December 27, 2012

Pros and Cons of being a New Nomadic Rich

picture credit: Flickr/theregeneration

As my last Vagabonding contribution for year 2012 – and I am glad to say that it has been a great pleasure and a serious commitment, guys – I decided to comment on an interesting article I found here.  The author, classifying himself as one of the “New Rich” theorized by Timothy Ferriss’ famous bestseller, gives the life perspective’s lowdown on his profitable work experience as he travels the world. His final view, however, is far from casting an idyllic image of this lifestyle, as he says “it occurs to me that the New Rich, for all of our impressive values, are just as guilty of materialism as the old rich. It just takes a different form. Instead of an addiction to status and possessions, we’re addicted to experience and novelty. The end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what’s important, suffer. For the first time in three years of non-stop travel, I wish for a home.”

After reading, the natural question I have is: has the whole “digital nomad” concept of life finally exposed its own limits and faults? Isn’t it, ultimately, just another more solitary way to do business? I can only see that, in the end, a digital worker is STILL bound to his own work schedule and internet connection necessities, after all… with the aggravated understanding of his own group’s isolation. Apparently, the New Rich have reached a level where relationships, life, and possibly the same essence of travel and adventure, radiate from a computer screen. The work location really does not matter anymore: lives keep being conducted behind the comfort and isolation of internet connections and LCD screens, exploiting a code of honor in which relationships may be just taken as an umpteenth source of data – and therefore , become easily negotiable online.  In my opinion, the uneasiness expressed by the author is understandable for a long-term traveler; regardless, it casts big, dark shadows on the psychological well-being of online traveling businessmen, at least under a relational point of view, as outlined in the article.

In my own long-term traveler sense, being a New Rich looks exactly like 走马看花 (zou ma kan hua), or “to watch flowers while riding on horseback”: what can be the depth of perception of someone who only experiences places in between computer stints? I am glad that  someone from the group finally outlined that “digital nomads” have lost their connection… with reality. Maybe, and pardon the biased pun,  if they lost their internet connections, instead, the horrible consequences may help them regain a sense of the exceptional life stories they are living… but can we/they stop thinking of profit and money as we/they travel, at least for a short while? I would like to read your opinions/experiences.

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Category: Lifestyle Design, On The Road, Vagabonding Life

December 25, 2012

Do you need a sanity check? The 90% rule.

Christmas this year find us on the edge of the jungle in Borneo. Hiking yesterday I found a pocketful of nutmeg and remembered making a Christmas phone call years ago, with my brother who was here in the Spice Islands while I was “at home” changing diapers. He told me about the orang utan he’d encountered deep up a jungle river and he mailed me a boxful of nutmeg he’d picked off of the forest floor for me. This year I’ll be making that phone call home, and he’s the one ankle deep in babies and diapers.

Josh spent the first five years after university in a 34 foot sailboat, circumnavigating. He was named after Joshua Slocum, so it was his fate. He and I have both chosen unconventional lives, as a direct result of our unconventional upbringing. We were raised to follow our dreams, instead of toe the line. I’m unspeakably grateful for that.

I remember a few short weeks before we leapt off the cliff, quit the high power job, sold our house out from under our four young children and struck out in the world with what we could carry on our bikes and nothing more, talking with him on the phone from his little homestead in the Okisollo channel in BC, where he builds boats and plots adventures. We’d been getting a little push back from people in the conventional world, people who were concerned that we were committing financial suicide, limiting our children’s educational or social potential and who were a bit incredulous that we’d step out of a “perfect life” for something so uncomfortable, so uncertain, as full time travel.

“We’re just getting a little hate mail, and it’s making me wonder… is this going to turn out to be a big mistake? I mean, it’s different with four kids, isn’t it?”

Josh chuckled, in his quiet way, and replied:

“And these people sending hate mail, what, exactly have they done? Do they have any experience with this kind of thing?”

I had to admit that they did not. None of them had done anything out of the status quo.

“See, to my mind, that’s exactly where you want to be. When 90% of the people who haven’t done anything think you’re nuts, that’s just about right. It’s when the 10% of people who have done what you want to start raising red flags, then you might want to listen.”


I laughed with him and breathed a sigh of relief; of course he was exactly right.

Over the years, I’ve repeated that bit of wisdom to many other folks on the cusp of something huge and frightening and life changing. It’s proven itself true in our own lives, time and again. If you want to live a passion driven life and your passions are taking you outside of the status quo, don’t look to the folks living conventional lives for the encouragement or experience you need. You’ll need to surround yourself with other dreamers of big dreams, and you’ll need to create a community of folks who are living in the world you’re trying to create as a sounding board and sanity check.

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Category: General, Lifestyle Design, Vagabonding Advice

December 13, 2012

Traveling with a wheelchair

Daily activities, within a comfortable, familiar environment can be interesting enough with a disability. If you spend time in a wheelchair, you know how different surfaces, or slight inclines, can create an immense challenge. Well yes, they may pose a challenge, look at it this way; a world on wheels is a unique perspective.

Not long ago, Justin Skeesuck launched: The Disabled Traveler, with a tag line of “see the world differently.” Justin Skeesuck is a well-seasoned traveler. We connected (via social media) because of our mutual love of photography. I got to be part of the beta stages of his project, and am thrilled to now share with you his live site. On the main page, you’ll discover a free eBook! And every few weeks he hosts an Accessible Travel webinar. But also check out his blog. Where, even I recently discovered another wonderful site with great accessible information and stories called,

A lot of the time the worst-case scenario takes over our mind, and it just seems safer to stay home. But hopefully both of the above mentioned sites will help you roll along to discover the world.

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Category: General, Lifestyle Design

October 29, 2012

Retirement, vagabonding style

A couple, strolling in New York.

A couple, strolling in New York. Photo: Ed Yourdon / Flickr

The Wall Street Journal had a story titled, “The let’s sell our house and see the world retirement.” A couple, Lynn and Tim Martin, decided to ditch the stereotypical retirement lifestyle and hit the road.

Here’s how Lynn describes it:

In short, we’re senior gypsies. In early 2011 we sold our house in California and moved the few objects we wanted to keep into a 10-by-15-foot storage unit. Since then, we have lived in furnished apartments and houses in Mexico, Argentina, Florida, Turkey, France, Italy and England. In the next couple of months, we will live in Ireland and Morocco before returning briefly to the U.S. for the holidays.

Nice to read that anyone can be a vagabonder, regardless of age, gender, income level, etc.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Just under the headline, click on “Interactive Graphics” to see a map with a breakdown of the Martins’ budget.  Most of cities they’ve lived in turned out to be cheaper than their California home, even expensive destinations like London. Lynn gives much of the credit to the vagabonding ethic, as she shares here:

We follow some simple strategies to keep our budget in line. Stays in more expensive locations, like Paris or London, are balanced by living in less pricey countries like Mexico, Turkey or Portugal. We dine out several times a week but eat at home much of the time. I like to cook, and food shopping is a great way to learn about a country. (Finding baking soda in Buenos Aires isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.)

Have you retired and are currently traveling?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

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Category: Lifestyle Design, Senior Travel

August 27, 2012

3 Attitudes you need to make your dream come true

decide that you want it more than you are afraid of itI’m sure you’ve heard the excuses. I know I’ve heard more of ‘em than I ever thought existed.

In the end there are a million reasons not to live your dream, but all you really need are a small handful of reasons to do it. It all comes down to priorities.

If you are happy with your life at the moment, then there’s nothing you need to change. If, however, there is something you’re not happy with, it’s up to you to change it.

You have a choice. You can continue doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll get the same things you’ve been getting. If you want something different, you need to do something different. You know the saying: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. It’s true.

Set your priorities in life and then take steps to get there. It won’t be easy. It won’t come without work. Your dream won’t fall in your lap. YOU make that dream happen.

When we decided to ride our bikes from one end of the world to the other, we worked toward it with an undying sense of commitment and passion. Every action and thought was focused on making that dream come true. We woke up in the morning and thought about what steps we would take that day and in the evening we looked back on the progress we made. Baby steps to be sure, but they were steps in the right direction.

As I look back on that time period now, I realize there were three key attitudes and beliefs that were in place in order for us to be successful. (more…)

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Category: Lifestyle Design

July 23, 2012

How Tim Ferriss and Silicon Valley techies hack their trips

Packing light.

Packing light. Photo: Amina Elahi / Flickr

Business travelers, also known as “road warriors,” are some of the most experienced trip hackers around. Although here at Vagabonding we espouse slower wandering, these hard-core types have streamlined the process to a science. Their advice appeared in this New York Times article: How the tough get going: Silicon Valley travel tips. Prominently featured in the article is Tim Ferriss, known as the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and the “The 4-Hour Body.”

Naturally, there are many websites and apps that get mentioned. It’s interesting to see these guys apply a hacker ethic of “lighter, faster, more efficient” to their journeys.

My favorite tip was how to get a new charger and adapter fast if you lose yours. Ask your hotel to see their “lost and found” box. If you’re staying at a place that gets a lot of businesspeople, a lot of those things get accidentally left behind.

The CLEARcard was new to me. This enables cardholders to pass through airport security faster. While it’s a useful tool, a quick check of their website reveals that the card can only be used in four airports. If the card were more widely accepted, it would be more handy.

I did research, and found Global Entry. This is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that can help members speed through security. Global Entry has been deployed in many major American airports, making it far more convenient than CLEARcard.

Some of the advice was risky though, like packing a starter pistol and declaring the firearm to TSA, as a way of making sure airport staff don’t lose your bag. With security being a big concern these days, this is not something I would recommend to anyone.

How do you pack light for your trips? Any tips for speeding up the check-in and boarding process? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Category: Air Travel, Lifestyle Design, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Gear, Travel Tech

July 16, 2012

Do more dreams die because of lack of money or because of the fear of the unknown?

Most dreams die because the dreamers can’t take the requisite and always terrifying step into the unknown. The best laid plans and sincerest intentions are no protection against the stomach-lurching sensation when you let go of the lifeline.

dream died hereCila Warnke is currently writing a book – THE BOOK, as she refers to it. Here’s her description: The Book tells the stories of people who refuse to go gently into the fiction of “normal” life. They have confronted all the usual excuses for saying “no” (children, illness, age, lack of opportunity) and with cheerful, bloody-minded determination said “yes” to their dreams. These quiet heroes know the secret of success is not money, power, or privilege, but passion, desire, and a willingness to take risks. They are, to borrow from Henry David Thoreau, living deliberately.

I am fortunate to be one of the cast, one of the people profiled in The Book. Cila has been posting snippets of her writing on her blog for a while and I love reading about the wonderful people she’s spoken with. But yesterday, when I read her newest installment about my story, this part hit me: “Most dreams die because the dreamers can’t take the requisite and always terrifying step into the unknown. The best laid plans and sincerest intentions are no protection against the stomach-lurching sensation when you let go of the lifeline.”

And that made me think. Do more dreams die due to fear of the unknown, or due to lack of money? I hear from many people who say one or the other, and I honestly don’t know the answer. I’d like to say that lack of money may delay a dream, but if you are committed to making the dream happen that hurdle can be overcome. Taking that terrifying step into the unknown, however, is more difficult in my mind. For those of us lucky enough to live in developed countries, it seems to me that we can make it happen if we work hard enough. I know that, for many people in less fortunate situations around the world, there is no way no matter how hard they work.

And so I ask you: Do more dreams die because of lack of money or because of the fear of the unknown? What do you think?

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is Mom to an adventurous family who will try just about anything; many times, they actually achieve what they set out to do. Their most recent success was biking from Alaska to Argentina, but there have been others too. And some failures in there as well. You can follow their adventures at

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Category: Lifestyle Design

July 10, 2012

Living the Dream: What does it really mean?

hiking the Colorado Trail

Our dream to hike the 500-mile Colorado Trail was a great dream, but not for us.

There’s a lot of talk in cyberspace about living your dream. Live life on your own terms, grab life by the horns and take it for a ride.

But what happens when you discover that the life you thought you wanted isn’t meeting your needs like you thought it would? Then what? Hang on anyway? Or give yourself permission to move on?

That’s precisely where we found ourselves as we hiked the Colorado Trail through the Rockies this summer. As we planned our 500-mile backpack trip we figured we would love being out in the mountains with our backpacks full of tents, sleeping bags, and food. It would be just us and Mother Nature out there in the wild blue yonder.

Yet when we got out there it wasn’t quite as we had envisioned. We knew the journey would be difficult, but didn’t expect the level of traffic on the trail. Mountain bikes whizzed past and we shared the trail with others out for a day hike while we lugged heavy backpacks. Somehow, it wasn’t quite what we had in mind.

And so… what? Do we hang on to some idealized version of our dream and keep going? Or do we accept the reality of what it is and call it off?

In the end, we opted to bail. We realized that long-distance biking is what we enjoy, not so much long-distance hiking. That’s OK. Different strokes for different folks.

Did we fail to live our dream? Not at all. We failed to hike the entire 500-mile Colorado Trail, but we lived our dream. We planned, we packed up, we hiked 200 miles, we learned we weren’t enjoying it, we changed our plan.

Now we need to come up with a new dream. I wonder what that will be?

Have you ever had a dream that ended up not being all you expected? What did you do? Bail or stick with it?

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is Mom to an adventurous family who will try just about anything. Many times, they actually achieve what they set out to do. Their most recent success was biking from Alaska to Argentina, but there have been others too. And some failures in there as well. You can follow their adventures at

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Category: Lifestyle Design

July 5, 2012

Pushing the limits: around the world in a wheelchair

On the 7th of June, 37 year old Andy Campbell and his team set out from The Royal Geographic Society in London. Over the next two years he’s making his way around the world without a distinctively planned route. Eight years ago, Andy fell while rock climbing and became paralyzed from the waist down. As an able-bodied person, suddenly loosing the use of your legs can come as quite a shock. Mobility takes on a whole new angle of thinking. But it hasn’t dampened his adventurous spirit.

photo credit:

A few years ago I vividly remember standing in the doctor’s office blinking at X-rays of my spine hoping magically they’d look “normal” the next time-no such luck. My own gypsy spirit drifted beyond the walls as she said the words, “scoliosis” and “phase two, spinal degeneration”. Putting on the recommended back brace my view of the world changed. For the next year and a half it became part of my daily clothing. I began to take notice of little things like the weight of doors as my hand opened them. Seven months after I was told not to lift over 15lbs for a long while; our very own vagabonding inspiration, Rolf, traveled around the world on his “No baggage” journey.


“Disability does not mean inability” as one Michigan based Service Dog training facility promotes. And in that light, Andy of “Pushing the Limits” is making his way around the globe and would appreciate your ideas on where to visit! Check out his blog, drop an email and give him suggestions on where to go next!

I’ve applied to join the expedition when it reaches North America…

Traveling isn’t limited to putting one foot in front of the other—especially after the invention of the wheel–it’s all about attitude.

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Category: Adventure Travel, General, Lifestyle Design, On The Road, Travel Health

May 23, 2012

A flexible itinerary or “test” trip can benefit first-time vagabonders

I remember reading a blog post before I left for my trip recommending that first-time travelers take a 5- to 7-week test trip to determine if long-term travel was right for them.

I disregarded this advice, as I didn’t really question whether I’d like traveling – I’d dreamed of it my whole life, and the pull to do it was strong enough that I was willing to quit a job I loved for it.

Three months later, here I am recommending a test trip – but for different reasons.

It’s not so much about figuring out if it’s right for you, but figuring out how it’s right for you. There are many styles of vagabonding – you could get a RTW ticket, you could work and live in one place abroad for a longer period, you could simply wander. If you haven’t traveled for more than a few weeks (which is likely the case for many career breakers from the U.S. like me) there’s no way of knowing your own travel style and what will work best for you.

I knew I couldn’t know the answers to these things before leaving, so I knew I had to just go and would figure it out from there. I didn’t specifically view every little thing as a test, but I found myself constantly learning what I liked and what type of travel could work for me. Now, I’m home on a pit stop (slightly unexpectedly but in a good way), planning the next phase of my journey, using all that I’ve learned to inform my decisions.

I don’t think a test trip necessarily means you need to leave, come home and then leave again; you can learn and adjust along the way without coming home, as long as you keep your trip flexible. That means holding off on buying the 1-year RTW ticket or taking the job teaching English abroad, if possible, until you know that style of travel is right for you.

Below are some of the things I’ve gained insight on in my first three months of travel, and while I still have a lot to learn, I know that I couldn’t have had answers to any of these things without first simply going and testing it out.

Fast vs. slow – I met a traveler whose style was go to as fast as possible, seeing all the main sites and then quickly moving to the next place, with plans to return in the future for longer periods in the places he really liked. While this format works for him, I learned that I would rather spend time in a place, understanding it as much as possible beyond the key sites. Other travelers fall somewhere in the middle. But either way, it’s hard to know without doing it, and this is a big dictator of how to set your itinerary so it’s important to know before setting out.

Tourism vs. immersion – After spending six weeks in a small town in Guatemala that sees few tourists, going to a big city full of “sites to see” was a bit of a culture shock that quickly taught me that I preferred the former. Of course, a big part of travel is seeing the sites – the natural wonders and historical buildings that only exist in that place – and I absolutely want to see them, but I have learned that I also enjoy immersing myself in smaller towns and cultural experiences for longer periods whenever possible. Again, knowing this can dictate where to go and how much time to estimate for each location for future trips.

Work and travel vs. work to travel – This remains one of the biggest questions, but after meeting so many different travelers and expats (including staying a few days in a suburb of Santiago, Chile, in an expat community) I now have perspective on the various options. It always sounds so dreamy to think about teaching English abroad or being a “digital nomad,” but seeing it in action can help you understand if it’s really for you, or if you prefer to have a “home” life and job that allows flexibility for travel. If you’ve quit your job to embrace the vagabonding lifestyle, knowing this before jumping in is essential.

Live abroad vs. travel abroad – Similar to above, traveling for a few months can give you insight as to whether you’d like to live in one place for a long period, or if you prefer to keep moving. Although I enjoy spending time in places, I also always get an itch for change and to see new things after a while – something I wouldn’t have known without traveling for a bit. Similarly, traveling for an extended period can help you know how long you like to be on the road for – some people can go for years, while others prefer a few months at a time.

Taking on a traveling lifestyle a big life decision, and just like we often test other life decisions – we get internships before jobs, rent before buying, date before getting engaged – it makes sense to learn how you like to travel before committing to a format. That doesn’t mean to go into your first trip timidly and strictly, assessing everything, it means quite the opposite – just let go and keep an open mind, and you’ll figure out the rest later.

Travelers, what do you think about staying flexible on the first trip?

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Category: Lifestyle Design, Vagabonding Advice












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