Vagabonding Case Study: Konrad Waliszewski

On February 24th, 2016

Konrad Waliszewski - Vagabonding Case Study

Name: Konrad Waliszewski

Website: World Venture Project and TripScout

Age: 29

Hometown: Washington DC

Quote: The purpose of life is a life of purpose. – Robert Byrne

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?

Vagabonding was my main resource to prepare me for my first a long-term trip and my traveling lifestyle ever since. I found Rolf’s philosophy and mindset on minimalism, finding adventure, and maintaining the traveler mindset when you come home even more valuable than the many practical tips. I’ve read it several times and have recommended to nearly every aspiring traveler I talk to.

How long were you on the road?

My first long-term trip was approximately 1 year. However, travel is a core part of my personal and professional life. I am often on the road as I travel to approximately 10-20 countries per year, although that pace has even started to increase significantly with the launch of my latest startup, TripScout, a mobile app and offline map that provides self-guided city tours from top local guides.

Where did you go? 

On my first long-term trip, I traveled throughout Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa), the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, and the UAE), and Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Spain, and Ireland). However, I have continued to travel significantly ever since and have now been to approximately 80 countries, which I document on my World Venture Project travel blog.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?

It’s currently my startup and travel app, TripScout. Our entire team is distrusted remotely. However, I have always maintained remote office capabilities (although not usually full-time). Prior to TripScout, I was the COO of Speek, a venture-backed tech startup that was acquired in 2015. We offered communication tools, so working from different cities every now and then was easy. Before that, I had a consulting business for private equity funds and large companies that I usually did remotely or on international projects. Although this wasn’t the case when I started my career, I have since prioritized the opportunity to travel with my businesses or job prospects, even if it requires me to pass on some great opportunities. If significant travel is something you want to do, you have to intentionally design it into your life and career. The time, money, or opportunity will rarely just happen automatically.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?

I always work and I regularly volunteer while on the road. I like working on projects that inspire me, so I have always had at least one company or full-time job while traveling. I make it a point to find inspiring causes in every country I visit and I try to help in any way I can. With TripScout, we find a charity in every country we’re in, donate 10% of revenue to them, and find ways to promote their cause. I also regularly mentor local entrepreneurs and startup incubators throughout the world.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?

That’s always a hard question, but I’d have to pick Mozambique. It was my first African country (besides South Africa and Egypt) and I traveled up the coast through their crazy system of vans and buses. It was a new frontier. I saw scenes straight out of a National Geographic magazine, I explored the most beautiful and untouched beaches and remote islands, and I navigated the cities. People are a huge part of any travel experience and I also happened to meet some of the best travel mates along that journey.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?

Honestly, no. This might sound cliché, but every place has something unique and awesome to offer. Certainly there have been some challenging times (such as being chased out of a Hezbollah neighborhood, getting robbed, getting sick, or being physically and mentally drained), but that’s all part of the experience and creates its own memory. I’d never blame the place for those things, most of them can and do happen anywhere. It’s hard to be bored or disappointed when you’re in a new place with a different culture and a lot of new people to meet.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

My bag gets smaller and lighter on every trip. On my first big trip, I brought back up computer chargers for work, clothes for a variety of situations, a couple books, and a lot more unnecessary things.

Now, I only bring a small backpack (think school bag, not backpacker backpack), regardless of the length of the trip. The most useful gear I bring is: a small external battery pack for my phone (preferably with solar charge too), my iPhone and laptop (since I’m running a business and maintaining a blog), my Kindle, and zip lock bags for my clothes (separates them and keeps them fresher). I throw in a dryer sheet into your backpack too, it makes everything smell better. I recently listed a bunch of my favorite travel gear in this post: Travel Checklist.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Every trip changes me in some way. Being pushed outside my comfort zone and routine, along with the sensory bombardment of new sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and customs, invigorates my mind and creativity. There’s a warped sense of time and I become uniquely present. I never know what will happen, but I know I will come out a better person and more connected to people, the world, and my true self. The feeling has become addictive.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Most paths you take require you to sacrifice other things you want to do. A lifestyle on the road gives me less time with friends and family that I want to spend time with. It forces me to say no to many great professional opportunities. I often find myself working odd hours to make a call with someone on the other side of the world. While this is also a perk, I usually put on a few pounds every trip because I find it my obligation and duty to eat every local food I can find.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

Set aside time for exploration, walk more, and disconnect to think. Take hospitality seriously, it’s how we show how much we value people. Talk to strangers more. Put your position in the world into perspective. Find adventure and joy in the daily mundane (after all, that’s what life is made up of). Block off long chunks of undisturbed time for your most essential work (like what time zone changes do for you when traveling). One little action you take can make a big difference in the world. Be even more grateful for what you have purely based on the circumstances of your birth. Be much more open-minded. Be more of a minimalist. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Live a great story.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?

Pack less. If you bring a “backpacker” backpack, you have too much stuff.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?

We get to be the author of our own lives, so make sure to live the life you want to live. If travel is something that you dream about or desire to do, find ways to make it happen and don’t make time, money, or practicality an excuse. Creativity and hustle can usually overcome those barriers if you start being proactive about your life. Beyond that, travel is not complicated. Mistakes will be made and you will figure it out. 99% of the time, these mistakes are not a big deal and you will simply have a good story or learning experience from it. Don’t overthink it, just book a ticket and go explore.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?

I recently relocated my home base to Cairo, Egypt and will use it as my launching pad for more travel. I just returned from Ethiopia and Somalia, and will be traveling to Istanbul, Athens, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, New Orleans, and Austin (for SXSW) over the next two months.

Read more about Konrad on his website, World Venture Project and TripScout.