Hi and welcome to Why What How – a long-form blog for curious, busy people that makes chewy ideas easy to digest.
My name is Arthur and I’m a traveller, reader and committer to things I’m completely unprepared for. I’m also obsessed with learning as much as I can about the world around me. This pretty much determines where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m with at any given moment.
In a past life I studied Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology at Oxford. This almost didn’t pan out since I spent most of my time moonlighting as an aspiring entrepreneur. After that came two years in finance and a few more as a consultant at McKinsey in London. I bought an apartment, I had a great group of friends, work was fascinating, London was a never ending stream of activities.
And then I resigned. I sold my belongings, I rented out my apartment and I left.
Why? Perhaps it was putting my 53 year old father into a home with terminal, early-onset dementia after a failed, 20-year struggle with alcohol. Perhaps it was the end of a four year relationship or a month of surfing with a good friend in Guatemala. Maybe it was the daily meditation and journalling I’d started the previous year. Possibly the books I’d been reading since I was 18 or my time as an entrepreneur.
In any case – I came to the conclusion that there was more to life than the path I was on and that I wasn’t prepared to defer finding out about it any longer.
The original plan was to take six months of headspace. Six months of financial, physical and mental freedom. Six months with only a 40 litre backpack and one clear goal: to see, experience and learn as much as possible. I was determined not to let my new freedom make me soft – I woke up at 5 AM each day and threw myself into 17 hours of learning and travel (not, FYI, a sustainable way to live your life). But as the six months went on, even at this relentless pace, I realised something important – I had never felt more at peace.
That is not to say I was always happy. Everyone has good days and bad days no matter who or where they are. Every lifestyle, every day comes with new challenges and opportunities. But peace. That’s something different. That’s something that goes right down to the core of you.
So here I am, ~4 years (48 annual leave years) later. Each year I have learned more, seen more, experienced more. My routine has mellowed out since those first six months. I’m still up at 5AM but these days there’s a bit more balance in the way I approach them. I met an incredible Australian girl, Erin, at a Salsa class in Medellin, Colombia. She runs the business she started at 21, Zen Green Tea, from anywhere in the world and is even launching a few more. Right now we’re on the road and sketching potential travel options out somewhere as far as early 2019.
I’m not saying it’s for everyone. I’m not saying I’ll still be doing it in five years. But I am saying that there is more to life than most of us realise. And, if we want it, it’s surprisingly easy to find.
I decided to start Why What How because when it comes down to it – I love chewy ideas. You know the kind that just don’t make any sense until they suddenly make sense (I call these Necker Cube moments). I also remember how little time and energy I had to grapple with these kinds of ideas outside of my work in London.
The aim of Why What How is to share some of the learnings and mistakes from my journey so far. It’s also to try and explain some of the more chewy ideas I come across in a simple and succinct way. The goal is not only to scratch my own itch but also to produce the kind of writing I wish I’d had access to back in London.
With any luck, some curious, busy people might even find something here that interests them!
If you’re thinking about some extended travelling, for however long, then just do it! We’ve never lived in an age where it’s so cheap, easy (and safe) to travel and it might not always stay this way.
If you don’t know where to start, this travel planning checklist might even help. But don’t let it put you off. In February 2014 I landed in Argentina for my first night of extended solo travel. I had no guide book, no idea what I was doing or even where I was going to stay but what came next changed my life forever.
This ongoing travel log is reversely chronological (i.e., most recent places first). I haven’t double mentioned countries in the same year unless the purpose of the further trips was very different.
Although no plan survives first contact with reality…
Yosemite National Park
Saint Andrew’s Bay
Bay of Isles
Fish River Canyon
Dar es Salam
Serengeti – Simba
Serengeti – Seronera
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Ho Chi Minh
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
San Martin de los Andes