Words: Cara Hines
In the Fall 2011 issue of Modern In Denver Magazine, we take a look at how escaping your rut and experiencing something new can revive your creativity and your life. We are a culture of often overworked, overstressed, indebted, uninspired workers, and we yearn for something different. We explore the causes and effects of our unrest, who’s doing something about it, and ways you can, too.
There have been nomads and vagabonds since the beginning of time, but never before in the history of the world have tools and resources been present in such abundance and user-friendly formats to allow almost anyone to hit the road and maintain a sustainable and even lucrative professional career if so chosen. Our traditional excuses for not living the lives we choose are rapidly being discredited. Here are tools, resources, mindsets, gadgets, and a few brave souls employing them in debunking those excuses and creating the lives their dreams were once made of:
THINGS WE NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT:
Pick up the Fall 2011 issue of Modern In Denver Magazine to read the full profiles of these daring adventurers to see why and how they struck out in search of the destination of their own inspiration.
Mat and Lisa / Shinycamper: A professional couple and their toddler living, working, and traveling around the country in an Airstream
- Apps: Yelp, GoogleMaps, AllStays Camp & RV, Gas Buddy, iWund, Coverage?, WiFi Finder
- Technology: Sprint 3G/4G Overdrive Mobile HotSpot; iPhones and iPads cut down on the amount of stuff we carry around because we can use them for phone, email, internet, books, flashlight, alarm clock, maps, compass, movies, TV shows, music, files and paperwork, Simon’s games, etc.
- Helpful Things: Our 31-foot 1986 Airstream Sovereign!
Nate and Katie / Eight Hour Day: Award-winning illustrators/graphic designers and their dog, working from a different city every month for a year
- Apps: Skype, ‘Not For Tourists’ NFT City Guides, GoogleMaps, Coverage?
- Camera Apps: Instagram, Plastic Bullet, QuadCam, 8MM
- Technology: iPhone with extra tethering plan, Airport Extreme, Canon Inkjet Printer, Epson Perfection V30 high resolution flatbed photo scanner
- Helpful Things: FLÖRT Fabric Boxes from IKEA, Yakima SkyBox 16 Roof Box available at REI, longboards from Carve Longboards in Austin, Texas
Kyle / Moveable Type: A letterpress printer on her first US tour in a box van, printing for clamoring audiences everywhere she goes
- Apps: GoogleMaps
- Technology: iPhone—it’s the single most useful tool I brought with me
- Creations: All of my traveling letterpress posters and notecards. These can be yours, too, and your purchase helps fund my journey—go here: www.Etsy.com/Shop/PowerAndLight
- Helpful Things: Maps of all kinds—road atlas, wall map from www.maps.com
- Inspiration: A little plant life hanging around, like this Airplant Hanging Seashell by aBrightBlack on Etsy.com; Water for drinking and swimming in; The ability to laugh at myself and roll with the punches
HOW TO KICK OFF YOUR OWN JOURNEY TO DESTINATION INSPIRATION:
- Revise or Retrofit: Technology is the single most liberating factor when it comes to crafting a life as a modern-day vagabond. Approach your employer about telecommuting from home—and make your home wherever you fancy. Self-employed? Create new ways of conducting your current business from just about any location. Or change what you do altogether, so you can do it from the road, airplane, RV, sailboat, café, hut, beach…
- Outsource Yourself: For those who just aren’t sure what they want to do for work, who are swirling in the abyss of unemployment, or the countless others who are “in transition”, there are websites that allow you to vie for employment you can do from anywhere that has reliable computer and internet access. If you can type fast, design, write, program, consult, etc…post your resume and profile to an online job board or bid for one of their job postings. The two most popular resources for wanderlust job seekers are www.elance.com and www.vworker.com
- Caretake: Opportunities are abundant around the world for house-sitting and caretaking positions. Some of these offer free housing and other perks for your services. Others are paid positions. They range from a few days to full-time—in an historic home in Seattle; at a ranch in Arizona; or on a yacht on the Amalfi Coast. If you want to stay connected to the best opportunities in this category, subscribe to the Caretaker Gazette. Other top sites are www.HouseCarers.com and www.HouseSittersAmerica.com, both of which require a nominal fee or yearly subscription.
- Work and Learn for Your Keep: If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, several organizations list opportunities for room and board in exchange for good ol’ sweat equity. Two of these are www.Helpx.net, “an online listing of host farms, ranches, B&Bs, and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to work with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation”; and World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms www.Wwoof.org, which “links volunteers with organic farmers, and helps people share more sustainable ways of living.”
- Teach English: Like to exercise your grammar and punctuation? You can opt to teach English in a foreign country as a way to support your need for a different view out your window. The ESL Herald is an extensive resource for sharpening your skills and finding jobs around the world.
- Making Money While Traveling: Blogger Christine Gilbert of ‘Almost Fearless’ fame provides a broad range of creative suggestions in her article, Making Money While Traveling
- Fundraise: Have a vision but not enough funds to see it through? Pitch it to willing investors using internet-based platforms such as www.kickstarter.com, www.profounder.com, and www.quirky.com
- Accommodations: Find interesting and affordable places to hang your hat on sites like www.Airbnb.com, www.VRBO.com, and www.HomeAway.com. On www.Couchsurfing.org, you can find free accommodations all over the world for a night or a few with like-minded adventurers and live like a local wherever you go, or host others when you’re home.
- Cover Your Expenses: List your own home for rent on the same websites listed above to recoup your rent or mortgage while you’re away. You might even make a little extra to help fund your travel.
- Airfare: www.Fly.com offers a clean and simple flight search; www.Airtreks.com is touted as the ‘Around the World & International Airfare Experts’
- Go Slow: Amtrak lets you travel slowly across the United States. Take in the scenery from the observation car; eat in the dining car; have conversations with people of all backgrounds; and save money, all while watching the American landscape slip by outside. The seats are ample and routes are often not full. Sleeper cars cost a little more. They have weekly specials and lower fares on certain days of the week. Drawback: there is no wifi on board—you need to supply your own.
- Rideshares: Websites like www.Ridester.com and www.craigslist.com allow you to post requests and offers for rides to and from anywhere. It’s a great alternative to flying and saves money by sharing the cost of gasoline—sometimes even ride for free—in exchange for good conversation or splitting drive time, maybe even make new friends.
YOUR HOUSING AND YOUR STUFF
- Get your feet wet. Rent out your home on a short-term basis when you visit your family during the Christmas holidays. When it works like a charm, you can use it anytime you want to get away. I use www.AirBnb.com anytime I leave town, and sometimes when I visit a friend across town. It helps cover my living expenses while I travel, pays a friend to take care of the apartment in my absence, puts a little extra travel money in my pocket, and it provides affordable accommodations for other travelers. Other sites like www.VRBO.com, www.craigslist.org, and www.homeaway.com provide a similar service.
- Sublet. Find renters for your home on a long-term basis, and put your stuff in storage. You can always come back, right?
- Be a turtle. Take your home and some of your stuff with you. Travel trailers, campers, and RV’s allow you to wake up in a new landscape as often as your heart desires. You can sell or store what you don’t take with you, or keep your home base intact while you rent it out.
- Go big! Sell your home and all your things to hit the road indefinitely. Put a few things in a backpack or a few more in a trailer or RV and commit to travel against all odds. Imagining yourself without your stuff seems painful. Once it’s gone, every traveler interviewed for this article says they never miss it. Imagine…how free you’d feel to come and go on whim; where could you go and what could you do if you weren’t writing that big fat check every month for your rent or mortgage…
- Stay home…Simplify. Move into a smaller home if possible. Sell or give away all the stuff that’s not functional, inspirational, or meaningful to you. Less stuff means you can slow down. With all the extra time and money you have, you can get out and see more of the world outside your back door.
KIDS AND PETS
- People travel with kids all the time. They can change how and sometimes where you travel, but they’re no excuse not to do it. Christine & Drew of AlmostFearless.com, and Lea & Jonathan of LocationIndependent.com, make life on the road and in the air with their little ones work. They offer extensive information on their websites about how you can, too.
- Traveling with pets can be more challenging than kids in some cases, but there are plenty of people doing it. Check out these online articles: Travel Full Time With Your Pets by Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia.com; 10 Tips For Bringing Your Pet Overseas by Christine Gilbert of AlmostFearless.com, and Ten Tips for Traveling With Pets by Julie Schwietert-Collazo of CollazoProjects.com
TECHNOLOGY AND TOOLS FOR STAYING CONNECTED
With things like laptops, iPads, smartphones, tethering plans, USB air cards, Skype, GoogleDocs, Facebook, apps, and other tools, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch from afar with clients, family, and friends. There are internet cafes in almost every corner of the world, devices and online tools—the new generations of which are evolving rapidly and only promise to make communication easier as time marches on. Of course, if you’re like some people, you’ll prefer to “BE here now” rather than “back there” and find all the constant contact is more than you really want. Learn to make technology work FOR you, not run you. Here are a few to get you started:
- Internet Phone Calls and Videoconferencing: Skype, Facetime, Facebook video chat, GoogleVoice
- Smart Phone Apps: Not For Tourist (NFT by city), GoogleMaps, ReaddleDocs, HootSuite (Twitter client), Currency (free exchange rate calculator), Coverage? (quickly and easily view coverage maps for each of the four major U.S. carriers), GasBuddy (tells you where the cheapest and closest gasoline can be found)
- Camera Apps: Instagram, Plastic Bullet, QuadCam, Camera+, 8MM (video effects)
- GoogleDocs and ReaddleDocs allow you to store and share files online, co-author, and edit live between multiple people
- Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia.com in their article Our Technology Arsenal offer wonderful information on best ways to utilize technology on the road including computers, cellular and internet connectivity, entertainment systems, navigation and safety, cameras and printing
- Johnny Vagabond offers these Five iPhone Essentials for the Digital Nomad
- To make your iPhone its own WiFi spot, make sure you get the extra tethering plan—Johnny Vagabond tells you How To Unlock and Tether Your iPhone
- Devices like Airport Extreme, 3G/4G Hubs, WiFi sticks, and satellite dishes provide portable WiFi for when you’re in remote areas or staying in accommodations without reliable internet
OTHERS WHO ARE DOING IT, AND HOW!
SAGMEISTER INC. – Stefan Sagmeister is an Austrian-born graphic designer and typographer who currently lives and works in Manhattan. Marrying his two biggest obsessions—music and design—he has a small, exclusive studio that produces a broad range of radical designs including CD covers, posters, identities, furniture and promotional products, books, film, installations, and advertisements. A few years into his highly successful career, he began noticing a slight malaise and the tendency for his office to repeat design elements. He attributes his creative blocks to three things: “boredom, uninteresting content, and fear of not being able to come up with anything.” When he envisaged a sabbatical, he realized a short one wouldn’t suffice. And the prospect of foregoing travel and freeform exploration until retirement was unthinkable. He created a model in which he took 5 years off the standard retirement period at the end of his career and distributed those years throughout his working life. Every seven years, he closes his studio for a full twelve months, and does no client work whatsoever. He experiments and explores his own ideas purely for the joy of creating. The first sabbatical he spent in New York. But for the second one he immersed himself in an entirely new culture and lived in Bali. You can hear what he has to say about “The Power of Time Off” in his talk on TED.com. In it, Stefan states, “Everything we designed in the seven years following the first sabbatical had its roots in thinking done during that sabbatical.” When asked how important he thinks sabbaticals are for replenishing creativity he answers: “On a scale of 1-10…12.”
OPEN HIGHWAY READER – “This land is your land, this land is my land, From California, to the New York Island…” Dan Cassaro and Niamh O’Hara are driving “ribbons of highway” in the opposite direction along this “land made for you and me”, and while Woodie Guthrie did not know Dan and Niamh, it seems he wrote this song for them. They are yet another couple exploring the endless skyways, golden valleys, and sparkling sands via the highways of our “Great 48” in search of renewed inspiration. Dan is a freelance designer, illustrator, and print-maker living in Brooklyn, NY. He found himself working on “50 and 50: A curated project…in which fifty designers, one per state, illustrated their state motto, creating something steeped in history but completely modern and unique: a kind of designer’s atlas.” What this project did for him besides connect him with at least fifty great designers all over the country, is make it painfully obvious how few of these states he had himself visited. “I thought about the project and how it was all done through the internet. And then how pretty much all of our work is done through the internet. THE INTERNET IS EVERYWHERE. So if the internet is everywhere, how come I’m not?” So he and his girlfriend Niamh, an Evolutionary Biologist, bought a rare vintage 1973 Scout Play-Pac as their mobile science and design unit” and are currently traveling around the country designing and doing field work…everywhere. Their hope is that both endeavors will benefit from the whole adventure. Visit ‘Open Highway Reader’ to find out if they’re making good on that hope.
MARIN SAILING SCHOOL – Al Spector lives, works, and plays in the San Francisco Bay area, and you can scarcely tell where one of those stops and the next starts for him. He is one of those fortunate and adept few who has crafted a life with what most of us envision as ‘retirement’ scattered throughout his days. He is a supply chain and logistics business consultant for the telecom industry…and he’s a sailboat captain. On any given day, weather permitting, he transitions almost seamlessly from meetings and office work to the open water and sometimes back again, even conducting the occasional conference call from behind the Captain’s wheel. Since 2005, Al has operated the Marin Sailing School with his 28’ sloop, La Sabrosa. Then in 2007 he taught his first blind student and was hooked. Soon after, along with blind sailors Phil Kum and Hiro Iwamoto, he founded his greatest passion—his school’s Program for the Blind. That’s right. Not only does he teach the blind to sail, they compete in the annual United States National Blind Sailing Championships. With his vibrant personality, the extra sparkle in his eyes, and a highly empowering teaching style, he will have you believing you can do anything, too. Al is more proof that you can go after your dreams and not just make a living, you can make a ‘thriving’.
ALMOST FEARLESS – Do you consider yourself brave? Well, Christine Gilbert considers herself ‘Almost Fearless’, and so became the moniker for her blog. Once a successful but uninspired corporate manager, Christine says she went, “from Corporate Perks to Homeless Vagabond…somehow I ended up trading in my 20’s for a job I didn’t love, money I didn’t need (but happily spent on things I didn’t need), and a burgeoning sleeping problem.” In July 2008, she quit her job to do something entirely different. Friends and family had long boasted her mad writing skills, but it took believing it herself—and getting fed up enough with the rat race—to spread her word-slinging wings and fly on them. Now she’s a successful, globetrotting, “almost fearless” freelance writer, photographer, and award-winning blogger. But she didn’t go it alone. She got her husband, Drew Gilbert, involved. Drew is “an animator by degree, a graphic designer by trade, and now…a world-traveling new dad with a serious jones for something new.” Until last September, he telecommuted from various US and international cities for a company based in Pennsylvania. When he was laid off, the timing was perfect for him to chase Cole around when he started walking, help Christine with the documentary and AlmostFearless.com, and to do the occasional freelance work for select clients. Originally in 2006, Drew and Christine were determined to live overseas, so they packed up their two Labrador Retrievers (yes, it’s possible) and moved to Spain. They didn’t stop there. They kept going and didn’t even break for long when they had their son, Cole, now an ‘Almost Fearless’ globetoddler. Their blogs are AlmostFearless.com and DrewGilbert.com respectively, and they offer a wealth of information to anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps and scooter tracks. Their latest project is a documentary called The Wireless Generation, which Drew says, “was inspired by our travels and running into people like myself, who had carved out the ability to work a regular full time job from anywhere in the world.” They are currently editing it from their temporary home in Thailand. Watch for it to hit the festival circuit in 2012.
LOCATION INDEPENDENT – Lea and Jonathan Woodward were living a 9 to 5 life in London and felt like they were running nowhere fast on a treadmill. Jonathan was a corporate graphic designer, and Lea worked as a management consultant. When Lea’s mom died of cancer, she quit her job to start a new career as a personal trainer. Another life changing event came two years later when Jonathan lost his job. With the fragility of life and the “instability of the rat race and working for other people” looming large in their lives, they started their own business and began their new life of travel…a life that is “location independent”. In 2009, they added another travel and business partner, Mali. When their new little bundle was just four months old, they hit the road again and have hardly stopped. Of course, there are new challenges to a location independent life with a toddler. On their website LocationIndependent.com, they share a wealth of information—including videos and ebooks—for those thinking of making the leap, those who have recently jumped, and even those “trailblazers” who are adept at living life wherever in the world they are.
TECHNOMADIA – “Since 2006, Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard have explored the confluence of full-time travel, wanderlust, adventure, life, career and community; all while embracing nomadic serendipity.”
GOLDEN BOOK TRAVELER – Jason Boehle began with a seven-month trip through Europe and Africa, and found himself cracking open a “Pandora’s Box of travel” that continues today.
A LITTLE ADRIFT – Shannon O’Donnell is a perpetual traveler and storyteller on “a journey toward knowledge and perspective.”
ILLUMINATED MIND – Jonathan has always had a hard time doing things he didn’t want to do. His website invites “the unreasonable person. The wanderer, outlier, and questioner—those of us who walk the edges” to “Live and work on your own terms.”
RIVETED – Kevin and Laura are modern nomads living in 188sf of pure aluminum and committed to life on the road without sacrificing beauty and good design
CORBETT BARR offers these “10 Digital Nomads to Learn From”