Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Jon Massmann, and I'm working on humanity. About six months ago, I sold almost everything I own, packed up most everything else into a backpack and duffel (big mistake on the latter), and set out to travel the world for the remainder of my 20's starting with Southeast Asia. I had no set plans upon starting out aside from a vague expectation of being able to land a teaching job somewhere at some time. However, this manifested itself in a very different way as I began delving into the world of eastern philosophy, which inevitably led me to an intensive study of Buddhism and Vipassana meditation.
In November of 2016, after years of battling with a crippling clinical depression, I began an entirely unexpected journey into mindfulness meditation. Within less than a year, I went from absolute skeptic about all things related to meditation, to a zealous student learning under several different monks and lamas throughout SE Asia, to teaching and organizing my own meditation retreats and classes.
Right now, I'm in the process of moving from Pokhara, Nepal, where I've spent the last 4 months, to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I plan on continue teaching in various forms throughout my travels, as well as studying and writing a blog (and eventually, a book) in an attempt to bring the things I've learned and will continue learning to a Western audience (especially to those who struggle with psychosomatic disorders like depression and anxiety). Simultaneously, I also want to see the world!
What’s your favorite destination?
I haven't been at the whole “world traveler” thing for long; this is my first major expedition, and I'm just getting started. My favorite spots so far have been Hoi An and Sa Pa in Vietnam, Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, Penang in Malaysia, and Pokhara in Nepal.
What are your “Trusty Three” travel items?
- Peak Design Everyday Backpack: Being a backpacker, arguably the most important investment you can make is in your pack. I'm thoroughly glad I stumbled upon Peak Design's Everyday Backpack shortly before departing; this thing is the quintessence of perfect bag design. Every square inch is utilized for creative carry and storage, and no bag makes all of your gear nearly as accessible. My Everyday has stayed fastened to my back or by my side for my entire journey so far, carrying my life in it with total, dependable (plus sleek and sexy) loyalty.
- Advanced M4 Earphones: Being a part-time musician and songwriter, good headphones/earphones can be a sanity saver. I portable-ized a good chunk of my recording studio for my travels, but by far my most used piece of audio gear is my Advanced M4 Earphones. These little guys magically pack crystal clear, studio-quality, naturally balanced sound into a $40 pair of buds. Likely the best price-to-sound ratio I've found in a pair of earbuds; sometimes you just need to zone out to some Andrew Bird instrumentals on long train rides or Chillhop playlists during a busy cafe work session.
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: Having an entire library in your back pocket is an absolute game changer for travelers. I've torn through a good 20 books in the last 6 months thanks to a combination of my Kindle and a wonderful little app called Overdrive, which lets me rent ebooks from my local library back home. In a matter of minutes, I can search either Amazon or my library for any book I want, and begin reading it within minutes. A huge advantage when book selection gets very limited in foreign countries, and no one wants to lug around East of Eden or the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying in their already crammed and heavy backpacks.
What are your favorite travel hacks?
Burn your Lonely Planet book and ask locals/travelers you meet instead, don't make plans aside from plane or bus tickets, barter at half the asking price, rent a motorbike/scooter whenever possible, get away from the tourism districts ASAP, learn a bit of the language, assume the best intentions from all people, stop thinking so damn much, and most importantly, live in love.
Are there any pieces of gear or travel technology you wish existed that don’t?
I have most everything I need, but I wish more things were somewhat weather-proof. I've lost two phones and an iPad display to Pokhara monsoons so far, which can be a bit of a bummer.
What do you miss most when you travel?
I miss my full-sized guitar (Big Baby Taylor with custom K&K Pure pickups), and travel-size guitars just don't cut it for me. I like my little Guitalele, but I crave my Big Baby on a daily basis. Of course, the obvious answer would just be buying a Baby Taylor, which is literally just a smaller version of my guitar, but I'm poor.
Jon has his traveling friends carve their names into the Guitalele whenever possible.
What’s the weirdest thing you carry with you while traveling?
Every beginning traveler carries a money belt on them, and every veteran traveler laughs a bit on the inside whenever they see one. That said, I carry a money belt sometimes. Also, I can look a little out of place carrying a future-backpack full of audio gear and three computers in Nepal. Also, I generally have the board game Tsuro on me, which is great for a little laid back pick-up gaming at slow hostels. Are any of those weird? Nothing seems weird when you've been traveling for a long time.
What’s your favorite piece of weird travel gear?
The people who strike me as weird are the ones who carry their own food or sanitation products everywhere. Don't like the flavor of anything in the country you're visiting? Bring an entire jug of Ghee or Sriracha everywhere with you, you monster. Has living in the Western world sanitized you to the point of being unable to fight even the most common of bacteria in a foreign city? Better layer on that Purell like a second skin.
Any final travel tips you’d like to share?
Traveling is easy if you let it be. Don't overplan; in fact, don't plan as much as possible. Toss out every preconception of what you should experience out in the world, because it will be different. Just get there and be entirely in moment. Pick a spot on the map, rent a motorbike or buy a bus ticket, and just head out into the vast unknown. You'll find far more specialness off the beaten path, and it'll so far beyond just following the Lonely Planet trail. Just get out and experience the world as it comes to you! See you out here, nomads.
You can keep up with Jon and his writing on his blog, The Skeptics Guide.