You and a One-Way Ticket to the World by Nina Yau



Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Nina Yau on how to live an intensely extraordinary life by never asking for permission.

Nina blogs at Castle in the Air and is a seeker of Truth.  She is also a prolific author, a traveler, a thinker and  a philosopher. I asked Nina to share her story because she writes with might and lives fierce. She has taken the plunge to live life on her terms, while she lives her dreams.

Without further ado, here’s Nina on how to live the life you want while driving from your life style  …

You Are Responsible for Making Your Life Meaningful and Happy

January 2011. I’m sitting cross-legged on the creaky wooden floors of my Chicago apartment, warming my hands in front of the space heater in my small one-windowed room. Jesus, it’s friggin’ cold, I think to myself, as the artificial heat starts to penetrate my dead fish fingers enough so I could type on my Mac. I find a one-way ticket to Taiwan, with intentional stops in Seattle and Santiago de Chile. Booked. Done. Packed my minimalist bag and off I went, into the world, not looking back and with no regrets.

Some folks don’t think you’re ever coming back. Some are glad for you and wish you nothing but happiness. Some are in deep despair, either wishing they can come along or supremely jealous of the fact that you are actually doing what you’ve always wanted to do, and for some asinine reason, they can’t.

Listen up: this one-way ticket to the world with your name stamped on it is not exclusively reserved for the dream maker, the idea creator, the fearless revolutionist, the wanderlust nomad, the entrepreneurial bootstrapper. You can read all you want, you can wish all you want, you can surround yourself with similar spirits, but in the end, only you are responsible for making your life brazenly meaningful and happy. No one else.

This is how you and your one-way ticket to the world dance freely while holding hands in the wild rainstorm of life, gleaned from the most pertinent of experiences and life lessons since I’ve quit my old way of life in order to embrace this new one I’m living.

A Vast Glowing Empty Page

Jack Kerouac, author of definitive generational and cultural novels such as On the Road and The Dharma Bums, has said, “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”

Listen, your life is anything you put in it, anything you do with it. Fill it with sex, drugs, booze and rock and roll? Then that’s your life. Fill it with humanitarian work in Africa? Then that’s your life. Fill it with suburban sprawl living and a 9-to-5 with occasional barbecues and golf with the neighbors on the weekend? Then that’s your life.

People will give all sorts of ridiculous excuses and reasons to justify why they can’t have the life they really want. Rather than finding all the reasons why you can’t, why don’t you dig into the innermost cob-webbed corners of your mind, the dark corners where you left your once-ripe dreams to stale and grow mold, and fling that door wide open in a loving embrace that is you and what tugs on your heartstrings.

Your mind is one of the most powerful things on Earth. It can literally transform who you are today into who you shall become tomorrow, merely by infusing an obsessed-over-driven-insane-super-delirious-festive-luminescent-wild-unbridled persistence with the tremendous gall to do whatever the hell it is you want to do, no matter what anyone says or the possible outcomes.

That is key here: no matter what anyone says or the possible outcomes.

I piss people off on a daily basis, not because I’m intentionally wanting to anger others, but simply by living my life with such extreme audacity and fervent tenacity. Because I love life — and maybe they don’t or are miserable — will be enough reason for people to find fault, poke, prod, criticize, call you all sorts of names, tie you up and burn you at the stake of unconventionality.

My life is my own empty page. So is yours. Do what you will with it and care not for others who only want to tear you down.

Give Me Truth

If I could pick only one line I’d live my entire life by, it’d be by Henry David Thoreau from his sensational book, Walden, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

Truth is everything to me, so much so that for my first tattoo, I had veritas, the Latin word for Truth, inked onto my body. What this concept, this principle, this characteristic, this belief, this way of life, what this holds is imperative for you to wrap your mind around.

If you are being true to yourself and your heart’s mission, you never need to apologize nor ask for permission to do anything you want to do. That is it.

I physically disappeared from the Western world for half a year already, choosing to spend my time in Asia, and did not ask a single person whether or not I should or can do this. If you continually seek others’ advice or opinions, that’s all you probably will get. Advice and opinions of other people. You know yourself best. Not your partner, not your parents, not your children, not your best friends.

Look in the mirror. Hi. That’s you. Become best friends with yourself and give yourself the Truth by living it fully and unapologetically.

Full and Naked Exposure

Pema Chödrön, world-renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher and author, has this quote which is extraordinarily thought-provoking, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us … It was all about letting go of everything.”

Moving along the rapid tidal waves of self-evolution is incredibly terrifying. I know this because I’m perpetually in a state of changing who I am, what I believe, how I do things, how I view the world and myself, what I hold onto and what I must let go in order to change and grow into a more beautiful and better person.

This means you have to get naked. Fully and without hidden veils. Though physical bodily exposure isn’t a prerequisite to self-evolution (though it can be!), you do need to be honest with yourself. Do that by exposing yourself to situations, people, places and experiences that literally scare you half to death. You may be surprised as to how you might act in those times.

Strip away your insurmountable and impenetrable walls. Tear down your self-built holier-than-thou pedestal. Forget everything you know and let the world teach you.

Cut Deep, Not Broad

One of my favorite books of all time is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. In it, there is this one passage that reads, “‘What’s new’ is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question ‘What is best?,’ a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.”

If we are solely concerned with what’s to happen this coming weekend, or what’s the latest going-on’s in celebrity gossip and fashion, or what new TV shows or movies are playing tonight, is it any wonder why we’ve not satiated our deepest longings in our hearts? Us humans are constantly toying with superficial matters, making that our primary priority rather than an optional add-on.

Those who know me know I care for such superficiality, commercial gossip and external validators as much as I care about how many millimeters a baby bamboo plant will grow in a week facing a northeastern sun. That’s right. Zilch.

If you ever get tired of the same mundane day-to-day routine, that is you saying you are ready to opt-out. Opt-in to endeavors which make you happy and which shall challenge you in a positive way. Remember, you need not ask for permission to live your own life — ever.


The word educate is derived from the Latin word ‘educo,’ meaning to educe, to draw out, to develop from within.

Napoleon Hill of the classic book Think and Grow Rich puts it pointedly, “The person who stops studying merely because he has finished school is forever hopelessly doomed to mediocrity, no matter what may be his calling. The way of success is the way of continuous pursuit of knowledge.”

Knowledge by itself is simply knowledge. Anyone with a simple brain can memorize facts, figures and random statistics. But harness that knowledge and now you have POWER. Unspeakable power to change the world, your life and everything in between.

Education does not stop after you’ve received your high school or university diploma. What the hell is that anyways? It’s some fancy script printed on nice, heavy-duty paper. Maybe a splash of color or two from your alma mater. Don’t be alarmed. This is coming from a person with two undergraduate degrees and one master’s degree by the age of 24.

I say this because I have learned so much more when the entire world is your classroom and you are the student. This is no exaggeration. It is the characteristics which are within you and which you must draw out from within that will then enable you to truly learn from others, places, experiences, yourself.

Blank your mind and fill it with the world instead.

Expectation Fatality and The End of Planning

Paul Theroux, American travel writer and novelist, wrote in To The Ends of The Earth, “It is fatal to know too much at the outcome: boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his route as to the novelist who is overcertain of his plot.”

I stopped all kinds of life planning agendas, 3-year and 5-year plans, month-to-month goal and checklists of sorts, at age 25. I gave away my watch and threw away my planner. By 26, I stopped owning a cell phone. Why? I was sick of planning, of having my life scheduled down to the very hour and minute of a particular day of a particular week of a particular month. This left me no room for ambiguity, of spontaneous adventures, of freewheeling extravaganzas of my blazing heart’s desires. Now, I almost always travel one-way, preferring to live life fully in the present moment, knowing that I may not have tomorrow. Yes, I’m definitely your modern-day backpacker/hobo/nomad/traveler/wanderer/meanderer/free spirit/hippie.

You know what happens when you give up all expectations and stop planning your entire life? The present moment truly becomes everything. You experience it to your fullest human capacities to embrace every single emotion under the sun and you let it soak you like a parched camel in the middle of the Sahara.

You’re made to feel like you’re lazy, apathetic or ambitious-less when you don’t plan or have goals. Here’s an earth-shattering concept for you: your only ‘goal’ is to live a mindfully meaningful life, obsessively driven to live it to the max, regardless of what other people think, say or do. That is it.

Your short life is affectionately precious and if you’ve not already, you need to have an enchanting rendezvous with your endearing soul. Give yourself unconditional carte blanche over your life.

Your one-way ticket to the world already has your name on it. What are you waiting for?

You can follow Nina on her blog at Castle in the Air.  On her site, you can also find Nina’s books including The Radical Minimalist, Inspirations from the Radical Minimalist (free), and  Minimalist Freedom (free).


  1. You’ve got a ticket to ride and it’s Ok, in fact it’s marvellous Nina! I’m with you in spirit having just sold my home of 20 years and left my home town of 40 years to embark on new adventures though I know not where.I know who I am, know what I am and are being, and know where I will live for the next month, the rest will unfold like gold because I’m holding the golden ticket marked, ‘Destination Me!’ The road will show itself. Trust, faith, and liberation will take care of that. Bless you Nina and Godspeed on your journeys ahead!

  2. An awesome article. I agree with 98% of the message. I have a masters degree and bachelors degree. I’ve been a fulltime police officer in California for six years and traveled to 27 countries. I have learned more from traveling and from being a police officer than I ever did during the pursuit of those degrees. I do believe in a day planner / journal though. It helps me to balance my thoughts by writing in it each day and just because I plan something or jot it down does not mean I have to rigidly follow that plan. It also serves as something to reflect upon. Eudaimonia!

  3. Beautiful manifesto, Nina. We recently became location independent. The happiness factor explodes when you are in charge of your own life. Plans, when meaningful, can still play a big part and not detract from mindfulness in the present. The constant worry and stress from a more conventional life is a distant memory.

  4. This was excellent! Definitely bookmarking this gem. Nina, you’ve got a particular knack for inspiring others, and lighting a fire under their ass! Who wouldn’t want to jump on a plane after reading this? 🙂

  5. Great to be introduced to this inspiring spirit.

    I too punched my own ticket 30+ years ago and have not looked back. This came to me when I read Walt Whitman statement, “You have not known what you are, you have slumbered upon yourself all your life.” This statement was a wakeup call for me. I could see how taunting self-talk had me slumbering upon myself all of my life; those many dreams that never came to fruition.

    It’s a glorious day when we realize that we cannot afford to continue being who we were yesterday if we want to experience a different life tomorrow.

  6. I thought I had commented yesterday…but I guess not 😉

    Nina — this was very inspirational and so glad to have seen your work.

    I have always been a planner myself and have just recently gave up the long lists. I just take action…on something. If I am tired, I rest for a bit. I go with what my body feels (without the anxiety or baggage that can interrupt this Divine flow).

    Your words feel great to my spirt and look forward to more of your articles 😉

  7. @john – Destination Me indeed! Hitting the road running and never looking back for fear of possible regrets … truly a liberating way to live.
    @christian – If it helps you in your life, then do it. Glad to hear you have learned much from being a police officer and your travels in this beautiful world.
    @betsy – A distant memory, I love how you put it. My old way of life feels like it never even existed, for it pales in contrast to the Nina today. Heck, it doesn’t even compare!
    @adam – Do it! : )
    @rob – That’s wonderful to hear! It would be a shame to get to the end of one’s own life and realized that we have not truly lived out our most fervent dreams. THAT would be the worst tragedy of all, in my opinion.
    @kenya – Feeling your emotions and listening to what your body tells you it needs. Excellent to hear giving up those lists. I always feel a sense of guilt when they don’t get accomplished, like someone’s watching over me to ensure I check all those boxes off. But life isn’t a series of lists or checkboxes or action plans. It’s freewheeling, ambiguous, unplanned for, and uncontainable! A wild beast, life is. : )

  8. Hi Nina,

    Nice post! I agree with you we have got to live our life based on our own terms. It is time to stop asking for approval and if we can do this or that. God has given us a choice, so why not take this choice and live life the way we want to? Thanks for sharing, great post! 🙂

  9. Hi JD and Nina .. wonderful guest poster – and I’ve subscribed to Castles in the Air .. you have some pearls of wisdom to impart .. I read this today .. and you’re 27 – congratulations .. so I shall thoroughly enjoy reading your post around the number 27 .. and the Q & As you’ve included.

    Thanks so much .. times will change for me .. and this posting with your thoughts on life at your own blog – has certainly given me something to ponder for my future. A really inspiring read .. and I loved everyone’s comments .. cheers Hilary

  10. […] Nina Yau, Sources of Insight (guest post)-”You and a One-Way Ticket to the World” Wow. This post really resonated with me. Nina has a real knack for inspiring others. This is a must-read. (It was also Nina’s birthday this week! Read her reflections on life.) “I piss people off on a daily basis, not because I’m intentionally wanting to anger others, but simply by living my life with such extreme audacity and fervent tenacity. Because I love life — and maybe they don’t or are miserable — will be enough reason for people to find fault, poke, prod, criticize, call you all sorts of names, tie you up and burn you at the stake of unconventionality. My life is my own empty page. So is yours. Do what you will with it and care not for others who only want to tear you down.” […]

  11. […] leaves February 17, 2012 for X destination of your choice. Your one-way ticket to the world already has your name on […]

  12. Beautiful insight into the world’s miss understood concept of sacrifice of the everyday must I must go to work I must be on time I must please everyone but you thrown out the window I like enjoy proud of you and I am inspired

  13. this was all inspiring..
    but family and financial obligations do not go together with the nomadic life…at least according to my perception.
    i love my family.
    How can i live this adventurous life you describe with my family?
    i am not criticizing just asking for ideas.
    thank you

  14. Hello Nina,
    One thing I knew, God is given you, talents and skills to be an inspiration to someone. Keep it up, share and surely many would be happy and blessed. I hope and do pray that whatever you do keep on praying to God wherever you may go.

    thank you for inspiring me also.

    Love and prayer,

    Jay Policarpio, PHILIPPINES

  15. That all sounds very nice, but its really not that simple. life isn’t black and white and reasons aren’t always asinine. When buying food is a struggle, a plane ticket is unthinkable. Sometimes the problems we feel or the dreams we have aren’t a location but inside us, a one way ticket is just a geographical swap.

  16. Super inspirational posts – enjoyed reading them all.
    Thanks for much for this…my favourite quote that I am taking back is:

    “My life is my own empty page. So is yours. Do what you will with it and care not for others who only want to tear you down.”

  17. Hi Nina :

    I speak the Truth
    “Phil Never Lied” says LlL Wayne(Rapper)

    True Religion

    WB Nina
    You Are truly Lovely

    frm: Phil nyc
    I’d love to meet you for a spot of tea someday.

  18. I agree with John. I agree with about half of your post. If I were to teach my child that he should punch his own ticket out of school or homework or chores–simple things– I’m teaching him how not to live in this world. There is also reality to consider.

    If everyone in the world was like this, it would be chaos.

    This sounds like an extended vacation to me but if it works for you, power on!

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