amazing coincidence.
20. It's okay to let it all out - I consider myself a fairly private person. Don't be a person that is known for placing your problems on others, but it's okay to ask people for advice if you're going through difficult patch. Confide with others. It can be easier talking to a complete stranger than your best friend.
21. You learn a lot from “culture shock” – I didn’t quite understand what the term meant until I experienced it…many, many times. Berlin definitely tops my list of most bizarre things I’ve seen in a row. I’m glad to discuss why specifically off-the-record. Seeing these differences help you understand how to relate better with others. And on that note…
22. There is no such thing as “normal” – I thought it was normal for the sun to go down in the evening. Not in Norway – there’s midnight sun. I thought it was normal to only go to bed at night. Not in Spain – there’s siesta time. You get the idea. Normal is relative.
23. There are plenty of people out there that have really struggled - You think you have problems until you meet others that seem to be going through worse. I was speaking to a new friend about something he recently dealt with. He was in the washroom when a guy complained, " Oh my god! The water isin't hot enough! He turned to the guy and said, "Oh my god. f**k off. My father died last week."
24. Prioritize what's important and learn to pull out the ear muffs - I was having lunch with a friend in Madrid and she told me about a train crash that happened the day before that allegedly killed over a hundred people. I wasn't surprised I hadn't heard about it (no phone or computer definitely helped). She informed me her friends were uncomfortable taking the subway that week because of it. Don't let external factors freeze you in fear. Life goes on.
25. When you face a problem, diagnose immediately - When I arrived in Prague after a full day of traveling, I exhaustingly made my way to the counter of my hostel. It was really late, and I needed a shower immediately. I confidently stated my name, to which she replied, "Sorry, your reservation is for tomorrow and we're completely booked for tonight." Good god. Even better, everywhere in the vicinity was unavailable. Like everything else, I figured it out. I also remember waking up really early one morning for my flight out of Budapest. When I arrived to the nearest subway station, it was completely ripped out of the station. Literally, no longer existent. Again, I had plenty of time allocated to find myself a new one. But even if you face a major problem...
26. Embrace a positive attitude and outlook. The solution will generally flow. I was once lost in Milan searching frantically for my destination. No map, nothing. Regardless, I smiled, kept my head high, and listened to my Avicii. I met an older woman in the streets that didn't speak any English. After a brief exchange of gestures, I assume she enjoyed my company and decided to walk out of her way and personally guided me to my destination. If I seemed flustered and upset, who knows if she would have volunteered to come to my aid.
27. Life is way too short to be unhappy - There are plenty of older people I met that seem obsessed with life. Elderly folks that were smiling on their porch's and talking to one another. I've also met the opposite. I can assure you those smiling are adding a few years to their lives. Hopefully, we will all be doing the same.
28. When you get a little lost, ask the most important question of them all: why? Why are you reading this? Why are you in your long-term relationship? Why do you want to be healthy? If you're always cranky, why? It'll help you much more effectively understand your motives.
29. If you see an injustice or harmful situation, serve. Break up fights and diffuse bullies, especially verbal ones. Make a calculated decision if you're putting yourself in serious physical harm, but prevent people from making others feel inferior. One night in the streets of Barcelona, I saw a young girl passed out on a bench. She looked extremely vulnerable - she was drunk and had her wallet and phone sitting in her hand while she was napping. I've heard plenty of stories about people that were arrested for innocently helping others, so I found another young girl and we approached her together. We found out where she lived and guided her to her hotel.
And finally, last but not least,
30. Please have an interracial marriage. Not only will you create sexy children, but you will also find additional beauty in the frequent exchange of cultural norms. For me, traveling has truly been a blessing; this will help everyone in the world become more connected. More "one."
The world is much larger than you think. That sounds fairly obvious but its really hard to describe. The more I traveled, the more I marveled whether it is truly possible to travel the world.
On my trip, I met a man that has taken over 6,000 flights in his lifetime. He told me there were still many more places he desired to see. He spent extensive time on every continent in the world, yet he kept questioning whether he would ever be satisfied with how much he's seen.
I blew through a lot of my savings for this, but I leave a much richer person. To all the people in my life, thank you for helping me grow.
I hope you got something out of it and decide to travel around yourself. Alone, of course.
Now it's your turn, do you have any questions I can answer for you? Where are you thinking about traveling to alone?