November 4th is my Nomad Anniversary—here’s a look and some musings on what I’ve done, seen, and learned…
The Top 10 Lessons Learned from 3 Years of Traveling
1. It’s Not F*** My Life— it’s FMP!
When you hit the road (or frankly, just leave your house) you have no control over SO many things: the weather, delays, traffic, technology—so work on letting it go. Instead of the very common (and I think, victim-perspective) of FML, I choose FMP: for F*** My Plans (feels pretty empowering to me)! Things not going how you planned? F ’em! Raining outside, flight cancelled, museum closed—FMP! FMP! FMP! Do something else! Read more about my thoughts on this over here. #FMP
2. Don’t Forget to Pack Commitment and Flexibility
I get it. Keeping up healthy routines on the road isn’t the easiest. But it’s also not impossible! If you want to stay healthy when you travel, think about it this way: you have your Commitment (what you want to do: exercise, meditate, eat well), and then being Flexible with how that shows up: 10 min of yoga (not 90), 5 min of meditation instead of 30, or eating some fruit instead of your normal power smoothie. To be honoring your commitments however you can (even 50%) is better than not, plus you’ll avoid kicking yourself for “falling off the wagon.” I wrote more on this topic as well after 2+ years—you can even listen to the post (how novel!).
3. The Four Keys to Being Healthy
While we’re on the subject, here’s what I’ve learned to incorporate into as many days as possible: Focus, Movement, Nutrition, and Gratitude. Notice I don’t tell you exactly HOW to do any of these things—that’s up to you (if you want to try this out), ’cause maybe you hate yoga, but like running. Great—do that! Just move your body! Create guidelines around what you eat and don’t—what works for you. Focus for me is meditation (haven’t missed a day in over 3 years), but really, there are lots of ways to take time for yourself and clear your mind: could be a walk or gardening or tai chi—anything that helps you relax and get calm. And finally: gratitude. Even if you take just a few minutes and think about 10 things you’re grateful for, you’ll feel better. Plus, being grateful gets you outside of your own situation and more connected with the rest of the world.
4. If I’m not Consulted on the Menu, I EAT what’s on the Menu
Even when you figure out what you like to eat, chances are there is going to come a time when you’ll be faced with a plate full of “what the hell is this!?” Rather than cause unnecessary guilt and stress, I just suck it up and eat. If I’m really eating well most of the time (I mean 80-90%), one random meal ain’t gonna kill me. Not to mention, cooking and preparing a meal is a lot of work for some people, and so a tremendous amount of time and energy (maybe even love, dammit!) went into this. And you’re just going to waltz up to the table and say, “Um, what else you got?” You don’t have to take the largest serving, and maybe you snack on something later, but be grateful that there’s food in front of you—or jump in the kitchen early and see how you can help out!
5. One Thing to Never Lose
You’re very likely going to drop, forget, and misplace a few things on your travels—I hope it’s more of the pen variety of things, and not that family heirloom from your great-grandfather. But here’s something you CAN control whether you lose or not: your patience. Believe me, I used to flip out over some pretty minor stuff. I recall once freaking out at an ex—and making her cry—because she put scallions in a salad (I had specifically stated “no onions”). Side note: don’t do that. Just like with FMP above, things are going to happen that will annoy and frustrate you, but in that moment, see if you can breathe and maybe, just maybe, even laugh about it. Is it life or death? Really going to matter tomorrow? And whoever you’re around will thank you for not being a complete a-hole. Wrote about this in more detail, too.
6. Releasing the Pressure of “Needing to Enjoy”
Whenever you do something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, there isn’t much “on the line” emotionally—if you enjoy it, great; and if it’s painful, you cut your losses and move on. But typically when we *do* spend a chunk of change on a flight or a hotel or spa package, there can often be this deep drive and need to enjoy the hell out of it, because I spent hard-earned money on this and I better get every penny’s worth! Well, what if we could release that pressure, regardless of what we spent, and either just enjoy it or not? Hell, you could even give yourself permission to outright hate it, and not be upset by that. There was obviously energy in spending the money in the first place—get back in touch with that feeling. And if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped—#FMP!
7. Best Way to Find Yourself: Get Lost!
I just recently came to the whole smartphone thing (is it still a thing? does that make me sound old?) and I can easily see how I could get glued to it for all directions, never looking up or paying attention to where I’m going. But you know what? I’ve had some great experiences where I just went for a walk and I had no idea where I was going—no destination in mind. Just a walk. You might be amazed at what you see and, perhaps, what you think about. Getting out can be a great way to clear your mind and get a fresh perspective. You’ll even get a better sense of knowing your way around (never a bad thing). So get out there! Look up. See what’s going on. Start conversations. Go get lost!
8. The Trust Dance (and Listen To Your Gut)
If you ever need to depend on the kindness of strangers, be it for a bed, a ride, or food—I think that as you’re walking up to the house or the car, it’s easy to get caught up in the mental record player of: “Geez, I hope this person is cool and doesn’t try to kill me.” What I think is easy to forget is that very likely the OTHER person—while you are walking up—is thinking the EXACT SAME THING: “Geez, I hope this person is cool and doesn’t try to kill me.” Yes, traveling very often means taking a chance. I’ve found that 99% of people are generally pretty nice. I wouldn’t want to be BFF’s with all of them, but most are not the serial killer types. They are just trying to enjoy life and do their own thing. The new connection is a bit of a dance, where neither side knows quite how it’ll go, but both need to be willing to jump in and see. Now I’m not advocating an idealistic view that it’s always gonna be peaches and cream: if you ever get a sense that things are off, *listen* to that. Travel can be a fantastic way to help train your instincts!
9. Be Grateful for the Time You Do Have
Travel may be about venturing out and seeing awesome places, but that often can mean that we’re leaving awesome places (and people) behind. Or maybe, you meet someone when you only have two hours left in that city—not ideal. I’ve had a few tough goodbyes and quick encounters. Instead of moping about the timing, make the most of it, celebrate it, and be fully present for it. Yes, it may be tough or get lonely afterward. No, I don’t have a miracle fix—sadness is a natural part of life. But guess what? It’s also an indicator that you just had a meaningful experience, and (hopefully) you can comfort yourself with the new memories.
10. Travel is a State of Mind
This is a more recent revelation for me, as I explore not packing up every few days and exploring a new city. It’s not that I’m tired of the pace; I’m just curious to discover more deeply. So even as a “full-time traveler,” it’s important to realize that “I” am not this role. There is no definition or guidelines I need to follow. This is my life. So for you: how are you carving out a traveler’s life, even if you’re not on the move? Are you engaged with the world around you? Are you open to new ideas, new people, and new cultures? Are you learning what else is out there and how you can be involved or be of support? I get that not everyone is in the position to sell everything and travel—but that doesn’t mean you can’t discover!
Fun facts about the video:
- I shot everything except four of the videos; some were shots that I set up.
- What I used: Sony Cybershot for the older shots (through day 383), and then a Canon Powershot (Amazon affiliate link)
- My favorite clip (I have 3): “I am not good in the kitchen” @ :44 (ha! how times have changed); my friend Brian saying “I think we just want to eat” @ 1:32; and “This white boy can’t stay out in the sun too long.” @ 2:27
- I’m in Hawaii on Day 808, and that is the islands’ phone number area code
- YES, that was Macklemore @ :59 —back in April ’11 (known him since 2010 – rollin’ old school…) :)
- A couple of my friends featured: Jacob “Sensophy” Sokol (happened to be on my birthday) and Mike “Ambassador” Bruny, and a bunch more at the World Domination Summit
- Filming and Voiceover work were for my latest project: Travel. Eat. Thrive.
It was really fun to see what kinds of moments I could capture in only 2 seconds – and how much could be told!
- Animals: 4
- Jumps: 4
- “Eat/Cooking/Food” is mentioned/seen: 14
- Plane rides: 3
- Train rides: 3
- US States: 15
- Countries: 3
- Nigel Appearances: 3
- Waterfalls: 5
- Free Music Performances: 7
- Exercising: 5
- 360 degree Flips: 1
- Phil Collins Music: 2
- Sylvester Stallone feet: 1
- Voiceover Booths: 1
- Ukulele Playing: 2
- Elijah + Band of Light: 2
- Words mispronounced: 1 (“Kirtan” @ :17 – it’s more like KEER-tan)
- Fire Dancers: 1
- Shirtless Nathan: 3
- Switches from Facial Hair to Clean Shaven: 3
- National Parks/Forests: 5
- Disney World Memorabilia at my Mom’s house: too many to count!!
All the places included in the video—how many could you identify?
- California: Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Mammoth, Yosemite National Park, Encinitas, San Diego, Redwood National Forest
- Georgia: Atlanta
- Hawaii: Oahu, Big Island, Kauai
- Illinois: Chicago
- Lousiana: New Orleans
- Massachusetts: Grafton, West Barnstable, Boston
- Montana: Lewis and Clark National Forest
- New York: Manhattan, Queens, Troy
- North Carolina: Asheville
- Oregon: Portland, Cottage Grove, Crater Lake
- Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
- South Carolina: Greenville, Charleston
- Virginia: Shenandoah National Park
- Washington DC
- Washington: Seattle
- Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park
- Colombia: Bogota
- Ecuador: Mindo, Quito, Tena
- Mexico: Sayulita
Lots more places not included in the video: another 10 states, dozens of other cities—and Canada!
How long did this take to edit and how did I do it?
I spent a couple days (including a plane ride) looking at all the videos I had for that time period (about 200+), then catalogued all of them in Excel with date, file name, location, and activity (nerd alert!). I went through and assigned each a yes/no/maybe for how likely I’d be to include it.
I roughly calculated how long I wanted the video to be (3-4) minutes, and did the math; I wanted to show more than 1 second, so to show 2 seconds (still quick), I could only have about 100 videos. Luckily, for my first pass through, I only marked about 100 files to include. I used the Excel filter to just show all the yes’s, and each time I added a clip, I’d mark yes in the spreadsheet.
Editing was all done in iMovie 9 (aka ’11)—I would have used iMovie 10 but I couldn’t import all the older MPG files directly in. I actually started editing this three days ago and had NO illusion about finishing it for the 4th. But, the work seemed to go quickly (because of all my prep) and I was having a lot of fun, so I threw myself into it, and finished this up in two day (no all-nighters). Amazing to see what you can do when you love your work and are motivated by a deadline.
The background track is from YouTube’s free library.
How do I afford to travel?
I didn’t save any money; I just went. You can call it silly or ballsy, but somehow it worked. I’ve used (and still do) multiple credit card mileage bonuses to save thousands on travel (planes and trains) and I have couchsurfed all over the place. Most of my money has gone toward food.
Thanks for checking this out—I hope you found something of value.
Happy to answer any questions—feel free to ask, or let me know what you think!
From the road…