I’m 32, and last week I retired.
Maybe retirement isn’t the right word. If there’s a word that means, “I’m free to live the life of my dreams,” I’m that.
Three years ago I joined a tech startup and have been extremely busy with that. This last year or two I’ve been struggling with a growing sense of dissatisfaction with my life, however. By all appearances I was an amazing success story. Here was a guy who dropped out of high school to live in the woods, been homeless for a stretch, and was now living the high life as an international businessman. We had been successful enough to provide an extremely luxurious lifestyle: 500,000 miles of first class flights around the world (for meetings), the finest luxury hotels, Michelin star restaurants, and some really fancy clothes.
The more money I made, the more things I felt I needed to be happy. This is the problem with things. They don’t really “make” you happy, and there’s always a cooler, more expensive “thing” that becomes your new target of satisfaction. It’s known as the Hedonic treadmill, and it’s why there are so many miserable millionaires out there. My $5,000 (Bell&Ross) watch was great until I had the $15,000 (Panerai) watch. Next in line was a $40,000 (Audemar) watch.
Just writing this makes me feel like a tool.
Spear, machete, bow and a quiver of poison tipped arrows at my feet. Wearing a loincloth I made from the bark of a tree.
I spent the last 10 days in the jungles of Siberut Island in Indonesia, living with an indigenous tribe known as the Mentawai. I helped make poison tipped arrows, made a loincloth from tree bark, trekked for hours at a time, balancing on narrow logs through muddy swamps to gather and prepare jungle food such as, Sago Palm starch, Sago grubs, river shrimp, small bony fish, the fruit of the chocolate tree (cacao), and of course, coconuts. In return I taught a few of them how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together.
The Mentawai people live in traditional longhouses which are built on stilts, occupied by one family and are usually miles apart. Most of their food comes from the starchy trunk of the Sago Palm which they also use as feed for the chickens and wild pigs. At least once a day, the man of the house will split a Sago trunk, toss the logs down into the mud and then call the hogs in from the jungle. Let me tell you, for sure, there is no scarier sound than wild pigs mating; especially when you are on a night walk trying to dig a hole for a toilet. High pitched screaming combined the most demonic growling I've ever heard (followed by a stampede in my direction???); they sound like monsters.
I first heard of Mustang-The Former Tibetan Kingdom of Lo during one of those late night candle lit conversations while trekking high in the Himalayas. Wrapped in blankets and sipping yak butter tea, Tashi told stories of a medieval Tibetan Kingdom untouched by time; the terrain and weather so unforgiving that no roads could be built and army could control it.
It's a land of outlaws and bandits, where nomads still live in yak hair tents and feed their dead to the giant Himalayan Griffons.
He had never been but often dreamed about visiting this forbidden place, over the impossibly high, 24,000 ft peaks just north of where we sat. The King of Lo was rumored to be stepping down, and the Chinese and Nepali governments were in the process of building the first road over the Himalaya, connecting China and India. This road leads directly through The Kingdom of Lo. This is probably the only place where traditional Tibetan culture remains untouched.
I had to see it before it was changed forever, and over the summer of 2014, I did.