Cargo Ship Diaries – Much More than a Diary

Would you spend four years circling the globe alone without ever setting foot in an airplane? Niall Doherty is doing just that.

Back in November while we were up in Chiang Mai for the Yee Peng and Loy Kratong festivals, we had a chance to finally meet up with Niall.

The three of us not serial-killing each other in Chiang Mai.

The three of us not serial-killing each other in Chiang Mai.

He’s someone I’ve blog-stalked for years, learning the ins and outs of how he lives his somewhat unusual lifestyle. I probably initially heard of him through one of the other people I was learning from while planning our travels.

Like all the travelers I’ve met over the years, he didn’t serial-kill me either, and seemed to be an okay sort. Maria & I have remained in contact and he’s one of the featured travelers in my upcoming book.

Yeah, the one I’ve been talking about for a while. That book of resources and helpful people you should know about if you are looking for a different sort of lifestyle. It’s coming along nicely with some helpful input from a handful of bloggers, travelers, and others living unusual lifestyles. I’d put a release date on it here, but I’m too afraid to miss a deadline.

Which brings us back to Niall’s new book: The Cargo Ship Diaries.

With a title like that, you’d think it was about his most recent trip aboard a cargo ship to maintain his goal of circling the globe without flying. And much of it is. An unusual way to travel for sure, but the book is only partially about his 26 days spent at sea that ended only a few weeks ago.

He wrote the book during this trip, but it details his storied travels around the first half of the globe, from leaving Ireland, and crossing Europe, Iran, India, and Thailand before making plans to hop a cargo ship as the only paying passenger to get to Brazil in time for the World Cup.

This isn’t a travel guide or a how-to.

While Niall’s first (excellent) book Disrupting the Rabblement was more of his philosophy about life and trying to make your own way in a world that wants you to walk a certain path, this new volume gets more personal.

There’s lots of sex, but only a smattering of violence, but we can’t have everything, I guess. It’s not really about sex, but more about dealing with the fears and uncomfortable social situations many people seem to suffer through in daily life.

So while he updates the list of his current worldy possessions in the book, this isn’t really about a guide on traveling the world. It’s more a guide on how Niall chooses to travel through this wacky thing called life. Very little of that has anything to do with where you are on a map.

You’ll consider more than just an odd way to travel. You’ll also consider whether you’re living life fully, or just going through the motions of life trying to ignore a building mountain of regret.

I do recommend things at times, but this isn’t a paid endorsement. Niall sent me a preview copy yesterday, so I read it this morning I read a lot. Maria read it last night).

I’m not recommending the book because he’s my friend. On the contrary, because I was a fan of his writing and travels, I made sure to get out and make him a friend.

If you’d like to order the book, you can go order it here in Amazon’s Kindle .mobi format or .epub, as well as an audio version read by Niall himself in his allegedly real Irish accent.

Cargo Ship Diaries

Cargo Ship Diaries

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Who’s Flying This Brain?

I heard an analogy about our brains the other night while sampling a new tv show. I’m going to butcher both the analogy and our anatomy a bit here and use it in a way I think is more accurate, at least in my head.

Our brains are basically made up of two parts: The older, more animal part that actually makes most of our serious decisions. And the logical, thinking, part that “knows things” and thinks it’s running the show. Even knowing about these two distinctions, our commands from this animal segment will still override the rest of the “smart part” in many situations.

This base-level animal part of our brain goes by many names.

  • Seth Godin calls it the Lizard Brain.
  • Steven Pressfield calls it the Resistance.
  • Latin people like doctors call it the amygdala and it’s about the size of an almond.
  • Most of us know it as the “fight or flight” thing in our brain that makes us throw up and piss ourselves when we think we’re about to die.

The obvious places it runs you are during these fight or flight situations: you’re attacked by a group of zombie ninjas while getting gas in a mall parking lot at 3am. You’re either running or fighting for your life. Hope you watched a lot of Jackie Chan movies growing up.

Otherwise challenging decisions like whether the electric bill is late and what color to paint the den simply disappear at times like this.

But this smaller, more resolute part of your brain is in control of your actions in far more situations than we know. It believes every situation is life and death.

Everything becomes a worst-case scenario if we don’t know how to get control here. Everything becomes a fire, or will turn into a fire if we dare step out of the warm confines of our comfort zone.

It’s like you’re an airplane (you can make the airplane noises if you want. Nobody’s watching). The smart, reasonable part of your brain thinks everything is great back here flying first class. That almond-sized thing is the part flying the plane, and since that’s also you and your brain, you believe you’re logically good.

The problem is that almond-boy is locked up in the cockpit with his headphones blasting power ballads from 80s hair bands. He’s turned off the intercom, and knows flying near the ground is the most dangerous part, so he is going to keep you safe by flying high. NO WAY is he going to get us anywhere near the ground.

You notice the plane passing your desired destination, but the pilot isn’t answering your knock on the cockpit door. He’s making circles over the airfield, but he ain’t coming down.

He knows where you want to go, but this shit’s dangerous. He’s doing it for your own good.

Your intellect starts doing math to figure out how much longer you can stay aloft before the tanks are dry and you fall from the sky.

You try to bang, kick, and smash your way through the cockpit door to get to the controls. You know the plane will come down either way. It can come down when and where you want, but only if you get into the cockpit to fly the damn plane.

With all that hullabaloo back there, he just cranks the music over the intercom.

Sebastian Bach can drown out that racket with his sirenous wail… I’ll keep you safe…”

Get Your Own Brain in Order

I’ve been on my plane making a hatchet out of armrests and other parts to chop my way into the cockpit. I’d like to land the plane where I want to go with the thinking part of my brain instead of just letting junior fly around until this thing augers.

I don’t know how all of it works, but I know I’ll figure it out. I know the plane has to go somewhere, and I got in the cockpit to fight for the controls.

That’s what I’m trying to help you do: get into the cockpit so you can land the plane, preferably wherever you want.

Because you are coming down, whether you want to or not.

That scared part of your brain can find any number of reasons not to Do the Thing you want to do.

It is hard to share your art.
It is hard to start a business.
It is hard to make drastic changes to your life.

It’s especially hard when you’re fighting yourself. You’re your own worst enemy.

You can stay safe in your comfort zone, or you can get your head on right and do the thing.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Homeless Shelter

A minimalist world traveler living out of carry-on luggage while running a business is not how I’ve always done life. A few years back was the worst collective set of experiences of my life so far, and I thought everything was over other than being actually dead. But I have to back up a little further still… (***SPOILER ALERT***: I didn’t die.)

We’re all familiar with the default life model laid out for us as we’re told to live by parents, teachers, employers, and anyone else involved with making our decisions on life plans growing up in the consumer culture of the United States:

Go to school, get good grades, get a job, buy a house, buy some other stuff, have a family, and someday retire so you can enjoy your own time.

I did most of that, accumulating more toys than I had time to play with. They were stored in my big garage of my big house filled with big piles of things the ads alluded would make me happy and solve all my problems. There was so much shit in the garage that only one of the multiple cars I had at any given time would fit in the 2-car garage, and only if I wasn’t working on a project in there (usually fixing or maintaining one of my other toys).

I worked a lot for someone else, helping build their company while I tried to keep up with maintaining all the cars and toys and other shit I never had time to enjoy because I was too busy working to keep it at all.

Giving it Away

If you weren’t aware of this already, divorces can get expensive. Especially divorces that aren’t happy divorces. Is there a happy divorce? I don’t know, but mine didn’t go the way I hoped.

Among several other obvious problems during this period of my life, I clung to the idea of keeping all my stuff. All these things that meant so much. These cures for any form of discomfort that made my life so much better. I fought pointlessly as I watched all my precious stuff disappear in a variety of new ways I hadn’t even considered prior to this new period of divorcery.

When the debris finally finished falling, I had about 2 bags of clothes, an old desktop computer, and a mountain of debt for things I didn’t even have anymore.

All seemed lost and all that dramatic sounding stuff as far as I was concerned. Here I am in my 30’s with not a thing to my name. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. All that money and stuff I lost. “Wah, wah, wah!” all day long I could whine about it then, and did so.

But a funny thing happened in this new reality I’d never considered once I got a lot of the whining out of my system. I felt relieved.

Not just because the divorce ugliness was over, but because I had a fresh start. I knew somewhere deep down that all this stuff was actually a burden. The ads had lied all along. The feelings you’re supposed to get from having the outside things never actually give you that. Not if you aren’t well on the inside. I suspected it even while I had everything, but it was lost among the thoughts that the next new thing would be the thing that made it all better.

The things are never the answer. Sure, things can help if you have them for the right reason. Nothing wrong with having stuff. So long as it doesn’t really own you.

Now that I had no more things, instead of the dread I felt at losing all my important nonsense from this probably worst situation I’d ever encountered to this point, I felt that situation was really a blessing in disguise. Certainly wasn’t the way I’d have written it, but I was determined to make the best of it.

The Funny Thing About Stereotypes

I can’t tell you how many people tell me now how they envy my lifestyle now. How they “wish” they could do what I do, like it’s some impossible task to slow travel and run a location independent business from anywhere on the planet in the 21st century.

I’m not talking about the stereotypical cube farmer who hates their entry-level office job that tell me this either. I’m talking doctors, lawyers, business owners of all levels. All who feel trapped by their own lifestyle. Feeling like they were sold a bill of goods to do this “right thing” and it would solve all their problems just like buying that ski boat would do for me back then.

It doesn’t matter how much stuff you have or what section of the white collar or blue collar workforce you’re in. If you aren’t doing what brings your life joy every day, you might just be doing it wrong.

Not joy as in “there are never any problems at all in life” and you’re always comfortable and you’re partying “Jordan Belfort before that little FBI thing” -style kind of joy. This isn’t about always being comfortable and partying constantly.

It’s doing the things that you’d be doing even if you won the lottery.

It’s doing the things that you’d do if money was already taken care of for you.

It’s doing the things that don’t make your Sunday evenings a period of dread for the following day.

The things that get you juiced to go spend the day doing because you want to.

Even when the things are hard. Even when it isn’t a party. Even when it isn’t glamorous or fun.

Just the things that must be done for the larger picture. For what you’re building. For the life you’re living. For the childlike joy you used to have before you were taught all these fucking rules about what you’re supposed to be doing instead.

How far will you go?

I didn’t invent any new lifestyle. I am not the first person to do this or anything like this. I am not special or unusual (depending on your definition of unusual). Anyone can do the life they want. It may be tough to get started. You don’t have to do anything dramatic to change your life Fight Club style.

Don’t just dump your husband, moon your boss, and burn your house down with all your stuff in it. You can do it over time. Make changes as you learn.

All you have to do is start. Learn. Look around. Open your eyes. Ask questions.

Always ask questions!

Don’t accept the status quo if it doesn’t suit you. Your friends may think you’re crazy and your family may disown you. But if the way you’re living isn’t leaving you feeling alive most days, it may be time to change something.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be painless. But it will be worth it.

I don’t specifically recommend the tried-and-true method of “Go through unpleasant divorce, lose everything, and flail around figuring it out on your own for several years.” But even it it seems that bad, it may turn out to be a pretty good thing.

What is your experience with things you thought were the worst thing that could happen, and how did you heal the wounds? Let me know in the comments below. Use a fake name or hit the contact page to send me a message if you want it private.

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