Many people have asked me how I could just leave my job and seemingly travel perpetually. How can I afford it? How do you find places to stay for free all the time? How do you find places to volunteer? All questions I’ve received by email, and now I’m sharing the secrets in a series of posts about how The Happy Nomad Tour Rolls and what things are like behind the scenes.
Pre-Happy Nomad Tour
The nomadic lifestyle is obviously very different from a “normal” lifestyle. As of the writing of this post, on December 29, 2012 I have slept in 114 beds so far in the past 507 days. It’s not just the beds or the movement though, it’s the mindset.
As a nomad, your surroundings are constantly changing. Very little is held constant. In the past six months I’ve been in South America, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Very little in common among those places.
Before talking about how I cope, I think it’ll help to share a bit of my previous life here. In some way, I have been a nomad since graduating from college in 2004. I went to Abu Dhabi, UAE, then training in Scotland, than a transfer to Doha, Qatar, then business school in Spain, then working in Denmark, now the Happy Nomad Tour.
My pre-Happy Nomad Tour life didn’t feel terribly nomadic since I spent much more time in each place. I guess it helped me realize how little I need. I lived out of two suitcases for years, though I always had a place I could call home. But yes, I learned how to minimize.
Here’s an example of this minimization. In Denmark I lived a very bare-bones life. It’s very expensive there and I showed up with no money after spending so much to get my MBA.
Below are pictures from my apartment in Denmark from January 2011. You can see my minimalist approach in my “office” setup, having bought a deeply discounted chair and table meant for gardens in the autumn. My bed was an air mattress. And yes, a month before leaving Denmark somehow it got punctured. No amount of duct tape would fix it, so I slept on the floor basically. It prepared me nicely for the many times I’ve slept on the floor during The Happy Nomad Tour. An empty living room (where I happened to be drying my clothes when the picture was taken). Finally, why buy a closet when the kitchen has a ridiculous amount of storage space?
You might ask, correctly, why would a minimalist have such a big apartment? Valid question. I didn’t want such a big apartment, but in Denmark finding housing is a complicated procedure of waiting lists for housing as I had, or expensive private options.
I put myself on a waiting list and this apartment came up quickly. Everyone was shocked how lucky I was to get such a nice apartment with so little waiting. But the most important criteria was that I wanted to live in the small town where my office was. I spent three months commuting an hour each way from the nearest big town and I hated it. Living where I worked meant a seven minute bike ride to my office.
The point is, I have had a bit of training on how to be a nomad before. I lived a simple, uncluttered life before this trip. I’ve had to minimize down to having almost nothing, but it’s a healthy exercise in realizing what’s important.
Moving from place to place, bed to bed, family to family, friend to friend, like everything you do a lot of in life, it’s become normal now. And I think it suits my personality well, always learning something new and challenging myself.