Maverick Traveler

Location Independence, Geo Arbitrage, Individual Freedom

Why Lithuania Is Better Than Your Country

Third World

“The third world is not a reality but an ideology” — Hannah Arendt

My writing depends on my mood and right now my mood is great. I’m currently sitting in a quaint cafe in the historic old town of a beautiful Eastern European capital. The coffee is smooth. The prices are just right. The people are friendly. The baristas have model looks (although no one pays them any attention because here they’re considered only average). It’s a beautiful sunny day, although a bit cold. Apart from that minor meteorological imperfection there’re no other drawbacks in this “third world” picturesque old town.

For the last decade I’ve spent more time in the so-called “third world” than in the so-called “first world.” Initially, like a toddler who was learning to crawl, I took things very slow. I took quick trips outside the US, returning several days and weeks later. Slowly, but surely the pattern of those trips has reversed: it’s now about taking those quick trips back to the US and those trips are getting shorter and shorter — the toddler has all but grown up into a mature and sovereign man.

I remember that fateful afternoon in 2007 when I was boarding the Mexico City – Bogota flight. At that time not many people traveled to Colombia, and everyone thought that you would be kidnapped the second you landed and went on the street. To say that boarding that plane was a nerve-wracking experience would be an understatement. Few hours later I landed in Bogota and in the ensuing weeks and months experienced one of the best times of my life. (Oh, and I did end up being kidnapped; she was 5’6” with beautiful brown black hair and big brown eyes.)

The “third world” is one of the most misattributed terms in history. The purpose of the term is to blanket the world outside of US/West hegemony (i.e., the “first world”) as a land of lawlessness, a place riddled with widespread crime, a place ruled by mafia or warlords instead of having an established law. The reason that this term is so prevalent is a testament to how successfully it has served its purpose: it taught you that in order to have a safe and predictable life, you should safely tuck yourself inside the confines of the first world, otherwise scary and bad things may happen to you.

That has not been my experience at all. In fact, living all over Central and South America, and now, Eastern Europe has been exactly the opposite. To me, returning to America actually increases the level of stress. Each successive trip feels like I enter a more and more alien country. On my last trip, I literally felt like an extraterrestrial that landed on some distant planet, and spent most of my time trying to make sense of some strange environment.

Rio de Janeiro

One of my life-long dilemmas was to find the right adjective to describe my experience in the “third world.” After pondering on this problem for a long time, I’ve finally discovered the right adjective: easy.

Life is truly easy in the third world. It’s easy to make good friends. It’s easy to date beautiful women. People make things easy. In Brazil, it was easy to train BJJ , grab a cheap and delicious juice at a juice bar, and then head to the beach and go for a swim. In Eastern Europe, it’s easy to land, pass customs, buy a prepaid SIM card, and join a gym membership all without annoying long-term contracts. It’s easy to get what you want.

There was a time when I had to convince myself to travel and venture outside America. Now, exactly the reverse is happening: I have to convince myself to go back to America. I have to find the right excuses. I have to rationalize the trip back more and more. And — not surprisingly — I’m having a very hard time. I don’t understand what America can offer me over my life here. What does America really have?

When one things of America, his mind is flooded with an array of popular buzzwords: democracy, rule of law, freedom, and capitalism. But do any of those words really mean anything? Do they really stand for anything any more? In any case, I have all that here, and I’m not being forced to buy health insurance.

The secret of the successful man is that he, like a profitable and agile business, is constantly searching for an advantageous business environment, an environment which helps him to make the absolute best of what he has; where the value of what he produces is higher — in some cases, substantially higher — than the value of what he consumes. And for most men that world doesn’t exist in New York, Los Angeles or London; it’s more likely to be found in Rio de Janeiro, Vilnius or Cape Town.

It’s increasingly becoming clear to me that the first world is for those who simply don’t know any better. It’s for those who don’t or can’t break away from the groupthink and think independently for themselves. The rest are rewarded with a world of limitless opportunities where things are, well, for a lack of a better word, easy.

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  1. My main draw back to California is my family, but even there I can’t see myself returning for more than 2-3 weeks a year. Amazon and cheaper consumer goods are one thing, but once you’ve lived out of 2 suitcases and a backpack for 6 months, you see how little you really need. I probably have 1 suitcase too many at that. Experiences and relationships with other human beings are the spice of life, and they’re richer for me in Eastern Europe.

    • Yeah, I agree. The consumer culture is America’s biggest asset. But buying less crap is also good for my budget.

    • Man! I’m on the same boat. Only looking forward to the cheaper electronics, fam. and friends, and even then I’m sure not much has changed with friends from what I’ve been seeking… they’re still the same old nothing much new worth noting for a lifetime.

      ASAP I’m headed back to the 3rd world… the true land where we can be FREE!!! (IMO)

  2. Life is easier in Brazil? You’re delusional. Everything in brazil except food items and labor is more expensive than the USA. And the Brazilian government/bureaucracy makes the American government look amazing.

    Brazilian beaches are beautiful and the women busty and friendly. But the notion that quality of life in brazil is better or easier than the USA is complete nonsense.

  3. Arturo Villaseñor

    April 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    You said it just right. Mexico is labeled as a place where you would instantly be killed, yet life is so perfect in Touristic cities like San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cabos, etc. Yet I’m leaving the USA because establishing a meaningful deep relationship with anybody be it friends or lover is almost impossible while I can have that for free in Mexico. Now it’s the turn for Eastern Europe baby, I’m be contacting you soon about my American Love in Prague project.

  4. Cyrus Kirkpatrick

    April 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Hi Maverick, big fan of your blog, too bad my first comment is going to be a bit of a disagreement.

    Columbia, East Europe, and so forth are “second world” countries; that means they’re developing economically faster than third world (developing) countries.

    Third world areas include parts of India, North Korea (where I’ve actually traveled extensively), Cambodia, and most parts of places like Somalia.

    Life isn’t so easy in those places. East Europe, on the other hand, is very polished. Strong cultural roots, less materialistic, more social safety nets than even America.

    In a real third-world area, we’re talking a daily struggle to survive. Everybody is working constantly to scrape together enough..whatever they can eat for the day.

    Even being in Thailand for a long time, I got the sense that “life is cheap” because of the poverty and frequency of death. So I was kind of happy when I got back on American soil again.

    The problem in America is: consumerism and a culture that is obsessed with individual prosperity instead of collective harmony. This is hardwired into Americans through family, bosses, peers, TV, etc. This creates a very weird and broken culture.

    But a broken culture is better than a broken country. In North Korea if you don’t live in one of the major cities, you’re stuck in the countryside digging for grubs to eat 😀 and watching as your family dies of starvation… The same can sadly be said about a lot of other places.

    Well, anyway, that’s just my two cents. I hope to check out East Europe soon.

    Cyrus (From

    • I’ve been to Thailand and liked it there. It has anything you’d want. Don’t know about NK though…

      • Cyrus Kirkpatrick

        April 18, 2014 at 6:13 pm

        Yeah Thailand has a lot, and a lot of good qualities, but in poorer areas (where I ended up living) it’s also really desperate. Maybe people are still happier then elsewhere because they learn to adapt, but it seemed like people were just dying all around me – it was crazy.

  5. I want to go there. Good post.

  6. Maverick, do you have any plans on going to Skopje or Belgrade?

    I’m stuck in Australia but would like to move to Bulgaria, Russia or Macedonia one day.

  7. Have you read Brave New World?

  8. “The grass is always greener from the other side”- The guy from the other side

    I enjoy your writing Maverick. You’re obviously an intelligent and courageous man. What I’m surprised at is that you haven’t as yet realized the bias your writing has which the quote above captures perfectly. This article pushes this bias to the extreme and is frankly, ridiculous.

    We tend to take certain things from “our world” for granted. For example: I grew up in India and have lived in and travelled to various countries. If anyone ever comes up to me and says “India is such a fantastic colourful vibrant blah blah place” I’d consider him/her to be a lunatic and prime fodder for the legendary scam artists around here. However, I can see how attractive India and its chaos/food/smell/idiocy is, compared to dull as ditch water western suburbia/ generic downtowns.

    I don’t disagree with your points about political correctness and feminism ruining things for american men. However it doesn’t bother me as much as it does you nor do I think its as bad as you paint it. I actually enjoy having a conversation with a woman where she more than holds her own instead of just giving me demure looks and muttering something “feminine” as Indian women usually do. I’m not saying I love putting up with shit tests and all the other ridiculous bullshit that passes off as flirting in the states but it is very nice to have a conversation with a human being instead of a doll whose sole purpose in life is to take care of her man.

    That is how my bias works having grown up in the third world. I’m well aware of it. Acknowledging this is, I think, one of the lightbulb moments that travel gives you. Go easy on America and its women yes? Whether it was your choice or not you were privileged to grow up with democracy, rule of law, freedom and capitalism. If you don’t know what those terms mean, you haven’t been living enough in the third world or have been blind to it.

  9. Ah, the problem here is very clear for me! Here is what I’ve noticed, Living in a third world/second world country is a very different experience for different groups/people. One man’s trash is another’s treasure and big fish small pond all come to mind. I assure you, that an American sees the beauty in the filth that poor locals call reality. As an American with even minimal income you have enough to sit in a cafe and watch people. Sooo many of those people you are watching can’t afford to sit with you but it adds to your experience and colorful backdrop. I can only imagine that the few comments here about India and similar destination are coming from people who lived in those areas. For them the experience/memory of the places is tarnished by the cruel reality that those places represent(ed). I for example plan to spend my summers in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria) but only with the safety net of a local friend and some money to buy things I cant afford here in the US. The old house I am buying has tremendous charm on a hillside and my neighbor is a sheep or goat farmer. My local friend asked me if I was insane for buying this shithole. Hence the “beauty in the filth” mentioned above. The house is 200 years old and made of old boulders of some sort. I assure you the farmer next door will not be going to town or taking week long, off road trips on his Africa Twin (motorcycle). So for me Bulgaria will be everything I dream because I am able to explore and enjoy everything the place has to offer. I love Maverick’s views and adventurous spirit. Wish I had done the same 20 years ago.

  10. Amazing post Maverick!
    Im from Brazil, and most of my friends have fantasies about going to/ live in USA, UK and this stuff, me? I think different, the country I ve been studying the language for 3 years and lived 5 months and im planning to go again is China, I like there a lot and had amazing opportunities and experiences that changed my life..
    Such a pity for the limited mind people….

  11. The “third world” is one of the most misattributed terms in history. The
    purpose of the term is to blanket the world outside of US/West hegemony
    (i.e., the “first world”) as a land of lawlessness, a place riddled
    with widespread crime, a place ruled by mafia or warlords instead of
    having an established law.

    In fact, living all over Central and South America, and now, Eastern Europe has been exactly the opposite.

    Then you don’t know where the “Third World” expression comes from. The West and Japan were the First World during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the states it had invaded in Eastern Europe were the Second World, and the rest was the Third World. Except for China, which was the only country that belonged to none of the three categories. The reason for calling it the Third World is that it was practical. You didn’t have to say “the countries that are neither Western nor East European”, you had a shorter phrase. It wasn’t some scheme. It’s like saying Europe or Southeast Asia for a large group of countries instead of naming them all.

  12. I still believe in America because it is an idea, a set of principles that the greatest country in existence was built on. Sadly, the infrastructure of America has been hijacked by those seeking their own gain and abandoning the idea and principles that are the true America. So, I must go where I am treated best until she recovers from a lack of virtuosity (the sooner the better).

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