As I sit down to write this article, I’m filled with a sense of vulnerability and excitement. You see, this is a story that only I can tell. It’s a tale of finding my Pathless Path and discovering who I am in the process.
I have learned that some of my best decision-making comes from following my gut, heart, and intuition - a place of inner knowing.
Along the way, I discovered the importance of staying flexible and adaptable. I learned that life is a journey, and it can be overwhelming; there’s no one right way to live it.
In this article, I want to share my journey with you - leaving the Default Path and embracing my curiosity to explore and learn more about myself. I’ll talk about how my childhood experiences, pursuit of my passion, and traveling shaped my path. How I learned a new language and taking a three-month sabbatical in Australia played a significant role in my journey.
If you’re someone who’s curious about finding your own path, then this article is for you. I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire you to follow your intuition and create a life that’s true to who you are. So, come along with me on this journey of self-discovery, and let’s find our Pathless Paths together.
The Pathless Path is experimenting on your own to find a life you want to live vs “getting ahead” on a script others follow – embracing uncertainty & discomfort vs planning/conforming.
The default path is a “script” of decisions and accomplishments needed to be seen as a successful adult. For example
good grades -> good job -> own a home -> have a family
(From Paul Millerd’s Book The Pathless Path)
Discovering Life: Traveling & Pursuing Passion
Everything starts with your parents and the life you had when growing up. Your youth is the foundation of your future path.
I had the most fantastic childhood one could imagine. My younger sister, younger brother and I grew up in the countryside with lots of space to play. We didn’t grow up with abundant money, but my parents never made us feel we were missing anything.
My dad would come home early from work just so he could play with us. My mom would make everyone comfortable and is the best caregiver and host. She was the best mam I could wish for and the family’s foundation as she made everyone comfortable. Even people outside our family felt the same way, they didn’t call before visiting our home, they knocked and entered.
I got so much love, care, and freedom to explore my interests.
I didn’t notice this love during my younger years growing up. But in hindsight, the love and security I got from my parents, and generally everyone around me, was the foundation for a Pathless Path that let me take more risks later in life and do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. It also allowed me to be genuinely open to everyone without stereotypes or bad intentions; we treated everyone as they were.
I Followed My Passion Early On
Passion and curiosity to learn something new were always part of my life. According to my mum, as a kid I always asked the question “why?”. Mamma, why is this like this?
Most kids have an inborn curiosity, but it deepened with my dad working computers in the late 90’s. We would take apart a MS-DOS 386, that my dad got from eBay, from a seller who imported it from Taiwan. We spent time exchanging the RAMs, mainboard, and other parts. Then I watched as my dad installed the latest Unix system and taught himself the latest.
Later in school, I wanted to start learning and working with computers— I never had the goal of studying. In Switzerland, we have this dual-track education system. Instead of going to school until earning a bachelor’s or even master’s degree, you work and go to school simultaneously, right after “middle school,” at 17 years old. The dual-track system helps you explore the waters. “Do you like the job? Would you want to do this for your life?.” On top, you get precious early experiences. By the time you finish the four years as a computer scientist apprentice, you already have four years of work experience, plus a degree from school.
While doing my apprenticeship as a computer scientist, I started to explore the programming side of computers. I began to create a website with plain HTML, CSS, PHP, and Apache Webserver. I uploaded weekly party pictures from the weekend in my region — you can get a glimpse of how that looked in the feature image here.
This early domain name, sspaeti.com, has stayed with me to this date. My blog has had several iterations. From uploading party pictures, to creating a regional forum to exchange chat with friends, and a Flickr-like webpage, where I uploaded more aesthetic photographs. Eventually, I converted it into a technical blog with WordPress, and in the latest iteration, changed it to a newer publication framework.
The entrepreneurial experience of building and designing my own website and being creative has accompanied me to this day. Never would I have thought that this would shape my future path as much. As I pivoted into writing, I put my deep thoughts in the form of Blog Posts, Second Brain, and potentially a book.
Live as you die tomorrow. Learn as you live forever. Mahatma Gandhi.
Three Month Sabbatical
While working as an apprentice, I had the advantage of earning a small salary, most of which I saved. This allowed me to take some time off after the apprenticeship to discover the world outside Switzerland. As a curious mind always exploring new things, I wanted to do some traveling.
Back then, it was more like: I wanted to travel and have some fun time off school. From a friend’s recommendation, I chose a language school in Cairns, Australia, and set out for 15 weeks. Seven of which I spent in Cairns and attended school to learn English, and eight I spent traveling the beautiful east coast of Australia.
Reflecting, this trip also shaped me to be who I became. I learned entirely new cultures and environments, and was on my own. In the Pathless Path, Paul calls it mini-retirement; instead of waiting for your retirement in the sixties, take more minor ones along the way.
I still remember to this day how scared I was when I landed in Cairns. It was my first flight and my first time overseas, and I was on the other side of the world. I was lost and numb with no family or friends and not knowing the language and culture well. I didn’t take the easy path with choosing a host family. Instead, I shared flats with unknown people, which made it challenging.
As an introvert, making friends in a foreign language and with many strangers was difficult. Luckily the first day of language school, that changed as I met many other students in the same situation. But seven weeks later, when starting the eight weeks of traveling on my own, the same fear I had came back.
Through these challenges, I got to know myself better. I learned to get out of my comfort zone, appreciate friends and family back home, and how to be open to any feelings or situations that might arise.
These challenging experiences are the ones I remember to this day. In these “stress” situations, you get to know yourself and deeply engage with the surroundings and people around you. It also led to long-time friendships and a genuine appreciation for Australia and a culture other than my own. It also helped that Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world :).
Pursuing the “Default Path”
According to the Default Path, the next step for me would have been to get a degree. It wasn’t different for me. I pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Bern University of Applied Sciences.
One crucial decision early on was to work part-time with computers and retain critical work experience to find a job easier later. I followed my intuition. In hindsight, working part-time was a golden decision. Even though it was hard, it taught me a valuable lesson for challenges later: I learned that even though it’s hard, I can do it 💪🏻.
I wasn’t the best student, quite the opposite, and I appreciated all my classmates helping me along the way. But one thing I was good at was prioritization. I would spend little time on topics that didn’t interest me, and still passed most of the classes. Being a minimalist, I make impactful decisions. Saying no to things I didn’t value meant I could follow my passions, and pick up things I was genuinely curious about, such as photography and design.
Leaving the Default Path: Finding My Path in Another Country
After finishing my bachelor’s degree and working a couple of months longer as a consultant, my long-term relationship ended abruptly, which hit me hard. I didn’t know what to do next or how to escape the pain.
I only kept hearing from my inner self that I needed a change. Luckily, with the twelve accumulated years of experience, including my apprenticeship, I took a leap of faith. I decided to leave the default path, live in a foreign country, and experience the anxiety and fear of the unknown yet again. I knew it wouldbe challenging, but I also knew the most impactful learnings I had were from throwing myself into the unfamiliar. It’s like an addiction.
It was spontaneous, but as the Pathless Path would say: embracing uncertainty & discomfort. My three months in Australia taught me, “If not now, when else would I do it?”
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer—Anonymous
My goal was to find an English-speaking country near the water, best to be a sea with a beach. Places in the US and Australia came to mind first but swiftly got rejected due to the complex VISA process and the logistics, as these were far away. Finally, I landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, which tickedall the boxes and even had some job openings. It wasn’t the typical Miami beach beaches, but an excellent work-life balance and a different culture from mine. I could also quickly fly home over the weekend if there was a wedding or life event of family and friends I wanted to attend.
Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything—Muhammad Ali.
After finding a company that kindly employed me and even helped me with the relocations, I was again on my own in another country. Nobody I knew, or I could ask for help. But as learned in Australia, these challenges bring this mix of anxiety, curiosity, and excitement to explore new things.
Reflecting on it, I found lovely friendships at work with the beautiful Danish culture. I practice hygge by simply relaxing in the parks of Copenhagen, joining their excellent coffee shops such as Espresso Houses. I participated in a small triathlon twice, swimming through open water, and many more. I biked daily, enjoying nature to the fullest, no matter the weather.
It was one of the best times of my life. Most profoundly, it also turned my life and my path upside down. I was learning a new language and opening Pandora’s box of knowledge (English books), exploring a life-guiding philosophy called stoicism.
English the Language
While learning a little bit of Danish, I got fluent in English. With that and reading more books, I was blown away by how much content and books I missed because I didn’t speak English.
I started to fall for language. It was close to my heart. Early in school, I had a hard time reading German and developed a minor disability in reading and pronouncing the letter “s”. I had to go to a specialist, and it got better with time. But it’s fascinating how I started to love learning new languages, as someone who struggled with their native school language growing up.
Now I write, journal, and even think in English. It has replaced my mother tongue, Swiss German, significantly. In school I would write in High German (Swiss German is a spoken language only), but English always felt more approachable, concise, and straight to the point. I can articulate what I want to say with precision.
From listening to many podcasts, most aspiring guests said that their success came from starting to write. That inspired me to follow their paths, which ultimately led me to start writing and, most importantly, share my writingwith the public.
You can see some of my early, embarrassing writing on the blog, e.g., The more you share, the more you get, or my first “hit” that motivated me to write more Data Engineering, the future of Data Warehousing.
Stoicism as a Guide for the Pathless Path
While listening to multiple podcasts and recommended books, I discovered stoicism. The Daily Stoic (366 Meditations) book, with its 366 Meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living, had a profound impact.
Since then, I have read and listened to it 5-6 times. It’s a guided meditation, my prayer, journaling, and everything together. It changes my well-being with a basic understanding of what we can change and can’t. Being in a bad mood because of lousy weather isn’t helpful to anyone; it’s outside our control.
You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.—Marcus Aurelius
It helped me guide myself through life with a compass and equally navigate challenging and joyful moments. It helped me be by myself in a foreign country to train and apply these newly learned principles. I went inwards and found closer to the path I wanted for my life.
Stoicm also showed me that to master something truly, you must repeatedly learn and train something— making it an atomic habit. Like reading the bible for the first time, I didn’t understand the language. It was foreign. But with everything in life, it becomes eventually second nature the more you immerse.
The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.—Epictetus
Stoicism can serve as an example of how one can develop a personal philosophy that guides one through the uncertainties and challenges of life or the Pathless Path. They are the perfect principles for navigating the gut feeling, preparing for the hard times, and being happy with what you have.
Co-Living in Bali
As I was immersed in learning new things, I tried to find my path in a foreign country. After two years in Denmark, I asked myself, “How long should I stay?”. I liked it here and felt I could stay forever, but the Pathless Path taught me to move on. Following the Pathless Paths mantra, embracing uncertainty and discomfort, I set a plan to travel again and take a sabbatical in the knowing of getting clarity out of it.
I found Project Getaway in Bali, where entrepreneurial mindsets lived together for one month and explored the beauty of Bali. It was perfect, I thought. Especially as I had some hypotheses and ideas I wanted to try out for myself, but needed more dedicated focus.
The only question was, how am I going to do it? I was employed full time, and considered taking unpaid vacation or preparing to quit my job altogether in the worst case. Luckily, my company and former boss were super supportive and even encourage me to go.
Maybe it was the Danish culture, the people that trusted in me, or the general respect, but I’m still incredibly thankful for this opportunity. Yet again, I was planning a two-month sabbatical, this time with an independent lifestyle, and adding Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, and Bangkok, Thailand to the travel itinerary.
Entering the Path of Love
I haven’t told you about a big thing that happened during my stay in Copenhagen yet. After co-living with like-minded entrepreneurs in Bali, or nothing less than finding the love of my life. I met someone half a year (2016) into my stay abroad. We were just really good friends. Both being expats in Denmark connected us, and we explored the Nordics and surroundings together. We just had such a terrific time together.
She is originally from the Philippines, and I am from Switzerland; I thought there wouldn’t be a chance to be more than friends.
But we truly became more over the weeks, months, and years. She was the perfect fit for my newly explored self that I discovered while leaving the Default Path. She embraced my new self, supported me with learning English, was genuinely interested in me, and appreciated my true self. Even though we came from such different places and cultures, deep inside, we cared for the same basics. It took me a while, but I knew this person was special.
Fast forward one and a half years to the end of 2017, returning from Bali. I didn’t know what to do.
I moved back to my parents
I knew I could stay in Copenhagen for two or three years more, but I didn’t see myself relocating for good, at least not yet.
So I did what a Swiss would do, I quit my job in Denmark, returning to the beautiful lakes and the lovely mountains of Switzerland, the snow, and the four seasons I have missed. I found an excitingjob that led me to do innovative and engaging work close to my parent’s place.
I followed my intuition.
I saved two months before starting the new job for another short sabbatical and moved back in with my parents—the idea was to have time to search for a flat and think about what to do next.
Being 32 years of age, I felt a bit too old to go back to my parents. But I also realized how much I enjoyed all the time I could get with them. It was so refreshing to have my parents close after moving away for a long time. I could spend quality time with them in a way that we wouldn’t get if we didn’t live together.
This was also when I realizedhow fortunate I was in life, and how others have less luck. It was also the first time I realized my love for my best friend in Switzerland. Everything is possible. In hindsight, I’m sure this realization was only possible because of the sabatticals. Time to spend time with the ones I love most to reflect on how much luck and blessings I got in my life.
Making Hard Decisions
That’s when I called my best friend. After almost hanging up the phone, she picked up. We hadn’t talked for a while. She was in the Netherlands. We talked about what was happening in her life, and I told her about mine. It was as if the clock was turned back when we spoke in Copenhagen.
We talked for an hour. Without overthinking it, I asked her: “Do you want to visit me in Switzerland?” She said yes! After we hung up, I thought: I want to be with this woman. After spending time with her in Denmark, I thought it wouldn’t work out, with two different cultures and her family being on the other side of the globe. Now I decided I had to try and make it work.
A few months later, she visited me in Switzerland, and we had to make a hard decision. I knew deep inside me I had to try everything I could. Being from the Philippines, there was only one way we could stay together. We had to marry.
Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.—Jerzy Gregorek
After spending the most romantic months together, exploring and traveling within Switzerland, and having had the time of our lives in Copenhagen, we knew we could achieve that as a team. We followed the new path, together!
If you’d told me that I would marry a woman I met in a foreign country who is from a different continent, I wouldn’t have believed it. How high are the odds?
If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must never forget. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.—A.A. Milne
Embracing this part of our relationship, we soon had a kid on theway—time to become a family. We found a house and somehow got back a Default Path. Or should it be called the Path of Love?
My Pathless Path
Going back into a house and having a kid raises the question, why did I return to the Default Path? Was it on purpose? I realized there is more than just the Default or Pathless Path. Ultimately, it is anyone’s path; This was my Pathless Path, and it was, in a sense, genuinely pathless—following curiosity and my instincts that I learned throughout all the experiences. There is always the right timing for every path; the authentic path of life is knowing when to follow your gut and when to do the default thing.
Entering the COVID-19 times in April 2021, when everyone was remote and at home. It was great for us, as a family, as a dad. I could spend all my time seeing my daughter growing up, spending quality time together. Although this part is part of everyone’s lives, to me, it’s another step toward my Pathless Path.
Working remotely 100%, I also thought about a hobby I have done on the side for a while now, writing. It started as a hobby in the library in Copenhagen and has lasted to this day. My curiosity hit again, and I added another long-time dream and another piece to my unique Pathless Path, starting to work as a Technical Writer part-time. Ultimately, it’s your path, and it’s never-ending. Stay curious, make memories, and follow your instincts.
Finishing up this article, finding My Pathless Path as part of The Art of Modern Writing course, I want to express my deepest gratitude, and say thanks so everyone who was part of this five-week experience, of finding our own truths!
What I Have Learned Along the Journey
I want to end this article with what I’ve learned through my Pathless Path to this day.
- Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.—Brad Meltzer. Also, in this article, many battles were left out. One of my close family members had Bipolar disorder. Another had a hard time controlling their aggression during childhood. Cancer, death… I learned every obstacle would make you stronger. Hard to realize at the moment, but something that will be apparent in hindsight.
- Try to be happy with less. Try minimalism. Then, happiness = reality - expectations.
- Travel doesn’t always need to be to the other side of the globe. Traveling can be as beautiful just where you are, in the close surrounding.
- Money is essential, but you can’t buy your experiences, your happiness, and your family with it.
- It’s not certain that we will find our soulmate. Keep appreciating the people you meet - you never know - your best friend might get your buddy for life. Try to break out of your comfort zone and go to new places. Be open and vulnerable, and be prepared for love to find you when least expected. Finding love is likely to happen when you are your best self. Not when stuck in a daily commute or working 9-5.
- If we train our intuition to understand what is important to us through journaling, praying, or other practices, we store memories that are more dedicated to what we want—or gain a deeper life through a rigorous personal knowledge management workflow.
Ultimately, goals and vision are good, but listening to your inner voice and believing in yourself matters most. I will try doing this today and every day in the future.
Family and friends are the safe havens. Whatever happens, they will always be there. No matter how much time you spend with them when in need, you can trust them. I don’t know what I would do without them. But I know I wouldn’t have made the same decisions in life without them. Thank you, everyone. You know who you are!