¨I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met¨
I am a true travel addict. I am possessed by a constant urge to see new places, meet new people, and learn about the world. Whenever I do not spend a considerable amount of time traveling, I feel like something important is missing in my life.
This addiction has ruled a considerable part of my life. I have spent more than ten years traveling around the world as a volunteer, student, or tourist; visited eighty-five countries; and extensively studied the history of culture and history of several nations (including Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada, the U.S.A and perhaps more than anywhere else—Mexico).
A rare day passes by when I am not either:
- sightseeing, traveling, writing, or researching about travel;
- planning a future trip; or
- learning about places that I have visited before or want to revisit in the future.
Most of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around either traveling or planning travel, including:
- Five years old: Santa Claus came to visit me and asked what I wanted for Christmas. My reply was ¨to go in your sleigh so that I can visit and see all the other children around-the-world¨.
- Seven years old: On one of our frequent family trips to Tijuana, I found a booklet entitled something like ¨How to Retire in Mexico on $100 a Month¨. (I grew up in Orange County, California, about two hours north of the US border). I devoured this booklet and then declared to my parents that I want to retire in Mexico. My parents replied, ¨Don’t you think that you need first to finish school and work before you retire¨? My reply a sheepish ¨Well, I guess so¨.
- Eight years old: I memorized the name, location, capital, and some basic facts about every country on Earth. (I still can recite this information, accounting for changes such as the breakup of the Soviet Union, to this day).
- Twelve years old: I randomly found in a small bookstore in Marin County, California, a copy of what I believe was one of the first Lonely Planet guides. (A Shoestring Guide to Asia). The book opened up the world to me. It made me realize that it was not expensive or difficult to travel and helped me develop an itinerary for my future dream round-the-world trip. (Still to this day, I visit places that I discovered in this book):
I spent nearly every summer in High School as an exchange student in Japan, the Philippines, and Mexico.
- I have a degree in Geography and International Studies (from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN) and spent a semester abroad at the American University in Cairo. After finishing my studies, I told the live-in nanny from my childhood about my studies. She replied, ¨I always knew that you would study Geography, you were obsessed with it as a kid¨.
My Young Adulthood
When I finished college, I tried to work in and study more ¨practical¨ things. I got a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and worked for most of the next fourteen years as an administrator of several municipal housing programs.
While I kind of liked most of these jobs and studies, I always dreamed about traveling. I scoured guidebooks, and later internet sites, to help me expand my travel dreams. (I am particularly grateful to Arthur Frommer’s book A Whole New World of Travel. It opened my eyes to the world of ¨alternative travel¨ like learning and volunteer vacations).
Every year, I spent all of my vacation time going to places that seemed exotic to my coworkers (like Bali). I also participated in many out of the box activities. (Like studying tango and Spanish in Argentina).
For a year (1994-95), I even quit my job and was a volunteer English as a Foreign Language instructor in Kaliningrad, Russia. (I married one of my students and tried to live a 9-5 existence complete with the house with a picket fence and was not happy).
Living as a Full-Time Travel Addict
By my fortieth birthday in 2004, I felt almost compelled to make my living out of my travel addiction. I began a business called the Big Blue Marble, which involved teaching seminars throughout the US and writing materials about living and traveling abroad.
Through these seminars, I discovered a small community of people throughout the US that love travel and living abroad as much as me. (In fact, a lot of the advice that will post on this website either comes from or is inspired by, these students).
In April 2009, my parents got sick, and I decided to quit the business and devote my life to taking care of my parents. A few months later, my mother died, and I took care of my father after that for a year and a half until he died.
My parents left an inheritance that allowed me to realize my dream of traveling around the world from June 2011 to November 2015. (I traveled for nine months a year from 2011 to 2015. I spent three months a year living with a girlfriend in Montreal, Canada).
The period from 2011 to 2015 was the best in my life. I loved having the opportunity to travel for extended periods without thinking about money or other responsibilities.
From November 2015 until August 2019 I:
- lived part-time in my house in Merida, Mexico
- spent three months a year in Montreal. (I will spend less time in Montreal starting in 2020)
- and traveled around the world for 3-4 months a year. (I hope to continue traveling at least three months a year in the future).
While I continued to enjoy my life, I did not enjoy the period from 2016 to 2019 as much as 2011 to 2015 because I:
- undertook a wide range of home repair and construction projects in Merida that left me a bit overwhelmed;
- did not spend enough time developing friendship and a sense of community in Merida; and
- never felt settled in one place.
Nonetheless, I can say that the period between 2011 and 2019 was overall the best years of my life. I had so many incredible experiences, including spending:
- four months cruising around the world as an adult participant in the Semester at Sea college study abroad program;
- six months cruising in some of the most remote parts of the world (such as the North Atlantic, Patagonia, Oceania, and Transatlantic voyage) on a variety of different cruise lines;
- over eight months on several dozen tours with many companies popular among Fifty-Plus nomads (i.e., Overseas Adventure and Road Scholar);
- nearly six months as a student (usually staying with a local ¨host family¨) learning foreign languages (including Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese) and history;
- and a couple of years traveling independently in relative comfort (no hostels) all over the world.
I am currently looking forward to spending the next chapter of my life, mainly in Merida and embarking on my newest adventure as the founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad.
I look forward to hearing from other Fifty-Plus Nomads like me. But, perhaps, more than anything, I hope to use my life experiences to inspire other fellow Fifty-Plus Nomads to make traveling and living abroad an essential part of their lives.
A Map of My Travels
Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see.
Notes on My Travel Map
Above is a map of all the places that I have traveled during my lifetime prepared through Travellerspoint.
According to the sites’ statistics, I have traveled over 1.4 million kilometers in my life (nearly 900,000 miles) and spent more than eleven years on the road. The website says that I have visited 100 countries.
However, I usually say that I have been to 85 countries. Travellerspoint counts places like Martinique, which is considered part of another country, (in this case, France). My count includes only countries that are recognized by the United Nations.
I was surprised to learn from the sites’ statistics that I have traveled the same distance as four trips to the moon. Entering these journeys into the site’s database was a lot of fun. I would encourage Fifty-Plus Nomads to do likewise.
Note. If you look at the map, you will see in the upper right-hand corner three bars that lead to a list of all the trips I have taken. Please note that if you look at this list, it is hard to navigate the map. You should, however, be able to easily use the plus and minus to look at the map in more detail. Also, be aware that there are some discrepancies between the map below and the real routes that I traveled.
Things I Love
¨When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable, it is designed to make its own people comfortable.¨
My Personal Philosophy
- The Best Summary of My Personal Philosophy Toward Life: From the Song Hands by Jewel, ¨In the end, only kindness matters.
My Favorite Places
- My favorite foreign country: Mexico.
- The Countries I Most Want to Revisit: India, Peru, China, Bosnia, Brazil, South Africa.
- Places I Didn’t Expect to Like as Much as I Do: Canada (particularly Quebec, the Maritimes, and Alberta), Australia, New Zealand, Berlin, Vienna, Sarajevo, Bulgaria, The US Southeast (notably Georgia and Florida), New England, Chicago, and Southern Wisconsin.
- I am a massive fan of my home state, California, but for a mixture of personal and financial reasons doubt that I will ever live there again.
- Places I Wouldn’t Want to Revisit: Nowhere.
- Places I Most Want to Visit in the Future: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Romania, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium. In the US, I would like to visit someday every presidential library. (I have already visited the Nixon, Reagan, Carter, Kennedy, and Roosevelt libraries).
My Favorite Things to Study
- All Social Sciences
- Some of My Favorite Things to Study (other than Social Studies): Architectural and Art History and Foreign Languages.
- Classes that I Wish I’d Paid More Attention in School: Science (in General), notably Biology.
- Classes I Would Like to Take in the Future: Geology, Behavioral Economics (did not exist when I was in school), Archaeology, Zoology.
- Something Unexpected that I Enjoy: Accounting. I have spreadsheets of all the money I’ve spent while traveling and where I have been.
My Favorite Things to Do in My Free Time
- Things I Enjoy Doing in My Free Time: Visiting museums and attending concerts and plays. (In recent years, I have developed a fondness for opera and rock concerts).
- My favorite cuisines: Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Haitian, and French.
- TV Series that I Loved Binge-Watching: Breaking Bad, the Gilmore Girls, Mad Men, Grace and Frankie, Jane the Virgen, and Better Call Saul. Almost all documentaries. I religiously watch American Experience and American Masters
- I Love Listening to Podcasts and Radio Shows: Some favorites: Vox’s The Weeds, This American Life, To the Best of Our Knowledge, You Must Remember This, and true crime series, in general.
- Some of My Favorite Guilty Pleasures: Movies: Mamma Mia and Sex and the City. TV shows: Glee. Songs: Toute Va Tres Bien Madame La Marquise.
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