Cup 39

Person: Colin Wright

Drink: Americano in Reykjavik, Iceland

I found Colin Wright through Twitter. I was leaving Iceland’s Blue Lagoon (a recommendation from Cup 21) where I’d been sitting in 100 degree water with 30 mph, freezing winds blowing around me.

The outside temp was a meager 40 degrees, or I suppose I should say 4 degrees Celsius. I had just finished eating an Icelandic hot dog (a dog topped with ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion,raw onion and remolaði) while taking advantage of the free wifi.

Earlier, I’d sent out a tweet looking for some one in Reykjavik interested in having coffee and Colin responded. The power of social media never ceases to amaze me. His twitter bio explained he was an entrepreneur who moved to a new country every four months. I knew we’d find plenty to talk about so I responded to his tweet. Five hours later I was sitting at Kaffibarinn, a trendy spot Colin picked. When I arrived it was empty aside from a few locals—too early for a big crowd—but filled with personality; Rejkavik is a city with character.

Colin walked in and I introduced myself before we got drinks (coffee for me, green tea for Colin) and found our way to a table toward the back and started our conversation.

Born in San Francisco, Colin’s family moved to Missouri when he was 10 years old. His aspirations were to go to college in New York, but he decided the better option was to attend the school in his back yard, Missouri State University.

He was interested in design and Missouri State had a fantastic program that allowed him to work alongside great designers from around the world. When he left with his degree in hand, he headed to Los Angeles to make a name for himself. He quickly succeed, going from working in a boutique design shop to starting his own studio that attracted big name clients.

He had several career goals, but the big one was to make enough money that he could quit his job and travel the world. By age 24, his dream was becoming a reality. He knew in a year and a half he would reach the financial goal he wanted to achieve before traveling.

Then one day it hit him - why wait a year and a half to start doing the thing he wanted to do the most? He decided to find a way to make his dream of international travel happen as soon as possible.

His solution was an unique recipe of entrepreneurship, writing and straightforward resourcefulness. The companies he had started in LA were companies he could run from any location with a computer and internet connection. However, he wanted his travels to be more than just doing the same work from exotic locations. He wanted his travel to have a purpose. He decided he would start a blog and turn the adventure into a project. The result was Exile Lifestyle, a blog containing a mix of content that covers insights gained from both work and travel experiences along with the results of various lifestyle experiments conducted on the road. The best part is that every four months he moves to a new country decided based on votes from the readers. Since 2009, he’s lived in Argentina, New Zealand and Thailand. His current location is Reykjavik, Iceland.

My suspicions that we’d have a lot to talk about were correct. It seemed like we would settle on a conversation topic and three sentences later we’d find another tangent to follow. It was fun to learn about Colin, swap stories, and get a glimpse of what a vagabond life looks like.

Colin told me the two questions he gets most often are how he manages to keep relationships together since he’s always moving and if its hard to leave a place he’s grown to love. Both questions had crossed my mind. Four months seemed like just enough time to make a few solid friends and start to feel at home in a place.

Surprisingly, the pattern of starting over doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t like to get complacent so the constant moving keeps him on his toes. He’s very up front with people (especially potential dates) that he’s only going to be around for four months and, with the power of the internet, he can stay in contact with people and the new friends he makes. To explain his mentality for leaving a country, he used a Dr. Seuss quote:

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

While its difficult to leave something great behind, to achieve certain goals leaving is often necessary and Colin recognizes that. When he decided to travel abroad, he actually was in a long term relationship with a girl he really loved. He had been seriously considering international travel and one day while he and his girlfriend were enjoying coffee during a trip in Seattle, he told her of his plans. Ironically, the time spent in Seattle made his girlfriend realize that she felt at home in the city and was ready for a location change as well. Early on in their relationship they agreed that they never wanted to hold the other person back from their dreams. They wanted the best for each other and decided in four months time, they would break up and start their separate adventures.

Not only did they plan their breakup, they decided to throw a break up party. The idea was to get their closest friends together for one last hurrah to celebrate the wonderful times instead of focusing on the sadness of splitting up. As hard as it was to say goodbye, both Colin and his girlfriend knew bigger things were on the horizon.

I think the story about the breakup party says a lot about Colin. He’s an interesting character; ambitious, unconventional, not afraid to try new things. His work ethic, creativity, and big picture thinking have helped him create the life of an international traveler. It was energizing to talk to someone that shares my enthusiasm for travel and the adventures the future will bring.

Plus, the timing for meeting Colin couldn’t have been better. I’m currently saying good bye to a handful of great things. I’ve graduated from college which ends an incredible chapter of my life. I moved out of East Lansing, which is a town that’s been good to me. Every three of four days I’m leaving one country for another—saying good bye to the friends I’ve made in the process—and in six weeks my European adventure and nomadic lifestyle will be replaced with a stationary life of gainful employment.

That’s a lot of endings. But from Colin’s perspective, it’s also a lot of beginnings; chances for change, growth, new opportunity and more.

That’s the lesson I’ll take away from Cup 39: if you vehemently pursue things you’re passionate about, you always have something to which you can look forward. Being excited about what comes next makes it easier to let go of the past and focus on the furture.

Knowing that doesn’t make saying goodbye or ending a great chapter of life fun, but it does put it into perspective. It also helps you enjoy the present. Knowing that my conversation with Colin would eventually end—as would my time in Iceland—reminded me to enjoy each moment so when the time came to say goodbye, I had good memories to add to my collection and could look forward to what the next country and conversation would bring.