Travel More & Buy Less. | Luis Vargas | TEDxPortland


Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Good morning. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers) So, the idea that I want to share with you
this morning is a very simple one, and it’s to travel more and to buy less. (Applause) (Cheers) Thank you. And I want to challenge each of us to invest in experiences
instead of more stuff. I was born in Mexico City
in the hot summer of 1975. And when I was around five years old, my family had had enough of the noise,
the traffic, and the haste and decided to emigrate
to the United States. So we hopped in my mom’s Renault 5
and made the journey north. Now, in many ways, San Diego
was a beautiful place to grow up, and I really had a happy childhood, where I was loved,
and I was supported, and I had opportunities
to grow, learn, and have fun. But growing up, I felt stuck in between two worlds. I didn’t really feel Mexican
and I didn’t really feel American. A lot of the influence and the ideas that I was getting from my peers
and from the media was that Mexicans
are criminals and dangerous, or lazy, or this idea of a wetback
and a beaner coming to steal jobs, or even a narco trafficante
indiscriminately spreading violence. But the polarization
kind of went both ways; I’d go spend the summers in Mexico, and my cousins would call me a gringo. (Laughter) This idea of being uncultured
or arrogant or biased or even racist. Ultimately, I felt like
a citizen of nowhere, like I didn’t have a place
where I truly belonged. Now, I felt the pull of travel
from a really, really young age, and I have vivid memories
of being in my room and reading the biographies of these incredible
explorers and adventurers, people like Jacques Cousteau, Amelia Earhart, Shackleton,
Hillary, and Tenzing. And I knew from a young age that exploration, discovery, and adventure are essential elements
of the human experience, and rarely are we more alive than when we’re out
exploring and discovering. So I decided to see the world,
and adventure answered. I got a job with a British
overland company who for some reason on the second day
of a three-week training trip thought I was ready for the road. So I got my assignment: a six-week trip starting in New York going to Los Angeles
and back to New York. I got on a flight from LAX to JFK, and I arrived at the Hostelling International
on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at 1:30 in the morning. At 7:30 that morning,
I met my group of 13 people from six countries,
ranging from ages 18 to 64. All right, you bought the ticket;
now let’s take the ride. (Laughter) That first day, city tour of New York, take the Staten Island Ferry, pass the Lady Liberty, air high-five, get on the New Jersey Turnpike, get to Philadelphia, lunch at the Liberty Bell, all in time to get to DC for dinner
and a night tour of the mall. I had only been to New York City once. (Laughter) I was so green
that I thought the only time that you had to put the tarp
on top of the van was when it was raining. So I’m driving down the Turnpike, and sleeping bags and backpacks
are falling off of the back. (Laughter) Somehow those guests and I survived, and very, very soon I knew
that I had found my calling. And over the course of just over a year, I had the opportunity
to see all 50 states, and I had a new job with a new company
to lead in Mexico and Latin America. But more on that in a minute. Let’s talk about how much
do we actually travel. Only 35% of Americans have passports. Here in Oregon, it’s about 40%;
in Mississippi, it’s about 18%. And of all of the travel,
only 30% of international travel will go outside of the U.S. and Mexico. So that’s to say that less than 10%
of the U.S. population will leave the continent in a given year. Why? Well, I think it has to do
with three main reasons: work, money, and fear. I know it sounds like
a dope hip-hop album, but it’s not, it’s not. (Laughter) Let’s unpack these a little bit. The first one, we are a nation of workaholics, right? If I was to ask many of us
how we’re doing, including me, what would your answer be? I’m busy. The glorification of “busy” is real,
and it’s a problem. We don’t take vacations. 15 days is the average
amount of vacation we take, and that’s down from 21 days
in the year 2000. 169 million days of unused vacation a year valued at over $52 billion. This idea that we go
from high school to college, to career, perhaps have a family, at the end, we accumulate some wealth,
and that is how we get respect. This idea that making money
and having things is much more valued and celebrated
than having enriching experiences. Who here knows what a gap year is? Who’s been on a gap year?
Keep your hand raised. I’ve seen some hands. Well, very simply, a gap year is taking
six months or a year off, after high school or maybe after college,
before starting your career, and making a deposit
of epic awesomeness to your mind, your body, and your soul. (Applause) (Cheers) In fact, in a study of hundreds of people
that had gone on a gap year, these were the top three outcomes. I have a better understanding of who I am; I have a better understanding
and empathy towards others; and I have some more context
to help me choose my path and to build skills to carry forward. Let’s talk about the second reason
people don’t travel, and that’s fear. I was watching the Super Bowl – I was watching the Super Bowl last year when I heard the advertisement
for this television show, and it said: Criminal Minds –
Beyond Borders. Americans travel, study, and work abroad, but sometimes they never come home. (Laughter) And this is what millions of us
are watching before we go to bed at night. (Laughter) Now, it is nearly impossible
to consume media across any channel and not hear about terrorism or ISIS. Now, that is not to say that these horrifying things
aren’t happening, but of the 1.1 billion people that will
travel internationally this year, very, very few will encounter any of this. And of course, there’s always
a health scare somewhere in the world. I spent two weeks in Brazil last year, and I didn’t meet anyone who had the first-hand
experience with Zika. And again, it’s not
that this is not happening, but perhaps they’re not reasons not to go. The third reason we don’t travel: no money. We don’t have any money
because we spend it all on stuff. (Laughter) In 1930, the average American
had nine outfits. Now we have over 30. In the UK right now, the average woman
has 22 unworn items in her closet. We have so much stuff
it doesn’t fit in our homes. We’re spending over $24 billion
a year on storage, over 2.3 billion square feet of it
in the United States, making it the fastest-growing segment
of commercial real estate over the last 40 years. And it is often less expensive
to travel outside the United States, and my wife and I
took a six-month honeymoon in Nepal, India, and Thailand, and we spent just over $4,000. All to say in this quote
by one of my favorite writers, Pico Iyer, that “One is reminded,
at a level deeper than all words, how making a living and making a life sometimes point
in the opposite direction.” (Applause) Now travel is the ultimate truth teller,
mythbuster, and stereotype killer, because after I had the opportunity
to spend extended time in Mexico and collect my own first-hand data, I realized that Mexicans aren’t lazy. In fact, they’re some
of the most entrepreneurial, ingenious, and hardworking people
that I had ever met. (Applause) And in all of my time in Mexico,
I never felt in harm’s way. In fact, looking at the data, Mexico City is safer
than many American cities. In fact, the Yucatan Peninsula is safer,
according to the FBI, than many US states, including Oregon. And of course, I also got the context
to appreciate and be grateful for the opportunity to having
grown up in the United States and becoming a US citizen. And that idea of a gringo, completely shattered by the experience
of driving around the 50 states with a van full of international tourists, and the most common reaction
that we would get is a big smile and the question:
Where you all from? Often followed by an invitation
to a backyard barbecue, and an appreciation for the natural beauty
and open space of the backyard, and that ultimately, regardless of
where we sit in the political spectrum, that we live in a country
where we can raise our children with our values, our ideals,
and our beliefs. (Applause) Now, travel has truly transformed me. I met my wife almost 20 years ago, in a campground in southern Mexico,
in Palenque, Chiapas, and I stand before you
on this stage right now, a proud Mexican-American. (Cheers) (Applause) But also with the knowledge
and the greatest gift when we go out and see the world is that it doesn’t matter
if we’re Mexican or American or Canadian or Syrian or Australian, but ultimately, that we are all human. And that what we want
and dream and desire is so much more similar
than it is different. (Applause) So what about – what about you? I invite you to make thoughtful choices, so perhaps instead of going to Cancun, travel a little further north; and visit Isla Holbox
and swim with whale sharks. Or instead of going to Las Vegas, extend your stay; and visit Zion National Park and walk this beautiful red rock
to the top of Angel’s Landing. Or instead of going to Hawaii
or to Honolulu, perhaps consider
the Big Island of Hawaii, and see a lava flow, literally:
the earth forming at your feet. Right now, with an American passport
you can visit 174 countries without a visa or get a visa
at the point of entry. Even with the challenging things
that are happening in the world, it is an extraordinary time
to be a traveler. So what does this mean? If you’re young, it means to go. You’re living a moment in your life where you have
more freedom and flexibility than you may ever have before. Right now, the lights are shimmering
over Kuala Lumpur, and a group of young people
are enjoying a cocktail and a laugh. Why are you not there? (Laughter) But if you’re older, it also means go; it’s likely that it will
take more planning, but you have more resources
than you had before. Right now, in a remote Rolandic fjord, the chef is ringing the bell and calling you to a three-course
locally sourced dinner; why are you not there? (Laughter) Now, if you have young kids … you’re fucked! (Laughter) (Applause) That’s not true. I stand here. (Laughter) It’s not a vacation, but it is a trip and as a – (Laughter) and as a father of three,
five and under, it takes a lot of work, but family travel
can be extraordinarily rewarding. So whether you’re in your 20s
and taking a gap year, in your 30s working to take a month off,
a sabbatical in your 40s, looking towards a retirement
and perhaps living abroad, there is never a bad time. And it’s no judgment and no competition
on the level of epic or the length of time because what’s adventure to me
and to you and to you are all different things. Ultimately the idea here
is to travel more and to buy less. Say no, gentlemen,
to that man cave of your dreams. Say no! (Applause) (Cheers) And ladies, the she shed –
the she shed, it’s not that sexy. Say no! And say yes to a transformative
travel experience. This is not about
checking things off a list; it’s about having
meaningful experiences. So now I want all of us
to make a promise and in your mind’s eye picture a place that you have always wanted to visit, picture it clearly. What do you see? Who are you with?
What do you hear? What do you smell? What’s the temperature of the breeze
that’s hitting your cheek? Can you picture this place
that you’ve always dreamed of going? Now make a promise that this year or next year,
as soon as you can, you will stand in this moment,
and you will be there. Now raise your hand, who’s in? Who’s in? (Cheers) Thank you. (Cheers) (Applause)

100 Replies to “Travel More & Buy Less. | Luis Vargas | TEDxPortland

  1. Wow!!! What an incredibly compelling and powerful video. When he asks “where are you, what do you smell, what’s the temperature of the breeze?” I had goosebumps thinking about the trip I hope to take next year with my wife. Nepal. Hiking to Everest Base Camp. Travel over experiences. Love it! ✌🏼❤️✈️

  2. Makes me feel better about saying, 'I don't want anything' whenever people ask me what I want for birthdays or Christmas 😄 New York was the first place I ever went to abroad.

  3. I have decided I will save up as much money as possible and begin travelling sometime next year. I will quit my job and go because it has been my dream for the longest time and I am finally ready to go and adventure as much of the world as I can. This TED talk really opened my eyes, inspiring words, thank you!

  4. As someone who has travelled a bit, travelling is most of the time just escapism. When I go I feel great but often times I feel empty when I come back. Travelling can help you wind up and teach yourself some things especially if you're young or after a tough situation but let's not glorify escapism because that's what most of the time we do.

  5. You spend your 30s and 40s acquiring stuff. In your 50s you start getting rid of it. How much sense does that make!

  6. also on of the best ways to travel the world when you're under 30 is to go on youth exchanges and volunteering. There are volunteering opportunities for everybody actually, no matter how old or young you are – but some of them for me are too expensive, tho the experience would be worth it

  7. Just came back from a 2 week trip to Mexico. L o v e l y people, soooooo kind and hard-working. A fantastic country to visit, you should all go 🙂

  8. I feel like traveling is just another form of running from yourself. Seeing new places is probably fun, but it also leaves you feeling somewhat rootless. And don't tell me that being a stranger in 10 different cities will expand your horizons, it usually doesn't. You just ( best case scenario) meet some interesting folks, eat different food and admire some local architecture. There's literally nothing enlightening about it. Plus, when you get older and can't travel as much, where will you live? Pay rent? What if you can't afford?

    Instead of buying a house, buy a small flat. Nobody forces anyone to invest a lot of money or take a mortgage out. But to me, it seems that traveling non-stop is a bigger waste of money, one that leaves you without a roof over your head.

  9. Ha ha i was just advised on another part of youtube at my age (37) and single i should abandon my love of travel and stay rooted to find a man!!

  10. This video is amazing, thanks for your suggestions and inspiration. I actually filmed backpackers from around the world answering the question – 'What is your No.1 Reason to Travel' and found out that the reasons for traveling are often much deeper than just for the adventure. Check it out and let me know if you agree.
    @t

  11. Based on which "explorers" he mentioned as an inspiration, I can tell to this guy that his social background is purely from the US. He has completely forgotten the South American or Mexican explorers.

  12. This is absolutely best Ted Talk I've seen. Just finished a year down the Pan American Highway. Be proud Brother, you speak the truth of every subject you touched on. Money, fear, working, storage……… Thank you. 100% agreed and I'm on my 4th passport, lol.

  13. "we are workaholics" yes people LOOOVE to work just so they have enough money to eat seriously can he get a grip, hasnt he learnt anything for all the people he has met in all those countries he could travel for "so cheap" pf

  14. My husband and I we just sold everything left San Francisco and start traveling around the world .Tomorrow will be our 40th day on the road . Monaco – Barcelona-Amsterdam-Oldenzaal (joined the carnival festival) – Berlin -Switzerland-Munich-Prague -Hungry . Next stop is Turkey .

  15. As a tour guide, I am always surprised at how little "gringos" know about the rest of the world and particularly South America (yes, we are also Americans) considering that we are the backyard of the USA. They have the surprise of their lives to see how different each of our South American countries are and how beautiful they are. Come on people, travel, it's a great experience that changes lives and perceptions. And can be a lot less expensive than you think.

  16. How can I travel if I need to buy a house for me, for my parents? I cannot to spend money for traveling :(. Maybe I will pay money for things all my life.

  17. All Africans in the house😂😂😂😂😂are you done with visiting the embassies😊😊.
    Rejected visas is our creeed😒✋.

  18. excellent video. i was able to make it to 17 countries in my travels and loved every second and learned so much. it required so much sacrifice and effort as a member of the working class. but it is so good for your body and soul.

  19. Excellent. We really need to thing what is important to us as humans. We have been manipulating to work and busy as much as we can but we are beginning Ill.

  20. Hi, anybody knows this guy , I need contact him up ASAP!!! Any email or something? I'll appreciate it, thanks a lot

  21. I hate traveling. My beloved dog hates traveling & I don't like leaving him behind. I'd rather buy stuff & give $ 2 charities I care about.

  22. Travel, buy at a proper age and not too much. If you start too young, you could hardly define your root. If you spend too much time on traveling, you would soon feel home everywhere, but could find no home nowhere. It's kinda sad.

  23. I after awhile find some sort of whistle blowing here. However, I wish to clarify. Why not just work hard and safe up

  24. I promise Im in! In this winter I will leave home and travel until I get tired of it. thank you so much of this pleasant speech!

  25. I think at first I have to work hard and save money for my long jouney. Thanks for your sharing

  26. I bought a Confederate Flag for my man cave because I was feared it would become difficult to procure after watching various cities remove statues of heroes of the Civil War. My ancestors fought on both sides of that war and never have I felt that the Confederate Flag represented oppression and slavery. So I bought the flag and It hangs in my man cave where I get to appreciate it.

  27. Travel can let you know that there are more good and beautiful people all around the world, it reduces our misconception towards certain groups or races of peoples. It reminds us that we all are same living in same beautiful planet called earth. Since my teenager I have never been at same place, now I am 25 years old. Travelling have actually led to certain circumstances which have revealed me to myself. I start knowing myself better and hence learn to respect every people in a better way. I was an introvert and so it was hard for me to initiate a conversation or anything, but today I feel more confident than many in an around or even in my classes. I am going to complete my MBA this year. Hope to learn more from beautiful people on this beautiful earth. Grateful❤

  28. A good tip for traveling with no money if you need food and a place to stay, go to the Jehovahs Witness church in any country on Sundays and they are so loving and kind. One of them will offer you shelter

  29. only cost 4000$…dudes laughs real loud; very warranted and ruined the point of his speech in a sense .  So was this cash or credit?

  30. Every Australian, camping at Easter, and 90% of people I know have traveled. I’m 36 and finally going over seas for the first time now at 36 .

  31. I honestly think that all students that have been in school,college/university.Should have 1 year to 6 months away from education or job to really focus on there health,well being,life and to really decide what they want to do in life.people rushed into work sometimes when they are not ready.

  32. For those interested to visit Brasil. I really would love to help you giving information about here.
    +5547997802131

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