Photography by Suriyathepjuti Tinanop.
Here’s a guy who went 3 weeks without food, but can’t survive a day without Internet. Sean Lee is one part business school entrepreneur and one part minimalist vegan monk—it just depends where and when you find him. Finding him, however, is the hard part. You can do your best to track him online on his Instagram, YouTube channel, and website, Minimal Pro. He was last spotted in Seoul… or was it Chiang Mai?
I’m Sean Lee, and this is How I Travel.
What do you love most about traveling?
I love how traveling helps you appreciate the simple things and be more present. If I’m in my hometown, going to the corner store is a mundane task that I might do completely unconsciously. But if I’m in South Korea, navigating new streets and using new words (or sign language) to accomplish the same task, suddenly I’m more immersed in the experience. Placing an order successfully at a restaurant becomes a cause for celebration. Getting on and off the subway at the right stop is a victory. Traveling helps me to be more in the moment by virtue of having new and novel experiences. This, by the way, is a skill you can bring home with you.
How has travel changed you as a person?
I have much less attachment to things now. It’s much easier for me to give away or donate items because I know that I’ll feel freer and lighter as a result. It wasn’t always like that. I was a semi-hoarder back in the day, but I realized that my possessions were weighing me down. As much as people get excited about moving into a new home or visiting a distant country, the dreadful thought of packing up and carrying all of their stuff is usually enough to keep them where they are. I decided that I could see and do more if I owned less.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through all your travels?
The grass is green on both sides. No matter where you go, the tourists are thrilled to be arriving but the locals can’t wait to leave and go someplace new. You see this pattern enough times and you learn to just appreciate the present moment; here and now. No matter where you are.
What’s the one travel-related purchase under $100 that has had the biggest positive impact on you in the last 12 months?
When I was in the US in April, I bought a one-way ticket to surprise my Mom in Florida. The look on her face when I knocked on the front door was absolutely priceless. No purchase can compare to some quality time with family. There are inanimate things and then there are living beings. No matter what thing you find yourself desiring, remember that it’s always the people (and animals) in your life that matter most. Time invested in family, friends and relationships earns the highest ROI in the long-run.
[bctt tweet=”‘I decided that I could see and do more if I owned less.’ @1MINaDAY”]
Sean’s 6 Favourite Travel Items
2 of my last 3 businesses started because I was able to stick my camera in unique places; 6 feet above a digital piano in one case, and stuck to the back of an electronic bicycle in the other. This $20 mount has generated over half a million in revenue in its time—it closes the gap between inspiration and implementation—so I never leave home without it. Whether I’m shooting a sunset time-lapse in Hong Kong or filming a weight-loss video course in Adelaide, this gadget helps me get completely unique angles and new perspectives.
Last year, I met a German girl in Thailand named Olga who never threw anything away. She lived a “zero-waste lifestyle” which meant she didn’t buy or use anything that would end up in a landfill. I wasn’t quite ready to take it her level, so I asked her for one simple tip that would cut down on my “garbage footprint” and she answered without hesitation, “Bring your own bags to the supermarket.” That sounded simple enough, so ever since then I’ve been traveling with these two blue shopping bags that my mom gave me. I don’t always remember, and sometimes they’re not enough, but thanks to Olga I must have saved hundreds of plastic bags from the eternal doom of a landfill by now.
In March of 2015, for 21 days, I did nothing but drink water from this bottle. After years of research, reading books, and interviewing people who had done it before, I decided to test the benefits of water-only fasting myself. With the help of medical supervision at True North Health in Santa Rosa, California, I went 21 days living on just water; no food, no supplements, nothing. For 3 weeks, I consumed absolutely nothing but pure water, straight from this water bottle. It was the most minimal experience you could ever imagine. I released years of built-up mental and physical accumulations. Now, every time I refill this bottle — on a plane, at a cafe — I’m reminded of the life-giving power of water.
Preparing simple and nourishing plant-based meals at home is a top priority for me — so much so that I’ll actually choose my accommodations based on whether or not a place has a rice cooker. Using AirBnB, I’ll strategically pick places that are not only in my desired neighborhood, but that also come furnished with a rice cooker. This allows me to make 2 meals at home with just 5 minutes of prep time. You’d be surprised how creative you can get with a simple rice cooker. I’ve done this while traveling in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea without any sacrifice. Plus, saving a little cash by making meals at home gives you more flexibility to really treat yourself when you do want to dine out.
I like to get off the beaten path every once in a while, but I’m not always willing to completely unplug from everything. This past May, I rode my bike 250 miles across the South Korean countryside while I was in the middle of negotiating a major business deal. I wanted to completely enjoy the ride and not have to worry about stopping to charge my devices, but I also had to take care of business. Enter the power pack. This little gadget could keep my phone charged for days, so I could pause my ride in the middle of nowhere—sometimes halfway up a mountain—to take Skype calls with my team. Luckily South Korea also happens to be the most well-connected high-speed internet country on the planet.
Traveling with a road bike definitely calls into question my “minimalist” title, but riding through the vineyards of South Australia, the river valleys of South Korea, or the mountains of Northern Thailand makes it worth it every time. This was my first bike since I was a teenager, and it has helped me discover not only things about the places where I’m traveling, but also things about myself. I have gone weeks at a time using nothing but my bike as transportation, developing the mantra “burn fat, not oil”, and rediscovered my inner athlete in the process. I don’t take my bicycle with me everywhere, but on the 7 international flights it did accompany me on, I always grew as a result.
Sean in 60 Seconds
- Fav Place to TravelChiang Mai, Thailand
The best place to incubate a startup
- Fav On-the-Go ReadPsycho-Cybernetics
I’ve listened to this book 5 times in the last 2 years. My #1 book for achieving goals.
- Fav Travel AppAudible
I’m listening to audiobooks daily whether I’m traveling or not, but definitely great for airports, planes, etc.
- Ideal Trip CompanionSteve Jobs
Would love to talk about Buddhism, veganism, and entrepreneurship while roaming the temples of Kyoto.
- Next Travel PurchaseRhone Apparel dry tech
- Next DestinationJeju Island, South Korea
One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature
Also, since so many of you have been asking us for them, here's our full list of country-specific posts outlining how to ship anything from Amazon to any country in the world. Our 2-step method makes it as simple as humanly possible, and takes about 3 minutes total: Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Asia as a whole, Europe as a whole and the United Arab Emirates.
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While you're at it, international travelers should read our N26 review for the best way to get free ATM withdrawals the best rates on currency conversion - anywhere in the world.