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.
Many people see my lifestyle as impossible because they’d be away from their family too much or for too long.
I don’t disagree. It can be tough sometimes being away from home. When times get tough it can be very easy to feel like quitting and going back into welcoming arms.
But let me share my story. Basically, since 2004 I’ve been living abroad. Working in the Middle East, then getting an MBA in Spain, then working in Denmark, and now The Happy Nomad Tour. I still remember my first days in Abu Dhabi. I felt completely out of place, I didn’t have any friends among my colleagues (and never really did form friendships with them ultimately), and the mere thought of my family would force me to choke back incredible emotion.
When there is no close physical proximity you have to maintain closeness in other ways. In my case, when I’m at home with my family we don’t usually have deep conversations. It’s just the way it goes. In normal life you tend to focus on the small things and miss the big things.
While I’m away from home we tend to talk about the big picture things since they can’t relate to my daily life. Talking about the small things in my daily life isn’t how I’d like to spend the limited time we have to talk. During The Happy Nomad Tour I usually call my parents two or three times a week. It depended a lot on internet bandwidth as I call home using Google Voice.
During our conversations we talk about what’s happening and I think from 2004 until now we’ve been able to deepen our relationship in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
I think many people confuse physical proximity for closeness and don’t understand how you can be so close, maybe even closer, with distance. I wonder if that’s rooted in insecurity, but I observed a lot of this in many traditional cultures I’ve observed.
While in Odessa, Ukraine I found this sign.
In Ukraine I learned how to read the Russian alphabet and immediately read “ШАНС” as “shans.” It means chance in Russian. But for me shans has a deeper meaning.
My whole life I grew up hearing my Uncle Paul call my dad “shans.” I don’t know why. I think I asked one time but I forgot how it all started. I guess it doesn’t matter. When I saw that sign I stopped in my tracks and remembered my parents and family immediately, and the good memories that go along with it.
My Uncle Paul is in many ways a happiness inspiration. He goes about his daily life with making others smile his mission. He’s funny and usually has no problem making others laugh, but when his efforts result in disdain, he doesn’t fret. Not everyone is ready for random acts of kindness and humor and Uncle Paul respects that. He doesn’t let it get him down. He knows that making others smile makes him happy and he works really hard at this unofficial job he’s undertaken.
This is just one small story. On any given day I see many things that remind me of the incredible people in my life. I do my best to take pictures or send notes to communicate as much, but sometimes it’s just a moment in time for me to connect with and remember someone in my life. When this happens all the time it’s hard to feel lonely.