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Justin Carmack is a True Nomad.  He has been on the road for the last three years and has never looked back once.  In fact, after traveling to South Africa three years ago on a University trip, he fell in love with travel and literally didn’t return home!

He now roams the earth freely with not much more than the pack on his back.  He travels with very little money, finding work in hostels when he has to.  He has hitchhiked throughout the majority of Europe, randomly wound up in the beautiful Halong Bay, Vietnam, and scuba dived in more destinations than I have personally travelled to!

Read about this incredibly inspiring traveler below!

What do you love most about travel?

The freedoms. Unless you’ve done it, you can’t understand the intense feeling of freedom which comes with shedding all your responsibilities and worldly things, putting on a backpack, and heading out with no set destination, schedule or timeline. I’m now free to wake up on any corner of the Earth, at any time of day I want.

Before travel, the first thing I would think about when I woke up was what I HAD to do, and with dread! Now when I wake up I ask myself what I WANT to do. I don’t have to be to work, I don’t have anyone expecting things from me. I do what I want.

I feel that through shedding all of the restraints and expectations of society I’ve literally found the key to happiness. I know this makes me sound like some hippy, but it’s true!

Freedom. Hitch-hiking in the Netherlands.

Freedom. Hitch-hiking in the Netherlands.

You’ve been on the road a long time right? What inspired you to live this lifestyle of travel? 

Nearly three years I think. I was in University studying Marine Biology and International Studies when I had the chance to go to South Africa for Christmas break with the University’s Outdoor Program. From the very moment the trip began I was happier than I’d ever been.

That sense of freedom I mentioned before started creeping in. Near the end of the trip I began having sleepless nights and finally came to a conclusion. I told my professor and fellow students that I wasn’t going home with them.

Most thought I was crazy to stay in Africa alone with little money, but my professor totally understood. So, over the phone, I found someone to take over my apartment, store my stuff, and cancel my next classes.

If I had felt free before, it was much more intense once I was free of everything and my friends were gone. It was a huge rush.

I started heading north from Cape Town with no money. I ended up finding work at a hostel in Mozambique, and this (working in hostels) turned into a trend which has taken me all over the world. That was three years ago, and I’m still on the road, 6 continents and 56 countries later.

Forbiden city of Hue

Along the way: Forbidden city of Hue

What is “True Nomads” about? 

A lot of people call me a nomad because of the way I travel. Nomads are known to have no permanent home, and travel with the seasons. That’s me perfectly.

I usually follow summer around the world, living in my flip flops and shorts. I started the website to share my many stories, tips and advice. No-one could understand how I travel so long without being rich, do I sort of used the site to show them how.

The website started off like “do this and this and this”, but now I’m more into just sharing my stories and teaching and inspiring by example.

You mentioned you’re not rich.  How can you afford to travel so far and long? 

Well, in societies point of view, I can’t. To most back home, they would not dream of going on a massive trip without a TON of money in the bank. But by the time they have this money, they are so tied down by either house/car/toy payments, or kids or whatever, and can’t leave.

The only way to do it is to get away from that mind set. It takes very little money to actually travel. “Travel” just means to go to new and different countries and see new things. Travel doesn’t have to be synonymous with luxury.

Because most Americans are working hard and going into debt, the only travel they do is a one week vacation to the Bahamas every year. They are so tired of their lives and work that all they want to do is be pampered.

I traded 5 star hotels for ratty hostels, camping and couchsurfing; luxury flights and cruises for long haul busses, trains and hitchhiking. I head out down the road, no matter how much money I have. When I run out, I always find work in hostels or bars. I’ve worked in Ecuador, Brazil, Australia, Mozambique, Estonia and more. Basically, when there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Budapest

Budapest: beautiful regardless of how much money you came with!

What do you dislike about long term travel? 

A few things! 5 minute friends. Same old questions. Saying goodbye all the time.

I use to love one thing- instead of people asking what I do, people now ask where I’ve been, where I’m going, where I’m from. I used to love it, but now I have mixed feelings.  I’ve answered it so many times it’s worn out.

Some days, in my more cynical moments, I feel like saying “we won’t know each other tomorrow, so what’s the point?”

Along with material things, lasting connections are hard to keep.

Where are you and where are you going next? 

Hehe, that question! Right now I’m in Europe, working at a hostel in Estonia. I just finished hitchhiking most of Europe and then Scandinavia, and am saving money now. In a month it will be getting cold and ill head out. I want to make a photo Ebook of Eastern Europe, of lesser known places. So from here ill hit Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. After that, who knows. Maybe Tenerife, for a dive master internship.

Traveling to lesser known places. Tallin, Estonia.

Traveling to lesser known places. Tallin, Estonia.

What travel advice would you give?

Give everything a chance. Just let go of fears and forget what you’ve heard about a place. Go somewhere and totally immerse yourself into the culture (when in Rome). Close-mindedness is your worst enemy.

Justin sold his things and left home, trading his possessions for dreams. Dreams of seeing the world, getting lost, and living life free and to the fullest. He has now been wandering aimlessly for three years, and this life has taken him through 62 countries, 6 continents and countless adventures.

Since then he has started The Art of Scuba Diving. Follow Justin and his mission to dive the top 100 scuba diving locations in the world. He is exploring, documenting and writing about each and every one, to show the world.

    16 Comments

  1. Great story! I’m impressed with Justin’s courage and flexibility! I, personally, love my career and traveling. However, I too think that too many Americans work just be in debt!

    • I completely agree with you – I’ve never been a fan of the “American dream” – the circle of debt which follows has never made much sense to me!

  2. Another cool post about another cool traveler. I love to hear about other people’s trips, as they make me feel I’m not so crazy after all, having been on the road the best part of 20 years myself. I have a personal target: whatever my age, the number of countries I’ve visited must be higher…especially when I die. I’m 39, so at 48 countries thus far, I’m winning. Long may it continue.

    • Thats the truly great thing about networking within the travel community – you realize you’re not actually alone and that other people share your crazy dreams as well!

      Great minds must think alike – I have that same goal. I once read an article which said that the most grounded person the author had ever met had been to more countries than his age, and ever since that’s been my personal goal. I’m 25 and currently at 35 – as you said – long may it continue!

  3. This is a great story. I love the spirit of just doing it and figuring out the how. It’s really true there are such wide ranges of ways to travel. I’ve done both the five star hotels and the roughing it. They both have their merits. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about cheap hotels is they tended not to be very clean. It is really true what Justin says, after the freedom, there’s just no going back to “normal” American life.

    • I agree with you on the cheap hostels not being very clean. Loved staying in cheap hostels and roughing it all throughout Europe throughout my early 20’s. Now that I’m married though we like aim for clean budget hotels and have a little more creature comfort 😀

      Inspired by Justin though we’re going to try a trip around the world next year without plans – love the idea of freedom and flexibility to decide on your plans in the moment!!

  4. Thanks meg, for the interview! Dang, I am reading this from yet another hostel, in Bucharest, Romania. Once you get a taste of this lifestyle, there’s no going back!

    • Mike and I have been inspired by your lifestyle and for our big trip next year are just going to pack a backpack and wing it 😀 Will see where the world takes us!!

  5. It is encouraging to read of people taking the enormous leap of faith and embracing the nomad life literally.

    • It really is! I’ve never traveled like this before however have always been envious of those who do. It’s both a fear and a dream in one for me! Mike and I have decided to face our fears of traveling without plans and try and embrace the concept of literally roaming next year!

  6. I do think the loneliness would eventually get to me if I was travelling alone. Yes, you do meet travellers along the way, and we’re a friendly bunch on the most part, but think I would need a partner in crime to truly enjoy this type of experience.

    But reading it does make me feel wistful!

    • It’s definitely a tough one – I now only travel with my husband and absolutely love that I have a companion to share travel with – but I do have incredibly fond memories from my days of solo travel!

  7. A vey inspirational read. I have lots of respect for people who just DO this. When I traveled solo I was never too lonely, as it’s so easy to meet people when you travel by yourself. But now I am happy to travel with my husband. The advantage of being a citybreak blogger is that I can pretty much squeeze travel into my other work or do my work while I am on the road. Ánd I can still have a social life at home. It’s a good balance for me.

    • Thanks Esther – so glad you enjoyed the interview! I’m the same way – lot of respect for those who just go out and do it. I think what it really comes down to in the end is just putting words into action!

      And also agree on solo travel – I’m now obviously happy to travel as a couple, though I never found it difficult meeting people while travelign solo. Everyone within the travel community is so friendly and willing to put themselves out there it makes it easy to make friends 🙂

  8. I can relate to so much of this interview. I’ve been a nomad for the past 2 years and the most important lesson to come from my journey is this: “Uncertainty liberates you”. The more you plan, the less flexible you are, and the less likely you will be to both receive and accept opportunities that come your way.

    • Thanks Shane – I’m so glad you can relate to this interview. And yours is a brilliant lesson – uncertainty truly does liberate you – I’ve also found in my travels that flexibility is key, and makes you more open and receptive to new opportunities.

      Wishing you a wonderful new year!

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