When travel is life- a conversation with 4 modern day Nomads.

When travel is life- a conversation with 4 modern day Nomads.

During my travels I have had many opportunities to meet amazing, dynamic and inspiring people, all modern day nomads – creating and living a life of their dreams. I sat down with four of them to find out more about what inspired them to start traveling, what kept them going and the challenges and celebrations they experienced on their journeys.

Some information on our Nomads

Anna is a 27 year old Filipino originally from Manila. She is currently in Tablas Island spending time with her family before returning to work.

Barbara is a 54 year old Brit. She is currently in Nepal.

Rebecca is a 38 year old American, born and raised in New York. In the 15 years she spent traveling she lived in Hong Kong, Sweden, Thailand, Hawaii and Indonesia. She is currently working as a scuba diving instructor in Raja Ampat.

Maree is a millennial from South Africa. She is currently living in the Caribbean where she works as a server and yoga teacher.

1. What inspired you to start travelling?

Anna: It was the struggles in my life that made me start traveling. When I was still in the university, I used to assist and facilitate camping class to get extra money. We travel to different places to camp. For me it’s a win-win situation, I can travel while earning money. This made me travel more for business or just for myself. 

Barbara: At 40 I had a big journey of personal change, realising I had lived my life till then in fear, terror and petrification. Afraid to move, to make any decision, a victim responding to what happened to her rather than actively participating in her own life. I chose to challenge my historical physiological fear. And after 7 years I changed, I was no longer afraid. My old fear of my past was gone. And I looked around, at my London life, my dwelling of 28 years, my work of 20 years, my community, its pace, values… and realised I could not be the person I had become in London. And so I decided for first time at 48 years to travel. To be myself without anyone knowing who I used to be, but who I was. I had never travelled before. Had no desire to travel. But I had grown and could not stay and so with no fear, I begun a 1 year journey of solo travel which become 2 ½, then selling everything and now 6th year.

Rebecca: I was 22 years old and 4 months into my first proper job after graduating from NYU. I was working as a trading assistant for an oil & gas derivatives trading company in NYC. I was standing on the subway platform waiting for my train to go home and started to think about what I did for a living – essentially, moving numbers around on a screen, helping rich people get richer. I liked what I did and was quite good at it, but it seemed somewhat meaningless. I looked down at my black leather boots and thought, I should probably get a new pair for this upcoming winter. Then it hit me that there has to be more to life than this. Years passing by, doing something that seemed somewhat meaningless to me, buying a new pair of black leather boots each fall. There has to be more to life than this… That was the thought that started me on the path to travelling and living all over the world for the last 15 years.

Maree: A broken heart- after an epic heartbreak I knew it was finally my time to spread my wings and hopefully heal my heart.

2. What inspired you to keep travelling? 

Anna: It’s the joy of discovering new places. The one that is better to live than the city. Peaceful and greener environment. I always like seeing many trees and the thought of the sea as just my neighbour. I crave the scent of the nature and simplicity of a small town. Also, discovering places felt like discovering myself too. Traveling relaxes me. Every time I travel, I somehow get to know more about who I am and what I wanted to be. Traveling gives me good thoughts about life and as I go on, I get better view of how I wanted to live my life. It’s like learning the answers from all the questions. 

Barbara: I loved being free. My time – mine. Not working is awesome and yet I help as I go along. Once I sold my home I knew there was no going back. Not enough money even if I wanted. This is the life I choose and I make it work for me and, I hope, people around me

Rebecca: The excitement of the unknown, the challenges of living in a new country, learning new languages, experiencing new cultures, challenging what I considered normal, learning to live with very little material goods but surrounded by priceless natural beauty. The more I saw and experienced, the more I discovered how much MORE there was to see and experience. The list of places to travel to just keep on growing as I continue to travel.

Maree: There was a very clear turning point for me. My first day in Zanzibar. I got to the beach as the sun was setting. As I got into the crystal clear turquoise water, the sky a million shades of pink, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounded me! And in that moment I know there was no way I could go back to my old life.

3. Tell me about your first solo trip as a lady.

Anna: My first trip alone was when I went to Bali. It’s the first time I left the country too. I’ve been living away from family and traveling for 3 years already before that trip but I felt very lonely during that time, like, I never travelled before. I was leaving the country and I felt so far from everyone. I was not scared but felt very distant and disconnected since the country that I will go to is completely different. I don’t know what to expect. I cannot speak their language. They have a different culture.

While I was looking at the window [on the plane] and getting further from my country zone, I wanted to cry and was very sad. I was not scared at all that I’m alone. I’m just sad for the fact that I’m not sure if I will ever like the place I will go to. And if I will ever find a friend like the ones I have in Philippines.

Finally, when I arrived and experienced Bali. All the worries faded. I was overwhelmed in a positive way. I was amazed by their ways and culture. I discovered a lot and found Bali not so different from my own country.

Being a woman traveling alone did not worry me. I look like them so I was not catching so much attention. They thought I was a local. I felt like I was still in my country so I did not felt homesick. Of course there’s advantages and disadvantages for being Asian but generally my first solo travel and being a woman did not gave me any bad experience.

Barbara: Holland – I was 47 years old – for 1 week. First time I’d saved money for myself. Never felt so alive and free. Friends gave me base accommodation, I bounced around Amsterdam. Utrecht, Rotterdam and Naarden. Made loads of friends [This was a] massive boost for my travel plans which, at this point, hadn’t really come together.

Rebecca: My first solo trip was a two month backpacking trip across Europe when I was 23 years old. I started in Athens, Greece and worked my way across the continent to finish in London. It was an experience that totally changed how I viewed travel and it was the catalyst for me to leave the USA at age 23 on a one-way ticket to Taiwan to visit friends and to “see what would happen.”

Maree: My first proper solo trip as a lady was a spiritual quest to Kenya. I hopped on a plane with $600 to my name, a 9 month return ticket and no idea what the hell I was going to do, I just… I had to go. I stayed with my friend for the first 10 days and after that things just miraculously fell into place, one thing after the next. Because i was alone I was flexible enough to say yes to opportunities as they came up. I could easily just stay with a friend of a friend or catch a ride somewhere because it was just me. I also felt very safe the entire time I was travelling and learnt how to trust my gut and intuition a lot more than ever before. I spent a lot of time alone, getting to know who I really am. And the more I got to know myself, the more I liked myself and eventually, that’s how i Learnt to love myself

4. What was one of the most difficult things you had to do while travelling alone?

Anna: Well I guess it’s depending on your own and no one else. Sometimes traveling alone could be dangerous too and being alone doesn’t guarantee you that the people around you can be trusted always. I cannot give a very specific example and most difficult thing yet since generally I always had a nice traveling experience… but, like what I said, relying on your own and solving your own problems (for example, when you lost your wallet or passport or phone etc.) could be the difficult part of traveling solo.

Barbara: Nothing really. When I started I literally had no money for 3 months in India but got through that and it made journey way more interesting. Hardest thing is managing friendships- foreign and local. Coming going, saying goodbye, hello. Meet a lot of people. Some I’ve had to distance myself from as

[they were]

draining- thats hard.

Rebecca: I can’t really think of any one thing that has been difficult while travelling solo. Probably the one thing is that if I’m alone with lots of carry-on luggage, it’s somewhat annoying to use the toilet with all that luggage. Also, single traveller supplement or not being able to split the cost of a room. But then again, I also like my privacy.

Maree: Most difficult things… learning how to be frugal. I don’t waste money. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for years! The other thing, getting comfortable with eating what’s available… there was a time in Kenya where i was living on 1$ a day. Ii use to have a fear of wheat (and beans and anything starchy) but, when all there is to eat (or all you can afford to eat) is chipati (oily fried, delicious flat bread), ugali (maize porridge), maharage (beans in coconut sauce, often cooked with palm oil) and a mango for breakfast, you just learn how to get on with it.

Oh and, the other difficult thing in the beginning was coming home (or back from home) after gaining weight!! Sounds silly but I remember that being a big deal in the beginning. Now I don’t care as I know when I go home I eat all the yummy things I can’t find when travelling.

5. Please share one of your best experiences of traveling.

Anna: The best I could ever think was discovering new family. When I was in El Nido, I found the most generous and kindest people. They were my workmates that turned friends/family. I know no-one when I first came there and I was so touched by how the people accepted and treated me. They made me feel like I’m their family.

Barbara: I feel in love

Rebecca: One of my best travelling experiences was my trip in December 2017 to the dive resort I currently work at in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The trip itself was absolutely unbelievable but it was what ultimately helped me land by current dream job!

Maree: I have so many! Most of the most amazing experiences lose their magic when you try tell them to someone else. hmmm…. but let me think.. Ah! There was that time I’d completely run out of money and didn’t know how I was going to get to my friend on the other side of the country (the next day!) and miraculously I landed up being flown there (the next day) in a private plane! Oh, oh! or the fact that I landed up assisting on FOUR yoga teacher trainings during my time in Zanzibar, that was life changing.

6. How do you sustain your travels?

Anna: Usually I travel for business. Thus, they pay for my travel expenses and accommodation. This is always what I consider first before going and settling to a new place – secure that I will get a job and a place to live before deciding. But when I travel for pleasure, of course, I prepare and save money from my salary.

Barbara: I sold everything, live on a budget, share my skills and help others and people do the same for me…

Rebecca: When I left the USA in 2004, I was collecting unemployment money from the government and had quite a bit of money in stocks and savings. Since then, I worked as an English teacher and in the financial services industry in Hong Kong for nearly 3 years. It was during that time that I saved up a substantial amount of money in preparation for leaving Hong Kong to travel more, scuba dive more and eventually find a place to do my Divemaster with the dream to become a dive instructor. I have been working full-time in the scuba diving industry since 2009 as a dive instructor, dive center manager, dive center owner, underwater photographer, website content writer/editor and underwater model. I manage my money well and work hard for tips! I take good care of my scuba equipment so that it lasts and I invest in my dive education to make myself more employable.

Maree: So I realised that I prefer to stay for longer periods in one place rather than hop from place to place, week to week. I’ve been lucky enough to use yoga (and other skills) to either work in exchange for accommodation/food or for actual money. I also started doing voice overs and teaching yoga online. Sure this means I need to be in places with decent internet and my suitcase now carries a mic but that’s okay.

I prefer to live somewhere for at least 6 weeks when I travel, but often I stay in a place for even longer. When I do shorter stays I can usually find a way to either teach yoga classes for cash or exchange yoga for accommodation and/or food. In the last 18 months I started teaching online yoga and doing voice overs which means I need to be in places with decent internet. For the last few years I’ve been able to work where I lived which allowed me to save and take a long travel holiday afterwards. a month here, a month there, a month somewhere else… this gave me time to find the next place… and today I find myself travelling with my partner and working as a server in Grand Cayman Islands, , having the absolute best time of my life so far!

7. What’s next? Do you plan on returning home?

Anna: Currently, I rested from living away and took time to catch up with family but in 2 months, I’m planning to live far away again and continue my cravings.

Barbara: There is no back to somewhere for me. I don’t have a home. Unlikely I could afford somewhere in the UK anyway. I return to the UK annually to see family and grandkids and mates and to put on makeup and high heels…lol

Rebecca: Home is where I am at the moment and I never plan to return to live in the USA unless I have to for family reasons. Long term plan is to live and cruise the world on a sailboat.

Maree: No idea what’s next. My intention is to be in Cayman for 2 years, save a bunch of money and develop my talents I’ve taken up learning the ukulele, rope dart and dancing! After I’ve saved all the money I can, that’s when I’ll go on the next adventure. There are two of us now and we both love to travel so who knows where we’ll land up. I don’t see myself living in South Africa (my home country) for a long time to come, but who knows, anything can happen.

8. What have others said about your lifestyle? How does it make you feel?

Anna: Usually people think I have the best life ever! Since they see in my posts that I always travel or live somewhere far from where I came from. It makes me proud of course, and felt [sic] like I’ve been through many things in each year but sometimes I feel unaccomplished. Because whenever I decided to leave a place and jump to another island or country, I need to start from scratch and build my way up again.

Living permanently and building careers gives you security and consistent progression. When you’re traveling, it’s the opposite. You have to adjust whenever you travel. It’s not the other way around. Same goes for your career. It’s not easy. It’s very challenging and sometimes frustrating.

But given this even, people think it’s all sunshine, I feel purposeful and special. My life is an adventure. 

Barbara: I have had nothing but support and encouragement. I have been told I inspire others. It’s difficult for my sons who are processing emotionally the death of the mum they knew and acknowledging this new one living a life of freedom…

Rebecca: Most are envious of my lifestyle, but of course they only see the easy parts and don’t realize that it’s not always as fun and glamorous as it may seem. Others are a little confused as to why a woman like myself would do what I do. And others say they could never do what I do. I take it all in stride and just keep on doing me.

Maree: Mostly people are very happy for me. I’m living my dream and feel more happy and more free than I’ve ever felt before. I think people who follow their dreams are inspiring. I hope that I inspire people to be brave and take a chance on their dreams.

9. Do you have some hints or tips or advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?

Anna: This lifestyle is not an easy path but it could be life changing. It’s not for everyone but if you’re restless and questioning your life now, maybe the answers are outside your box. Discovering places is like discovering yourself too. Most importantly, it’s not for free, you need money to travel and it can be expensive so you need to be wise and smart. 

Barbara: Be brave, be open and positive. Learn the local language. Go cheap. The less money you have, the more real your experience will be. Slow travel, stay in one place as long as you can- as long as you like it. Avoid all the things everyone else wants to see. Take duct tape. Use local facebook groups.

Rebecca: Hints include ensuring you have a means to support yourself – savings, investments, a job, skills, know-how, and ability to sell and market yourself. 

Maree: Buy the ticket. Stop wasting your effing money on junk, you don’t need that take away cappuccino or that new phone or silly dress, just buy the ticket so that you have a date. Then start saving. That way you know you’re going and won’t be able to keep letting fear get in the way. Other most important thing: tune in. tune in to yourself, learn to trust your vibes… learn to trust the universe. When things get s***, which the can, just breathe… pray… the Universe has got your back. TRUST. You’ve got this.

Some of us love to travel for short periods at a time, for others, traveling is a calling so pure and raw that they cannot help but answer – wings spread wide as they leap off the cliff of familiarity into the unknown. Whichever your preference is, or your reasons for traveling are, one thing is incontestable: traveling stirs the depths of your soul, leaving you craving more and more and more!

*A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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