A Real-Life Where’s Waldo
In a fascinating evolution, society is embracing a new surge of intentional living. One such transformation is found in world traveler Colin Wright.
“I still can’t believe this whole travel thing worked out,” says Wright, who spent most of his childhood in Columbia. “It’s become kind of the beacon around which the rest of my life is oriented. Travel and personal growth has become so fundamental to who I am that it’s easy to forget sometimes how bizarre this life I’ve been living really is.”
In 2009, Wright was following his dreams. He had started his first graphic design business at age 19 and moved to Los Angeles. A year later, he opened a diversified design, Web development and branding practice. His fast track to conventional success should have been fulfilling, but Wright says he felt a lack of deep satisfaction.
Many come to this realization; few make drastic life changes.
Wright celebrated this revelation with a huge party; he amicably ended a relationship, shredded endless piles of paper, whittled his belongings down to a carry-on and decided to travel the world. Knowing that he was young enough to rebound if this new path failed — and that his parents back home in Columbia would always be there for emergency support — freed him to dive forward. Wright began Exile Lifestyle, a blog about his journey, and allowed his readers to determine where in the world he would live for four-month intervals.
With a scaled-back, road-worthy plan, Wright headed for Argentina in the fall of 2009, living as a local and learning the ins and outs of Argentine society. Since that sojourn, he has continued to flow with what the world has to teach him — learning and changing often.
“Travel, to me, is the best possible way to expose yourself to new and challenging ideas,” Wright says. “While it is possible to do the same in everyday life, traveling regularly ensures that you can’t avoid it. As long as you’re willing to roll with the punches, say ‘yes’ a lot, and pay attention, every day is a new adventure. Soon, you barely recognize the ‘you’ of a year before — or even a week before — because you’ve changed so much, hopefully for the better, since then.”
In New Zealand, Wright began writing more seriously. He co-founded Asymmetrical Press with Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Millburn and Nicodemus, known as “The Minimalists,” had interviewed Wright for their blog about minimalism and quickly developed a close friendship and working relationship with him. Wright also began sharing his adventures in nonfiction books, teaching classes, speaking at international events and taking networking to a new level. His 2011 travelogue memoir My Exile Lifestyle chronicles his first few years of travel through a series of vignettes.
Wright branched out into fiction in 2012 with the first installment of his political thriller series Real Powers. Two more parts have since been released, along with 17 other novels and short story collections.
With more than 30 fiction and nonfiction titles to his name in just six years, the prolific author still feeds the audience demand for travel stories; his latest nonfiction title, Come Back Frayed, a collection of stories and essays written about and from the Philippines, is a stellar example of his evolution.
“There’s this immense pressure in writing real life, in writing real people,” he says. “I agonized over how to portray these real-life people, valued friends and family, in a way that wouldn’t accidentally come across as wrong or even offensive. I decided to step back into that genre, though, because my storytelling voice had changed. I found I could better blend my philosophical musings with my tangible world wanderings to talk about other things: relationships, international politics, social media and how we interact in the modern world.”
In January, Wright returned to fiction with Puncture Up, a book “about simulated universes, what it means to be alive and what it means to experience reality,” he says. “I still have a much smaller audience for my fiction than my nonfiction; nonetheless, my favorite books are still largely my fiction works. I’m able to express some ideas and cover some complex issues through fiction in a way that would be nearly impossible as essays or nonfiction stories.”