I'm Mark Manson, Author, Blogger and Entrepreneur. AMA

Hey everyone.

My name is Mark Manson and I’m a professional blogger. My site is MarkManson.net. Although over the years, I’ve run a variety of online businesses and projects.

I’ve been a digital nomad since the Fall of 2009, making it slightly more than five years for me. (You can read what I learned from five years of being a nomad here.) In that time I’ve been to almost 60 countries and learned two languages to near-fluency (Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese) as well as studying a handful of others.

I love the nomadic lifestyle, but I’ve also been one of the only ones (to my knowledge) who has openly written about the drawbacks and sacrifices involved.

My girlfriend is Brazilian and has been traveling on the road with me since last summer. I feel like relationships is the next frontier for this lifestyle and that’s probably something I’m uniquely able to comment on.

I guess that’s it. Ask away!

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Hey Mark, awesome to have you on the AMA.

What techniques and resourced did you use for learning new languages?

I find picking up languages really hard, being from the UK the majority of the world speaks english so have never learnt a second language but would really like too. Practicing is an issue as I’m in a new country and surrounded by a new language just as I start to pick up a few words and phrases.

Also what made you decide on those particular languages to master?

Thanks

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Hi Mark! Thanks for doing this. I’ve been a super big fan of all your writings. I remember reading the first ones back when I felt really confused and lost about doing this. It helped me a lot to read that this was a normal thing. Traveling fucks with your perception of reality. Reading that you had the same thing was helpful.

[quote=“MarkManson, post:1, topic:128”]I feel like relationships is the next frontier for this lifestyle and that’s probably something I’m uniquely able to comment on.
[/quote]

This is a big thing.

Most nomads I know are single, why is that do you think? And how can you counter it? How do you find people that want to do the same thing and if so, how do you set it up? Should the transitory nature of nomadism/travel also make the character of the relationship different? Think for example open relationships etc? What do you think?

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Hey Mark, thanks for joining us!

I’m curious, from your perspective - what is the main difference in the nomad world between now and 2009?

I’m a nomad since 2009 as well, and one of the things that surprises me is how fast the hubs for nomads grow. For example, in 2011-2012 when I traveled through Southeast Asia, the situation was much different than now - I had to struggle to find reliable places to work from. Now, you can easily hit one of the existing and coming hubs pretty much all around Southeast Asia.

Thanks!

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Hey Mark!

I’m a new fan of yours, and upon perusing your website, I see this phrase as one of your top lessons learned from living a nomadic lifestyle:

“You realize that the more you spread the breadth of your experience across the globe, the thinner and more meaningless it becomes.”

How has your experience as a nomad changed over time? If you’re like me, at the beginning you try to cram in everything possible that you can - a day of relaxing is a wasted one. I’m curious: has your perspective changed, or do you still have the feeling that you need to “do it all”? Was there a single instance where you learned this lesson?

Thanks Mark!
-Jordan

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I second this question. I’ve found language learning to be mainly very traditional and focused on passing tests or more directed at common phrases for visitors. What do you think are the best ways to become quickly conversationally fluent?

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Hey Mark!

I really appreciate the honesty and no bullshit articles and posts you write. I’ve been a digital nomad for almost as long as you’ve been, and it’s been nothing short of fucking fantastic, but the most difficult part is having and maintaining friendships and relationships.

Relationships while tricky, is something that can be overcome by having your SO travel with you (like what you have, which is mad awesome) - however, most of my friends / people I know have stable jobs and lives which means sometimes it gets damn lonely.

What’re your thoughts on this, and have you found anything that works for you?

Thanks!
Mel

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Hi Mark!

I appreciate your time and enthusiasm to share your knowledge! This morning a good friend recommended your blog to me. What a perfect case of serendipity. :smile:

  1. What steps did you take to transition from simple jobs that have the purpose of funding the nomad lifestyle to those that make you feel like you are actually contributing?

  2. I am keen on having an impact in the world. However, meaningful entrepreneurial projects often require the founders to be stationary. Have you been able to find a solution to this while maintaining your nomad lifestyle?

  3. I am a blogger myself. What was the single most important criteria that gave you credibility and reach?

Thank you!

  • Alex
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Thanks for doing this AMA Mark!

You wrote that you had only 1k in your bank account when you ‘started’.
What was your business at the time and how long did it take to get a ‘reasonable’ income? What lesson(s) would you like to share for people wishing to become a ‘digital nomad’? Would you do anything different?

Thank you

  • Mark
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Hi Mark!

I am one of your huge fans and it is awesome to see you on the nomadforum :smile:

I have been told a lot “Traveling is not for everyone” from people around me whenever I talk about a nomadic life. Do you think traveling & nomadic life can be not a good idea for some people?

Because 1. The idea of settling down in one particular place might be the best way to live for some people since everyone has different value on their life? Or,
2. In terms of experience and inspiration, traveling & nomadic life would be one of the best options for everyone, and some people just don’t have a chance to realize that?

I have been in overseas and on the roads for the last 7 years. I believe in a value of exploring the world and getting motivation from all new amazing stuff. But recently I don’t have a strong confidence that everyone can be a nomad and everyone should travel as much as they can while they are alive.
What do you think?

Thanks for your writings and insights as always :blush::wink:

Cheers,
Youjin

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Hey Mark!

I’m making a trip to Manaus, Brazil at the end of the month. Any suggestions or people I should connect with?

Also, more introspective question: With all of your success, do you still feel some level of insecurity for not fitting the mold and being a one city kind of entrepreneur with the Porsche and big house?

(An aside, I personally could care less about this stuff, but every time I set up my perfect nomadic life, I always get criticism and pressure from the world to go back into a conventional career, and while I try not to listen, it can drive you insane the more you hear it!)

Thanks for the reply buddy!
Brandon

The only example that I know of such relationship is the case of Vinicius Teles and Pat Figueira AKA Casal Partiu.
But I find their case so particular.
I’d like to know more about other cases as such.

Hi Mark, many thanks for doing this AMA.

My question is having travelled and lived in so many spots all over the world, where do you find the best cultural fit for you personally?

And my second question: I am currently looking at creating a website oriented towards the Brazilian outbound travel market with the help of a Brazilian travel blogger - do you have any experience of online marketing for a Brazilian audience at all? Are there any major differences which you noticed in the way Brazilians communicate and interact online - or what appeals to them that may not be so obvious to us from the outside?

Hey Mark,

For the past 4 years I’ve lived and traveled in Latin America with my gf (ex-gf now).

I found the hardest aspect of living this lifestyle with a partner was being tied to someone 24/7. It’s very hard to have space when you’re traveling together.

How have you dealt with this?

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This is a good question. I’ll try to be thorough but also not go on forever, because I could. :smile:

First, because everybody has a different idea of what speaking a language is or what “fluent” is. Let’s create a few levels to make all of this easier to explain:

Level 0 - You don’t know a damn thing. People might as well be speaking Klingon for all you know.

Level 1 (Basic) - Low-level stuff: hello, thank you, please, ask for directions, names of foods, etc. You can have slow, jerky, basic conversations as long as the topics are really simple and the person you’re talking to doesn’t mind having the conversation of a five-year-old.

Level 2 (Conversational) - You can have a solid conversation with locals one-on-one. You understand most of what’s said around you, or at least get the gist. You can make a few jokes, but you still find that your use of the language is slower than your mind. You get lost in big group conversations.

Level 3 (Conversationally Fluent) - You can have a pretty fluent conversation in 90+% of situations without too many mistakes. You can take part in group conversations without getting lost. You can make jokes. You can read anything that isn’t super technical or heavy literature.

Level 4 (Fluent) - You can speak without thinking. You dream in the language. You can read and talk about almost anything without hesitation. You still make mistakes occasionally, but they’re so few and far between that basically nobody notices anymore.

Going From Level 0 to Level 1

  • This is basically just memorization and practice. Which means courses are good tools and you can use anything.
  • Duolingo.com is my favorite for this. It’s a gamified way to learn basic vocabulary and practice. Pimsleur is another good one (audio recordings). Flashcards can work.
  • I don’t recommend classes. They’re really inefficient uses of both time and money.
  • With some regular study (an hour per day), you can reach Level 1 within a week or two.

Going from Level 1 to Level 2

  • The courses really stop being useful here. Now you need to get practice speaking the language and constructing sentences on the fly.
  • Best way to get through this level is with a personal tutor and one-on-one sessions. The sessions should focus primarily on grammar and conversation.
  • All new vocabulary should come through conversation. Keep a dictionary on your phone and note down every new word you have to look up. Go back and study them before bed. Construct sentences with them.
  • If you do this, you should see rapid progress. The more hours of conversation the better. The more intense the better. If you do 4-5 hours of tutoring per day, you can be a Level 2 speaker within a month.

Getting From Level 2 to Level 3

  • This is where the immersion is necessary. To get to the next level – conversational fluency – you need to be surrounded by locals, partying with locals, going to dinner with locals, hanging out at weddings with locals, all in their own language.
  • Tutoring can still help you through this. Duolingo and courses can still keep you fresh, in case you leave the country for a while, but nothing gets you through this level other than immersion, in my experience.
  • The reason is because these are the conversations you can’t have any other way than with people you know and have met. This is where you talk about local politics, economics, how you felt about your ex-girlfriend’s little sister, and so on.
  • In my experience, it takes multiple months (3-6) to move through this level, minimum. More if you’re not in the country.

Getting from Level 3 to Level 4

  • I’ve never really solidly been Level 4 at any language and honestly I don’t see why most people would want to, unless you plan on living in a country really long-term or doing some serious study/business in that language.
  • To get to this level, you ironically need to get back to studying. This is where you learn all of the obscure grammar that is rarely used, highly technical language, obscure historical references and slang.
  • From what I’ve heard, it takes a couple more years to get to this level.

Here are a couple articles from my site about language learning:
22 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language
The Four Accelerators for Language and Life

And to answer your other questions. I chose Spanish because I had studied it some in college and I planned on spending a lot of time in Latin countries. I chose Portuguese because it was closely related to Spanish and I ended up living in Brazil for over a year. My girlfriend is also Brazilian, which helped.

I’ve also studied Russian and little bits of German and French.

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I think most nomads are single because it’s harder for people in relationships to become nomadic in the first place. That and I think most of us are a little bit commitment-phobic at heart. :smile:

In the case of my girlfriend, she had always dreamed of traveling the world, but it wasn’t until she met me that she realized it was possible. I think for most people it’s just realizing what’s possible.

Being nomadic ABSOLUTELY changes the texture of the relationship. We’re still figuring everything out, as it’s only been about a year on the road for us (year together in Brazil before that), but we’re starting to notice that the relationship feels different when we’re bouncing around a lot from when it does when we settle in somewhere for 3-6 months.

In terms of promoting nomadic relationships, I think more people just need to become interested in them. Generally speaking, digital nomadism is very new and primarily populated with young 20-somethings and 30-somethings who are putting their own goals and careers before their relationship goals. At some point though, those relationship goals will take priority again. For me, it took about 3 years of traveling before a relationship was even on my radar as something I’d be seriously interested in.

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Yes, it’s very different. Things felt far more remote back then. I was in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, and I knew like 2-3 digital nomads in the whole country. Now I go to Thailand and I know at least 20, with an expanded network of a couple hundred.

I think a few things are changing:

  • Nomads are consciously choosing to congregate together in some of the higher quality-of-life cities. This is probably a good thing as I think a lot of us had to get the “somewhere new each month” bug out of our systems.
  • The third world isn’t as cheap and easy as it once was. Back in 2010, Chiang Mai was about 2/3 the price that it is now. When I first went to Medellin in 2012, it was about 2/3 the price it is now. The third world is catching up fast.
  • There’s just more of us. And this isn’t nearly as oddball of a lifestyle as it once was. 4-5 years ago, when I explained to people my lifestyle, they looked at me like I was nuts. These days people seem to kind of get it and understand it quicker.
  • I think we’re going to start seeing more migration to Europe, Japan, Australia, etc. One of the reasons SE Asia was/is so popular is because of the quality of life you get for such a cheap price. But I think as more and more nomads get older and get more successful and pinching pennies becomes less of a concern, we’re going to see people appreciating the first world again.

Hey Alex,

  1. I think eventually, once you become better at staying afloat, you can back off and start focusing on impact over simply making money. Making money is the primary goal when you’re starting out, but once you’ve got enough to sustain yourself, then impact should slowly move to take its place. That’s what I did. It was a multi-year process for me.

Other thing I’ll note is that you need to be willing and able to shut off revenue streams at some point. It’s painful. But at some point you will need to make the decision to shut off a project or income stream in order to focus on things you care more about in the long-run. This decision is ALWAYS worth it in my experience, so don’t freak out too much.

  1. This is the great paradox of this lifestyle, right? The more you move, the less efficient you end up being. It’s a pain in the ass to find new grocery stores, gyms, meet new friends, etc., every month or two. It’s so much easier to just get set up somewhere cheap and grind, grind, grind. This is a question of balance in my opinion. And I would say that if you feel as though you need to be stationary – even if it’s for a year or two – then do it. You can still gain a lot of amazing experience from being in one place. In fact, there are a lot of things you experience in a country that you cannot experience otherwise without having spent a year or more in it.

I’m actually finding myself in a situation lately where my business is going to require me to be back in the US more frequently. I’ll be slowing down quite a bit in the next few years.

  1. Good content. Lame answer, I know, but it’s true. If you can change somebody’s life in 1000 words, they don’t care who you are or where you come from. They shut up and listen.
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Hi @MarkManson,

  1. What kind of blogs or books do you read currently?
  2. How did you select them?

Thanks,
Robert

No single instance that I can think of. But I’m five years plus change deep into this and I’ve had enough interesting experiences in that time to last most people a lifetime. But the odd thing is is that looking back, none of it seems that important. I mean, in aggregate, it seems incredibly important, it makes me who I am. But single each experience out and it all seems kind of meaningless.

Whether motorbiking Vietnam or feeding homeless people in India or meeting holocaust survivors in Israel or dating a dancer in Russia – it’s all just kind of like, “oh yeah, cool.” Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like I was the person who did it. Like I’m going swimming with sharks here in Cape Town tomorrow and I’m just like “Oh, OK… gotta get up early.” It’s weird. I would say that I feel jaded, but it’s not negative or cynical at all. I think it’s just a proper prioritization of my life that few people have when they’re stationary – I’m looking forward to seeing my best friend when I get back for XMas more than I am for swimming with sharks. That’s kind of crazy, because I’ve been hanging with my best friend back home, drinking beers, talking about dumb shit, for like 15 years. But these days it’s what I look forward to. And that’s a good thing I think.

But to answer your question, still occasionally I get an itch to go do something if I read about it or see it on TV or something. But for the most part, I’m pretty content. There are still a few more countries I’d like to see, but I’m in no hurry anymore. I’ve discovered recently that countries are still there if you wait a few years to get to them… (usually).

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