Every travel experience is an adventure, but there are a few travel tales
One of the all-time greats of travel success stories centres on Steve Jobs and his trip(s) to India in the seventies. Very little is known about these trips because they took place before Apple was founded, and thus it was well before anything essential was documented about the iconic founder.
What we do know is that between 1974 and 1976, Steve Jobs was employed by Atari, a defunct video game company with a cult-like following. Fascinated by Eastern Philosophy like many young westerners, Steve Jobs travelled India for a period of several months with his friend Dan Kottke.
Documentation is murky at best and it seems the two friends repeatedly got sick, there were several instances of thievery and scams, plus Karoli Baba, the guru that Steve so desperately wanted to find had already passed away once they arrived at the Ashram where he was rumoured to be. So this is not a nice collection of funny stories about traveling per se.
What is more remarkable is that Steve Jobs, despite all the hardships he experienced in India, recommended Mark Zuckerberg travelled to the country as well. At least that is what Mark Zuckerberg said during a presentation in India not long ago.
Reading up on Steve in his biographies reveals that he had several moments of clarity, and that there was a turning point when he realized India was much poorer than he had expected. Instead of finding the enlightenment so many came to India for, Jobs gradually came to the realization that maybe an inventor like Thomas Edison had done more for the people of the world than Karl Marx or Karoli Baba combined.
Now of course this is all speculation, but it is safe to say India deeply affected Jobs to the point of trauma and most certainly changed his life. He made it back to Atari as a Buddhist, and with a newfound focus and determination he reconnected with Steven Wozniak, working at Hewlett-Packard at the time. It wasn’t long before the first Apple computer rolled out of a garage somewhere in Palo Alto, California. The rest is history and Apple eventually became the most successful company in the world.
On the road
As fictional as it may be, Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road” is all about travel and what comes with it. Essentially, the go-to-go book for anyone who has a fascination for counterculture, it has inspired great artists like Van Morrisson, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrisson and my personal favourite, Hunter S. Thompson. It is safe to say that On the Road is the quintessential American Road Trip, and a leading cause in other works of fiction like “Easy Rider” or “Thelma & Louise”.
It is interesting to see that some of the language and behaviour in the book hasn’t dated very well and can be described as “corny” at its best. But as a story about the travel experience and overlaying themes like the search for meaning, finding pleasure, friendship and personal growth, it simply works.
Anyone disgusted by the comfort of the middle-class lifestyle will come across this book sooner or later, whether it is hinted at in other works like “Into the Wild” or you may find it at a second-hand book store somewhere in Nepal. Probably in a language that you don’t speak, because life likes to throw curveballs at us sometimes. Don’t worry, keep looking through the pile of books; you’ll likely find a copy of “The Motorcycle Diaries” in there somewhere too, which is very much in the same vein as well – two friends, traveling, discovering but perhaps with a heavy political overtone.
Digital Nomads and The Eternal Journey
With the advent of online telecommunications and digital media, a new type of phenomenon popped up. Instead of travellers like Jack Kerouac having to come home eventually, the right setup allows one to travel eternally. No more savings to burn and necessary jobs to finance the next trip to Africa, as smart entrepreneurs make traveling their main source of income.
Bloggers and vloggers with the right amount of followers or significant gigs “en route” can sustain themselves indefinitely. Nomadic Matt is an example of a guy who had a desk job and hated every second of it. With a consistent approach and an understanding of his target audience, Matt has is now a best-selling author and a blogger with over one million visitors per month – and essentially, he is doing short travel stories about himself and his experiences.
Note: I think it is safe to assume that he probably employs a team of virtual assistants by now, taking care of fulfilment and other menial tasks that come with running the back end of a successful website. Keep in mind that he has been churning away at it for a while, making his debut back in 2006, so there are no instant success stories.
I occasionally come across lifestyle bloggers who just “happened to roll into the online life” but a defining characteristic of all these people is that they very much “fake it until they make it”. There are countless articles online exposing these people as “less than credible”. Either they rent the property they call their own, or they were affluent to start with, with a silver spoon jammer up in there somewhere.
The darker ones are the beautiful girls that tend to travel the world with ease, seemingly moving from one 5-star hotel to the other. The truth is that many of them are luxury escorts, and not the successful businesswoman or product endorser they like to present to the outside world. Once you know this though, it certainly puts their short stories about traveling the world in a different perspective, along with all those quotes about empowerment and “living like you mean it” or whatever slogan website they plundered that day.
But the Digital Nomad is real. Whether it is a photographer with a wide range of customers, a successful copywriter working hotel rooms and lobbies or the all-time classic, the website builder. These people take maximum advantage of the differences in wages and prices in general in different economies. If you are a professional with a steady customer base, working for 1st world clients and deal with 3rd world living costs, the benefits are numerous.
Granted, this lifestyle is not for everyone, as there are several uncertainties that some people adapt better to than others. But for travellers who can’t seem to get enough of the travel bug, this lifestyle is a dream come true. I’ve even met poker players who manage their life in South-east Asia by checking in a few hours a day, and preying on less experienced players overseas. Depending on their skills set, some of them did extremely well.
A friend of mine runs several websites selling a variety of articles, both through Amazon and through his own domain names, with a nose for emerging trends and opportunities. Originally from America, he sustains himself with ease as he is extremely good at his job and has the necessary experience to adapt to market changes.
Note that a lot of travellers in South-east Asia see other people pursue this lifestyle and are hell bent on carving out a niche for themselves. They spend their last money on expensive equipment, a domain name or start watching “how-to’s” on YouTube, and end up disappointed when the money doesn’t come in like an instant flash flood. What’s more, many of them can’t even commit to the first and most important rule of blogging/vlogging, which is to consistently put out content. Held down by a mental block, they can’t sum up the creativity for two or three short travel stories.
The truth is that even the most successful digital nomads started somewhere on the side, carefully preparing to make the jump to the full-time nomadic lifestyle. There are exceptions here and there, but the absolute worst point in time to decide to do this is when you are traveling, and you are at the end of your resources.
Coincidentally, this is when a lot of backpackers start contemplating on what they can do to keep traveling “just a little longer”, and come up with crazy schemes involving the sales of T-Shirts online, or even elephant pants. With no experience whatsoever. Any dropshipper will tell you that it takes between 3- to 6 months to get your first product completely up and running with all the different moving parts set up correctly, and then you are not even making any money. So do take that into account before signing a 6-month lease somewhere on an island.
The greatest travel success story – You!
But you don’t have to possess a skill that involves online work to make money and travel. There are countless jobs out there that allow you to travel and work at the same time, and the very best ones are right under your nose, but you never actually noticed them.
Forget about being a purser or stewardess by the way – those jobs are overrated and stressful. Flying hasn’t been glamorous for several decades now and passengers can really take it out of you. No, if you intend to work in the service industry and transport people, have a look at yachts. You know those articles we see about Russian billionaires trying to outdo each other with bigger and bigger yachts? Well those are just the tip of the iceberg, as there is a literal armada of super luxurious yachts out there, roaming the oceans right now, and all of them need reliable staff at one point or another.
The reason that you hear very little about these stints is that most recruiters (it is usually agencies that handle these things) also have their staff sign ironclad non-disclosure agreements. There is nothing a yachts owner hates more than their crew spilling the beans to a paparazzi or gossip journalists, so unless you have a friend who is employed in this very industry, chances are you will hear very little about it. But in the meantime, these recruiters are constantly on the lookout for personal trainers, cocktails bartenders, cooks, mates, nannies, security staff and anything else their clientele desires.
On your end of the deal, a few certificates and a declaration of good behaviour from a reputable source could potentially seal the deal, and of course it really helps if you are good at your job.
Alternatively, you may get seasick and do not like the idea of living on an ultra-luxurious barge for months on end. In that case, have a look at seasonal jobs with the bigger travel organisations. Club Med in particular is known to have operations all around the world and they make it a habit to shuffle their crews to whatever they need. So one assignment might be somewhere in the Indian Ocean, while the next one will bring you to the French Alps. If you are truly resourceful, you may not even need a job when you travel – you simply make things work locally.
Getting around the different legislation may prove to be problematic, but why let that stop you? Well in advance, you simply look on the internet to find out what is and what isn’t allowed in your next destination and you adjust your plans accordingly. You’d be surprised at the demand of Caucasian-looking models in other parts of the world for instance. Or the ever-increasing hunger in China for remote English teachers. All you need is a good internet connection and some sense of patience, and before you know it, you’ve secured yourself a USD 20/hour payday wherever you go!
The possibilities are truly endless and usually one opportunity comes from another. So start making some moves, and go experience some short travel stories by yourself. Who knows, you may even become the next hot travel blogger. And before you know it, you’ll have been to more countries than you can remember.
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Alexander Grootmeester is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.