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!
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.
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.
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.
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.