GloboTreks is reader-supported through affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I might earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support! – Norbert


This week I celebrated the 4th anniversary of the day I quit my job as an architect in New York City and left to travel the world for a year – or so I thought.

As each year passes, and I still see myself on this road, I look back at what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, and what lies ahead. My life in the past four years has not developed in a traditional linear story.

In fact, many things led me to the choice of quitting my job, and many opportunities stem from that initial choice that I wanted to travel.

Never in my life I thought I would travel for so long, and much less reach four years as a nomad.

But, the longer I see myself on the road, the more I realize that this privilege is the result of a lot of work and dedication that has spanned much more than my time on the road.

My Current Thoughts About Architecture As A Profession

The longer I travel, the more I see myself missing architecture. I miss designing. I don’t miss the corporate lifestyle. Not. A. Bit. When I think of myself going back to an architecture firm, an ephemeral sadness creeps in.

I feel like the better part of me will be encapsulated and reduced to endless mouse clicks that are visually represented as colored lines on a screen that maybe –just maybe– will become a physical object in the future. But, never mind the mouse clicks and Autocad; I enjoy that.

There are so many aspects of the office dynamics of any typical firm that put me off just thinking about it. (That might be a future discussion.)

Norbert Jewish Museum
At the Jewish Museum in Berlin. One of my favorite buildings in the world, designed by Daniel Libeskind.

On the other hand, lately, I’ve been craving more to get my hands back on that “design mouse,” but as an independent consultant/architect. I’m currently designing a project for a personal client, and I love the process.

I like to call the shots and have more control of things, which is a direct reflection of my current lifestyle. I am where I am today because I decided to change things when I felt unhappy with the way things were developing.

I took more control, and by taking more control I took more risks too. And even though I saw myself in some difficult moments financially in the past years, I say that it’s all been worth it.

Becoming location independent brings a lot of freedom, but at the same time, it brings a lot of responsibilities that many people don’t mention. Everything you want, everything you earn, and everything you experience depends on what you do and how responsible you are.

My Views About The World

The longer I’ve traveled, the more I realize how I like to dig into the lifestyles of other cultures. I’ve always liked this. I like to understand the foreign and see how it reflects how I see the world. But lately, I’ve been even more curious.

Now, I love more than ever to sit down and talk to people, grill them with questions, and at the same time share my life and culture with them.

Recently, while in Cuba, I couldn’t stop talking to my hosts and random people here and there on the street. I absorbed everything they told me like a sponge.

For me, you get to know more about a destination through its people. Sights and monuments are interesting, but people bring life and meaning to a place.

A street in Old Havana, Cuba
Typical street in Old Havana

I think that as different as we might be all around the world, we all have a thing in common (among many other things, of course), which is the desire to be happy and comfortable.

I never get tired of learning, and as the saying goes, “the more you learn… the more you realize how little you know.”

There’s Power In Numbers

This year was extremely interesting for me, travel wise. Now and then I manage to travel for a few days or up to a couple of weeks with random people I meet on the road.

While traveling overland in South America, I bonded so well with an excellent group of people that we managed to travel together for over two months! We all met at different points, picking and dropping people as our trails merged and diverged.

But, eight of us formed this unusual bond that we all managed to change our plans at one point or another to stick together for a longer period.

Potosi, Bolivia
The “Bolivia Crew” as we called ourselves.

Just like locals bring life and meaning to a place, friends bring an extra sense of joy to the travel experience.

These were total strangers at one point, and for a while we became inseparable. The underlying message is that friends do happen in the least expected places, and good bonds can happen when there’s a “click.”

I’m an introvert, which is one of the reasons why I love to travel solo (and why I loved traveling at a younger age), but traveling with other people challenged me to push outside that shell once again – which is something I love doing, even though at some points it freaks me out internally.

On Slowing Down And Traveling Smarter

I think I’ve found my comfort travel pace – at least for now. In the last two years, I’ve slowed down significantly my travel pace. I found this essential to control my spending and improve my earnings.

When traveling at a fast pace, I can’t dedicate much time to work, which is reflected directly in my income. On the other hand, if I just stop traveling to work, then I fail to feed my desire to travel and see the world.

For the past two years, I’ve started settling for a few months in one city, followed by a few months of travel. I’ve repeated this cycle several times now, and it’s been magical.

This 4th year of travel was the second cheapest year of my travels, though I would officially call it the cheapest since this was the first year in which I didn’t do a single collaboration with any tourism board or travel company.

So, every single experience I had was paid fully out of pocket. My first year of travel cost roughly $18,000, while this fourth year cost roughly $18,500.

The big difference is that during my first year, I did several collaborations, so the actual cost of experiences would have been more.

I went into more detail about the cost of my first three years in this post.

I’d also attribute this low cost to me getting smarter with travel hacking and budget travel tricks. Several of my flights this year were paid with frequent flyer miles or bought at a highly discounted fare.

Slowing my travels also allows me to spend much less on accommodation since I can rent apartments at a lower rate and eat cheaper. For example, Vrbo is great at finding these cheaper apartments and short-term rentals.

Lastly, traveling smart is not just about spending less money; it’s also about learning how to save more money for the future.

Saving more money while globetrotting has been one of the biggest challenges for me, but I’ve slowly learned through experience and making savings a priority the moment that “paycheck” hits my account.

Also, I’ve prioritized solidifying my passive income through this blog and other creative endeavors. But beyond that, I’ve also made a point of earning passive income from my own money. In other words, make my money work for me.

This is possible through traditional finance, but I’ve had better luck, or in other words, much better returns in crypto finance.

For the last few years I’ve played and invested in crypto currency, which has helped me substantially to fund my trips.

For example, I have my crypto and stable coins invested in staking platforms where they are earning an average of 5% per month, which is ridiculously much higher than the average savings account. If you’d like to learn more about these platforms, feel free to reach out!

Of course, crypto assets are much riskier, but the earning potential has been more than worth the risk. It’s been a life changer… seriously!

Ups And Downs Of No Home Base

Currently (at the time of writing), I am in Brazil, where I rent a room in an apartment I share with two girls. The other day one of them asked me, “what do you want in life?”

A bit confused by the question, I simply joked with, “to travel!” Of course, I want more in life than that, but it was my simplest sarcastic quick-fire answer to the question.

To which she replied, “Don’t you want a stable home?” I get asked that question often, and quite honestly, I don’t need or want it now.

Me and my baggage after the accident
What do you mean I can’t travel with all this as a carry-on?  Just in case, I don’t travel with all this! Though, this was all my baggage and camping equipment during the Mongol Rally.

There are some downsides to not having one’s place, but they clearly not outweigh the upsides of travel. At least not for me. I know this is a first world problem, and I’d like to state that I’m well aware of this privilege that I have.

Sure, sometimes I miss having a place I can call home, where I can throw myself in any corner and relax as I see fit. But, having slow moments like these, where I can rent a place for a few months, satiates that craving for a good while.

On the other hand, not having a home base gives me the freedom of picking my stuff at any moment and just go.

I know my roomie doesn’t understand my “travel thinking” and sees my lack of a home base as erratic. But, technically her house is my home base, even if ephemeral.

On Evolving As An Entrepreneur

I’ve realized that building a business can happen anywhere, whether it is with a full team of advisors in New York, or a simple one-man-with-a-laptop in Chiang Mai. I fall into the latter.

I’ve grown GloboTreks mostly without a home base, jumping from place to place as I see fit – or, more accurately, as I wish.

Monks in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Monk procession in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Entrepreneurship comes with a lot of issues, like the lack of a consistent salary, and a strong need for self-discipline (which I don’t have most of the time).

But on the other hand, I love that I always look forward to developing something new for the site and that I always brainstorm something that could be X, Y, or Z.

And even though 90% of the things I think of never materialize –whether for lack of time, resources, knowledge, or lack of faith– I’m happy that my gray matter is always thinking of ways in which I could evolve GloboTreks or myself as a business person.

I’m not a salesperson, marketer, and I never ever saw myself as an entrepreneur. I never felt like I was cut out to be that.

And sure, I lack so many skills an entrepreneur needs to become successful, but one thing that I’ve realized along the way is that you will never feel ready to do something for the first time, so all you have to do is take the risk –even with the doubts– and work hard to succeed.

I didn’t feel ready for many of the things I’ve done in the past four year –including quitting my job– but, I’ve figured things out along the way as I faced the challenges.

A Big Thank You

Well, obviously, these past four years were fueled by many of you through your support, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, and everything in between.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few of you in person, and I’m looking to meeting even more of you in the near future.

Meetup readers
A meetup with a few friends and readers in Puerto Rico

I never expected this site to set in motion a whole new career beyond the idea of “I want to travel the world for a year.” But, life and the universe work in mysterious ways, and all I had to do was follow my passion and intuition, adapt to changes, and steer my life toward the doors that opened unexpectedly as I roamed the world.

Hopefully, many more doors will open as I explore new lands.

Adventure Awaits

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17 Comments

  1. The 4 years Travel life lesson i read on this Article and so observing many ideas that’s like a good experience.

    1. Hello Monika,
      Thanks for sharing. Now days, it is precisely five years since I hopped on that plane to Australia, my very first flight ever on my very first solo. I really enjoying this trip. Its my first experience.

  2. Very nice post, especially your last reflection on following passion and intuition. Is it really that simple? It almost makes me rather angry, as I have been following my passion and intuition, and the passion has often shifted, such that I’m almost always quite sure that I’ve veered off the track somewhere. Nevertheless, though I don’t have that practical, entrepreneurial knack as you do or others do, I have the same basic philosophy, and it has done wonders, though never the kind of wonder that it seems to have produced for many people.

    1. It’s not simple. But one thing I have to say is that your passion can change over time, so nothing wrong about that. Mine has changed countless times! I just adjust to what I want at the moment.

      I’m definitely not the entrepreneurial kind of guy and I know nothing about business or anything related, but I’ve figured out that if traveling the world is something I really want to do, then I better bust my ass to make it happen. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices, but in the end, I’m living and doing what I really want to do and experience.

  3. Great post! Sometimes it is hard to choose between passion and job but your experiences and reflections are so inspiring. Thanks for sharing man on the road! 🙂

  4. Fantastic! I admire every traveler. I have always wanted to do the same but more you wait more responsibilities come to your life. I am glad that I have the opportunity to read your blog. You make me daydream. Thank you!

  5. Such a great post, Norbert. I particularly enjoyed reading your views about the world and the ups and downs of not having a home base. I always tell people that in order to fully understand and immerse themselves in a culture, they must stay longer in a country: a few months to a year, and live like a local. There’s magic in humbling ourselves enough to learn from other people whose lifestyles, culture, completely differs from ours.
    Again, great post!
    Karina

  6. I know what you mean about travelling as a group. My wife and I travel alone for the most part but we are always happier when we meet other travellers and stick together for a few days. I think you get an energy from new people that you can’t quite get from old friends and relations.
    We are only 6 months in to our travels so we are still rushing around quickly. We want the benefits of slower travel though in 2016. Thanks for sharing these tips.
    Happy travels
    Pete

  7. It’s hard to find a balance between passion and profession, especially when the two don’t blend well together, but I do agree that when you travel you have all kinds of “revelations” because of the new experiences, places, people and emotions.

  8. learn a lot of things of this post thank you friend…
    Guide me to have a good travel to Iran and UAE??
    Thanks

  9. These personal experience for the travel and i justify your lesson and most other thinking goes to the websites.

  10. Thanks for writing this. I learned not just about the place you have been through but the inside perspective of yourself too on how you manage things during your travel. Thanks!

  11. Hi Norbert,

    You have been an inspiration for one and all and through the post as well, your inspiring and motivating view have been enough of a tempting force for me as well.

    Thanks for creating such a beautiful phase of life by showing some of the awesome and beautiful places