A Quick Note on “Piracy”
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Part One A New Perspective .

INTRODUCTION “For my part. It was a clever strategy: send an un-uniformed officer past us. I travel not to go anywhere. I would stay and love you. but to go. Aubin De Teran “It’s the police! They’re surrounding us. we have nowhere to run. Of course. so that when we see four more officers waiting ahead of us. It’s like saying.” Robert Louis Stevenson “Travelling is like flirting with life.” Lisa St.” Oh. The great affair is to move. this is my station. but I have to go. which now snake through the tunnels like overgrown vines. to come down off this feather-bed of civilization. halfflooded tunnel. and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. I travel for travel’s sake. to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly. I felt a little bit silly for the beaming smile and “bonjour” I gave the first guy as he passed us in the narrow. The cloudy spring water we had been sloshing through for the past few hours impeded our speed just as much as the massive bundles of copper cables. . once Paris’s first telephone system. Not that running was actually a possibility.

It was spectacular. slivers of light still reached the middle of the tunnel. Exploring the catacombs was a once in a lifetime opportunity that was worth any slap on the wrist we might receive. I barely cared that we were being caught. translated.2 LIFE NOMADIC These weren’t just any police. “because they know that if they give you a fine. “They want to bring you to the police station. we crawled through foot-deep seas of human bones. When we arrived eight hours earlier. We sat and ate baguettes in a giant cavern that played host to the underground party scene of Paris during the sixties. Now the only light came from the menacing headlamps on the officers’ helmets.” . either. We walked through a German bunker from World War II which still housed rusting machinery from the war. Three hundred kilometers of underground tunnels and caverns weave through Paris’s underground. Detritus from the parties still carpeted the ground. but less than one kilometer is open to the public. now splintered and caked with mud. they escorted us out to the abandoned train tunnel from which we had entered. And.” Clement. To be honest. We saw an obscure gravestone of a monk who had died in the catacombs after sneaking down to gorge himself on wine. so we took matters into our own hands: we broke into the catacombs. the Catacomb Police. I’d heard the legends of the Cataflics. you’ll just leave the country without paying it. whose only job was to keep trespassers out of the catacombs. of course. our guide. Without saying a word. Now we stood face to face with them. Such limited access didn’t satisfy our thirst for exploration.

we were released without any sort of penalty. the memories of Paris have yielded to newer adventures. a thought struck me. and fruit. All of my worldly possessions will be crammed into a tiny backpack and I’ll be exploring the Dominican Republic and Haiti. and now the French Police were going to arrest me. enjoying warm. I’d never even been to Europe until a few days ago. sunny weather in the midde of winter. Casa Vegetariana. I can look across the street and see the waves of the Pacific lapping up against the shore. Three weeks from now I’ll be gone. Now I’m in Panama. Thanks to my best friend and frequent travel companion. and his mastery of the French language. From my apartment in downtown Panama City. In a few hours I’ll take a fifteen minute walk to one of my favorite restaurants in the world. If I was still in Austin with my friends and family. “This is my life. beans. I think he managed to convey that we were more interested in French history than vandalism. with a glass of the best fresh squeezed orange juice in the world to wash it all down. Todd. As we walked along the old train tracks to the paddy wagon. From there I’ll take a ship across . vegetables. For dinner I always eat the same thing: a mountain of brown rice.INTRODUCTION 3 The absurdity of the situation struck me.” Life Nomadic Eight months later. Or maybe watching the latest episode of The Office at a friend’s house. I would probably be grocery shopping right now.

By leveraging technology. I live better than I did in the United States and I want for nothing. Most importantly. Incredibly. You will learn how to live in five star cruise ships. for $25 a day. and learn.4 LIFE NOMADIC the Atlantic to Europe. you’ll see the world and experience everything it has to offer. a two week voyage that will afford me the time do some much needed editing. flights. . You’ll live in furnished apartments in world-class cities for $17 per day. As we travel around the world we work. or India. including taxes. we have separated our obligations and commitments from fixed locations. including food. In this book I will share the secrets of living this amazing lifestyle. all meals included. I am a modern day nomad. After that. sometimes as cheap as $16 per flight. Welcome to Life Nomadic. You will understand how to book international flights at forty percent off or more. who knows? Right now I’m considering Scandinavia. living this way isn’t expensive. My total costs. Northern Africa. part of a tiny sliver of the population who have discovered that traveling the world is a more exciting and satisfying alternative to the Standard American Life. play. and entertainment amount to less than the average mortgage payment in the United States. My low monthly costs don’t reflect the lifestyle you might associate with them. rent.

INTRODUCTION 5 What is a Modern Nomad? “Be indifferent to where you live. . an element of sacrifice has been bundled with the glory of mobility and freedom. but be ready and able to leave as soon as an opportunity grabs your interest. A modern nomad isn’t someone who has no home. You’ll have plenty of time to figure out what sort of nomadic lifestyle you want to live. Maybe you want to divide your time up between four countries in a year. Or maybe you just want to live a simpler life in your hometown. Until now. Instead of isolating himself from society. He goes and experiences more of the world than he ever could ever experience staying in one place.” Miyamoto Musashi We’ve come a long way from the herding-yaks-through-thesteppes days of nomadic life. A modern nomad is a different breed. he does the opposite. Perhaps breezing through one hundred countries in a year would make you happy. From the early years of nomadic tribes to the more recent phenomenon of self-outcasting adventurers disappearing from society. but is still able to stay connected with people far away from him. following spring or summer around the globe. Nomads have been roaming the earth for somewhere around ten thousand years. I’ll share with you what it means to me. To get you started with a few ideas. he’s someone who has many homes. being a nomad has meant isolating oneself from modern culture. but only recently crossed a critical threshold.

If I decide that I’m sick of black sand beaches and would rather go skiing in the Alps. so that I can have conversations with as many different people in the world as possible. I want as few barriers in my way as possible. I strive to cut that phrase. though. Most days I spend time studying new languages. I have no mortgage. big countries. no bills. “I’d love to. and the underlying causes for it. Our world offers an amazing and limitless wealth of experiences and knowledge . I may not go. Think about what you’re missing out on if you don’t leave.6 LIFE NOMADIC Flexibility How many times have you started off a sentence with. and it’s important to be ready and willing to take advantage of what it has to offer. or countries that I just love (like Japan). Flexibility of movement isn’t the only type of flexibility that’s important. If a friend is planning a trip to India and invites me to come along. I eat an extremely healthy diet and maintain an active lifestyle so that no activity is beyond my reach. laid out for your personal consumption. not many of these are within your city. out of my life. I can pack and be ready to leave in 30 minutes with few or no expenses constraining my decision. but I have to…”? A million times. but if I don’t it’s because I have a good reason. . I want to be able to go on a week-long hike through the Napali Coast of Hawaii just as easily as I can lounge on a sleeper train on a three-day trip across Vietnam. Me too. I focus on languages spoken in many countries. not because life’s obligations are getting in my way. 1 1 By the way. and very little stuff to store when I leave.

I try to at the very least read the Wikipedia entry on it to get a sense of what the country is like and how it got that way. and take their advice. When traveling it’s easy to get stuck on the well beaten trails frequented by backpackers. which always seem to be 24 hour . But don’t blame me if. make friends with them. dirty. mediocre. and visiting the sites the locals think are important are all strategies to achieve this goal. eat where they eat. Living like the locals. once you’ve had a taste of the nomadic life. tourists. and vacationers. You can stay in the grimiest hostels. it’s important to remember that the ability to travel doesn’t carry with it the obligation to travel. shameless tourists. There’s nothing wrong with spending time in your hometown with your friends and family. you become too antsy to stay there for long. Live where the locals live. speaking in the local language. badly behaved. There’s nothing wrong with spending time on these trails (who’s going to go to Peru without seeing Macchu Picchu?). Before visiting a new country. I don’t want to see a new culture.INTRODUCTION 7 On the other hand. Brigitte Bardot I’m not content to be a spectator in life or in my travels. but don’t live on them. The GDP figure gives a good sense of how much money locals are living on. High Quality of Life It’s possible to travel the world for even less than I do. Deep Experience I am leaving the town to the invaders: increasingly numerous. I want to be a part of it.

but I prefer to rent clean apartments with wireless internet in the best areas of town. but very high quality electronics. and despite previous tendencies to buy them all. and it’s important to me to stay part of the internet age. doesn’t mean that I’m not going to keep up with cutting edge technology. I want hot water. We live in an exciting time. like the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. substance is often a bargain. I’ll stay in a hostel here and there. And unless I’m spending a weekend with a Kuna Indian tribe. and HD video camera with me at all times. I don’t need a 42 inch plasma screen to see an edited version of the world – I’ll see the real thing with my own eyes. . a lot of technology is garbage and I’m happy to walk away from it. I’m now much happier to have fewer. photojournalist-grade digital camera. Flash almost always costs money. Living as a nomad should raise your quality of living. though. The key concept to understand is that a high quality of living doesn’t mean spending a lot of money. Cutting Edge Technology Just because I can be found in some of the most remote areas of the world. and will always pay for it. I carry a laptop. My watch and phone both have GPS receivers in them to help me navigate and avoid getting lost. At the same time.8 LIFE NOMADIC parties. There’s a gadget or gizmo for just about any task these days. and eat nothing but ramen noodles. Some people do this and enjoy it quite a bit. I’m never far from the internet. That’s not for me. I love eating high quality fresh food. even when doing so costs a lot of money. not lower it.

Texas serves lunch until 2pm and begins serving dinner at 6:30pm. They’re technically closed then. frustrated with a programming problem I couldn’t seem to solve. 1 One afternoon. and the learning of high manners. I was working on programming a piece of software. I had the same routine at the restaurant. a thought crossed my mind: Why do I live in Austin? It’s a great city. Every day. I’d eat lunch. called a multivariate testing tool. and all of my friends 1 It didn’t. work hard for four hours. which leaves a quiet four hour period between meals to work. of course. which I was convinced would make me rich . the seeing and hearing of marvelous things. the meeting of unknown friends. but eating almost every meal at the same restaurant grants the customer a certain amount of leeway. Sadi Gulistan My favorite restaurant in Austin. I leaned back in my wooden dining chair and stared out the window. . and usually go hang out with my friends. For no apparent reason. seven days a week. the delight of beholding new cities.REDEFINING REALITY Of journeying the benefits are many: the freshness it bringeth to the heart. eat dinner.

as a modern day nomad. That was a lot of time to be in one place. I knew that it was the answer. The thought froze me in my tracks. It occurred to me that if I chose to. where I lived for a year and still had a lot of good friends? What about somewhere totally new? Maybe New York or Chicago? I’d been to both cities a few times and liked them. if I stayed in Austin. just for a change of scenery? Or maybe Los Angeles. As soon as I had the idea. I could be anywhere. but why was I there? My work was portable. but plenty of people live in other countries happily.10 LIFE NOMADIC were there. I hadn’t done much international traveling. . I didn’t have to choose just one country – I could live nowhere and everywhere at once. It’s a great country. maybe wouldn’t ever see. Twelve. I added up the years I’d lived in Austin. I asked myself. just a trip to Japan. and a few quick jaunts around the Caribbean. I could move anywhere. a trip to Taiwan. There was a lot left to see. Why was I constraining myself to the United States. And then a final epiphany hit me. I had friends and family in Boston – maybe I should live there for a while. I thought about all of the cities in the world that I’d never seen and.

all while maintaining the tenuous illusion that you’re in control. nomad or not.” Jim Rohn Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in my life is that doing anything because other people are doing it is a terrible idea. an apartment or a house. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. not just the ones made convenient by society. It’s like letting other people run your life by default. and I took the one less traveled by. both literally and metaphorically.” Robert Frost “If you don’t design your own life plan. and that has made all the difference.REDEFINING REALITY 11 You Don’t Have to Do What Other People Are Doing “Two roads diverge in a wood. It takes effort to get off the beaten path. eating at fast food and mid priced restaurant chains? Do they spend vacations in Florida or Mexico. chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. with the once every five years weeklong trip to Europe? . For a practical example. If you want to live an extraordinary life. you’ll eventually have to start considering all possibilities. How different are their lives? Do they all have a car. think about five random people you know. and a bit of credit card debt? Do they spend their time watching TV and movies. Ninety nine percent of the world is off the beaten path. Modern life is set up to keep you on it.

but it was also the kind of decision that slowly rots the soul from the inside. and most of the joys and wonders of it aren’t in your neighborhood. You gain a new quiet confidence from knowing that you’re capable of driving your life. It’s comfortable and safe. because society and parents told me that going to college is what you do when you graduate from high school. The act of blazing new trails and taking full responsibility for your life is exhilarating. The school was fine. First. you’ll find that it’s not as hard or scary as you expected. My first real experience with this was in college. 2 What I am trying to say. it’s a pretty deluxe life . you’ll find two things. I’m not convinced it’s much better than third world living in many ways. but I wasn’t. stopping occasionally at villages where the average citizen lived in a stick hut and probably made less than $1000 a year. not just riding along in it. I went to school at the University of Texas and I hated it. is that there is a lot more to life than that. 2 To be totally honest. what I want to shout out from the rooftops. Compared to most of the world . I couldn’t help but notice that they all seemed much happier than any cross section of America I’ve ever seen. Staying the course was the easy decision. you’ll reconnect with the sense of discovery and exploration that you had when you were a child. Second. None of the things I dreamed of doing in life were dependent on a degree. The world is a spectacular and complex place. When you finally get off the beaten path. The path of convenient compromises is a dangerous one. I was scared to drop out. .12 LIFE NOMADIC I don’t even mean to criticize that lifestyle all that much. I was there by default. As I rode on an otherwise foreigner-free train through the belly of Cambodia.

and the next one easier still. and have never once found myself in a position where I wished I had a degree. I knew that staying was wrong. I knew that it was the right choice for me. The stakes are too high. I broke free from the beaten path and began the march to my own drummer. People will always warn you of the dangers of veering off the beaten path. If It Seems Too Good to Be True.REDEFINING REALITY 13 Even though I knew it would devastate my parents. It May Still Be True Shortly after dropping out of school. and it was wonderful. I’ve never regretted the decision. Once you take one scary leap like that. Soon it becomes second nature to follow your own dreams rather than other people’s expectations. and doing anything else is seen for the absurdity that it really is. but in their warnings you can see the fear that you might prove their worst nightmare true: that living your life on your own terms is not totally impossible. Back in the day it was unbelievably easy to make hundreds of dollars an hour with virtually no risk. Once you’re off the beaten path. Maybe more accurately. there’s a lot out there to explore. It’s a possibility that most people would rather not confront. If you’re the kind of person to whom that sounds too good to be true. the next one becomes a lot easier. . I became a professional gambler. you’re in good company. I finally mustered the courage to drop out. even if I didn’t know exactly where it would lead.

having made $250 from thin air. I guaranteed that I would pay him back for any losses. and that we would all have money and be able to do whatever we wanted all the time. I had the utopian idea that all of my friends would do this too. “Wow. Meanwhile. deposited $1000. When I start to explain in vain how they can do it too. after arguing with one friend. It’s too good to be true. In front of his own eyes I signed up for an account. Rumors spread about the massive losses I must be concealing. he let me use his credit card. it funded my life for years. Finally. A week later he got the check.14 LIFE NOMADIC Almost none of my friends or family believed me. Even after I bought a Mercedes – in cash– my mother told me that if I just took a moment to add up all my winnings and losses. so he came up with a bizarre and illogical explanation for the whole thing and never made another dollar from it. their eyes glaze over and they invariably say. . When people probe about my life and I explain my perpetual state of travel. But no one was interested. but if we won he could keep the winnings. Did he jump on the opportunity and use it to pay for law school? No. I would surely find that I had lost a lot of money. and cashed out. made $250 more within half an hour. they come up with a million reasons why they can’t do it. The same attitude surrounds Life Nomadic. It never actually crosses their mind as a real possibility. I wish I could do that too. It was too good to be true. This particular friend is a genius who later went to a prestigious school to become a lawyer.” It’s an autopilot response.

If we approach any amazing opportunity with suspicion and disbelief. . If they could turn back the hands of time. I don’t lie. make sure that you can accept that sometimes things that sound too good to be true aren’t. would they? The vast majority of them would do it in a heartbeat. Which attitude do they have? Where would they be if they disregarded anything that seemed too good to be true? That doesn’t mean to blindly accept everything as gospel. how many amazing opportunities will we take in our lives? None? Think about your heroes in life. I don’t exaggerate. offering a couple hundred million dollars. maybe you have some friends with credit card debt. You May As Well Try Like me. and I don’t mislead. it’s probably a scam. If you’re going to spend the time to read the rest of this book. If a Prince of Nigeria sends you an e-mail. unsolicited. I always ask them if they regret their purchases. The key is to use your own judgment and research things for yourself. When people tell me they’re in debt. They talk about how worthless their purchases were and how they would give them up in a second to be out of debt. Everything in this book is true and attainable by you.REDEFINING REALITY 15 Consider for a moment where that attitude leads. or maybe you have some debt yourself. rather than mechanically writing them off just because other people have done so. erase the purchase from their history and escape from debt.

and I think the reason why is obvious. but wouldn’t give back what they purchased. our consumption of experiences is limited by our time. The worst that can happen is that you . but experiences change us as people. Can you guess what that second group spent money on? Experiences. It may not be.16 LIFE NOMADIC Then there’s the small remaining minority who also don’t like being in debt. in a way. Would you erase them from your experience if you could get the cost of them back? A recent study at San Francisco State University confirmed my informal observations. Even better. I can’t promise you that your step into the world of nomads will be successful. Think about trips you’ve been on. some of the best experiences don’t cost a dime. in an honest and straightforward manner. whether it’s the gift of great memories and stories or lessons learned through mistakes. No one ever regrets spending money on travel. but there are variables neither of us can control. I’d suggest to you. They make us better. Who knows? Maybe you’ll spend a couple months abroad and decide that you’re too homesick to continue. they concluded. though. it made them happier on average. So. The reason. as long as it’s spent on experiences. that you won’t regret giving it a shot even if it doesn’t work out. I can help by sharing with you. money can buy happiness after all. And unlike material possessions. the things I’ve learned through my own experience and through learning from other people. They found that when people spent money on experiences. even if it meant being out of debt. Usually travel. was that experiences connected people and “made them feel alive”. Possessions come and go.

. Listen to the voice.REDEFINING REALITY 17 come back a better person. with new perspective you couldn’t have gotten any other way. I bring up this point only to encourage the voice in the back of your head. and causes your stomach to feel like it’s on a roller coaster. the one that says. “maybe I should try this”. In the following chapters I will outline everything you need to virtually ensure your success and happiness as a nomad.

and I was staying in.” I reminded myself. with no one around you who can speak your language. let alone a friend. I wouldn’t be able to afford to travel all the time. This is true for both your emotional state as well as your discipline.THE NOMADIC EXPERIENCE The end is never as satisfying as the journey. There asn’t even a rainstorm to blame my homebody behavior on. You’ll be waiting in long lines to try . Not only that. “If I didn’t take time out to work. and sights.” Being a nomad requires you to simultaneously have a rock solid and stable inner life and a flexible and unpredictable outer life. Elbert Hubbard We had only three days in Barcelona. I was glued to my laptop getting work done. and the best way to secure it is to breed it. “This is why I’m able to do this. The sun was shining and the city was an unexplored treasure trove of adventure. culture. At times you’ll find yourself stranded in some airport or train station for a few days. Unknown Source Freedom is a condition of mind. To have achieved everything but to have done so without integrity and excitement is to have achieved nothing.

there’s probably no better way to build them. you’ll find plenty of dead time to get work done. If you already have these skills. news. there will always be more to see or do. or train rides. If you don’t. which equals not working. When you work on the go. At first you may find it difficult to work. and later you’ll wander out into a foreign city in search of somewhere to sleep. You’ll generally be working alone and on your computer. find yourself in a much more varied selection of situations.20 LIFE NOMADIC to rebook your flight. you’ll need to work while you travel. Offices intentionally minimize distraction. Our brains have been trained to believe that traveling equals being on vacation. This is a link that must be broken. They corral a group of peers there who. meaning that blogs. Even if you’re spending months at a time in a city. some of which will require a lot of emotional fortitude. You will. you’ll make tons of friends all over the world. The flip side of mobile work is that it takes a lot more discipline than working in an office. and other time-wasting sites are just another source of distraction a couple clicks away. just by their presence. especially when confronted daily by the treasures of the world. On the plus side. Unless you’re independently wealthy. Some of my more productive sessions are during airport layovers. That’s not to say that a nomadic life is lonely or even one of happy solitude. On the contrary. . flights. don’t let it. then you’re all set. will hold you accountable and make you feel guilty if you don’t work. Becoming more emotionally resilient and disciplined is almost involuntary when you become a nomad. If this scares you. however. it’s the exact opposite.

It was as if I could see the fork in the road in my life. the months would have passed and not much would have happened in my life. in just about the same jobs and relationships they were in before. I loved traveling. 1 It was so far out of his reality that I could possibly be back that he stared me in the eye and ordered for about thirty seconds before jolting back and realizing that it was me. and had crammed a lifetime of experience into just seven months. either. You learn to rely on yourself and get empirical proof that you can handle anything that’s thrown your way. I had learned languages. My friends were all the same. . like convincing the manager at a restaurant to allow me to be my friend’s waiter1. Texas. I took the other path.INTRODUCTION 21 The Subtle Benefits of Being a Nomad Fresh off a seven month trip around the world I was flying back to Austin. but was still excited to see everyone back home. And I was aching to go do it again. seen the world. after everyone had gone to bed. If I had stayed. gotten into countless adventures. so I had the opportunity to surprise them all. but Austin was still the same. I realized something. The restaurants I used to eat at were still standing and still serving the same great food. Nothing had changed. I spent the day setting up elaborate scenarios to surprise my friends. Best of all. The contrast was stark. Traveling puts so many decisions and human interactions in front of you that you have no choice but to grow as a person. At the end of the day. everyone thought that I was coming home months later.

but as I left Panama after living there for two months. and ultimately unsatisfying. Daily life involves intimate interaction with the near invisible nuances of each place you’re in. Grocery shopping in Taiwan brings you to the bottom floor of the world’s tallest building. it occurred to me that I could understand pretty much everything anyone said to me in Spanish. you’d never know they’d been away on a vacation. . The new and exciting lurk around every corner. I hadn’t hired a tutor or taken classes. Vacations are the fast food version of travel.22 LIFE NOMADIC It’s easy to have amazing experiences when you travel. It’s Not Vacation If some people didn’t tell you. As babies we learn about the world by soaking it in passively. You learn the minutia of the country that can only be discovered through firsthand experience. who are singing some unintelligible J-pop song. Traveling allows us to do the same in our adulthood. The backdrop of your life has changed from the predictable and boring to the exciting and unexpected. consumed in a hurry. Walking to dinner in Japan marches you past groups of people dressed up like cats from space. It had become second nature. I hate vacation. And then there’s the language. They’re artificial. Kin Hubbard Despite placing travel next to godliness. Without even trying your proficiency in any language you can “get by with” will skyrocket. Going to the post office in Paris is like walking through a history museum.

Luxury is having the ability and lack of encumbrances to do whatever you want to do.INTRODUCTION 23 That’s not to say they aren’t fun. a minimalist nomad has the ultimate luxury. We’re not meant to spend the majority of our best hours. He has his time and his choice and can make of them whatever he pleases.” Be careful what you chase. Taking a vacation is like taking a break from your real life. . They can be. A couple dozen piña coladas later and you’re back to your regular life. “You can never have enough of what you don’t want. slaving away doing something we don’t want to do. counting down the days to your next vacation. I refuse to accept that this is how we are supposed to be living. In that way. Wayne Dyer says. It’s not. It’s no coincidence that this standard modern lifestyle stresses and depresses nearly everyone in it. If you need breaks from your life like that. I’d suggest that you examine your regular life more closely. but fun without substance is unfulfilling. There’s this misconception that luxury is sitting on the beach doing nothing. the daylight while we’re young. For seven days or so you get to be in a fantasy version of a life that doesn’t in any way resemble yours.

and they had to get the goods before I did. double checked the address. the owners darting through my house.I didn’t blame him for his hesitation. the floodgates were unleashed. Just as I wondered if anyone would ever come. Maybe my plan wasn’t going to work. Pickup trucks had backed up onto my lawn. George Earle Buckle It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. and cautiously walked up to the door. and we will dispense with its necessaries. Motley It had been fifteen minutes since I posted the ad. the first car timidly pulled up to my house. The stranger got out. and bringing it all outside. piling their arms high with my stuff. But before long. “Come to my house and take everything I own for free. Hack away at the unessential. . The intensity and diligence of some of the freeloaders made me wonder if they did this professionally. To them I appeared to be a fellow vulture. Bruce Lee Give us the luxuries of life. It was a strange ad . The title of my ad on Craigslist was. No one even knew or cared that I owned the house.” I had two conflicting thoughts running through my head as people hauled away everything I owned. John L. It was a frenzy.24 LIFE NOMADIC Minimalism To simplify complications is the first essential of success. but each time I poked my head out the window I was answered with an empty street glaring back at me.

It’s relaxing. The looters seemed oblivious to the freedom they were inadvertently paying me in return for my stuff. yet it’s still occasionally worth it to pay a hundred or two dollars to sleep there. The new owner of the plates glanced at them. I loved the empty shelves and closets. In one corner of my bedroom I had put a stack of plates that I had once treasured. All traces of my life there had vanished. just by staying in a hotel? The funny part about it is that it works. shaped somewhere between a circle and a square. Tidying up was a trivial task. I never wanted for any of it at my new condo. A hotel has nothing that you don’t have in your own home. I realized that no one really cared about what they were taking. I felt a twinge of guilt. Have you ever noticed how you can “go on vacation” in your own city. Even more jarring than that first thought was the overwhelming feeling that I was doing these people a disservice. I had fallen in love with them when I found a great deal on them online. and had real gold around the edges. he may as well add them to his pile of loot. All of that consideration I had given them seemed lost.INTRODUCTION 25 First. I felt a burden lifted. and in a five second span decided that since they were free. and wasted no time in replacing my old plates with them. They were off white. Their utility was gone. as if I was deceiving them. As each load was taken from my house. I have a theory on hotels. my house was empty. and the lack of clutter. When the last person took a broom and two blazers I never wore. I waited for a week for the package to arrive. Though I’d gotten rid of two thirds of my stuff. No longer would I have to keep track of those items or deal with them in the future. but so was the responsibility associated with them. .

you’re probably not a minimalist. introduces me by saying: “[Tynan] was our fourth roommate… In his spare time -. I go by the name “Herbal” in the book. recorded extremely catchy rap songs. I think I probably officially became a minimalist sometime during the third day of lugging mostly useless stuff from one house to another3. and surfed the Internet for unusual items to buy and then never use. In fact. It’s a vacation in minimalism-land. and I was conscripted to help them2. 3 In the interest of full disclosure. There’s no distraction.26 LIFE NOMADIC Why is that? I think that it’s because hotels have no stuff in them. clutter. My parents moved that same year. held my mementos from my childhood. a non-fiction book in which I’m a character. the momentum kept moving me further in that direction.”4 If one of your defining characteristics is that you buy things that you never use. I felt like it was a great deal for them since they would get someone stronger than me. I’m more sentimental than a minimalist should be. . I also had no real disposition to be a minimalist. 4 From The Game by Neil Strauss. which they still store for me today. Once I started down the path of minimalism.he explored caves. and I certainly wasn’t. three large Tupperware tubs. In less than a year I sold most of what remained and I moved into the smallest RV I 2 I was so sick of moving that I tried to hire a day laborer to help them in my stead. Just as I initially had no real predisposition to be a nomad. or mess to clean up. They took slight offense to me not wanting to help.which was basically all his time -.

. because in a few chapters I’m going to outline a step by step plan to get rid of everything you own in two weeks. A friend of mine sold everything to travel. This is one of those situations. But he’s still a minimalist and will never go back. There’s no way to become a minimalist without just jumping in head first. but mine were increasingly based solely on my desires. After the better part of a year. If you have stuff lingering back home then you have roots and you will never feel the true freedom of being a nomad. I had become addicted to the freedom and peace of mind that accompanies minimalism. put away. It’s drastic. but that’s where the best part of life is.INTRODUCTION 27 could find that had a shower and a full sized bed. and it’s outside of your comfort zone. or consider upgrading. he decided not to be a nomad anymore. And there’s just no way to become a nomad without being a minimalist. Mentally prepare yourself now. Remember that all success and most happiness comes from pushing your comfort zone and taking risks. It’s a leap of faith that you’ll have to take. I didn’t even park it in an RV park. Each possession I got rid of was another possession I never had to keep track of. Other people’s life choices seemed to be dictated in a large part by the needs of their pile of stuff.

The insurance agent quoted me three hundred dollars for a year. I knew that I would need to insure my belongings. Knowing that we were fully insured. two of which were in a first world country. There were three failed pick pocketing attempts. .Maclaine. by the way. some of it in third world countries. Sign me up! I gave them a full list of the countries I’d be visiting. and I considered it an absolute certainty that all or most of it would be stolen. Shirley When I first set off to be a nomad. I traveled with a friend and neither of was robbed once. And we were asking for it. I had about $5000 worth of gear. I was going to be gone for a year. we wouldn’t think twice about walking around “dangerous” cities at night with our cameras out.28 LIFE NOMADIC Confronting Fears We must travel in the direction of our fear. After all. Berryman. John The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends. . It turns out that I was the foolish one. That’s it. Neither of us was attacked or threatened at any point in the trip. How could they possibly see that list and not realize that they would have to replace each of my prized possessions? I laughed at the stupid bet they were placing.

which is known to be extremely dangerous. the danger was overstated. .INTRODUCTION 29 The simple fact is that the world just isn’t as dangerous as it seems. The more safety I’ve found in dangerous places. It was someone’s house. The narrow path led deeper and deeper into the jungle. No guerillas. “They will kill you. But as I’ve found is always the case.” We had just driven four hours to be in that jungle. we were stopped by the police and brought into their barracks. It’s supposedly infested with guerillas and drug dealers. There was just no way were going to turn back now. Just huts every once in a while that housed friendly people who were surprised to see white people hiking through their jungle. We continued on through the jungle until the path stopped and we couldn’t make it any farther. I’ve rarely felt uncomfortable. At first I was scared. deluded into thinking that I could somehow spot the trained guerilla before he spotted me. the more I’ve pushed it. We cautiously approached it. Recently a friend and I traveled to the Darien Gap in Panama. no danger. People don’t sit out on brightly colored hammocks in areas where there’s guerilla warfare going on. It looked like some sort of jungle outpost. the last town before the Gap. and it had a bright orange hammock hanging from the logs that formed the roof. until finally I saw something. When we reached Yavisa. They wrote down all of our information just in case we went missing. and warned us not to cross the bridge that led to the jungle. Are there dangerous things in the Darien Gap? Sure. I walked as quietly as possible.

I’m going to Haiti next month. and say hello. The fact that a country is unknown makes it feel scary and dangerous. Despite it being a dangerous city. Another worry people sometimes have. they told us that it was dangerous and pointed us in a different route. We turned down an alley lined with decrepit buildings. The world is packed full of people. don’t wear flashy jewelry. The difference is that they looked like tourists. Embrace the unknown. so we’d jog in new directions each night and use our GPS watches to keep track of how far we’d gone. We were new to the city and didn’t really know our way around. A friend of mine lived in Rio De Janiero for a year. His friend’s parents came to visit for a couple weeks and were robbed twice. Did they rob us? No. get familiar with the place. walk confidently. and it will feel as comfortable as walking at home in Austin. We get this idea that corrupt police are above . and not steamrolling over it with your Western values. and the overwhelming majority of them are good honest people who want you to enjoy their country. and probably stuck out like a sore thumb. which scares me a little bit. my former self included. smile. I’ll get there. he was never once robbed. is of corrupt police. and all of a sudden we were mobbed by people who lived there running up to us. But I know exactly what will happen. spoke none of the language.30 LIFE NOMADIC Another time we were jogging at night through Panama City. If you want to be safe and be respected by people in their country. This goes double if you seem like you are actually interested in participating in their culture.

Paying small bribes is a lot more convenient than dealing with real tickets. bordered on one side by a dark graveyard and on the other by a concrete building that’s falling apart and littered with trash and rubble. The bridge had. my friend Todd jumped off a thirty foot high bridge into a river. My experience with corrupt police has been overwhelmingly pleasant. they usually just let you go without even asking for a bribe. even if only financially. but they let him go without even asking for a bribe. He may ask for more. a sign warning of a fifty dollar fine and fifty days in jail.INTRODUCTION 31 the law and will torture us. As soon as he hit the water. The road is more of an alley. This is a misconception. There were two routes to my favorite restaurant: one went on busy street packed with friendly people.” And it was. in the Dominican Republic. even if they’re corrupt. the police went after him. They explained that jumping off the bridge was prohibited. I was mugged once. and I’ve dealt with a dozen or so. just fold twenty dollars up and hand it to him discreetly. very clearly. “this is the type of place where someone would get mugged. . just for fun. but if you tell him that’s all you’ve got. The other. I got my passport and hotel keys stolen by a couple punk kids. went through the scariest road I’ve ever seen. he’ll take it. always empty. which shaved one minute off my walking time. Every time I walked through it I thought. Cops are people too. If you haven’t done anything remarkably stupid. After being goaded on by the local kids below. If you do have to deal with a crooked cop.

32

LIFE NOMADIC

So learn from my mistakes. Carry only what you need with you, and stay in trafficked areas if possible.

Part Two Preparing to Go

PLANNING YOUR TRIP
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
John Steinbeck

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

We may as well start off with the fun part, right? The first decision you’ll have to make is how far in advance you want to plan. The standard method is to plan a full year in advance, while other nomads (like myself ) prefer to plan as we go. There are some pros and cons to each method that deserve consideration. First we’ll discuss planning ahead. One of the main reasons people like to plan ahead is because they can go to travel agents and purchase Round The World (RTW) tickets. This is a convenient way to buy all of your tickets for the year at a reasonable price. If you go with some of their featured sale packages, the price may be even better than reasonable. However, if you use the airfare booking tips in this book you’ll find that you can almost always beat their deals, often by 40% or so. When browsing round the

is to spend two months in a place I’ve never been to or one month in a place I’m familiar with. The former ruins some of the versatility of traveling and the latter negates the potential cost benefits of planning ahead. usually around the area or en route to the next country. and then a period of two to four weeks doing shorter trips. they might be able to plan around your schedule a bit. they probably won’t be able to meet up with you. keep in mind that advertised prices usually don’t include taxes which usually tack on a few hundred dollars at least.34 LIFE NOMADIC world tickets. If you “might be in Morocco sometime in the spring”. you make it easy for your friends and family to visit you. as a lot of the information will still apply but won’t be repeated. My preference. If you provide specific dates. you can make sure that you qualify for this exemption. If you plan ahead meticulously. but will either be unable to or will have to forfeit a ticket you’ve already purchased. The ideal amount of time in each location will vary from person to person. . I have never done this myself because I have too many friends and family in the US to stay out for so long and my tax burden is not unreasonable. If you plan far in advance. to which I constantly make exceptions. The IRS allows a huge tax exemption on the first $87. Scheduling a Long Term Plan Read this section even if you intend to plan short term. The biggest downside of planning ahead is that you will invariably want to change your plans. People whose yearly travel is limited usually need to plan ahead at their jobs.600 (as of 2009) of your income if you are out of the United States for 330 days out of the year.

and then spend another two months in Bangkok. I generally try to spend the one and two month segments of my trip in countries whose language I’m trying to learn.PLANNING YOUR TRIP 35 So. Create a list of every place you’d like to stay for a month or two. This year I intend to spend a lot more time there. I had no real interest in Thailand because I assumed it was a seedy sex tourist infested country and I didn’t have any interest in learning Thai. you might spend two months in Taiwan. If I had not made the short trip through Bangkok. More on this in the language section. fly to Singapore and spend a few weeks going through Malaysia and Southern Thailand. just make the list. I think it’s a good idea to blaze through countries to get a feel for them and consider spending more time there the following year. Let’s say that your list looks something like this: • • Barcelona London . Last year I spent a week or so in Bangkok. Don’t worry about how much time you’re going to be gone for. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the week. There is a level of shade to the city. I may have never given it a chance. but the remaining 95% of the experience of living in Bangkok is amazing. My reasoning is this: to really get to know a place you need to spend at least a month or two there. I was dead wrong in my estimate. Any less and you’ll find yourself touring more than living. At the same time. To be honest. for example. As you know if you’ve ever been to Bangkok.

that means that you have time for 4-5 major destinations with 2-4 months of spare time to see less pressing places. Time to whittle down the list. If you don’t plan on returning home (I aim to return home for one month every four or five months). If you’re anything like me. once you start traveling your list will grow . and there’s really no way you’re going to visit all fifteen places in a year and do them all justice.36 LIFE NOMADIC • • • • • • • • • • • • • Moscow Beijing Shanghai Taipei Tokyo Bali Bangkok Sydney Cape Town Panama City Bogota Rio De Janeiro Santiago That’s a long list. “Wow! It’s going to take me a lot longer to see the world than I thought!” To make matters worse. your first thought will be. Let’s say that you’re planning for the next year.

but so many people have raved about it that it’s now at the top of my list. Similar statements could be made for places like Panama City. One such place for me was Berlin. Where you “feel like” going is as good enough a reason as any. and the unknown and mysterious are given enough time to be fully appreciated. If you haven’t considered it before. Bogota. An additional factor to consider is that staying in developing countries is usually much cheaper than developed countries. do so. make developing countries ideal candidates for long term stays and developed countries ideal for short hops in between. More on that later. I know I’ll make it to Australia someday. and their passion will get you excited to visit. You’ll probably also find them less familiar since “Western” civilization is a bit more homogenized than the real exotic locations. How do you decide which ones to remove? I tend to place an emphasis on developing countries rather than developed countries. Other travelers that you meet will constantly be recommending places that the absolutely love1. then go. check out Yakushima – it was one of my favorite parts of Japan. These three factors together. London is stable and isn’t going to change too much. and a few others on that list. particularly staying in Tokyo and doing side trips on their amazing rail system. It’s my favorite place and I go every year now. .PLANNING YOUR TRIP 37 rapidly. however. If you are on the fence about Japan. along with a couple others. defer it. If Japan is already a definite. The comfortable and familiar can be evaluated in just a few days. but if you’re on the fence. but they are usually more expensive to get to. If you’re dying to go to Barcelona. I never had any inclination to visit Germany. Beijing. but so far I haven’t been 1 I always recommend Japan. definitely add it. is rapidly changing and will never be the same.

so go to places that excite you. Once again. so the girl we were renting from didn’t mind meeting us so late.” Why? “Today is the first day of monsoon season!” Oops. Taiwan has a nocturnal culture. In some places . This is your trip and your life. We had a great time in Taiwan. Side trips were cut short and few days lent themselves to aimless wandering around the city. doesn’t need to hit every continent.com has an excellent site for checking historical averages for anywhere in the world. Even more important than the weather is determining which major events you want to experience in each place. I particularly like their tool because they show tons of useful information in one easy to read page. One suggestion I’d urge you to take is to spend at least half of your time in places you’ve never been before. “I’m surprised you’re visiting Taiwan now. you’ll also have to factor in summer and winter further North and South. The web site weather2travel. and doesn’t need to focus on one area. but it rained constantly and as a result we ended up staying in a lot more than we had hoped to.38 LIFE NOMADIC excited enough about it to actually make it down there. We exchanged pleasantries and chit chatted until she said. strike back against the urge to stay in your comfort zone. Besides rainy and dry seasons near the equator. The trip doesn’t need to have a theme. Creating the Route We arrived at our apartment around midnight. It can just be about where you want to go. We hadn’t done our homework.

so: . but other places have famous festivals. you’re going to have to get there during the second week of July. Barcelona (with a side trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls). Write weather information next to the event locations. Events are typically short. so you still have the option of scheduling your visit with the event at the beginning. Here’s what you might write down: • Rio – Carnaval (Feb 13-16) – Equal Rain in Jan and March • Tokyo – Cherry Blossoms (Late March. or cherry blossom viewing season. August is fine too For Bangkok and Dubai you have no particular events. or seasons that you won’t want to miss. • • Bangkok – November to April are the dry months Dubai – November to April are best here too Now our schedule is starting to shape up. Rio is nice in March and Tokyo is better in April. and Bangkok. Early April) – Cold in Feb. Japan has hanami. Tokyo. Let’s say you chose to visit Dubai. middle. so you record only the weather. events. Make a chronological list of countries with events first. warm in April • Barcelona – Pamplona (July 6-14) – June seems more pleasant. too. Then add to the list the other countries. We’ll want to be in Tokyo by March 21 so that we don’t miss the cherry blossoms. If you want to run with the bulls in Pamplona.PLANNING YOUR TRIP 39 there’s no overriding reason to be there at any particular time. along with a list of the best months to visit. from late March to early April. Rio. For example. or end.

In this case I would shift the whole schedule up by two weeks. I would push Dubai to the end of that time period to take ad- . but both Bangkok and Dubai are fighting over a small chunk of time. We now have around three months and a week left before returning home. When you read the section on airfare you will understand the exceptions to this rule. Barcelona is easy. I’d go directly to Bangkok. November 1 – December 21 is the only window of time that they both have good weather. The important thing to remember is that people live happily in these countries all year round. and spend two months there. which leaves us leaving Tokyo by May 7th. but not an absolute arbiter of where you go. Weather should be a guide for your itinerary. That puts at September 7th with just Dubai remaining. The last consideration is routing flow. then to Barcelona and Pamplona on July 7th (you really only need to do one day of Running with the Bulls). Financially it generally (but not always) makes sense to go in as simple a path as possible. Assuming we want to be back in the US by Christmas. The problem we have now is that time wise it makes sense to go to Barcelona right after Tokyo. but now we have a quandary.40 LIFE NOMADIC Jan 21 – Mar 21 : Rio Mar 21 – May 21 : Tokyo That was easy. This reveals a certain truth about trip planning: creating a perfect travel schedule is just about as likely as finding a magical unicorn on which to ride from country to country. but doubling way back to Bangkok is probably not the smartest idea.

Because there are so many variables.but not always-. At the very least you should check to see which countries you need visas for and which you don’t. The place I go to check is the Wikipedia page for the US passport at http://en. .PLANNING YOUR TRIP 41 vantage of the good weather. though. To the contrary. Planning minor stops is usually better done once you have your major stops planned and know when and where you’ll have spare time. At the bottom of the page you’ll find a map and chart of the rules for every country in the world. which are notorious for being difficult. the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok graciously let us in after hours when we got there too late and almost messed up our whole trip. It may be the case that the site isn’t 100% up to date. or maybe even get a cheap flight to India. our year is planned. and use the extra five weeks to jaunt around Europe by train. Getting Visas If you do decide to plan far in advance. It’s a messy and inexact science. And thus.wikipedia. visit Northern Africa. but these rules generally don’t change often and the list hasn’t let me down yet. it will be easiest for you to get your visas while you’re at home. The process will almost always involve playing with the dates and routes until you figure one out that works for you. you can just head to the embassy of whichever country you’re going to next and ask for a visa.org/wiki/Us_passport. I’ve heard stories of requests for small bribes. Certain places like China. Getting visas while traveling is usually-.a simple process. it’s never a quick and easy affair. are probably better off obtained ahead of time if you can manage it. Usually. but haven’t encountered this firsthand.

there are no rules on how short or far in advance you have to plan. allow you to cross the border and come back in immediately to start your visa time all over. which might make your first trip easier. so that if nothing strikes my fancy along the way I have a bit of a plan. Depending on the terms of your visa. but with unlimited freedom you can arrange to visit them instead. Thailand being the quintessential example. Sometimes you may find yourself in situations where you have no idea what country you’ll be in the following week. Of course. Check the visa requirements for your first country. 2 Some countries. Sure. get the visa. In places where this is practical there are usually buses that run across the border for the sole purpose of visa hopping. So far I’ve never stuck to it exactly.42 LIFE NOMADIC Short Term Planning Long term planning can give you a sense of stability and peace of mind. and buy a one way ticket. and leave early if somewhere else catches your eye. A good rule of thumb is to stay put until somewhere else excites you. I generally come up with an approximate route that I’m likely to follow. but I prefer planning as I go. Not much has to be done if you choose the short term method. The benefits are obvious: you can change your mind and follow any desire you may have and you can take advantage of abnormally low fares that you find on the go. Other times you’ll find such good deals on fares that you’ll book up the next month or two. . and how easy it is to visa hop2. you can stay in places you like for longer than you expected. your friends won’t always be able to plan ahead to visit you.

Compelling reasons that come to mind would be: • • coordinating to travel a certain segment with a friend getting a great deal on a fare • coming close enough to your departure date that it made sense to get a ticket before the prices rose. If you’re debating between a few destinations. enjoy your freedom.PLANNING YOUR TRIP 43 Unless there’s a compelling reason to buy the next ticket in your route. it never hurts to check the weather and events in each one. . it is simple to travel as you please and not break the bank. When you have no fixed costs. Otherwise. You never know when you’ll regret giving up your flexibility. The same resources mentioned in the long term planning section can come in handy. don’t do it.

but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. If you have a car and a storage unit and whatever else back home. no burdensome caches of junk. you will think about it and wonder if it doesn’t make sense to go back to it.SELLING EVERYTHING Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable. the less you will enjoy being a nomad. The more you have back home. let’s deal with all of that stuff you have sitting everywhere. You have few obligations. and can move without a second thought. Part of the enjoyment of the nomadic lifestyle comes from the simplicity. Henry David Thoreau He who would travel happily must travel light Antoine de saint Exupery Before we get to the fun part of preparing. Don’t do it. Your initial reaction will be one of moderation – thinking that maybe you should keep a few things in storage. I’m about to outline an aggressive plan for getting rid of everything you own. getting set up with the gear and services which will make sure you’re the best equipped nomad out there. .

and can count on to live there while you’re gone may make sense. If you have a house. The possible exception is a house.000 now and then travel for a year without worrying about it. which I will get to in a minute. Convince a friend or family member to let you keep it in their attic or basement. .45 LIFE NOMADIC Here’s another angle to think about it: everything depreciates. This probably isn’t worth the hassle. to help you administer it. repairs. childhood trophies. trust. for a small fee. My reasons are beyond the scope of this book. photos. but I include it just in case there’s some reason you can’t sell or rent your house and want to get some value out of it. and interest on the mortgage will generally mean that you’re “throwing away” about as much money as you would pay for a comparable rental.com to temporarily swap your house for another one where you travel. but finding such a dream tenant is probably more of a fantasy than the unicorn I mentioned earlier. The one last reason that you may not want to sell your house is if it is in a desirable area for tourists. you don’t want to worry about your house while you’re gone. the best thing you can do is sell it. etc. If you sell your car for $10. I’ll sympathize if you’re sentimental like I am and want to keep a few boxes of letters. Renting to someone you know. Besides that.homeexchange. you may be able to use www. If you have someone nearby who might be willing. but the gist of it is that taxes. you have that option as well. you can probably buy the same car for $8500 or $9000. Plus if you decide you’d like a different car.

List each item on Craigslist for about 10% less than the best “Buy it Now” price you can find on eBay. Your eBay and Paypal 1 If you feel like it will be useful to someone. Go through your house with a trash bag and throw away everything you don’t need that’s worth less than ten dollars1. Go through a second time and find all of the expensive things that you need to get rid of. Try to talk your way out of it. just consider it a small investment in your new nomadic lifestyle. If you have an apartment. it’s probably time to put your house on the market.SELLING EVERYTHING 46 Without an excellent reason not to. so consider doing it immediately. etc. If you’ve sold a house before you know that the process is a bit of a pain and can take a while. furniture. Old laptops. Items under ten dollars will generally not be worth your time to list and ship or to sell on Craigslist. This is the same process my travel partner and I each underwent when we left for the first time. . 1. 2. Getting Rid of Everything You Own And now for the brutal step by step guide to shedding all of your possessions in the most efficient way. old food (or food you won’t eat). cameras. There will probably be a fee for breaking your lease. or useful enough that you can donate and deduct it from your taxes. 3. put it in a separate pile. Take a digital picture of each item NOW and put the stuff in a pile somewhere. but if you can’t. extra pens. or anything else you can think of that is not making your life better. At the same time throw away any trash. get rid of it.

5. I hate selling things online. Take the pitiful amount of money they give you. so my cutoff was around $40-50.” Believe me. I will delete this post when everything is gone. Giving away tons of valuable stuff because I’m trying to simplify my life. On second thought. I felt like I was teaching myself a lesson on why to never buy tons of stuff again. The point isn’t to get every last penny. 2 I got a strange satisfaction from getting bad prices on my stuff. Whatever doesn’t sell in a week goes up on eBay. seven day auction. Don’t call or e-mail.99 starting price. At this point you should have nothing other than a small bundle of cash.47 LIFE NOMADIC fees will cost about that much anyway. 6. Bring your clothes to a thrift store. Now take all of the useful things that you have that aren’t worth the effort to sell online and put them on your lawn. If you have something else that I somehow forgot to mention. and ask them to donate any clothes they refused to pay for. they will come. come pick up at [your address]. save a few changes of clothes they wouldn’t buy until you get your new travel clothes. it’s pretty safe to assume that you should sell it. $9. . No reserve. and with Craigslist you can make people come pick it up from you to save time. 4. Put an ad in the “free stuff” section of Craigslist and say: “Free yardsale. but rather to get most of the money you deserve with minimal effort2.

” She eyed me with a suspicious yet familiar glare.” Just as it seems unfathomable to others that I travel for so long with such a small backpack. “Just this.” Michel Eyquem De Montaigne “Where’s your luggage?” she demanded. I was used to this line of questioning. What in the world is in there? . “Where’s the rest of it?” “That’s all I have. it seems equally insane to me that everyone else seems to have such huge backpacks. “And how long are you staying?” “Two months.BUYING GEAR “A man should ever be ready booted to take his journey.” She looked up at my backpack.

Even fully loaded.8 liters. a video camera. I promise that I will have you traveling in style with just twenty eight liters. If you have a vision of looking like one of those backpackers who seems to have a scale model missile silo on his back. I have a laptop. For reference. I’d instead be raving about how that’s all you need (and I’d probably be carrying a down blanket to boot). Don’t give in to the temptation. I feel guilty when I call myself a minimalist. Why Pack So Light? There are many reasons to pack light. is 34.4L and the LL Bean Deluxe Book Pack (which is what I had in middle school) is 36. . I’m almost always better equipped. If the Greatest Backpack of All Time was twenty nine liters. We’re talking about a seriously small bag here. Twenty Eight Liters is All You Need Twenty eight liters is a bit of a random number. I could probably travel out of a zip lock bag.49 LIFE NOMADIC The disbelief expands– in both directions—when we both realize that despite carrying a bag with less than half the standard backpacker capacity. it maximizes your versatility. A small backpack can be brought anywhere without 1 The Jansport “Big Student”. For one. If you get a larger pack I guarantee that you will find stuff to fill it with. a camera. If I were to truly get down to the bare necessities. erase it immediately. you won’t stand out like a sore thumb. After all. and even a portable cot with silk sheets. the typical backpack sold for middle schoolers is 34-37 liters1.

it’s making your trip worse. the happier you’ll be. hikes. You don’t stick out as yet another tourist or backpacker who is about to steamroll their culture. Checking bags at the airport is a killer. You just take what you think you might need. carrying a bag that can’t be checked can nearly double your ticket price. No one travels for a long period of time and wishes they had brought more. and that’s not even including the fifteen or more dollar fee that the airline will charge you for it. you can’t use one of my more advanced methods to getting low fares. You Need a Backpack I know that backpacks aren’t the most fashionable items. In a way. No one is going to think that you’re a businessman or king of the world. . Instead you’ll probably just appear to be an expatriate. If they’re clothes they need to be laundered. Yes. You can also take local trains and buses. It can be packed or unpacked in a matter of twenty minutes. At best you look like an alpine explorer. That is freedom. meaning that you can be ready for a transcontinental move in half an hour at most.BUYING GEAR 50 inconvenience to you. The less you can carry. packing for side trips. Extra items require care when packing. Because of this. Not only will your stuff get lost at least once. Think about that. That’s a fundamental law of traveling. and at worst you look like some sort of student or backpacker. since you know it all fits in there anyway. If you bring something that is not making your trip better. When all you have is a small backpack. or daily adventures is simple. They weigh your pack down. packing light is more respectful to local culture. rather than having to take a taxi to put your giant bag in.

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A friend of mine was considering coming to Morocco with me. I told her that the one requirement is that she pack light so that we aren’t encumbered. “Do I HAVE to get a backpack, though? They’re not chic at all.” Yes, you do. I know they’re not chic, and the best advice I can give is to get over it. Backpacks make sense, and when you’re a nomad, form follows function. To offer an olive branch, what’s more chic than gallivanting around the world as you please? The reasons for choosing a backpack are as numerous as they are obvious. Any terrain can be crossed, they compact when they’re less full, they don’t stick out, and they are designed to be waterproofed. Detach your ego from what you own. Even if you’re reading this book to live vicariously and not because you actually intend to fly away, take this advice to heart.
“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.”
Fight Club

The more I’ve gotten rid of, the more I’ve understood the truth in this idea. No one cares about what you have, but they do care about who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’re going to do. Your interactions change with materialistic people once you leave their ranks. They flaunt what they have with an air of desperation to try to win your approval. I used to do that, too. Become your actions and your principles. Stop trying to create a façade of who you are through buying things. Buying things is

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easy, and everyone knows it. It can garner wonder or excitement, but never respect. Think about people you look up to. Is it because of what they have, or who they are? I used to think that being a minimalist was a sacrifice, but a worthy one. As I grew into it, I realized that it was actually an upgrade over rampant consumerism and materialism. I’m not some sort of peace pipe toting hippie, either. I like capitalism and love excellent products. I’ve just come to believe that best way to enjoy what this amazing world has to offer is through limited but high quality consumption. Choosing Gear Your gear matters. A lot. When you have only twenty eight liters to pack in, each liter matters. Most products are designed with no regard for how much space they take up, especially a lot of “travel products”. This seems shocking once object volume becomes an issue for you, but price is more important than space for most people. Because of this, the stuff you leave with will probably be completely different stuff than you have now. There’s just not much everyday stuff that works well for traveling. Don’t try to force it to – get rid of items that aren’t serving you well, and treat yourself right. You’ll have few things, so make sure that they’re all excellent. Even before becoming a nomad, one of my passions was seeking out excellent products. At one point I had a three hundred dollar toaster that was used by not only the best restaurants, but also the Queen of England. I’ve gotten rid of the toaster, but my quest

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for the best has continued even as I’ve become a minimalist. I can virtually guarantee you that every product I recommend is the absolute best in its class; if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be using it. If you do find something better, though, or something I never thought of, let me know! Clothes
“The difference between a man of sense and a fop is that the fop values himself upon his dress; and the man of sense laughs at it, at the same time he knows he must not neglect it.”
Lord Chesterfield

“If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around your neck?”
Linda Ellerbee

Two weeks earlier I had arrived back in Texas for a surprise visit. Since then I’d spent nearly every day hanging out with my friends, including my friend Hayden. Inspired by the shedding of my worldly possessions, he started to probe. “How many pants do you have?” “One pair, and they zip off to become shorts too.” “But what about the other pants you’ve been wearing?” “What do you mean?” “Like, which pants did you wear when we were hanging out yesterday?” “These. They’re my only pants.”

As far as function in concerned. You mean to tell me that every time we’ve hung out since you’ve gotten back. no one knows what you’re wearing. in terms of form. here’s the clothing packing list: • • • • • • Two pairs of socks Two pairs of underwear One pair of convertible pants One bathing suit Three shirts One bra (if you’re a woman. And why shouldn’t it be? Well. a lot of reasons. What was he wearing? Most people are so focused on what they’re wearing and how others will perceive it that they never even stop to soak in what anyone else is wearing. I’m going to take a second to address the issue of fabric. clothes may be the most important thing you pack. don’t really matter. The biggest problem is its wet . you’ve been wearing the same pants?” Unless you’re dressed outlandishly. In fact. And that’s okay. there is probably no worse textile for the traveler. Don’t believe me? Think of who you had lunch with yesterday. Most of what you own and wear is probably cotton. or a crossdresser) That’s it. Sticking with our minimalist nomad philosophy. cotton is king. Before I get into individual selections for each item and justifications for such low numbers. Clothes. as it turns out.BUYING GEAR 54 “Wait. on the other hand. We’ll get to outerwear in a little while. When it comes to retail clothes.

And. When you’re wet you want your shirt. and worse in a couple. But they don’t keep you very warm. wool can absorb one third of its weight before it feels wet to the touch. It’s notoriously slow drying. Wash one while you wear the other. Luckily. to dry off as soon as possible. Most people associate wool with those terrible scratchy sweaters your grandmother used to make you wear as a child. Synthetic materials like polyester are better in most ways. not give you hypothermia. Wool does an amazing job wicking sweat away. and they smell bad faster than any other material. Cotton fails on every count. does not wick sweat away. but some experimentation has lead me to realize that just airing them out in between uses lets me wear them four or five times each before washing. smooth. and smells great. dries quickly. We wear cotton for two reasons: it’s cheap and it feels nice. This makes a big difference when putting on socks after swimming. Wool can be washed with soap or . Getting back to our list. When it’s hot you want it to wick sweat away from your body.55 LIFE NOMADIC performance. wick sweat away. Fabric makers have learned to use the finest fibers and weave them so tightly that the wool feels a lot more like cotton than the wool you’re used to. you want your shirt to keep you warm. The answer to all of our problems is wool. They dry fast. two pairs of socks is all you need. that’s not the current state of affairs. As if it needed another party trick. keeps us warm even when wet. when it’s cold. just pure. and don’t freeze you if it’s cold. No itching. I used to wash my wool shirts every time I wore them. for example. and is actually dangerous if it’s wet in cold weather. magic fabric.

Get two pair and wash them every day in the shower. and washing a ton of clothes in the shower is a pain. They aren’t nearly as wonderful as the Smart Wools. As you get more. Underwear falls in basically the same category. in public no less. the pouch on them is quite flattering. and they look great. they’re fine in practice) they make up for in form. can be a godsend.BUYING GEAR 56 shampoo. If you miss a day. and given the alternative. They’re tiny. The best brand to buy socks from is Smart Wool. At the risk of sharing more with you than you wish to receive. although if you follow my shoe recommendation and need to buy toe socks. I don’t really care if I ever see them. Being able to change into shorts. but they hold their own. The best wool underwear is made by Icebreaker. Wool is antimicrobial so it feels clean and smells fine even if you wear it twice in a row. Don’t be tempted to get more pairs of socks. Injinji is the only known manufacturer of wool toe socks. Having only one set of pockets is also convenient – leave your passport in a side pocket and never worry about whether or not you have it with you. It’s also nice to have two pairs of socks because in a real pinch you can use the second pair as mittens. Two is easier than three. it doesn’t really matter. which makes them easy to pack. just by zipping off the legs. it’s more difficult to decide which are clean and which are dirty. They do have full-width horizontal seams right across the knees. so just do your daily laundry in the shower. what they lack in fashion (and truthfully. Still. I’ll admit that convertible pants are stretching the fashion envelope a bit. Brushed nylon is an excel- . my personal preference being the Beast Briefs. I have yet to see wool convertible pants.

They thwart pickpockets and keep things in your pocket when you’re reclined in a train or doing strange acrobatic maneuvers in the jungle. which I’ll discuss in a minute. and is comfortable in all temperatures. If you went for a different bathing suit. It’s extremely durable (I’ve tipped over and rolled a 4 wheeler in the rocky Qatar desert without so much as a scuff or rip). but they are only available seasonably and my favorite color (dark grey) is now discontinued. dries quickly. and it’s also good to be able to wear your bathing suit when you do a load of laundry. Pay attention to the pockets on your pants. Keep it small and fast drying. Most outdoor gear stores have fantastic return policies. Go for their lightest weight shirts. I wash mine once every week or two. . synthetic pants don’t seem to. but it’s nice to have something dry to change into if you go swimming. and there is one brand that stands head and shoulders above the competition: Icebreaker. they’ll keep you warm enough for sub freezing weather and cool enough for the Middle Eastern desert. and is tiny. It’s possible to get away without a bathing suit. My favorite brand for these is Cloudveil. the 140gm / cm and 150gm/ cm. so my best advice is to try on as many pairs as you can before choosing one.57 LIFE NOMADIC lent choice. which occasionally feels like one too many. Many outdoor-oriented pants are so baggy that they look ridiculous. I wouldn’t hold it against you. it dries quickly. I like having as many zippable pockets as possible. of course. so do what I do: buy every pair in your size and return all but one. I pack three shirts. While synthetic shirts smell terrible quickly. With appropriate layering. Wool is. I went with a square cut belted Speedo because it looks hilarious. the fabric of choice.

enough cold weather to stay warm and dry in such an environment. . Outdoor Gear Your basic clothes kit will keep you comfortable when it’s warm and dry. snowy. but I was comfortable enough that many nights I chose to walk through the snow rather than take the subway. but this was to be the first time I would be in a serious winter environment. My current setup was put to the test recently in the middle of winter in Toronto. Canada. It may seem inconceivable that you can store. I know how crazy it sounds to have so few clothes. I have the sneaking suspicion that by the time this book is released. For the week I was there the winds gusted to almost forty miles an hour. you probably will be soon. in such a small bag. but what about when it’s rainy. Take a look at Icebreaker’s offerings. cold. so I won’t touch the subject.BUYING GEAR 58 If you’re a girl. I had worn most of the gear in cold climates. provided you’re a gear geek like I am. windy or all of the above? This is where things get exciting. and at one point dropped as low as five degrees. It was cold. I’ll admit that I wasn’t the warmest I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve heard the fierce opinions girls have over their bras. but believe me. The key is in the layering of cutting edge fabrics. the high temperature for the day was sometimes below twenty degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re not. though. you get used to it and fall in love with it fast. muddy. you’re probably going to bring a bra. I’ll be down to two shirts.

I wear an Arc’teryx Delta SV. 2. All of the warming is left to a substance that is chosen only for its high warmth to weight ratio. To cover the fleece you’ll need what’s called a hard shell.59 LIFE NOMADIC The standard formula is this: a layer with an ultra high warmth to weight ratio covered in the thinnest wind and waterproof layer you can find. The fleece will be expensive. somewhere between two and three hundred dollars. The other is made by Mountain Hardwear. Which company you buy from doesn’t matter particularly. Maximum efficiency. It’s a simple method. but it seems that the current king of warmth to weight in terms of a jacket is synthetic fleece. so it may be the last fleece you ever buy. . I have experimented superficially with wool as a warmth layer for the chest. Maximum versatility. Wind blocking adds weight and is redundant. The waterproof and windproof layer merely holds the heat in. but you’ll be relying on it as your primary heat retainer. as long as you get the highest warmth possible without a wind blocker. Both layers can be worn separately. In particular. depending on the level of warmth and dryness desired. which is one of only two jackets I know of that use this fleece. Don’t skimp! The Arc’teryx one has a lifetime warranty. but its beauty is twofold: 1. which is a jacket that looks like a fancy raincoat but uses high tech membranes to keep water out and still be breathable. The gold standard is Gore-Tex Paclite. too. you want to look for a jacket with Polartec Thermal Pro high loft fleece. but other companies like eVent are starting to make fabrics that compete.

I’d probably try one of the alternatives to Gore-Tex which is lighter. Five Fingers dry fast. when I tried to walk through the slush in them in Toronto . In fact. swam with them. and are great for every purpose. wool glove liners. They will be the weirdest shoes you’ll ever see. They are truly versatile footwear. Icebreaker or Smartwool are always top brands to get wool clothing from. get rain pants made from Gore-Tex or a competitor. They’re lightweight and they’re shaped around the contours of your feet. For shoes I recommend Vibram Five Fingers. That means a merino wool hat (make sure to get one that covers your ears). I have hiked with them. this was a really dumb idea. Fortunately. a company called NEOS comes to the rescue. and wool long underwear. I wondered if I was going to get frostbite2. can be machine washed. and the best you ever wear. . walked many miles with them. For the rest of the body we’ll use a layer of wool covered in a waterproof layer. Outdoor Research makes some very packable waterproof outer mittens. The hood on your jacket will cover your head. The one trick they can’t pull off is being weather resistant. including each individual toe. I had considered order2 Yes. NEOS makes high quality waterproof overboots. but if I was buying gear again I would likely choose a Golite jacket. and then numb. and even dined on the Queen Mary II wearing a tuxedo with them. They can best be described as armor for your feet. my feet became painful. To cover your legs.BUYING GEAR 60 I use a Mountain Hardwear Aiguille. Besides being lightweight.

and maybe even the whole world. you’ve pared your clothes down to the absolute minimum. There’s just not enough time. Technology Some of the places you’ll go on your trip you will never again visit. They’re so light and flexible that it’s actually comfortable to run in them. Nothing would make my feet cold. Conventional travel advice warns not to take expensive cameras or even bring a laptop. Try the overshoes on in person if you can. Some situations can’t ever be replicated. I say to take what you need to document your travels and share them with your friends. which means that the overshoes aren’t oversized and clunky and they pack small. Because Vibram Five Fingers are so small. Not so. I further tested by packing my feet in snow and standing in deep icy puddles. For this reason. I say this: you’ve gotten rid of everything you own. I was warm. but the pictures online made them seem too large to be packing in my nearly full bag. Now scared of the freezing slush. and you have a smaller backpack than anyone you’ll ever . the sizing chart on NEOS will probably be wrong. Some of the things you will do will be once in a lifetime experiences. I was able to buy the smallest pair they made. and neither will any of your friends. Sure enough. They actually pack down to about the same size my sandals packed down to before I got rid of them. I cautiously walked through it with the overboots on. family. After the near-frostbite incident I hobbled to an outdoor gear store and gave them a try.61 LIFE NOMADIC ing them for almost a year.

like yourself maybe. Zoom lenses are huge and heavy. . if I sound like some sort of expert. walk towards it. I’m not. whereas prime lenses are relatively small. There are two less common cameras which are each about half the size of the smallest DSLR. and that puts me ahead of nearly every other traveler out there. but you already have a bit of a zoom built in: your feet. will get. Digital goes without saying. By the way. which seems to leave us only with Digital SLR cameras. it’s the giant cameras that “serious photographers” carry. The first is the one that I have. and the second is the one that a practical person. If you want to zoom into something. they will just never take professional quality photos. If you must get a DSLR. I get complimented on my photos all the time. I have a great camera with a very good lens. Splurge a little and buy the equipment you need to do your trip justice. Still Camera The options for still cameras aren’t great. but it’s nonsense. meaning a lens that does not zoom. In case you don’t know what that is. Maybe they’ll get better some day. at the very least get a prime lens. That’s obviously a bit tongue in cheek.BUYING GEAR 62 meet traveling. I hate these because they are huge. but having small sensors and small lenses mean that until there is some quantum breakthrough. Once you get a good camera you learn all the jargon by accident. You’ll risk missing some great Paparazzi shots of Jennifer Aniston on her yacht. Let’s face it: Point and shoot cameras suck. but with a 40mm prime lens I’ve encountered few shots I couldn’t make work.

or ISO control. Only two companies make them. These are expensive cameras that produce amazing results. especially in strange lighting situations. The more important factors by far are sensor size and lens quality. . Ten. The Leica M8 is one of the most revered cameras in the world. Leica and Epson. but I feel obligated to share this knowledge with you: megapixels don’t matter. don’t feel badly.63 LIFE NOMADIC I have a digital rangefinder. and is harder to service. This is what I have. Eight is nice. Still. The Epson actually has a manual lever you 3 This is inappropriate for the scope of the book. I love technology and automation. but do look it up on Wikipedia if you’re interested. One overlooked benefit to them is that they are relatively small and look like old fashioned cameras. It’s slightly lower resolution (six megapixels versus eight3). but basically after six or so you are wasting your time. than anyone with an automatic camera. This sounds annoying. A good three megapixel camera is far better than an average ten megapixel camera. but is easy to get used to. twelve. but after a brief adjustment period you will learn to do it all manually and end up being able to take better pictures. or sixteen are marketing hype. Focusing a rangefinder is different from a DSLR. The four thousand dollar price has something to do with that. does better in low light. and is nearly as good. but I hope to never go back. Both cameras are fully manual. automatic aperture control. If you haven’t heard of that. but mostly it’s the fact that it’s a high end camera in a small and unobtrusive package. There are a lot of reasons for this. I won’t go into specific details here. which means no autofocus. Epson’s rangefinder costs half as much as a Leica. at the cost of you doing all the work. I’ll be clear.

Video Camera A video camera is less necessary than a still camera. They are weird Frankenstein creations between a DSLR and a point and shoot. check out the Sigma DP2 or the Leica X1. Whether you consider this a bonus or a detriment will probably also determine whether a micro four thirds camera or digital rangefinder is best for you. the two cameras in this category are the Olympus E-P1 and the Panasonic GF1. People will eagerly look at your photos. possibly good enough to replace a video camera.BUYING GEAR 64 must crank to cock the shutter after each shot. on the other hand. The image quality won’t be quite as good as a rangefinder or micro four thirds camera. These new cameras can record video as well. as well as only manual gauges. As of this writing. but when it’s hidden the camera doesn’t look very fancy. If neither of these options appeals to you. An LCD screen flips out from the back. A far more practical alternative is the new breed of Micro four thirds cameras coming out. Both are new to the market and look excellent. Notably missing is an optical viewfinder – like cheap point and shoots you must use the built in screen to frame your shot. So realize that if you’re buying a video camera. assuming you cull out the duplicates and boring ones. Unedited video. is so boring that no one will want to watch it. The quality is good. shrunken down versions of DSLR cameras that retain most of the functionality. in a nutshell. but it will be far better than any point and shoot. you’re also committing to editing footage as you go. They are. This becomes a bit of a bur- .

but it’s small. I particularly like that cameras that shoot in 720p instead of 1080i or 1080p. make sure you get a camera that has no tapes. so I’ve been scared into getting a waterproof camera. Whatever you do. so you’ll also be able to use it with your still camera. especially if you opt for an HD camera. A hard drive is okay. but solid state media is better because it can’t be corrupted by shocks or vibration. but the files are two thirds of the size compared to the alternative. Get a Gorillapod instead of a tripod so that you can be in the videos as well. Laptop Your laptop is going to be your connection to the outside world.65 LIFE NOMADIC den. It uses a standard mount. This is the site I use to make decisions on video cameras. I consider 720p to be acceptably high quality. If that doesn’t scare you. . shoots in HD resolution. both as a means to earn money and to stay in touch with your friends. They always seem to have the best video cameras. head over to www. too. Video files are enormous. hence the name. it will be a whole lot more than that. If you’re a huge nerd like me.com. I hate that it doesn’t have optical video stabilization. Last year my friend’s camera got some salt water in it and broke. as easily as it can stand on three legs on a table. and you’ll never want to delete them. check out Canon’s line. If you aren’t concerned with waterproofing.camcorderinfo. My personal choice is the Sanyo VPC-WH1. The Gorillapod has three bendable legs which make it possible to hang from a tree. and is fully waterproof.

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There’s a new breed of cheap and tiny laptops coming out, which people like to call netbooks. I hate that name, but I love the idea. If you have a huge laptop, with a screen that’s fourteen inches or higher, you should probably sell it and get a smaller one. If you have something in the eight to twelve range, you may already be set. The biggest consideration will be whether or not you plan on video editing, which will of course be determined by whether or not you get a video camera. Video editing is extremely processor intensive, and tiny laptops with “Atom” processors are not going to get the job done. However, if you don’t have video editing to do, I recommend a netbook. One often overlooked consideration is screen resolution. Many studies have been done that positively correlate screen resolution with productivity. Clinical speaking aside, it also makes sense. Screen resolution is the amount of dots on your screen. The more you have, the more you can fit on your screen, albeit at smaller sizes. If you have bad eyes, this isn’t so great, but if you have good eyes it makes a huge difference. Avoid screens with 800x480 (the same as some cell phones) or 1024x600 resolutions. You will find it difficult to work for long periouds of time on them. The Sony P netbook has an amazing 1600x768 resolution, and 12” and above laptops should have at least 1280x768. If you are editing video, and therefore not buying a netbook, make sure to get a large hard drive. Being faced with the necessity of deleting footage to make room for new footage is a nightmare.

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Cell Phone Don’t get an iPhone. I realize that this will upset people to read, but the iPhone is not a serious phone for a serious traveler. Yes, it will be able to make calls, but that’s about it. If you get a real phone you will be able to do a lot more – almost everything you can do on your laptop. A few examples: • Translation - Load bilingual dictionaries of dozens of languages onto your phone so that whenever you need to figure out how to say something, the information is at your fingertips. • VOIP calling - A great feature which I will discuss in detail later, enables you to use an internet connection to make free or nearly free calls back to the US. • GPS – How about having moving maps of the entire world loaded into your phone? • Train Schedules – Free software (MetrO) is available which has the train routes and schedules for the entire world, or close to it anyway. Think of it as Mapquest or Google Maps for trains. The best choice for a mobile phone is to get one with the Windows Mobile operating system. The interface itself is merely acceptable, but the amount and quality of software available is excellent. While they may have slick graphics and animations, no other phone operating system has as many great applications available. When choosing a phone, the most vital consideration is the bands that it operates on. To be sure that your phone will work anywhere you visit, make sure to get an unlocked quad band

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GSM phone. If you already have a phone through either T-Mobile or AT&T (not Sprint or Verizon), call them to see if they’ll unlock your phone for international travel. Most phones sold in the United States are “locked” to one carrier, meaning that when you go to Spain and put a new SIM card in, it won’t actually work. If you are unable to unlock your phone, or don’t have a GSM phone, your next best bet is going to be eBay. My phone is a Sony X2, which I chose primarily because it has a large, high-resolution screen that makes it suitable for reading books or watching movies. If you don’t choose this phone, check out the offerings from HTC. You may be surprised at how expensive these phones are. Most phones purchased in the US are subsidized by hundreds of dollars by the carriers. They make the money back in the long run by charging higher monthly fees for service. An unlocked phone will be unsubsidized, and thus hundreds of dollars more expensive, because it can be used with any phone network. Still, a good phone is a vital tool to have as a nomad. In a new city with no place to stay I can often walk around until I find a wireless internet signal, and then use the phone’s browser to begin my apartment search, or use the VOIP functionality to make phone calls. Charging your Gadgets Electronics are tough. Even when they’re small, sleek, and functional, they still seem to come with huge chargers and cables. Besides being bulky, these chargers are also a mess to work with. The answer is to standardize to USB in two separate ways.

Energizer even makes a great standard battery charger that works off USB. which is compact and has considerably higher output wattage than the Solio. The Solio. will . which makes it difficult to pack. backup hard drive. like my GPS watch. you can also get a solar charger that works with USB. of course. It connects to the universal adapter. To make it smaller. which is the most common solar charger. You can also get a wall charger that outputs USB. Maybe more interesting. It probably has at least two USB ports. which you don’t actually need. and some have even more. Some things. rip off the top. I love the MySoldius. We can now take the power coming from a USB plug and use it to charge everything we have. like many cameras. its charger isn’t so big. All phones have USB chargers available and most MP3 players either use USB by default or can use it with optional adapters. is very slow to charge and is shaped awkwardly. Try to buy devices that use a standard USB mini 5 pin connector. I’ve been able to find them for everything except for my rather eccentric camera. It won’t work in all countries. Besides standardizing power. I’ve tried it and hated it. and old mp3 player all use this. Luckily there are also a lot of ways to get power to USB. you can also standardize your transfer cables somewhat. get USB chargers for everything you own. so you can charge two things from it. Luckily.69 LIFE NOMADIC First. That covers us for output. The really nice thing about this is that if you have one universal adapter you can now charge your computer and at least two devices from just one plug. My compact laptop has three USB ports. but sometimes it’s easier than taking out your whole computer. The easiest is your computer. My phone.

but during those rare occasions that you need it. A Portable Bed Bringing your own bed with you isn’t wholly necessary. I’ve never had anything that needed 110v specifically. Electrical Plug Adapters There are two types of adapters: those which adapt only to the physical shape of the plug. The absolute best adapter is the APC INPA adapter.BUYING GEAR 70 use different cables. Check your labels to make sure. and so can the small wall socket to USB adapters. Why? Because almost all modern devices can accept anything from 110-240v. It also comes in really handy if you find yourself laid over at an airport overnight. or digital cameras where there’s a lot of available variety. go for Mini USB. nothing else substitutes. . As far as I know. every modern laptop power brick can take 110-240v. I opt to bring one because I have the space in my pack. and those which actually convert the electricity to a specific format (usually 110v/60hz). mp3 players. You probably don’t need the bulky ones which transform the power. Double check your chargers to make sure. This is especially true when you standardize to USB. and I like being able to stay with friends who don’t have extra beds or couches. but when choosing things like phones. It’s an ingenious design which packs down small and can adapt any plug to fit any socket in the world.

If there’s no wind. you may want to buy the Mont Bell Spiral Thermal Sheet. along with suggestions on where you can buy them. Finding compact and light gear is difficult. My gear may not meet all of your needs. Other Gear You’ll bring a lot of other gear with you on your trip. so I’ll give you a few tips on where to find good gear on your own.com. myself included. Whenever I have the opportunity to sleep on it I get a great night’s sleep. Hikers. are obsessed with light things. and is sold by an eccentric inventor in Texas through his site. though. most travel accessories are geared towards the types of people who lug 32” suitcases around the world. The ingenious design packs down to the size of a loaf of bread. visit tynan.71 LIFE NOMADIC The bed is called the Luxury Lite cot. It’s a thin down sleeping bag that looks comfortable and weighs next to nothing. One of the best sources is outdoor gear stores. when you’re indoors for example. Outside they do just about nothing. It’s a delight to sleep on for most people. Unfortunately. but they compress down to the size of a soda can so packing them isn’t much of an issue. If you have a little more room. To save space in this book and to make sure your packing list is up to date. I’ve even read . they add about ten degrees of warmth. consider the Sea to Summit silk sheets. To go with the bed. I maintain a complete list of every piece of gear I travel with. and weighs only a few pounds. especially ultralight hikers. To see this list. luxurylite.net/currentgear.

you’ll almost always have to look at the higher end. That means that we want to compress clothes as much as possible and layer items in the pack with as little extra room on the sides as possible. Packing it In If you’re thinking that all of that stuff might be a tight fit for such a small backpack.BUYING GEAR 72 about them cutting off half of their toothbrush handle and then drilling holes through what’s left to make it as light as possible. kneel on it to press all of the air out. Check Japanese import sites for slightly overpriced but compact laptops and phones. you’ll still have dry clothes to change into. Using this feature allows you to pack the . It’s expensive to miniaturize electronics. To pack efficiently we’ll need to follow two principle strategies: • • Air space must be minimized. you’re absolutely right. Every cubic foot of air space is a cubic foot of useful stuff that you won’t be able to bring. and you’ll be left with a dense puck of clothes that just happens to be the same width as the interior space of the pack. A great packing tool is the Aloksak. A small side benefit is that if your bag happens to get soaked in a boat ride or something. which is a waterproof heavy duty plastic bag. For electronics. The most frequently used items must be the most accessible. Fold your clothes to fit in a single bag. The Deuter can be separated into two distinct compartments rather than one big one. Backpacker type travel stores also have some good items amidst the oversized junk they sell. Air space is the enemy.

Make good use of the mesh pockets on the sides of the bag. Keep small items.73 LIFE NOMADIC bottom compartment as tightly as possible while leaving the top area relatively empty. Keep extra passport photos. They can hold a lot more than a water bottle and are very valuable spaces since they’re so easy to access. like cords. business cards. and other scraps of paper together in the flat front pockets. . This method also leaves you with two access points. which means that you have two areas to place items you may need to get to in a hurry. so that you can access items while traveling. and my rain gear near the bottom one. tickets. grouped together in smaller aloksaks to make them easier to find. I keep my cameras and computer near the top one.

Services Not all who wander are lost J. Using these services it’s possible to do virtually anything remotely. Banking There is a hidden tax of at least three percent that almost every traveler pays without even knowing it. Tolkien “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. say Malaysian Ringgits. I’m talking about hidden currency conversion fees. The good news is that any long term traveler can easily avoid paying this hidden tax with a bit of knowledge and advance planning. The device is inherently of no value to us. It’s applied to every dollar spent by credit card and cash. The way it works is this: when you charge something on your credit card in another currency. your . R. even certain tasks which normall require a physical presence. and even ATM withdrawals.” Western Union Internal Memo Filling the gap between our physical presence in our home country and where our travels are a host of services.

I also carry an American Express Platinum card because of their excellent services. predictably. With the Amex Platinum you are allowed into most of the airline clubs (Northwest. They charge 2. you have a free concierge on call 24 hours a day.5% on foreign fees. You probably never notice it. plus the occasional foreign ATM fee. The biggest one is CapitalOne. converts your purchase to dollars. Like credit cards. Continental. Never allow a vendor in a foreign country to charge your credit card in dollars. using something called dynamic currency conversion. which provide a welcome oasis during long layovers. as well as for stocking up on gear and general purposes when I’m in the US. It’s against their agreement with Visa or MasterCard to prohibit you from paying in local currency. so I primarily use them for booking flights and cruises online in US Dollars. They have dozens of different cards that you can get. Foreign purchases go on the CapitalOne card. and Delta). Additionally. including some with airline miles and some without yearly fees. A worthless bonus that still gets me excited for some reason is the ability to put your own design on the card. This service uses terrible rates. and then tacks three percent on top of that. and replaces the three percent fee with a six percent fee. Mine. and sometimes an owner fee for the . Fortunately there are a few credit card companies who quietly offer zero percent conversion fees. is a Life Nomadic card. because who actually checks market conversion rates when looking over their bank statement? Worse is when vendors charge in dollars. Some even have showers. ATMs add a three percent fee. American.75 LIFE NOMADIC credit card company checks the current conversion rate.

but apartment rentals are usually paid for in cash and can cost more than the standard $500 that most cards limit you to. which don’t charge a fee. Go through five countries and you’ve lost fifteen or twenty percent of your cash. Exchanging cash is probably the worst deal of all. too. it’s better to exchange your remaining Vietnamese Dong at a bad rate rather than carry them around with you. they rebate unlimited ATM fees. Avoid using money exchangers whenever possible. Take out $100 and you might be losing ten percent to your bank. most of them internet based. but the kiosks you find in airports and train stations are usually abysmal. Beware of street changers. There are no monthly fees. and it comes with a stock trading account just in case. Sure. but “miscount” and keep a few bills for themselves. again with no monthly fees. . They’ll often give you a great rate. The best of the bunch is Schwab High Yield Investor Checking. withdraw cash in small chunks as needed (since Schwab is rebating your fees anyway). Also noteworthy is the $2000 ATM withdrawal limit. Luckily there are quite a few banks. the problem compounds upon itself. but getting rid of excess country as you leave a country should be the exception to the rule. and they know that. and then exchange your leftover cash at a bank in the next country. The best cash management strategy is to charge everything you can on your Capital One credit card (and pay it off in full every month). You don’t know the current rate. If you get a wad of cash and keep exchanging it from one country to the next. You won’t need to withdraw that much frequently. Banks sometimes offer reasonable rates.SERVICES 76 ATM.

Companies are just now budding which offer mail reception. Postal Mail Yesterday was tax day. Then. Oh. and forwarding. won’t even take them.77 LIFE NOMADIC If you don’t wait until the next country. Travelers’ checks are a relic from the past that some people still associate with security and prudence. Notice that this strategy doesn’t include travelers’ checks. I filed my corporate tax return too. I’d still probably do it this way. I’ve been using the king of the hill. I got a notice in the mail saying that I had made an error in last year’s return. ever since they first opened for business a year . while I was in the mood. you may find yourself stuck at the airport with no way to buy food if the plane is delayed. I took care of this all from the WiFi connection at a coffee shop. The truth is that they are an enormous hassle and many non tourist places. That’s right – it’s now so easy and convenient to manage your mail online that even if I wasn’t a nomad. Plus you’ll get a much better rate at the bank. Money changers will never take coins. and one last little tip. so I completed and mailed a an amended return. scanning. especially those in less developed countries. Earth Class Mail. It’s security that you don’t need. even though many countries have coins worth the equivalent of a dollar or two. Use them in the airport gift shops to buy postcards. Best of all. as I mentioned previously. You’re not much more likely to have your travelers’ checks lost or stolen abroad than you are to lose your cash at home.

they scan the front and back of the envelope or postcard in full high resolution color. They do a great job. but if you have them ship to your Earth Class Mail address. they’ll hang on to your mail. which is a lot more useful to me than actual hard copies . A great many companies won’t ship internationally. With plans starting at just twenty dollars a month. For five cents a month. • Archive. • Shred. but you don’t want it. If it’s something you might need. you can even have it set up to deposit to your bank account! As you can probably tell – I love this service. If you get a check in the mail. like a credit card application or bank statement. They will forward your mail. They scan the mail to PDF. anywhere in the world. If the letter may have personal information on it. Every account gets a certain number of pages scanned for free every month. getting your mail through them is a no brainer. have them scan it. they’ll recycle it for you for free. they’ll shred it for free. • Ship. after the first month. You have five options: • Recycle. and additional pages are relatively cheap. you can still get the package relayed to you. This is a great option if it’s something you want to get eventually.SERVICES 78 ago. • Scan. You then log in to your account and decide what to do with the letter. but don’t need now. or even packages you receive. Here’s how the process works: when your mail comes in. even scanning the front and back of credit cards so that you can use them online. If it has no personal information on it.

and is available throughout Europe and The United States. Other countries may have it as well – you’ll just need to ask. The one standout is mailaletter. too. This is called “Poste Restante” or General Delivery. which makes coordinating easier if you’re on the move a lot. use any service other than the post office. Just have the package shipped somewhere far ahead of you. most of which I’ve found disappointing. you can still usually receive packages in foreign countries. Sending Mail Sending mail is now possible. If you speak enough of the language. The interface isn’t quite as modern as I’d like. This can be useful if you want a separate mailing address for your business. If you’re in a less developed country and want to have something shipped to your rented apartment. whether they’re sent through Earth Class Mail or from someone else. Don’t get me wrong – they’ll all send a letter for you. There are a variety of services available. Fedex generally doesn’t.com. but I love that they allow PDF attachments. Post office packages get lost.79 LIFE NOMADIC of mail. but most aren’t as full featured as I’d like. An additional underpublicized feature is the ability to get a dozen or so personal PO Boxes addresses in different states for free. . and let it wait for you to arrive. go to the post office and ask if they can receive a package for you. They’ll typically hold the package for up to a month. Receiving Packages Even if you don’t have a good address.

For less serious correspondence. How do you “sign” these forms? The best thing to do is to get a high quality scan of your signature before you leave. if you have a tablet PC. One of the best services for this is HazelMail. but sometimes physical mail is the only option. Usually these things can be faxed. or PDF. Upload your PDF attachment. but so far I haven’t had anyone reject it. which we’ll get to in a minute. if you have one. especially forms. put in an address. Using Mail A Letter. there are some services that will let you upload photos from your trip. Receiving Phone Calls International calling sounds a lot more expensive than it is. You simply write a message on their email-like interface. I’ve found that most of what I end up having to mail in are forms. the pen. PDF readers like Foxit will let you draw on the screen with a mouse or. or an agreement for my web hosting provider. It’s not perfect. or any of its competitors. in most countries you’ll end up paying less per minute than you do for your cell phone plan back home. Barring that. or you can just take a digital picture of your signature and tweak it a bit. and hit send. is the standard format for most online documents. and pay a dollar or so. An application for a trading account or a credit card. Within twenty four hours your letter will be posted and on its way.com. In fact. a tax return.SERVICES 80 Portable Document Format. The people who call . is easy. and then send them to your friends with a message written on the back. turn them into postcards. It’s a simple matter to take care of at Kinkos.

Whenever I talk to my grandmother she’s always in a rush to get off the phone because she can’t imagine international calling not being expensive. First. The cost for doing this is roughly six dollars per month. In those countries you can buy the cheapest prepaid card. provider. Refilling minutes can usually be done at any convenient store. Callcentric is a VOIP. With your new service you should be able to make local calls as well as receive them. There are two components to the system. This means that you can cancel your cell contract. and receive calls all month. These plans are what most people use for everyday service in many countries.com. and people who call your cell phone may have no idea you ever left. but keep your number.81 LIFE NOMADIC you may not believe that. and then connect from there to your cell phone. route them over the internet for free to another country. One feature of Callcentric that I particularly like is the ability to port your cell phone number. Create an account at www. but usually you have to get the initial SIM card at a phone store. They can take incoming calls in the US. All you do is prepay twenty dollars or less and get a new SIM card to put into your phone. or Voice Over IP.callcentric. you need a local prepaid cell phone plan. The countries that are at the higher end of that spectrum are usually countries where cell phone users are not billed for incoming calls. usually around $3. though. . so they are generally trivial to get. The result is that instead of paying between fifty cents and a few dollars per minute. which is a fancy way of describing a company that routes phone calls over the internet. you’ll generally pay between three and twelve cents.

put in your local cell number and the number you want to call. Callcentric doubles as a calling card. For now. The good news is that these programs can connect through a service like Callcentric or Callwithus for only a penny or two per minute. If you happen to be in one of those countries. and has a bunch of local numbers in a dozen or so countries. VOIP is a good choice when you’re in your apartment. Slow third world wifi usually doesn’t cut it.SERVICES 82 Callcentric also has a great rule based interface for routing calls. This is how I make the bulk of my calls. and a second later your cell phone rings and connects to the remote number. which Callwithus and Callcentric both provide. I expect that in the near future outgoing calls will get better. Making Phone Calls Making phone calls is the one area that isn’t quite polished yet. and the calling card or callback option will suffice when you’re not. is that they only work when you’re in an area that has good wifi. Nokia phones have this built in and people with Windows Mobile phones can get a great program called Agephone. You log in to the web site. of course. . The bad news. The best option is to use a Voice Over IP client for your phone. you can use the calling card feature to make calls at the same cheap rates. I use this to block junk calls. which lets you have fine grain control over who can call and when. The one last option is a callback service.

you’ll probably find a few occasions on the road where you’ll need to. . and a dialog box pops up offering a preview and asking for the number. Based on personal experience. I’ve been using their service for years. They have a feature I particularly like where every fax is just sent to your e-mail address. I’d suggest you do as I do: don’t insure your gear. with no need to ever log in. Besides rates so good that it’s lasted me a year on a six dollar credit. you will probably greatly overestimate the chance of you running into trouble. Fax1. check out K7. but they will give you an absolutely free fax and voicemail number. the best thing about Fax1 is that it comes with printer drivers. Insurance As I mentioned in the section about danger. Luckily there are some excellent solutions.83 LIFE NOMADIC Faxing Even if you don’t fax now. Terrible interfaces seem to be en vogue for fax sites. and believe me. make sure to have a good scan of your signature for pasting onto documents to fax.net. For receiving faxes. and the next site is no exception. and it’s been great. No credit card or any sort of documentation is required. I’ve been using this so long that I don’t even know what my login name is anymore. That means that you just click Print on any document you want to fax.com is the winner in the fax sending arena. It couldn’t be any easier. Just like with mailing letters. I’ve tried a ton of them. The interface is laughably bad.

Everyone has a different health situation. at worldnomads. which I’m sure I will eventually. and exercise. Your local insurance will probably not cover you in foreign countries. There are plenty of health insurance options available for travelers. I recommend a company called Safeware. That’s probably the route I would take. Safeware. so make sure to review both options before making a decision. If I do need medical care. . My own health strategy is to eat healthy food. If you do decide to buy insurance. Health insurance is another topic. get enough rest. will let you cover whatever you want.SERVICES 84 More valuable than insurance is common sense coupled with some security related pieces of gear that I will recommend shortly. and will quote you a reasonable price. Most travelers’ insurance policies cover only a small amount of electronics per traveler. and in fact have people go there specifically for “medical tourism”. not enough to make it useful for a most people. on the other hand. I will just pay for it out of my own pocket. but whether or not you need them is up to your own discretion. Many countries have high quality medical care at a fraction of the cost of US prices. although you should check with them to make sure. World Nomads Insurance. That means that you should probably cancel your health insurance before you go if you pay for it yourself.com is one of the more popular options. As a result I haven’t gone to the doctor in the US or elsewhere in at least ten years.

Part Three Living Nomadically .

I was happy to see them. and had . Momentary waves of panic shot through me as my subconscious came up with random things I may have forgotten to do. “I thought you were leaving?” asked the cashier casually. The morning I left was less eventful.” As we ate our breakfast. It was more cathartic than unpleasant. One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. but couldn’t help but think that I probably hadn’t seen them in a longer period of time than I was leaving for. What about my car! Oh yeah. “I am. Everyone had come to the restaurant to say goodbye. It was strange to see my entire life compressed down into something so insignificant looking. I took my backpack and walked into the same restaurant for breakfast. I stared down at my tiny little backpack.BEGINNING YOUR NEW LIFE If we are always arriving and departing. it seemed so monumental. My best friends were there. Henry Miller The night before was full of fanfare. My flight is in a few hours. it is also true that we are eternally anchored. but so were a handful of acquaintances I barely ever saw. Looking back at the task of getting rid of everything. I sold it.

and the waitresses I’d made friends with were still serving it.87 LIFE NOMADIC definitely firmed up my minimalist notions that I had been developing. but the idea of giving up this free and exciting life seemed unfathomable. I knew I had plenty of time. places I’d seen a million times before. but I already knew that I’d never go back. When I landed back in Austin seven months later for a surprise visit. An hour later I was on a plane. Sure. I got comfortable in Austin. People hem and haw when you need a ride to the airport to go somewhere boring like Cleveland. The restaurants I used to love were still serving the same food. We finished our breakfast leisurely and waited outside for our friend Kristen to come pick us up. but missing this flight would be terribly unfortunate. All of a sudden the Texaco on the corner seemed like an important landmark. I hadn’t even landed in the first country yet. I looked at each passing building. I checked my new GPS watch which had replaced a flashier but less functional watch. my two hundred or so days away seemed like some sort of bizarre dream. I’d visit from time to time. an anchor to my life in Austin. we probably could have arranged for a full on motorcade. We’d kept in touch so well online that we barely had anything to catch up on. it felt like I never left. which . In the context of normal American life. and it was as if the past months had just been a day or so. trying to etch them in my memory. and quickly fell back into old routines. If we’d been a bit less considerate. I picked back up with my friends. Even downtown. everyone volunteers. but when you’re embarking on a grand nomadic journey.

and so does sitting in front of your laptop. didn’t seem all that different. but so will the similarities. In this section I’ll share with you some of the things that I figured out along the way. figuring out what works and what doesn’t. that’s a pretty good chunk of your day right there. and give you enough stability to focus on building the skills you’ll need to thrive in strange lands. I knew that there was no telling what sort of adventures lay ahead.BEGINNING YOUR NEW LIFE 88 was in the middle of a huge condo boom. You quickly realize that a bed feels the same no matter what country it’s in. I saw the world through different eyes. so does a shower. The one thing that had changed was me. One of the best parts of being a nomad is inventing your life as you go along. They provide contrast to the new and exciting things you’ll experience. The differences in daily life as a nomad will surprise you. And most of all. though. . There were now a handful of cities around the world that felt similarly familiar. If you’re anything like me. The similarities are a good thing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson “What does that mean?” “It means your Japanese is very good. and in this case. There are two distinct sides to every country: one you experience if you speak the language. .LEARNING LANGUAGES No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. and another you experience if you don’t speak a word. I barely understood a word of the compliment. and an authentic desire to show me their country. I had built my proficiency to where I could articulate just about anything I wanted. It’s a safe bet that the version you see when you speak the language is a whole lot better than the other. Still. As a result.” Obviously it’s not. This was illustrated best in Japan. “Thank you for trying”.”). Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby-so helpless and so ridiculous. even if it was in as inarticulate and roundabout a manner as could be imagined (“I want eat thing that next to that thing. praise. that’s what counts the most. “You speak very good Japanese” ought to be translated as. every Japanese person I met bowled over with enthusiasm. I was trying.

The bad news. Malaysia. as well as the grammar structure of any other country. it was obvious to me that there was a depth of experience that she wasn’t able to enjoy. and if we can’t talk to them. Sure. I’ve always tried to learn the language of anywhere I stay for at least a month. In Japan it’s common for people to say that they speak no English. all too aware of what I was missing out on. Obviously with such a short visit. yes. Please. It’s often surprising how good “bad English” is. As a result I can get by in Spanish. and Japanese. thank you. and Cambodia.90 LIFE NOMADIC A good friend of mine visited for a week in Japan. we lose out. not the landmarks. French. you still won’t be able to have real conversations with them. they’ll open up and speak English. The people are what define the country. hi. which isn’t really news at all. Most tourists show so little effort that just that small bit of interest in their culture conveys a lot of authenticity to locals. I now try to at least learn the most basic dozen words or so. but then once they realize your Japanese is worse. I watched the experience she was having in Japan. Thailand. talking to people in baby English. Chinese. they’ll be more likely to try hard as well. A few weeks later I was in Thailand. it didn’t make sense for her to learn Japanese. no. but if they see you trying. I know people who took a couple years of . She made the mistake we all make when trying to communicate with people who don’t speak English: we speak to them in English as if they were half deaf toddlers. and although she had a great time. is that learning languages is difficult. After a humbling tour through Singapore. how are you. and goodbye go a really long way.

It’s easy to figure out why: each lesson is interactive. The level of fluency you’ll achieve is based mostly on the difficulty of the language. You do one a day. 1 hour. for three months. high quality ways to learn have been discovered and refined to a science. they are 5 seconds. 5 days. Although he’s now dead.LEARNING LANGUAGES 91 Spanish in school and still can’t order properly at Mexican restaurants. Whet he discovered. divided into three units. The good news is that because learning language is such a common goal. Each language consists of ninety half hour tapes. is that there are certain intervals at which one needs to hear something to commit it to memory. In the late 60s a psychologist and French teacher named Paul Pimsleur began to study language learning. or any other language program. He created a language learning method that was based around this idea. 25 days. Its treatments of writing and reading are so superficial that I usually skip them. Spanish is a lot easier than Russian. It will probably come as no surprise to you that a classroom setting isn’t one of those ways. creating lessons with quiz words at approximately those intervals. It’s a minimal time commitment. 4 months. but it is known for being both efficient and for producing speakers who pronounce things unusually well. every day. Berlitz. 1 day. and the rest is spent replying back and answering questions. but you leave with the ability to hold some sort of conversation. 5 hours. and 2 years. A third of the time is spent listening to the speaker. 25 seconds. and thus you come out of the program with a comparatively good grasp of the language. Pimsleur is the best by far. 2 minutes. his system lives on through a series of audible language lessons called The Pimsleur Method. Specifically. 10 minutes. Forget about Rosetta stone. amongst other things. .

The key is to travel to countries whose language you’re learning. it’s a bit cumber- . so they just switch to English. Doing even two weeks of a series will give you enough skills to improve your experience in the country which speaks the language. people will think you’re weird for speaking to yourself in some other language. The courses are expensive . The solution is easy: listen in English. I also like that it’s self contained. Learning takes place outside of your comfort zone. Immersion Immersion is the only real way to learn a language. Yes. you might agree that it’s worth it. speak in the new language. Yes. If you travel with a friend.92 LIFE NOMADIC What I particularly like about Pimsleur is that it gets results fast. Don’t be scared to speak the language. they’ve heard worse. If not. One thing I’ve found is that most people want to practice their English more than they want to speak with a novice in their language. and believe me. and then comes the hard part: using it. You can download the MP3s to your MP3 player and listen to them wherever you are. but it will take more than that to gain real fluency. almost every public library has every language available for free. This is actually a great method for both parties to improve their language skills. Pimsleur immerses you in your new language for half an hour a day. but when you consider that you’ll be speaking as well as someone who took the class in school for a couple years in just a few months. even if you know you’re not great at it. designate days or hours where you agree to only speak the foreign language. and it’s hard to argue with that price. but you can’t argue with the results.$600 for all three months.

I took five years of Spanish in middle and high school. . in Japan many girls are signing up to get a language partners in hope of dating an American. people will be practically lining up at your door to have you as a language partner1. Three months of tapes and two of immersion won’t get you fluent. search on local classifieds sites or craigslist for them.LEARNING LANGUAGES 93 some and can be really annoying when you want to talk about something technical. but it should get you functional. Learning Kanji I was clicking random links online one day when I came upon a blog of a guy who said that he had learned Kanji in only two 1 By the way. I’d rather speak five languages passably than two perfectly. Something to consider. I did three months of Pimsleur Japanese last year. Being an English speaker makes you a lot rarer than a speaker of the native language. The key is to focus on functioning language rather than fluency. and by the end of the trip I was having full conversations in Japanese. Just two months of concerted effort in a country can make a huge difference. Another effective strategy is to get a language partner. If you’re open to it. so after two months in Panama I got the hang of things. People are smart and will figure out what you mean. he was speaking around my level as well. Just in case they can’t find your door. My friend Todd had taken no Spanish in high school. but it’s also effective. and then two months in Japan. When I started I didn’t know much beyond “konnichi-wa (hello)”. but after three months of Pimsleur and two months in Panama.

the word for apricot is the character for “tree” on top of the character for “mouth”. the better the story sticks. Two months later. so to remember it you imagine someone standing under an apricot tree. The most practical application of this knowledge is the continued study of Kanji. like Anki. or even the gist of simple paragraphs. This seemed ridiculous—Kanji are the complex Chinese characters used in both Chinese and Japanese. The best of them. and then create a story involving those elements to remember the whole character. The task of learning Kanji seems so overwhelming that many students. Now there’s an excellent book by James Heisig called Remembering the Kanji. I couldn’t pronounce them. pair it with a good flash card system. but functional. Each one represents a whole word. To use his method most effectively. not a sound. Fluent? No. but I knew what each one meant in English and could write them all. trying to catch one in his mouth. the Japanese Joyo Kanji. I finished learning the last of the 2042 most basic Kanji. I may as well give it a try. but an intermediate side benefit is that I can understand pretty much any menu or sign. makes up the almost two thousand characters necessary to read a newspaper. His approach is to assign a meaning to each sub-element of each character. The more absurd the image is. For example. At one point at time that was probably the best decision.94 LIFE NOMADIC months. Times change. use the “spaced repetition” . Just the smallest subset. including my former self. No one had figured out a way to make learning Kanji practical. just skip it. I thought. too.

Even Japanese has two secondary phonetic alphabets. Phoenetic Alphabets Written Russian and Arabic look totally foreign at first glance. but you’ll at least be able to pronounce it. these languages are phonetic. one of which is used liberally on menus because it functions to emulate English words. seven days a week. which is similar to the interval system used by Pimsleur for spoken language. If you’re planning on spending a significant amount of time in Japan or China. There’s value in such a simple skill. all of these alphabets can be learned in a day of serious study each. making it easy to go online and find great stories effortlessly. Studying just thirty five new words a day. Users rate each story. There is also a community online called “Reviewing the Kanji” at kanji. Despite appearances. You can look for signs that say a particular thing. where people share their own stories.koohii. you’ll probably find that the time was well spent. and as you pick up words here and there you’ll know how to write them. . Unlike Kanji. meaning that they have relatively small pronounceable letters. though. will get you up to speed in two months. You won’t have any idea what you’re reading.net.LEARNING LANGUAGES 95 method. Russian looks like a glitched computer and Arabic looks like random squiggles.

following your whims around the world. There’s a difference between being a miser and spending money efficiently. and have got a diarrhea and bites from the mosquitoes. But what of that? Comfort must not be expected by folks that go a pleasuring. A conservative estimate tallies those expenses up be at least two to three hundred dollars a month. and internet service. Lord Byron How much do you suppose it costs to live as a nomad. Spending a lot more wouldn’t be difficult. I pay an average of just $265 per month in airfare. and I rides on an ass or a mule. moving from country to country at your convenience? Take a guess now so that you can compare it to the real answer. electricity. and swears Portuguese. It represents a shift in perspective. Even without getting into expenses like car payments and property tax. . To put things in perspective.BUDGETING I swims in the Tagus all across at once. The latter is something different. phone service. being unwilling to part with money unless absolutely necessary. The former connotates an indifference to value. cable. most people pay for things like gas. The one factor people never seem to include in their estimates is the reduction of costs they’ll have.

Our society. a store of status. is a major step in the right direction. which is broken down approximately as follows: . is the underlying trend in our culture that has made this possible. What troubles me. Returning one’s mind to the idea of money as a store of value. I say to be proud of spending money efficiently. An application sold for the iPhone which did nothing other than put a red glowing icon on the phone that said. Spend as little money as necessary on flights and comfortable lodging. Two of the buyers thought it was a joke and got their money refunded. “I am rich”. though. not how the jewelry has improved their lives. and refusing to base one’s self esteem or worth on the amount of money they spend for a good or service. Rappers brag about how much they spent on their jewelry. has instead become. and if people want to pay for it that’s fine with me too. in many cases. I spend somewhere around $1500 per month. The other six were happy customers. and that all other expenses should be ruthlessly culled. or segments of it at least. have glorified the spending of money. originally conceived as a store of value.97 LIFE NOMADIC moving towards the idea that money should be spent in ways that will genuinely enhance one’s life. The price of the application was a thousand dollars. I think it’s a clever idea on the developer’s part. and eight people bought it before it was removed by Apple. Money. and save the rest to fund the unexpected adventures that your future surely holds.

If I ate normal food I imagine my costs would be far closer to $250 per month. train. . but I’d rather err on the side of caution. and cruise tickets $500 for food2 $50 in fees for phones. ship. Eating such a healthy diet is a luxury which I’m happy to pay for. The following sections will explain my methods and enable you to live as cheaply as you want to. so those two figures relate conversely. but in fact I live like a king. This number is probably higher than I actually spend. Five hundred dollars assumes that staying with friends isn’t an option. 2 I eat a very strict vegan diet with the additional avoidance of all processed flours. In places like Panama my expenses are closer to $900. 3 I can be a bit absent minded and tend to lose more of my gear than I should. and in Tokyo they can be closer to $2000. remote mail.BUDGETING 98 • • • • • $500 for lodging1 $265 for plane. faxing $185 in gear replacement and miscellaneous expenses3 This is an average over the long term. Often times the most expensive flights lead to the places with the cheapest lodging and food. while living life to the fullest and seeing the world. Fifteen hundred dollars a month may not seem like much. and bad oils. 1 I now have so many friends to stay with around the world that my actual figure is much lower. sugars.

Buying cheap airfare is a key component of living a successful nomadic lifestyle for a couple reasons. First. Panama. It’s possible. and not feel obligated to stick in one place. don’t feel bad. I like systems like this – they reward the smart and determined at the cost of the lazy or ignorant. or never leave your home country in the first place.FLYING A friend of a friend wanted to come to Panama to visit. I’ve been there too on both counts. if your flights are cheap you’ll be much more likely to travel as you please. and a bit confusing. His travel agent had booked him for Panama City. one might have paid twice what the other paid. it’s good to do a bit of the legwork yourself. not Panama City. I’m still not sure how it’s possible to get a ticket that expensive. Second. He called his travel agent and booked a round trip coach ticket for a whopping $1800. If you’re in the latter category now. The airfare booking system is complex. it’s the only major expense you’ll have that you didn’t have back home. but the kicker is this: he stepped off the plane and into a much more familiar land than he expected. Florida. that between two strangers sitting on a plane. The lesson to be learned? If you want cheap (and correct) flights. if not probable. .

My average expense for all transportation is under three hundred dollars a month.100 LIFE NOMADIC I consider finding cheap flights to be a hobby. Here are some examples I’ve flights I’ve booked recently. Fly on Tuesday or Wednesday Business travelers make up the bulk of passengers on an airplane. How much cheaper? I’d say that twenty percent is average. Many . cheaper. I have developed and discovered an arsenal of techniques which enable me to fly unbelievably inexpensively. All of a sudden those cable and electricity bills may not seem like such a good value. and thus. and often times it’s more like fifty percent. And generally. including all taxes and fees: Toronto to Panama City .$610 In the following sections I will explain how I got each one of these fares. and how you can employ the same strategies. Dominican Republic . businesses have more money to spend on flights than individuals. Armchair psychologists observing me might call it something else. which means that they also regulate the price to a large extent.$272 London to Marakkesh.$144 London to Toronto to Austin to London (three legs) . Since most business travel happens from Thursday to Monday. but it does mean that you should carefully check every day of the week. That doesn’t mean that deals can’t ever be had on the remaining days.$258 Panama City to Santo Domingo. Morocco (round trip) . This is where the flexibility of being a nomad comes into play. flights on the remaining days tend to be less in demand. As a result of my obsession.

you don’t need to be certain you’ll use it. see how far ahead you can book it for without paying more money. but it definitely is. I can’t really fathom why this is true. try to think of any possible time you might want to use the return trip. You may be able to move the date around later by paying a fee or just maybe convince them to allow you to credit it against a future flight. First try setting the return date to a Wednesday or Tuesday a week in advance.FLYING 101 people have constraints that prevent them from getting these deals – you don’t. If those prices are good. check the price of a round trip ticket as well. Since it is essentially free (or even better than free). . Beware. I always spend the extra few minutes to manually check each day individually. It is extremely common for a round trip ticket to be sold less that a one way ticket for the same route. My favorite is Kayak. though. Not doing so could be a hundred dollar mistake! Two For (Less Than) the Price of One Even if you only need a one way. so take advantage of them. Then try the following week. If you can’t imagine any time you’ll use it. I wouldn’t count on that one. the flexible date feature is not completely accurate. Often times it will find the best flights only on your preferred day and some second best flights on the other days. The easiest way to check the whole week at once is by using the “flexible dates” feature of your favorite flight search engine. though.

But there’s a little known secret I was able to exploit to cut that cost in half. which means that it will almost always have the best international fares in the United States. They show you the best flight that you can buy from one vendor. Los Angeles. A quick search confirmed my suspicions by offering a one way ticket for $105. which is $242 less than the aggregator showed me. when I searched for a flight from Toronto to Panama. the flight cost over $500. Then I searched for a flight that left a few hours later from New York to Panama. giving me a free stop in New York. even on Tuesday and Wednesday. there’s another incentive to using this method. I had been to New York recently and was eager to get to Panama. but if I had wanted to. Expedia. For example. The secret is this: aggregators don’t show you the best flight you can buy. I could have scheduled my second flight a couple days or even weeks later. Try calling up your airline to extend a normal . or Orbitz are not the end all be all of airfare prices. it’s not an unreasonable price.102 LIFE NOMADIC The Hub Method Aggregators like Kayak. I found a fare for $153. When you consider how far away the two cities are. Often times you can buy two complementary tickets which end up costing far less than the best price on the effective combined route. As I suspected. Besides ultra low fares. the two tickets cost me only $258. Combined. and sometimes Chicago are other examples of cities with excellent prices. I knew that Toronto to New York would cost almost nothing. This is a small but crucial distinction. Miami. New York is a major hub.

Las Vegas is a city that is unbelievably cheap to get to from almost anywhere. like LAX to NYC are so cheap that it’s often worth taking a quick hop to the closer one to get to the other. Remember a little while back when I said to keep an eye out for round trip tickets that are cheaper than one way tickets? An advanced strategy you can employ is to use the return ticket to get to a hub city. Set the return date for when you . but the price of the ticket was one thousand dollars from Austin. Although it’s a bit harder to line up the times unless you’re taking a free stop. Besides international flights. and they’ll either totally disallow it or charge an obscene rate for the privilege. and then take a trip to Bangkok. Many trips to Central and South America stop off in the Miami area (Miami. or you could get a round trip from Tokyo to San Francisco. or Fort Lauderdale). stay there for a couple months. He added a free stop in London on the way in to spend some time in the city and meet up with another one of his friends who was there too. and then the same $144 round trip ticket to Morocco that I took.FLYING 103 stopover. this technique also works for domestic flights in the United States. Let’s say you want to fly from Tokyo to San Francisco. you can also use this method to book two overlapping round trip tickets. Instead he booked a $500 ticket to London. You could buy all of those tickets separately. which can tell you that those three airports are probably hubs worth checking out. A friend wanted to come to Morocco with me. One shortcut to finding good hubs is to look at regular tickets for the route that have layovers and see where they stop. Hub to hub flights. Palm Beach.

Eighty percent of the time they’re outrageously expensive. you earn a lot of flexibility which really lets you maximize your travel expenditures. far more costly than if you had just booked the equivalent one ways yourself. Air Asia. That’s sixteen dollars per international flight. These ultra cheap airlines make money by retaining all bookings to themselves. and then take a second flight on a discount airline. A good strategy is often to get to a hub city in the general region you want to visit. and not paying the commissions necessary to get onto airfare aggregating sites. Take my flight from LHR (London) to YYZ (Toronto) to AUS (Austin) to LHR. for example. As you can see. it’s so cheap that I recently booked a 10 leg journey with them for only $160. That means that you need to seek them out and find their fares individually. and Ryan Air has them on a pretty regular basis as wall. when your life is a series of trips from one place to the next. But the remaining twenty percent of the time they’re oddly cheap. It’s comfortable. although their fees and taxes are higher that Air Asia. and unbelievably cheap. Be sure to check for local discount airlines as well. Air Asia offers totally free fares several times a year. Multiple Stop Tickets Multiple stop tickets are a strange breed. In fact. new. I was really just looking for a ticket to Toronto . and then take a cheap flight from Tokyo to Bangkok.104 LIFE NOMADIC want to go to Bangkok. This isn’t an isolated incident. is like Southeast Asia’s version of Southwest Airlines in the United States. I haven’t yet figured out how this happens.

Planning Around Sales If you’re flexible in your timing or have a wide variety of places you’d be excited to go to next. The culprit was the summer travel rush where every second year college student in America wants to go to Western Europe. I was planning on going back to Europe in July anyway. which was starting to look like a decent price since it would spare me the cost of the London leg. but not always. Sure enough. even though I hadn’t previously planned to go there and didn’t even have a ticket to the starting point yet. check online deal sites. just like booking round trip tickets.FLYING 105 and then to Austin. were selling tickets for just the price of the taxes. for one day only. it showed a fare for $610 for the whole trip. These two one ways added up to over six hundred dollars. They often have insanely low fares which you can then plan around. Then on a lark I tried the “multiple destination” feature of Kayak. . I saw online that Air Asia. so I looked for a round trip to Toronto. much cheaper if your last destination is the same as the place you originally leave from. I immediately booked a forty day trip throughout Southeast Asia. only $203 per leg. That cost a bit over $750. A good example is that ten segment trip I mentioned earlier. I booked it immediately. and then a round trip from there to Austin. One thing I’ve noticed is that multiple destination trips are often.

I check for nearby (and sometimes not so nearby) airports that will offer me a chance to see another city and save money simultaneously. but it’s also a good strategy to consider airports even further away from the main one. Instead of flying from London. for example. Dublin. To understand how they fit into the picture. A key term in the industry is the . Anywhere there’s rail or ferry lines. often by a hundred dollars or so. Alternate Airports There are the obvious alternative airports like Stansted. Dublin is almost always a cheaper flight to New York than London is. it’s important to understand how the airline industry works. but travel agents aren’t quite the dinosaurs of a previous generation that we imagine them to be.106 LIFE NOMADIC Often times these sales are for trips months in the future. The journey takes half a day and is scenic and comfortable. you’ll usually fly into New York when you return from Europe. in addition to bars and restaurants. A reasonable strategy is to head to a country that’s likely to have deals. If you’re using the hub method. and Luton in London. Travel Agents I don’t use them often. which means that you can save money and get to see Dublin for a day or two for free. Take. you can take trains and ferries to Dublin. The ferry is a luxury ferry which even has a movie theater on it. like anywhere in Europe. and just wait around for one that’s interesting to you. Gatwick. The combined tickets from London to Dublin cost around forty US dollars.

because we always buy at the lowest prices we see advertised. The amenities vary. In practice they usually can’t beat using the hub method. This may seem to be an issue of semantics. and have come up with a few tricks to make the experience a bit more pleasant and economical. Admiral’s Club. If you’re going to preplan your entire trip and want to buy your tickets in advance. the best places to wait are the airport lounges like the Crown Room. Airlines can’t regulate what price another company sells their tickets for. That’s why airfare vendors always guarantee that they have the lowest published price. not the lowest overall price. but I hear the occasional rumor of unbelievably cheap tickets gotten through. AIRPORT GAMES As a nomad you’ll spend a good deal of time in airports. wireless internet. or President’s Club. but they can regulate the price at which they’re advertised.FLYING 107 “minimum advertised price”. as long as you call and ask them about it. I certainly have. but it’s not. Nicer . you may as well see what they can offer and use it as a benchmark for your own research. power plugs. Travel agents have the ability to sell tickets much cheaper than the published prices. Even if you’re going to book them yourself. but you can always count on comfortable seats. Free Lounges For a long layover. buying from a travel agent that specializes in round the world trips is the way to go. and an open bar. which leads me to believe that somewhere out there is a mythical travel agent who can beat the hub method. snacks.

these agents tend to be the opposite. Ethical? You be the judge. and I’ve even had a few situations where they’ve broken some rules to get me on a flight when everything looked booked up. it’s an easy decision to get the card. like the Continental’s President’s Club in Houston have things like showers with built in clothes-elevators to have your clothes pressed for free as you take a shower. However. This lets me cut ahead of the other passengers who also need to get rebooked. but I’m willing to do it if it’s a long layover and I’m hungry for free apples. These lounges are owned by the airlines and command a hefty annual fee for entrance. Simply go up to the nearest gate of the airline whose club you want to use. all American Express Platinum Card members are entitled to unlimited entry as long as they’re flying on the airline whose lounge they want to use. Once you get your ticket. and then call the airline on your cell phone to cancel it once you get inside. I exploit a small loophole.108 LIFE NOMADIC lounges. but if the layover is three hours or longer. but combined with the other benefits. Whenever I have a late flight and need to rebook because I have missed my connecting flight. I head to the nearest club. If normal agents tend to be apathetic or even a bit hostile. One of my favorite perks is that they all have ticket agents with no line. But what happens when you’re flying on an airline that doesn’t have a lounge? Normally I just hang out in the terminal with the peasants. head to the airport lounge. Alone this can nearly justify the annual fee of the card. and tell the agent you’d like to purchase a fully refundable ticket on the last flight of the day to New York. .

Consider how small the profile of a stamped piece of metal is – it’s almost nonexistent. Take. . so if a small pulse comes back earlier than expected then the detector knows that it hit some metal. for example. Same goes for small blunt tipped scissors. the P-38 military can opener. I researched airport metal detectors and learned that they work by sending pulses from one side of the arch to the other. The TSA allows much larger and sharper blades on small scissors. If metal detectors were 100% sensitive.FLYING 109 Sneaking Metal Past Security Any traveler worth his salt brings carryon baggage only. decide it was a weapon. I used to just keep mine in my bag. These things aren’t dangerous. but once in a rare while the TSA agent would get high on his horse. and confiscate it. you wouldn’t be able to get anything metal through them. It’s an ounce or so of stamped metal with a tiny half inch dull blade that folds out to open the can. But draconian TSA rules prohibit all sorts of useful things that aren’t actually dangerous. These pulses bounce off of metal. including rings. and zippers on your jeans. What’s a traveler to do? Subject himself to the misinformed opinion of an undertrained TSA employee? I don’t think so. You could give a terrorist a box of them and he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone. So they turn the sensitivity down. watches. I like having one because cans of beans are great healthy snacks that are available all over the world. Safety razor blades are specifically permitted by TSA rules available online. but one in twenty agents will confiscate those as well and refuse to go over the rules with you to verify their actions.

I keep my razors in my bag. but instead of following the signs outside. but arriving in Panama at three in the morning was inconvenient to say the least. it would be four in the morning. so I took it. which would be convenient to have while traveling. With smug grins on our faces we walked past the backpackers to a quiet spot and set up our Luxury Lite cots. Sleeping in Airports The flight schedule was terrible. I keep one in my wallet as a backup. It never gets detected. Others had the same idea and were awkwardly strewn across the chairs which are specifically designed to be as uncomfortable as possible to sleep in. but I wouldn’t ever try it.110 LIFE NOMADIC I wear a thin metal chain around my neck and hang my can opener from it. I put on my sleep mask and put in my ear plugs and may as well have been sleeping at the Four Seasons. but no confiscations. but a real knife would probably get you in real trouble. I’ve also carried my scissors in my pocket undetected. but I don’t leave everything up to chance. we headed upstairs to the arrival lounge. You may be able to sneak a small knife onto the plane. Obviously this trick shouldn’t be used to carry anything seriously dangerous on a plane. So far they’ve enjoyed a high degree of scrutiny. By the time we got a taxi and booked a hotel downtown. but now I have new ones that are tiny with big rounded tips. Luckily there was another option. Our flight arrived and we quickly cleared customs. When a security guard gently nudged me . I liked that it left later in the afternoon. but cost hundreds of dollars less than the next best one. A can opener is easy to justify.

I actually enjoy opportunities to sleep there for a night. Another hidden benefit is that you can lock your backpack in the car and not have to lug it around with you like you would if you took a taxi or bus. it’s easy to find a one day rental for twenty or forty dollars per day in most cities.net that reviews a huge number of airports. chuckling at the bizarre comfort I had enjoyed.sleepinginairports. While I can’t imagine any situation that would make long term airport sleeping a reasonable idea. consider renting a car. I saved a night’s lodging expenses. I was well rested and ready to get an early start on the day. Some airports are better suited than others for overnight stays. Rather than spend a ton of money on taxis or loaf around the airport. To me that’s a small price to pay to have the chance to go to a decent restaurant. Of course. some cities like New York have such good public transportation that renting a car doesn’t make much sense. and thus got to enjoy the day. which minimizes the hassle of getting back there for your flight. With a bit of due diligence on the internet. This is especially likely if you use my hub method of booking tickets. and then I got an early start the next day. . stock up on snacks at the grocery store. Ultra Short Term Car Rentals Sometimes you will find yourself with a twelve hour layover with nothing to do. Car rentals from airports are fast and convenient. It means that I took a late flight. Luckily there’s a great web site at www. or maybe even find a beach or museum to check out.FLYING 111 awake in the morning.

Even with all that in mind.112 LIFE NOMADIC Staying Grounded I love just about everything about air travel. I like finding the deals. The real value in these alternative routes is that they show you parts of the country you’d otherwise never see. Panama. see a group of kids playing baseball in a dirt patch. it’s my third choice. not the destination. Train trips. it’s the journey that matters. and I even like really long layovers. As we’ve all heard before. . and stop and play with them until the sun finally sets. other than TSA screeners. I like hanging around in the airport. I like the distraction free solitude of the flight where I get loads of work done. I consider flying to be amongst the worst ways to travel. But when you drive through on your way somewhere else. just doesn’t make any sense. and even road trips in cars all take a lot longer than flights. you understand the value of the journey. At best. but the time is usually filled well. Buying a plane ticket for Chitre. cruises. after train and ship.

The kids were tickled pink that a Westerner was taking the train.TRAINS “Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Forster Trains are another wonderful way to travel. The scenery rolls by at a slow enough pace that it can be fully absorbed. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine. to them. I have fond memories of a two night trip from Saigon to Hanoi. alas! We return. and are generally my first choice. Longer journeys are always better. you might be surprised how much ground you can cover by train. which I absolutely love riding. sleeper cars are bargains in other areas of the world. in a tiny little six-bunk room with a Vietnamese family. Although they are prohibitively expensive in North America.” . If you’ve never looked into it before. Locals travel on trains. . among other trips. making it possible. Europe and Asia in particular have excellent coverage. which provides a good opportunity to make friends with them and ask them about their country. Of particular interest are sleeper trains. There’s more to see.Edward M. and they offer more comfortable accommodations than shorter hauls. and I was equally excited to be traveling with them.

. unless you are hell-bent on extracting every last dollar out of them. Europe has an amazing rail system. The site is an astoundingly great catalog of what seems to be every train route in the world. Seat61. Siberia. but the truth is that I get all of my information from one place. I could go on and on about trains. and Mongolia. This is a non issue because the same routes are simultaneously serviced by a nearly as fast bullet train. A three week pass costs $587. and the other half cost a dollar or two per ride. and it takes you through Russia.114 LIFE NOMADIC to trace the Trans Siberian railroad from London to Beijing. Beware of rail passes. Half of the main lines in Tokyo are covered by the pass. and entitles you to unlimited travel on all trains in Japan with a few exceptions: • The very fastest express bullet trains. though. There is a loophole to this which I will explain in a minute. but it is disappointingly expensive. Rail passes.com to see what train trips are available for it.com. • Some local subways. • Sleeper cars. Whenever I add a new country to my itinerary. The trip costs little more than an equivalent plane ticket. Rail in Japan One rail pass that pays off after just one or two trips is the JR Rail Pass in Japan. generally aren’t worth the cost. my first impulse is to check Seat61. Not all buffets are worth the price of admission. Check the various options before making that decision for yourself.

The Nobi Nobi car is a charming two deck car with carpeted areas to lie down in. but since they are classified as seats. but the ticket agents. and it was somewhere close to two thousand dollars. They come in two flavors: the Nobi Nobi and the venerable Goron to Shito. I try to get on an overnight train nearly every night and cover as much of the country as possible. Normally these beds would cost an additional $80 per night. For six dollars or so you can use the shower. The Goron to Shito is a big upgrade from the Nobi Nobi. and then when it’s time to use the pass. The value is outstanding. I’ve done that trip in two days on a rail pass and then headed down to the Southern tip of Japan immediately after. they’re yours for free. Some people don’t like sleeping on a hard surface. I’ve even just asked “Which trains that leave from here have Nobi Nobi or Goron to Shito seats?” . A single trip to Sapporo and back might cost $500 or so if you had to buy the ticket yourself. there is a small loophole in the no sleeper train rule. On certain routes there are sleeper cars which are classified as regular seats. As I mentioned before. Each “bed” comes with a small blanket and a cup for water. Instead of a hard surface you get an actual bunk bed. but I love being rocked to sleep by the train. I spend five weeks slowly exploring Tokyo and living a normal life.TRAINS 115 My strategy is to get one three week pass per two month visit in Japan. Last year I added up the retail cost of the tickets I used. which is an experience in its own right. It’s hard to keep track of which sleeper trains have these cars. which I take advantage of liberally. like everyone else in Japan. are friendly and helpful.

116 LIFE NOMADIC Even if you can’t find a bootleg sleeper car. . along the way. Japanese public bath houses. where I would have never gone on purpose. Some of my fondest memories of Japan are of wandering in random places like Aomori. I’ve long harbored the fantasy of sleeping on trains every night for the full twenty one days and showering at onsen. Wander up and down the cars and you may even find a shower. just take a bullet train somewhere else. If you don’t like where you wake up. You may as well go anywhere. Although I haven’t done it yet. there are almost always comfortable reclining seats that you can ride for free with your pass.

especially when nonsense rules are imposed.” Leonidas of Tarentum I felt like James Bond. so I decided to take matters into my own hands. and pushed a few of the tables together. and we had agreed to all meet in the afternoon to see if a large group of gamblers would be enough incentive to induce them to give us a dealer. I’ve always had a bit of contempt for authority. for already the chattering swallow is come and the pleasant west wind. I was wearing my bespoke Tuxedo that I got made by George Bush’s tailor in Thailand. Despite his gentle but persistent advice that I choose a more versatile black Tuxedo. the casino refused to staff the poker table until nine at night. the meadows bloom and the sea. tossed up with waves and rough blasts. I insisted on a white dinner jacket. and sail with all thy canvas set. Over the past few nights we had made friends with the other dozen or so regulars at the table. has sunk to silence. . I ran and bought two decks of cards from the gift shop. O Mariner. For no reason I can imagine. and instructed everyone to buy chips from the casino cage. It wasn’t. Then I went to one of the long hallways lined with felt tables for jigsaw puzzles.CRUISING “Now is the season for sailing. Weigh thine anchors and unloose thy hawsers.

But it was July. The absolute cheapest flight I could get was over five hundred dollars to New York. I was in Europe and had to get back to the US unexpectedly. dozens of bargain basement cruise brokers will reply with their lowest price. I’d have all of my living expenses paid for a week. bored. Factor in the easy poker table winnings. By the end of the cruise I had earned back over half of the fare I’d paid to get on the ship in the first place. but I considered taking the trip anyway. In the end I booked a ticket for just a hair over eight hundred dollars. Then I thought of the Queen Mary II. the most famous and luxurious ocean liner in operation. If you put in your desired itinerary. As often happens. A month prior I had a conundrum on my hands. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. and included living expenses for a week. and another hundred fifty to Austin. but as a group they were far worse. I’m a mediocre poker player. peak European travel season. friendly European travelers. Not a bargain by any means. . I checked online and found rates of about one thousand dollars including taxes and port fees. But could you really blame me? The table was full of rich. Besides the experience of taking such a legendary cruise. and I came out ahead of the plane ticket. She’s the only ship that regularly crosses the Atlantic. but I was sure that such luxury must come at a great cost.118 LIFE NOMADIC And that’s how I came to deal a rogue poker game on the Queen Mary 2. Then I stumbled across a gem of a site called Cruise Compete. The five hundred dollars over the flight I was going to have to pay for anyway might be worth it. That was just three hundred over the price of a plane ticket.

When shopping for cruises. First. On the last cruise I booked. This was an extremely difficult feat which required many engineering breakthroughs1. In fact. however. Besides having to take all that time off. There are two times during the year. most standard cruises can be booked at that rate. looking at the water below from the decks of the Queen Mary II is a strange feeling. most people prefer round trip cruises to avoid a flight home. Second.CRUISING 119 Even though it ended up making financial sense in my situation. Almost everyone pays a ton more. but the savvy traveler won’t. Their problem is twofold. Every fall and spring there is a great migration of cruise ships. A standard cruise ship can do the trip in ten days at best. that yield a perfect storm of circumstances for the nomad. the $115 per day that I paid is more than twice what I paid for the next most expensive cruise. bringing the price down far lower. the Queen Mary II is expensive for a cruise ship. and in the Spring they want to move them back. I paid only twenty six dollars per night. The average person saving up for one cruise a year is more likely to choose a 1 Indeed. Cruise ships can generally make more money in Europe in the summer and more money in the Caribbean in the winter. Your brain keeps telling you that a ship of her size couldn’t possibly be going as fast as it seems she is. Through Cruise Compete. most cruise ships are slow. That means that in the fall many cruise companies want to move their ships to Europe. The Queen Mary II was designed specifically to cross the Atlantic in the standard seven days that people set aside for vacations. there’s not much to see besides ocean. . the general rule of thumb is that fifty dollars a day or less is a great price.

It makes a lot of sense to anticipate the repositioning cruises as you travel. these repositioning cruises are perfect. This is an excellent deal. They can be used as transportation. but isn’t so rare that you won’t be able to get a similar deal twice a year. But would you really ever go there if not on a cruise? . Most of them go from Central America. Dominican Republic Philipsburg. port fees. Here’s an example of a fourteen day cruise I took this year: • • • • • • • Santo Domingo. Spain London Single occupancy prices were $360 total. St. Spain A Coruna.120 LIFE NOMADIC comfortable seven day trip through the Caribbean with stops nearly every day. Portugal Vigo. and everything. or the Caribbean to Europe. Madeira2 Lisbon. But for the nomad. spend two weeks on one going East. South America. 2 Madeira is an amazing Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic that is home to the best example of the now very rare laurel forests. they’re dirt cheap. Others go on random trips that could never be predicted. and triple and quad occupancy dropped off from there. and then another two weeks going back West. Maarten Funchal. food. These prices include tax. Best of all. Some circle around South America and stop at a bunch of ports. Double occupancy prices were $320 each.

com does a good job of listing these. A free map of the area had a funny dot off in the middle of nowhere that said “Cave”. so I go at it with everything I’ve got. One excellent route is to take a ferry from Beijing to Seoul and then another ferry from Seoul to Tokyo. I rode in one once that had a full onsen and a sauna! I had slept in a cave the night before3. There are many ferries that coordinate with train schedules and stops. there are more utilitarian ferries that often cover good routes. and ended up sleeping on the roof of a bathroom. The best adventures are the unexpected ones. it’s not a bad way to live. so the sauna was particularly useful for drying off my clothes. I jokingly suggested we sleep in the cave. . The gym is an elevator away. It is actually possible to go from Morocco all the way to Vietnam by train and Ferry. I know I have just eight hours to see a place. Ferries Besides luxurious multi day cruises. I love the responsibility and adventure of daily life as a nomad. when in port. Seat61. plentiful. and good. but I love it. I spend days at sea working on my laptop and watching the waves roll by. and was soaking wet.CRUISING 121 The slow pace of life on a cruise ship may turn some people off from the idea. It’s far cheaper than a flight from Beijing to Tokyo. The following night we took the wrong trail while hiking. and no one was willing to say no to an adventure. Then. and gives you a stop in South Korea. All in all. Some ferries are quite upscale. but a few days of luxury here and there provide a nice contrast. Food is free. So we slept in a cave. offers a lot more character. 3 A group of friends and I timed our arrival incorrectly and were stuck in a tiny Japanese coastal town with nowhere to sleep.

Often times the additional cost of living downtown versus living a few miles away from the center is justified by the cost savings of taking trains or taxis to all of the places you want to see. . no problem. but you’re definitely going to need somewhere to sleep every night.” Jose Ortega y Gasset You may not need a permanent address anymore. and beaches full of bathers. parks full of promenaders. you’ll probably want to come up with something else. I’m always willing to pay a bit extra for the time savings and convenience. in general. trains full of travelers. Most travelers only consider hotels. houses full of tenants. namely. My general criteria for a good place to stay are the following: • I want an EXCELLENT location. Even when it’s more expensive. I want to be in the middle of downtown.A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD Towns are full of people. to find room. but unless you’re the heir to a diamond mine. cafés full of customers. What previously was. The good news is that quality accommodations can be had for reasonable prices. consulting-rooms of famous doctors full of patients. If I’m going to be in a new city. theatres full of spectators. hotels full of guests. now begins to be an everyday one.

whether it’s a busy street. • Sharing a place is great as long as I have my own room. Traveling solo costs me closer to six hundred for my own room. the mountains. Prices vary from place to place. and of course looking for fancier accommodations would have skyrocketed them. but I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than one thousand dollars per month for two beds or bedrooms. but if I’m staying somewhere for a long time. Either way. a desk. or they may be wildly different. which makes this doubly important. they should be articulated. For a reality check. This is lower on the priority list. I’ve stayed in fancy places and I’ve stayed in plain places. Your criteria may be the same. That rules out raucous hostels and some of the cheaper apartments. look up the per capita . I want it to be a pleasant environment. I like to meet other travelers. and a nice clean bathroom with hot water are all I ask for. The marginal benefit of staying somewhere fancy is low. Real luxury. I spend a good deal of time working from home. Knowing what you’re looking for makes it a lot easier to find it. A bed. but sharing a room with six strangers in bunkbeds isn’t my first choice. Relaxing my standards would have dropped the price a bit. for me at least. but other than that I want it to be boring enough that I’ll be more motivated to go out. is to have a comfortable place in an excellent location. • If possible. I don’t mind roughing it here and there. I want my place to be conducive to sleeping as well as to working. I want a view. • I don’t need much. not to have fancy modern furniture. but I’m willing to pay a little bit more to have a nice view of outside. or the ocean.123 LIFE NOMADIC • It must be clean and comfortable.

There are two types of hostels. and have also just found random acquaintances to share an adventure with. and realize that most of the population is spending only that much money per year. Hostile to Hostels I’ll start with best parts my least favorite type of accommodation. Living downtown. and common areas filled with dirty people drinking beer and spending all day watching movies1. I’ve seen a few of these people at every hostel I’ve ever stayed at. and are ubiquitous. I’ll spend hundreds of hours per month in my apartment. I also like the fact that it’s easy to meet other travelers at hostels. and it quickly becomes apparent that the only draw to the place is the low price. and there will be some hostel there that I’ll be able to sleep at. they offer a safety net: I know that I can fly anywhere on a moment’s notice. The kitchens are so filthy that I won’t cook in them. The experience that each place will provide you must be considered as well. At the very least. 1 I will never understand why so many backpackers spend all day watching movies. so the cost of getting a great place can almost always be justified. On the other end of the spectrum. gives you great access to the city. . Flights rarely last longer than twelve hours – I’d sit on the floor for twelve hours if it would save me some money. in particular. I like that hostels are cheap. I’ve made long term friends at them. require no advance notice.A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD 124 GDP of your destination country. There are the hostels that have dirty bathrooms.

or a room in a large rented apartment. Once you’re staying for longer than a week. but we were there for only a few days. and becomes an excellent value once you’re in the month to two month range. I harbor the fantasy that one of these days I’ll meet a local who happens to know about a great deal on a furnished apartment. Another real standout is Lost Paradise. and stay there for a couple days as I make friends and get the lay of the land. so taxis had to suffice. My friend and I were given our own huge private room with four beds in it and our own large clean bathroom. I avoid these places like the plague (which could possibly be found in them. My typical modus operandi is to land in a country with no plans at all. find a hostel. or dangerously near it. actually). I’ve had my best luck with sites like . but so far it hasn’t happened. It wasn’t right downtown. Going through the trouble of finding an apartment is generally not worth it unless you’re staying for a week or more. which helps me make a good decision on where I want to live. In my hostelling experience. I’ve found that the majority of hostels fall into this category. The one hostel in Qatar is particularly good. the cost to benefit ratio goes down compared to better options. It usually doesn’t take long to familiarize myself with the different areas of town. Apartments I spend most of my time living in a rented apartment. a hostel in the cloud forests of Panama. On the other hand. I consider hostels an acceptable option for short term stays of under a week.125 LIFE NOMADIC As you have probably already guessed. I’ve stayed at some amazing hostels.

it’s nice to be around people. almost 1. After all.com. I had hoped to pay for dinner a few times. Couchsurfing Couchsurfing is the practice of staying on a couch or guest bed. she finally let me fill her car up with gas.A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD 126 VRBO and Craigslist. . and housed me. As I write this. After more than token resistance. I had no idea what to expect. but even the remote corners of the world have potential hosts. but it never happened because she cooked every meal for me. Many of the people renting these rooms and apartments out treat it as a side business and provide soap. and sometimes maid service. and I can usually count on having a nice stocked kitchen to cook in. clean towels. Results will vary. The most common method to finding these arrangements is by going on couchsurfing.4 million couchsurfers are registered. and that stereotype that everyone on the internet is a weirdo rattled through my mind. If I’m traveling alone. creating a profile. I was apprehensive the first time I surfed. which also makes this dangerous. and searching in the area you want to visit. usually owned by someone you don’t know. I tend to be more interested in making friends with the types of travelers that choose this option. who would open up their house to a complete stranger? The answer is simply: really amazing hospitable people. showed me the sites. although they usually speak English. Renting a room in a large apartment is one of my favorite situations. My host drove me around everywhere.

Couchsurfing is great. Cambodia is the same way. but there are notable exceptions. any number of guesthouses and hotels are available for $10 to $20 per night. and may be the best way to live when you first get to a new place. and the hotel itself is beautiful. A local club called “Reggae Bar” offers any traveler $20 per night to hand out flyers for a few hours. In the fifties it was the best hotel in all of Bangkok. so I’d rather get an apartment of my own eventually. It’s in a great location. It hasn’t been maintained well. where The Beach was filmed. the owner was a wealth of great suggestions. Take the Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok. Hotels Hotels usually don’t make much sense to stay in. but hanging out with her and her friends at their local haunts was an experience I couldn’t have gotten on my own. Southeast Asia is packed full of hotels so cheap that I can’t make any sense of it. On the beautiful Thai island of Koh Phi Phi. which is one of the more expensive hotels at $30-45 per night. I had an instant friend. Staying there is the easy choice when visiting Bangkok. Couchsurfers are all very outgoing and friendly. A . though. and there’s a large and deep pool to sit around and swim in. the rooms cost around twenty dollars a night. I might find it a bit rude to sit at someone’s house and work all day. but it’s in the dead center of the best area of the city. so even if you don’t stay with them. for example. The staff are wonderful. We stayed at the SCAN hotel.127 LIFE NOMADIC But more important than any of that. Seeing the sites was great. you could very easily meet some for coffee to make some friends and potential guides.

and I suspect I could have bid lower. We paid $90 for a room with two beds right in downtown Paris with French doors leading out to a small balcony. so I’ve only done it in English speaking countries. Better yet. The key to getting good deals on hotels is to avoid big sites like Expedia. Hostels are so expensive in Europe that for short stays it sometimes makes a more sense to just get a cheap hotel room. they won’t have the best price. though. I managed to book a $237 room at the Westin on the water in Toronto for just $60. Another excellent option for bigger cities is Priceline.com. here’s a trick I learned from a friend in the hotel industry: call up and ask if they have anything other than the “rack rate”. . A hostel would have cost $70 for a dormitory bed. easily stay there as long as his visa lasted. Using advanced techniques found on sites like biddingfortravel. you can often get amazing deals. Using it makes them assume that you’re also in the hospitality industry. I don’t know how to say rack rate in other languages. and has never failed to earn me a discount. Unless you’re going to Las Vegas. Even Europe offers some relatively great deals. especially on upscale hotels. and leave with the same amount of money he came in with. The rack rate is the insider term for the published rate. Search Google for hotels and book at their individual sites.A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD 128 particularly impoverished travel could take them up on their offer.

It’s just different.” Marlene Dietrich Telling you how to earn money while you travel is like telling you how to earn money while not traveling. I understand the skepticism that this generates. There are an unlimited ways of earning money. both as a nomad and while living in one place. Still. some of my personal income comes from writing about traveling. At the same time. . Making money on the go isn’t any harder than making money stationary. no book on being a nomad would be complete without some guidance on how to transition from a location-based income to a location-independent income. and the thought of having to break out of their comfort zone stops most people from even considering the possibility that they may be able to do it. Unknown Source “There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich. It’s such a broad question that no answer can really do it justice.EARNING MONEY AS YOU TRAVEL Every year it takes less time to fly across the Atlantic and more time to drive to the office.

Only after I began a personal blog to keep my friends and family in the loop did I start getting paid to write about travel. or any real expectation of earning any from it. available at Amazon. John D. now is probably the time. If you have ever wanted to start your own business. my suggestions will be biased towards this possibility. a book on dating for men. and I find it difficult to even consider that there is any decent reason to work for someone else.130 LIFE NOMADIC If it’s any consolation. rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success. particularly an online business.com . As a result. Rockefeller I’m a die hard entrepreneur. Think about the ideal circumstances for a budding entrepreneur: • • • • Low living expenses A chunk of saved money Lots of free time A high degree of motivation 1 Make Her Chase You. Starting a Business If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths. My income initially came from sales of an unrelated book1. you can skip this chapter without missing anything. and I was working full time on a piece of software I intended to sell. I launched myself into Life Nomadic without having any income from the project. If you have no desire to start your own business. though.

so I won’t drone on and on about. . you can’t hire local employees and have an office. Let the money come second. I’m not an expert on starting a business. Lastly. condense some of the best advice I’ve read and absorbed over the years: • Do work that you’re passionate about. • Be ruthlessly persistent. Most people aren’t. Being exposed to the world offers perspective and a greater understanding of how it all works. living expenses are as low. • Work harder than anyone else and hold yourself to higher standards than everyone else.EARNING MONEY AS YOU GO 131 Now. however. I have a wonderful assistant from the Philippines who does great work at a great price. • Create something remarkable that provides real benefit to your customers. which of those circumstances is offered by a nomadic lifestyle? Well. but you can hire remote workers. there’s also a spirit of independence and confidence that travel breeds which I think also helps as an entrepreneur. what’s more motivating than wanting to continue traveling and seeing the world? As personal experience tells me: not much. You’ve just sold everything you own. I will. so you have a bit of a nest egg that you can rely on while you start your business. Although I’ve done it myself. especially if you opt for a more relaxed two-months-in-each-place travel schedule. Sure. and you have all the free time in the world. The Life Nomadic is as conducive to starting a business as it is unconventional. Besides the tangible benefits of being a nomad.

Contracting If you’re not interested in becoming a remote employer. complete with ratings and searchable listings.com is a site that is specifically dedicated to freelance contractors. I’d bet that they’re more likely to be doing something they love. set up credit card merchant accounts. and they don’t care whether you’re next door or on a beach hut in Bali. Elance. most of the details will be specific to your business. maybe it’s time to join the other side and become a remote employee or contractor. Even companies who do want you there in person can probably be persuaded to give you a trial run if you sell yourself hard enough. I’ve incorporated companies. why not use this as an opportunity to make a huge lifestyle change? Leave behind the struggle of a wage slave living in suburbia and join the new growing subculture of mobile entrepreneurs. Craigslist is a great resource for finding remote work. as well. We’re lucky to live in a time when the Internet has made it so easy to be an entrepreneur. the demand for remote employees increases. As more entrepreneurs take their businesses online.132 LIFE NOMADIC Beyond those principles. If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of going into business for yourself. on average. earn more money than employees. filed tax returns. Many jobs offer set tasks like creating web sites or programming an application for fixed prices. especially from contractors. The site . opened and funded bank accounts. and even published a book all without leaving my keyboard. Even stationary business owners are looking for remote labor. Entrepreneurs.

Not all professions are portable. Businesses are always looking for workers who can use specific programs. buy the great tutorials to learn it from Lynda. a computer. they can pay you more money. then maybe the time to build them now.com. When the company doesn’t have to provide insurance. I don’t usually work a full forty hours per week. You may even be surprised to find out how much you get paid on contract. and system administration. Buy the software. However. you can make a living. Jobs that are particularly conducive to going mobile are jobs that require minimal interaction with others like writing. I find it far easier to be productive outside of an office environment. If you’re already skilled in one of these areas. The money you’ve amassed from . but I probably put in at least twice as many productive hours as the average full timer. programming. for example. editing. When I had a real job I would spend a good portion of my day procrastinating and staying busy without actually creating any valuable output. graphic design. If you have no skills to draw on which translate well into online work. and a desk. and spend some time practicing. When I’m left to my own devices there’s no benefit to looking busy – there’s no one to impress. If you’re an auto mechanic your options are probably going to be to stay put or find a new line of work.EARNING MONEY AS YOU GO 133 is perfectly designed and I can’t imagine anyone going there and not finding something they could do. Figure out which program you’d like to become proficient at. If you learn how to use Photoshop. you can probably get work within a week. parking. many office jobs can translate into contractor work.

you really owe it to yourself to read Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek. If you’re that valuable. It covers a wide variety of topics that I expect would be interesting to most readers of this book. they won’t let you go. and be ready to walk away. but what if you like your job? It sounds ridiculous. and does particular justice to the topic of weaning your boss off your presence. because they knew that he was irreplaceable. Transitioning from being a stationary employee to a nomadic one is tougher than starting off as a nomad from the get go. Ignore My Advice and Keep Your Job The idea of quitting your job and going out to see the world is romantic. the arrangement is working out just fine for both parties. If you’re considering taking this route. That’s what happened with Todd.134 LIFE NOMADIC selling everything should easily last you through the transition period. but they didn’t put up a fight. You could do what Todd did: he kept it. They key is to become so invaluable that they really don’t have a choice. but they absolutely love it when you produce results. but I actually know some people who enjoy their jobs. They would have preferred it if he stayed. Your boss will probably be a little bit jealous of your freedom. Months later. . Bosses might like seeing you look busy. He produced such excellent work that they allowed him to stop going in to the office. and will worry even more about jealousy you may generate amongst your former coworkers. tell them it’s your only option. Don’t ask if you can do it.

The Louvre was an overwhelming experience for me. in an unfulfilling quest to see it all. Boorstin. Max Lerner The traveler sees what he sees. He has come to expect both more strangeness and more familiarity than the world naturally offers. . I felt like I was faking it. yet was surrounded by innumerable examples of it at its finest. He has come to believe that he can have a lifetime of adventure in two weeks and all the thrills of risking his life without any real risk at all. though. Chesterton The modern American tourist now fills his experience with pseudo-events. imagining the greatness of each painting I looked at. Gilbert K. With so many similar paintings. each one blended in. I tried to stand in quiet contemplation. the tourist see what he has come to see. Daniel J. I knew next to nothing about art. We went from section to section.SPENDING YOUR TIME The tourist who moves about to see and hear and open himself to all the influences of the places which condense centuries of human greatness is only a man in search of excellence.

What was the point of the pictures? Proof that they had been there. That’s all. Our society has become comfortable. In fact. though. The painting is such a sensation that I just knew it would be a big deal to see it. We live our lives vicariously by watching TV. What we saw was astounding. . I don’t mean the painting. Throngs of people were pressed up against the wooden railing that set up a twenty foot perimeter from Mona Lisa. that it took us forever to finally find the hall that the Mona Lisa was in. and it is so tragically easy to miss all of it. though. Looking at a picture of the Mona Lisa on the internet is more satisfying – as long as it’s not one of those camera phone pictures. In the same way the prepackaged microwave dinners pale in comparison to real home made food. let alone in person. Everything is so easy and convenient that we don’t actually need to do anything anymore. I could barely even see the thing. We send text messages and emails instead. and next to it was a guard. Too comfortable. We left without waiting our turn to be in the front. The masses held up their low resolution camera phones and took terrible pictures of the greatest painting in the world.136 LIFE NOMADIC I was excited about the Mona Lisa. We don’t even like to be troubled to talk on the phone anymore. except there was no music. Our food is formed in factories and reheated in microwaves. In front of the painting was a glossy glass window. There is so much out there in the world. the prepackaged standard American life which gets handed to us by default pales in comparison to a real life full of action and experience. It looked like the front row of a rock concert. The Louvre is so huge and the layout is so confusing.

Even travel. Other times you’ll have to go out and find it yourself. Sometimes adventure and excitement will find you. It’s a double edged sword. but we’d been gone for six hours now and hadn’t been on a civilized path in miles. And frustratingly. I’ve learned that what really create satisfaction are the experiences in between. There is more to do and to experience in this world than we’ll have time for in our lives. If it’s the biggest. or tallest of anything. Interaction is what builds experiences. The hike was supposed to be a gentle two hour walk through the woods. even if it’s something as simple as hiking up a mountain and feeling the breeze on your face as you look out at the sea. UNESCO The most beautiful forest in the world is a lot more appealing when the sun is up and you have half a clue where you are. shortest. longest. Now we strained our eyes against the dark to find the piece of taped wrapped around a tree which signaled the next waypoint.SPENDING YOUR TIME 137 Not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. the same technology that offers us hollow lives of convenience also give us everything we need to live happily and comfortably as nomads. can be reduced to nothing more than a real life slideshow of monuments and sights. I like to see the sights of a city as much as anyone else does. . Interact. more new things are invented every day. I’m probably going to find time to check it out. glorious as it is. But at the same time. My advice is to go out there and do something. Thousands of tours are just that. fastest. slowest. and the side you end up with is totally up to you. Experience something.

Every corner we turned brought more false hope. we finally reached a consensus. frustrated. Our route was meant for hardcore outdoor adventure seekers. not hike to it. Exhausted. But when we got to the sign there was no mountain hut in sight. At this point I figured we were more likely to see a giant anime monster with tentacles than the hut. We had accidentally followed the “route” and not the “trail”. After a spirited debate. We were looking for a mountain hut. Besides. We all knew that we couldn’t go back. which are apparently two different things. and we didn’t have enough flashlights to go around. At this point we had no idea what we were supposed to do. supposedly put there by the national park to provide a place for hikers to rest. after all. And so . half the time we were scrambling up steep muddy inclines or crossing the stream that cascaded down the hill in a series of waterfalls. It was impossible to go back. We didn’t even get the cell phone service that could have gotten us out of there. and by now was the middle of night. In fact. and not eager to negotiate the terrain in the dark. the sign seemed to indicate that we were still at the starting point. The looming cedar trees blocked out any moonlight there was. We were in Japan. “This is really it! I see a sign!” I was excited.138 LIFE NOMADIC Or at least we thought it did. we scoured the area for shelter. but at least we had finally reached the mountain hut. it had taken us three times as long as expected. and it led from the sea to the beginning of the real trails. We later discovered that we were supposed to take a bus there. Sure. There really was a sign. though.

The United Nations Educational. mercifully abbreviated to UNESCO. Japan. The only other white people we saw during the three days we stayed there were a German couple intent on taking pictures of their stuffed sheep in a variety of locations around the world.” . We stood in silence marveling at the beauty of the island of Yakushima. It’s not in most guidebooks. The next day we pranced along the trail. is a United Nations organization with the lofty stated goal of contributing “to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education. the rule of law. and the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter. And what a peak it was.SPENDING YOUR TIME 139 we did what anyone would do: We climbed on top of the bathroom and set up camp. The lush green mountains gave way to a freezing cold stream of water below. and culture in order to further universal respect for justice. A month prior I had never heard of Yakushima. science. It was so much easier than the previous day’s effort that we barely noticed that we were climbing to the peak of a mountain. We pulled ourselves out of the dense cedar forest and on to the big rock jutting off the side of the mountain. and isn’t advertised anywhere. Scientific and Cultural Organization. which ran all the way North to the sea of Japan. We discovered Yakushima through the free online catalog of UNESCO World Heritiage sites. to be rewarded with the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen in my life. The scale of it was dizzying. and seemed only as real as landscapes seem when looking out the window of an airplane.

this is the attempt to identify sites around the world that are important parts of our heritage as a civilization. I’ve never been disappointed yet. Just like you know better than a guidebook when it comes to your city. Simply. The places they list. which number almost one thousand. Ask People Who Know To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries. you can always expect to be amazed and educated when you visit a World Heritage Site.140 LIFE NOMADIC A small part of this mission is the diligent evaluation and cataloging of what they call “World Heritage Sites”. Single or swarmed with tourists. What I particularly like about the World Heritage Sites is that there’s usually a lot of substance and few fellow travelers. The places they list often sound boring or unremarkable. locals know what’s worth doing in their city as well. but I’ll guiltily admit that the experience feels more authentic when I’m the only traveler there. Madagascar. My only complaint is that their listings don’t do the sites justice. as well as manmade features like the Medina of Fez. Aldous Huxley I could probably write a whole book about places I’ve gone just because a local told me to. and always make it a point to visit any World Heritage Sites on or near my path. though. of course. . and it’s only on blind faith that I build the impetus to finally go. Included are natural wonders like the Rainforests of the Atsinanana. span one hundred forty five countries. I have nothing against other travelers.

It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. But during Carnaval. Carnaval. Jorge. since he had never before felt the need to write anything down to make sure we understood. The two main streets.” And thus our plans were cemented. “Como?” “Las Tablas. Be open minded when you take locals’ advice.” he said. It’s a tiny speck on the map that during any other week wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.” He seemed frustrated that we weren’t bowled over with enthusiasm. “Las Tablas. This must be important. Las Tablas was a sight to behold. we thought. He would speak to us in Spanish and then be totally unable to comprehend our replies. ask them about Korea. who can put on a better fireworks show.SPENDING YOUR TIME 141 We ate at the same restaurant for lunch every day. in Panama City. it lights up. When you talk to a traveler who seems to have the same interests as you. and if it weren’t for Jorge. Locals aren’t the only people with the inside scoop. He got a pen and a napkin and scribbled something in Spanish: “For Carnaval. I always trust them over some underpaid guidebook writer. have a friendly but fierce competition to see who has the prettiest queen of Carnaval. I would have probably never seen it. and who can create the most elaborate floats. One of the owners. was a deaf lawyer. ask him where . go to Las Tablas. It is the best place. If your neighbors are Korean. “High street” and “Low street”. We had no idea what he was talking about. Mireya’s Restaurant.

the most dangerous trail in the world in Hua Shan. and a small Chinese village where instead of using fireworks they sling molten iron at a giant wall. there’s the internet. Whenever someone shows me a picture of somewhere amazing. If I read an article about something crazy going on in a country. I add that to my list too. Everyone has such a place. you’ll often find a gem of a tip.142 LIFE NOMADIC he would go. Besides UNESCO’s web site. Amongst the standard hotel recommendations and tired commentary on the strange political situation of the country. there are two places I check for every single trip: Wikipedia and Wikitravel. Neither is as comprehensive as a guidebook. but they’re generally written by people who really care about the area they’re writing about. The three things at the top of my list at the moment are the world’s tallest bungee jump off of the space needle in Macao. . and they’re always worth visiting. I find it and add it to my list. The Internet And of course. I always ask travelers where their favorite place in the world is. I also keep a wish list of places I’d like to go. China. The video of it is amazing – look it up on youtube.

Glenn Clark We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. but this was the first time I had a neighbor.ATTITUDE If you wish to travel far and fast. T. right in downtown Austin. Ever since moving into a tiny RV myself I had gained an appreciation for RVs in general. travel light. parked directly in front of me. . S. I parked in the same place for months. “How are you doing?” he asked. you must be doing real shitty if you’re in an RV like me. I had been admiring his for a week... jealousies.” he added before I had a chance to respond. selfishness and fears. I woke up one morning and there he was. His RV was a bit beat up. and know the place for the first time. Eliot I reached out my hand to introduce myself. Take off all your envies. but it was a beautiful fifties model with metallic avocado paint and chrome trim. “Actually. but hadn’t yet run into him. I had been hoping to meet the resident of the RV. Texas across from my favorite restaurant. unforgiveness..

but is it really that easy to overlook the fact that we flew through the air in a metal tube and arrived. in relative comfort. it’s just a matter of you accepting it. in a totally different place? When did we become so callous to the wonders of modern technology? If your trip doesn’t go exactly as planned-. In fact. the woman in front of me raced to call someone and describe the “worst flight of her life”. Positivity I remember being on a plane which had been delayed by a couple of hours. during the one month period where I had both a penthouse condo downtown and my tiny twenty one foot long RV.laugh about it and make the best of the situation. Sure.and it won’t-. .144 LIFE NOMADIC I was shocked. it’s a bit frustrating to sit in a grounded airplane. I spent every night in the joyful minimalism of the RV. I’ve been through some of the poorest countries in the world and seen residents of them with the kind of beaming genuine smiles you rarely see walking down the street in the United States. This same difference in attitudes echoes all across the world through travelers everywhere. Everything you need for happiness and enjoyment is there. that you will have a nomad will vary beyond my ability to describe it. Realize that the privilege of living on this earth is a billion times more wonderful than any problem in your life is bad. The range of experiences. The only real determinant of one’s happiness is the permission he gives himself to be happy. When we finally landed two hours late. both comfortable and foreign. What you make of it is up to you. I was doing great – I loved being in my RV.

then consider it to be local color. We found the name of a dune an hour north of the city where the locals go to ride their 4 wheelers in the desert. Just Say Yes John was a sixty year old Brit who looked like a mustachioed jungle explorer and said things like. When we were in Qatar. As you make this exercise a daily habit you’ll find that it becomes easy and eventually takes over your thought process subconsciously. .ATTITUDE 145 Yes. He was charismatic and honest in a way that made you like him instantly. which was further compounded by the hundred twenty degree sun that you had to endure while you waited. Catching one was difficult. but there weren’t enough new taxis to fill the void. the taxi industry was in a state of flux. If you’re face to face with a hole in the floor of the train. you will end up on bad flights. it just has to be there. As far as we could tell. Learn to take these things in stride and use them as reminders of the great gift that world travel. and life itself. he was the only other guest of the hostel in Qatar. The positive doesn’t have to justify the bad or overshadow it. you might get ripped off by a taxi driver. Still. If you get ripped off then you’ve learned a lesson on how to deal with taxi drivers. The old taxis had been taken off the streets. and we were determined to go. and you’ll almost definitely have to use scary and strange toilets. we were on a mission. then you have some extra time to get some work done or read a book. is. “me noggin”. If your flight is late. An exercise which I’ve found to be valuable is to examine any “bad” thing that happens to and to see the positive in it.

Refusing the offer and opting instead to read a book or watch TV would have been an easy decision. John popped out and greeted us. especially while traveling. Indulge in other cultures and appreciate the best in them. “Yep. “John. there was a taxi pulling up to the hostel just as we went out the gate. He barely knew us and had no idea where we were even planning on riding. just let me drop off me things in me room. we’re about to go ride four wheelers in the desert. Travel with an open mind. But instead John threw caution and comfort to the wind and just said yes. and could have easily never materialized.146 LIFE NOMADIC As luck would have it. . Accept invitations and extend them as well.” An hour later we were crisscrossing the dunes together as the sun fell and turned the sky into a dusty purple glow. Do you want to come with us?” His response was so casual that it was as if he had made his decision hours ago. My heart skips a beat when I think of how many friendships and memories I have which hinged on a single decision to say yes instead of no. It was a perfect illustration of why the principle of just saying yes is an important one.

Airtreks. Always check with them before booking a long trip yourself. At least once a year.net/currentgear Gear is updated too frequently for me to link to each piece of gear.com I used Airtreks to book my first Life Nomadic trip.com Use this site to figure out the historic temperatures and rainfall for the places you’ll visit.com Tynan. or when major changes are made to my gear.Resources Why reinvent the wheel? I’ve collected all of the sites that are crucial to my survival as a nomad. I update this listing. Have a great site that I didn’t include? E-mail me at tynan@lifenomadic.. I like it because it shows all of the important numbers on the same page. and links to every single item I carry with me. descriptions. sometimes . They’re a travel agency that specializes in round the world itineraries. Inside you’ll find pictures. Weather2travel. Hover over the temperature to see it in Fahrenheit. Most of them have been mentioned in the book and are repeated here for your convenience.

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you’ll be able to beat their prices, but sometimes they’ll crush the best price you can find on your own. En.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_passport Visit this wikipedia page to check which countries you need visas for and which you don’t. Camcorderinfo.com As the URL might suggest, this is the best site for reading reviews of video cameras. DPReview.com Visit DP Review for reviews of still cameras. Make sure to search for micro four thirds cameras. chotto.free.fr/tatami/Metro/ Download MetrO, a great program for some smartphones which is like MapQuest for trains all over the world. CapitalOne.com Capital One is one of the very few credit card companies which does not charge a 2-3% currency conversion fee. AmericanExpress.com American Express Platinum cards give you access to airport lounges all over the world. They also offer a free 24 hour concierge and damage protection for new purchases.

RESOURCES

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Schwab.com Open a bank account at Schwab.com. They have no currency conversion fee on the debit cards and no ATM fees. In fact, they rebate ATM fees levied by other banks. EarthClassMail.com Earth Class Mail offers a unique service to manage your postal mail while you’re away. They scan, shred, recycle, and forward your mail according to your instructions. MailALetter.com There are a number of sites that let you create postal mail online, but MailALetter is my favorite because they have good rates and let you upload a PDF file to send. HazelMail.com Use HazelMail.com to create postcards from your travel photos and mail them without ever leaving your computer. CallCentric.com CallCentric is the best service for receiving incoming VOIP calls, and they have reasonable rates for outgoing calls as well. For a small fee you can port your cell phone number to them. CallWithUs.com CallWithUs has the best consistent low rates for outgoing VOIP calls. They no longer offer incoming phone numbers, but you can use a different service for incoming and outgoing.

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www.backsla.sh/betamax Betamax is a VOIP company that owns several VOIP sites. This site has a graph showing each company’s price to each country. CallWithUs usually has lower overall rates, but BetaMax sites often have the best rates for particular countries. www.k7.net If you need to receieve faxes, create a free account at k7.net. You’ll get your own phone number and unlimited incoming faxing for free. www.fax1.com Fax1 has a great printer driver for faxing, a free trial, and great prices on outgoing faxing. Safeware.com If you’re going to insure your belongings, Safeware is the best company to use. They have very good rates and will cover any amount you want. WorldNomads.com If you want a general insurance policy that covers emergency, some of your belongings, and certain trip cancellations, check out World Nomads. I have not used them personally, but they are well recommended. PimsleurApproach.com My favorite way to learn language is through the Pimsleur Approach. You can buy the CDs here, or borrow them for free at your local library.

Farecompare. Ryanair. Linux.com Kayak is always the first place I go when I’m about to book a flight. It’s particularly useful for written Chinese or Japanese.com If you’re in Europe or Nothern Africa. Mac. found here. there is no better resource than “Reviewing the Kanji”.com Air Asia has very cheap flights throughout Asia. ichi2.net/Anki Anki is a great flashcard review program for PC.com/search/flyertalk. which will help you get the cheapest possible flight. check Ryanair for really cheap flights. so check any days you’re able to leave or return.com AirAsia. With a little patience you could do a whole tour of Asia for just a couple hundred dollars in taxes. or see which flights will give you the most frequent flyer miles per dollar? Check out this secret search engine on Farecompare. If you make an account you can use the flexible search feature.RESOURCES 151 Kanji. especially Southeast Asia. Kayak. . Prices often vary wildly from one departure day to the next. or iPhone.html Want to see where you can fly cheaply from any given airport.com If you want to learn Kanji. and offers tons of free flights twice a year.koohii.

152 LIFE NOMADIC Travelzoo. I have been able to get a better price there one hundred percent of the time. SleepingInAirports. It’s a wondefully comprehensive directory. VRBO.com Vacation Rentals By Owner is a decent way to find an apartment in a foreign city.com TravelZoo is a good easy place to find some great deals. pictures. CruiseCompete. especially if you’ll be staying for longer than a week.net Use this site to help decide whether any given airport will be easy to sleep in or not. sometimes even half of the best price I could find on my own. Seat61. com. complete with details. Conditions vary widely from bright lights and oppressive air conditioning to designated quiet areas with guards who will watch your stuff.com Never book a cruise without first putting it into CruiseCompete. They have a lot of mediocre deals as well. make sure to check out Seat 61. so you’ll have to sift through. and stories. Don’t be afraid to counteroffer.com If you consider trains or boats. . It’s one of the first places I check for interesting adventures in a new country. of just about every ferry and train in the world. My favorite sections are Exotic Cruises and International Airfare. Prices tend to be high. but I’ve found some good deals and quality is usually good.

com If you have a house and you’re too stubborn to get rid of it. . sublets / temporary. and vacation rentals. you can list it here and temporarily exchange it with a house in the country you’re visiting. Couchsurfing. I’ve found good places in each of those sections.RESOURCES 153 Craigslist.com This is THE online community for finding couches to crash on and for offering your own couch.org I use Craigslist to find apartments all around the world. HomeExchange. I’ve never tried this personally. They have members in more countries than I was aware existied. Make sure to check rooms / shared.

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