I spent most of the past five years traveling around the world, visiting more than thirty countries while living out of a backpack and making money online. Four months ago I moved to Amsterdam, and here I plan to stay for the foreseeable future.
Why did I give up the travel lifestyle for a more settled existence?
Well, it’s like this…
In the book Guns, Germs, and Steel, author Jared Diamond puts forth a theory as to why some human civilizations developed faster than others.
Why, for example, did Europeans build boats and go conquer the Americas? Why, instead, didn’t the Native Americans build boats and go conquer Europe?
Diamond’s answer to such questions is complex, but one of the primary components is agriculture. Or, to be more specific, the availability of easily domesticated plants and animals native to different parts of the world.
Native or easily migrated to Europe were such farm-friendly animals as horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens and pigs, while the Americans had to make do with lame creatures like turkeys, llamas and alpacas, none of which are known for their plow-pulling prowess.
On the plant side of things, an estimated 32 of the world’s 56 wild grasses best suited to agriculture (e.g. wheat, barley, corn) were native to Mediterranean areas, while only 2 were native to South America.
This means that any Native American hunter-gatherer who yearned to settle down on a nice plot of land, grow some crops and raise some stock… well, he was shit out of luck five thousand years ago. But his counterpart roaming the shores of the Mediterranean could probably fill his belly with whatever grew out of the dump his pet donkey took the week before.
All that to say, on account of little more than a fluke of nature, agriculture came much easier to Europeans than it did to Native Americans.
And what happens when people move from hunter-gather societies to agricultural societies? Yes, women become oppressed, animals become productized and the land slowly but surely becomes impotent… but the answer we’re looking for here is specialization.
That is, people no longer have to spend most of their time roaming about the wilderness in search of food. A small subset of the population become farmers, producing enough food for all, while everyone else eventually gets bored lying around all day with nare a PlayStation and thus get busy inventing weapons and writing systems and vessels of the sea-faring variety.
Then they go and conquer new lands.
So, in summary, the earlier a people get settled in one place and don’t have to worry about basic shit like where their next meal is coming from or where they can find shelter for the night, the sooner they take over the world.
And that, my friends, is the main reason I quit traveling.