Interview with a Nomad: Meet Wandering Earl

This post is part of Not Your Average Week, a TNGG Theme Week.

When Derek Earl Baron left the United States for a three-month, post-grad trip to Southeast Asia, he probably didn’t expect to still be on that same trip more than 12 years later. Earl has now been to more than 70 countries, on six continents and is living the lifestyle of a modern-day nomad.

Constantly traveling, Earl says he spends about 11 months of the year outside of the U.S. While he isn’t back-packing that entire time, he’ll usually travel around a particular country or region for a few months, followed by a period of three to four months, where he rents an apartment and stays in once place to catch up with work and projects. Once he catches up, it’s back on the road to explore a new part of the planet.

“I have a difficult time imagining a lifestyle that prevents me from waking up one morning in Mexico, suddenly deciding to travel to Indonesia and then leaving within a day or two. In addition, living in the moment allows me to follow any opportunities that come my way without having to rearrange my life,” Earl explained. “This type of freedom is addicting! Will it change? Maybe. I have no idea. However, as I always say, if I wake up one morning and decide that it’s time to slow down and form some more concrete plans, that’s exactly what I’ll do. So far, I just haven’t felt that desire.”

The lifestyle of a permanent nomad might seem a romanticized way to live to some. The question of “how can I become a permanent nomad,” is the one Earl is asked most often by far from his blog readers. “They want to know how such a lifestyle can actually be possible and what steps they need to take in order to get started,” said Earl. “It’s a reasonable question because, at first, being able to travel around the world as you wish, without having a bank account overflowing with money, simply seems too good to be true. Luckily, it really is much easier to accomplish than most people imagine!”

Hannah DeMilta: How did this journey begin?
Earl Baron: It was exactly three days into my first trip, as I celebrated the millennium at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, when I became inflicted with an untreatable addiction to world exploration. So addicted in fact, that the thought of returning home literally made me sick to my stomach. Therefore, without any other option, I embarked on a mission to transform myself into a permanent nomad so that I could continue my travels, and more importantly, continue learning from those travels, for as long as possible.

HD: What does a modern nomad own?
EB: I’ve been using the same Kelty Redwing 2900 (40 litre) backpack since I began my travels back in 1999 and I never carry around more than 9 kg worth of possessions. For me, the fewer possessions I have, the better, as this gives me more freedom to pick up and go whenever I feel the urge to do so. In general, while on the road, I stick to a ‘buy something, throw something away’ rule which helps ensure that I don’t start collecting too much unnecessary stuff. After all, as long as I have a reasonable amount of clothes, my laptop and my camera, I’m more than content and I could survive on the road forever.

HD: Are there a lot of other nomads out there?
Absolutely. Permanent nomads are everywhere, something I never would have believed before I began traveling myself. Just two days ago I was speaking with another permanent nomad I met here in Mexico and we were talking about how, no matter where we happen to be in the world, we seem to always meet others who have turned travel into an actual lifestyle. The thing to remember is that a permanent nomad is not just someone with a backpack who constantly bounces around from country to country. Every permanent nomad has figured out their own unique way to live a life that involves extensive travel, and the good news is that there are infinite ways to achieve such a goal.

HD: What’s the toughest part of this lifestyle?
EB: The biggest challenge I face involves the connections I make with other people, whether locals in a particular country or other travelers I meet on the road. After 12 years of traveling, my friends are now scattered all over the planet and it is quite common for me to go one, two or even five years without seeing some of them. And as undeniably worthwhile as it is to meet so many wonderful people, it is as equally difficult to say goodbye to them all, especially when I have no idea when or if I will ever see them again. But in the end, it’s a Catch-22. I would never have met these wonderful people had I not been living life as a permanent nomad, but by living as a permanent nomad, I must constantly say goodbye to all of the people I meet.

HD: Where is “home” to you?
EB: I really don’t have a place I consider home anymore. As long as I have my backpack with me, I can make myself comfortable wherever I am in the world. Sure, my family lives in the U.S., but I now know the streets of Delhi better than I do the streets of Boston, the city where I grew up. There are a handful of places where I feel more comfortable than others – Melbourne, Chiang Mai, India and Mexico – but I don’t consider any of them “home.” And as difficult as that was for me to admit for a while, I’ve now reached the conclusion that not everyone needs or wants a home in the traditional sense, and that happiness can still be achieved without one.

Another common question Earl is asked is how he finances his non-stop travel. How much do you need to save up before you leave for the trip of a lifetime? When he left for his flight in 1999, Earl only had $1,500 to his name. He found ways to keep working and traveling ever since. Opportunities abroad have been everything from working on cruise ships and teaching English to affiliate marketing and selling his first eBook. While he doesn’t claim to have all the answers, it’s clear Earl is a great example if you’re looking to embrace the lifestyle of a modern nomad.

Earl started his blog, Wandering Earl in 2009 to start sharing his traveling experiences with the world and connect with like-minded individuals. He writes about his experiences, shares travel tips and gives advice on how you can become a modern nomad living on less than $1000 a month in paradise. I encourage you to follow his travels online and say hello on Twitter @WanderingEarl

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