This Ain’t For Everybody!

This Ain’t For Everybody!

Facing Fears & Traveling Around The World…

I’ve been living abroad and traveling the world off and on for more than six years, hopping on planes, touching down in countries with cultures different from (and in many ways the same as) the one in which I was raised, eating (strange) foreign foods, doing research on the documents needed to enter (or exit) a country properly, being invited to peoples’ homes around the world the first day I meet them, and more. The truth is: it takes a certain kind of disposition to be able to do this.  I remember a friend of mine saying — some years back — that this kind of living ain’t for everybody: exploring country to country, sometimes living out of one’s backpack, other times becoming a resident, perhaps in one of the most homogeneous and innovative countries in the world — South Korea — as an ESL teacher, or maybe even writing or working via one’s laptop on three continents in one year.

But, for my generation, it’s pretty common. Millennials travel and explore the world at an increasing rate, perhaps mainly because we perceive the world as more connected and accessible than any generation prior. And many of us don’t care about going it alone. And the digital nomad community is growing steadily. And brands like Travel Noire and Nomadness are shedding dope light on the black travel movement that has been brewing for years.

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And to think, back in 2010, while people were traveling and living all around the world, I was back in a cubicle in Los Angeles working a less-than-fulfilling job, basically unaware of this alternative reality.  What I did have, however, was a burning desire for something more.

 I had this seemingly innate comfort with leaving things behind in my hometown Los Angeles, boarding a flight and being immediately immersed in another culture, in Espana (this keyboard doesn’t have the ‘n’ with the squiggly thing above it, please don’t judge me fellow language lovers). And to think, back in 2010, while people were traveling and living all around the world, I was back in a cubicle in Los Angeles working a less-than-fulfilling job, basically unaware of this alternative reality. But the truth is that even as I lay calmly in my seat as the airplane took off for Spain back in 2011 — which is when I began to travel and live outside of the United States — I carried fears with me.

Fears that I wasn’t good enough for Ivy League schools even though I had a 3.7 GPA in high school while dedicating more than half my time to basketball. Fears that I wasn’t as good as other players. Fears that my setbacks and performance in high school and the university made me a failure (I had a bad game at the worst possible time). Fears that my bouts with depression would be noticed by others. Fears that my fresh business ideas weren’t good enough. Fears that I would wake up in ten years sitting in a similar cubicle, living a life of mediocrity and purposelessness.  And though I didn’t realize it back then, the universe has given me (or perhaps I have given myself?) a journey that has brought me to this point in my life…

…this point when I realize how so much of my life, so much of who I’ve been, has actually been, and is, rooted in fear…

My life abroad began in Salamanca, Spain back in 2011  Photo Credit

…and I’m committed to getting this fear up out of me. Or, at least pushing through despite its presence. This is one big reason why I’m releasing some music this weekend via my website, to push through fears using a medium that I love— hip-hop. I started a Soundcloud to give folks a preview.

 But this begs the question: what is it that is really guiding our lives or the decisions of those in power?  What lies at the foundation of your daily efforts? What motivates your choice to speak or remain quiet about issues?  What motivates the investments you (don’t) make, the jobs you take? What is it that guides the relationship choices you make?  What motivates the questions you ask? The goals you set for yourself?  What is it that makes you want to get that extra 20 minutes of sleep? What makes you put off that goal to consistently workout in the morning?

Are you in love with the prospects of heaven or scared of an eternal hell?  What is it that most inform whether you place your hope in a business idea or strategy that you have versus deferring to someone else’s idea or strategy? For me, too much has too often been guided by fear, and not love. I’ve grown to realize that.  But this doesn’t mean love has been non-existent.  Nor does this mean that when we make decisions and take actions rooted in love that the world will embrace us with open arms.

My decision to remove myself from the boxed-in reality of organized religion — in the name of love — as an example.

 It’s been said before — who knows who said it first? — that ultimately there is only fear and love. Do you agree with this?  I do.

What I can say, in unequivocal fashion, is that I love exploring other places around the world, engaging with different cultures, telling folks about where I’m from and what the village I come from is like, breaking bread with people who look similar to or completely different from me and overall just the moments one can have — noticing how a grandmother in Korea reminds me of my own, or appreciating a Spanish mother who had a dryer but couldn’t see the rationale behind using it unless in an emergency because “we have the sun,” or the numerous ‘aunties’ I met while in Ghana who were so loving. But I also love the journey of self-discovery that I’ve been on during this time…

And perhaps this was my greatest fear of all: to embrace my greatest self…


Flying, traveling and living around the world have helped me to face some of my fears, and begin to accept internal abundance.  But it has come at a price, much like a trip to a certain destination around the world, much like my decision to choose global living over a life in L.A.  There is a price to pay for the mere acknowledgment of fears, especially for men, especially for black men. For the longest time, I had not been willing to pay that price.  To travel from the depths of fear and doubt to the sunny skies of love.  Too poetic? It’ll be alright.  Nevertheless, pursuing this is of chief importance I think because of no matter the amount of beauty in a country or the quality of an experience at some destination…

…if we do not see abundance within ourselves we will never find rest…

Or the sun.  But can all people around the world shine, experience abundance, with our varying beliefs and cultures and ways and personalities, and with our global history, and within the world’s current political and economical climate?                                               

Now, this is how you photobomb! (Hong Kong)

I’ve seen the sun shining in many people, all the while wrestling with learned beliefs that seemingly encouraged me to dim my view of them. And I’ve feared what would happen if I let go of either perspective.  And with these eyes, I too have looked at myself, and at the world. But traveling and exploring the world has done a number on me, on my eyes. Yet, it is true indeed.  This ain’t for everybody.

…if we do not see abundance within ourselves we will never find rest…Or the sun.

Gotta get this fear up out of me, out of us, out of our politics, out of our race relations, out of our spirits, out of our beliefs, out of our world. That, or at the very least, we’ve got to push through it.  Traveling and exploring the world has been a great teacher for me.  Perhaps it could be the same for you?  Cape Town, South Africa was full of surprises.

Marvin Lee is from Los Angeles, CA. The most significant thing he’s done at this point in life has been to ask a lot of questions and seek out answers. His first creative work, a music project entitled Black Man Eyes: Pasttime, will be released March 4th. He’s passionate about personal growth, technology, and global affairs. He is currently working and living in Seoul, South Korea. Check him out on Medium.

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