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stops on my nomadic journey

Today’s the day. After being a nomad for 550 days, I’m hanging up my traveling shoes and settling back in NYC (Brooklyn to be exact).

From March 1, 2015 to September 1, 2016, I lived out of two bags, traveling the world for work, fun, and selfies. After 18 months, I decided to return to the homeful lifestyle (though I’ll still be traveling quite a bit, including a 3-week stretch that starts in 3 weeks).

To honor the closing of one chapter in my life, I decided to take a quantitative look back at the experience (much like I did when I surpassed 1,000 performances).

Travel by Month

In total, I traveled an estimated 159,023 miles (that’s 255,922 kilometers).

Note: This is only the miles it took to get from one place to another; I didn’t track distance traveled within a destination (such as all the walking I did in Texas when PokemonGo came out).

159,000 miles is the equivalent of roughly 6 trips around the globe (given the Earth’s circumference is measured at 24,874 miles), or one circumnavigation every 3 months.

Mileage by Month

Bar Graph of Mileage by Month

I averaged nearly 8,900 miles per month. A few notes:

  • The most I traveled in 1 month was 28,910 miles in March 2016 (18% of total miles traveled). That involved visiting New York, Madrid, Lisbon, Dallas, Los Angeles, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and San Francisco. 8 major cities in 5 countries in 31 days isn’t bad.
  • The second busiest month of travel was this last month, August 2016, at 12,165 miles, which included trips to London, Edinburgh, Oxford, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Cincinnati, and New York.
  • The least I traveled in a month was July 2015 at just 3,240 miles. Even though it was my lowest total, I still hit Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, DC, Chicago, and Detroit.

Not all time periods were equal when it came to traveling.

Average Mileage by Quarter

Bar Graph of Average Mileage by Quarter

I definitely traveled the most at the beginning of the year, nearly 50% more than the other quarters. The summer was (barely) my lightest travel time, mostly due to a slowdown in work engagements.

mileage by day of week

Bar Graph of Mileage by Day of Week

Tuesday was by far my busiest travel day at 47,609 miles or 30% of all travel coming on that day. That likely has to do with the fact that flights tend to be cheapest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The next busiest was Friday at 28,476 miles (18%). My most relaxed day (at least when it came to travel) was Sunday at 11,084 miles (7%).

Naturally there were ebbs and flows to my travel.

mileage by date

Line Graph of Mileage by Date

The most I ever traveled in one day was 9,130 miles, which included a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles and then on to San Francisco.

I did some form of significant travel on 247 out of the 550 days (45%). On the 303 days I didn’t travel, I often did local trips to restaurants, parks, and theaters, I just didn’t move from one location to another.

A few notes:

  • Over the 550 days, I had 247 stays. 54% of those stays (135 total) were for a single day. 84% were for 3 days or less, 97% were for 7 days or less.
  • The longest I stayed in one place was 18 days, in January 2016, when I stayed at my girlfriend-at-that-time’s (GATT) place in Palo Alto.
  • The most consecutive days I traveled was 17, during my summer 2015 road trip with my brother, when we covered 8,027 miles (6,000 of which were via car), hitting 39 cities in 19 states.

Travel by Location

In those 150,000+ miles I went to a lot of places, including 142 different cities, all 50 states, 14 countries, and 3 continents. (You can check out a list of all the cities if you’re interested.)

All told, I had 609 “visits,” where a visit means I did something in that place, whether it be leading an event, going to a local attraction, or sleeping there (hey, sleeping is something). So if I was driving through and stopped to do a show and then moved on, that was 1 visit. If I stayed in a city for 5 days, that was 5 visits.

table top 10 cities

Table of Top 10 Cities Visited

Despite having left NYC, I still found myself back here quite a bit, thanks in large part to working with companies based here and it being a great launching point for European travels.

The #2 and #3 most popular spots weren’t that surprising, considering my mom lives in Ohio and it gave me a spot to crash when I wasn’t headed somewhere specific, and the Bay Area was where my GATT was and was a potential destination when I decided to stop the nomadism.

On the flipside, I visited 81 cities (57%) just once.

table top 10 states

Table of Top 10 States Visited

The top three states weren’t surprising, considering what I just mentioned about the top cities.

#4 wasn’t a surprise either; my brother lives in Texas and I visited a few times to guest teach his classes, as well as had a couple of events elsewhere in the state. Arizona at #5 seemed high, but it was popular due to conferences and wanting to see the Grand Canyon (which I did twice on these travels).

countries by visits

Table of Countries by Visits

USA! USA! USA! accounted for 89% of my visits. Second was Norway and Singapore where for both I spent 10 days doing events and sightseeing. I was only in Belgium and Malaysia for one night each, still managing to do an event in both.

Travel by Transportation Method

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles isn’t just a 1987 comedy, it was also how I got around during my nomadic journey (plus buses and a ferry).

mileage by transportation

Pie Chart of Mileage by Transportation Method

I took 66 flights (not including layovers), 181 car trips, 47 trains (not including subways), 8 buses, and 1 ferry. A few notes:

  • 72% of distance covered was via flights (114,709 miles). If the average plane speed is 575 miles an hour, that’s 200 hours in a plane, or 8 days. That doesn’t count taxi, take-off, landing, or waiting for the boarding doors to close.
  • 24% of my mileage came by car at 38,936 miles. If I averaged a speed of 60 miles an hour (which is generous considering the amount of time I spent in LA traffic alone), that’s 651 hours, or 27 days, in the car.
  • 3% of travel was by train (or subway) at 4,596 miles, 0.7% by bus (1,077 miles), and 0.00% by ferry (1 trip for 5 miles).
  • My longest flight was 8,800 miles from LAX to SIN (Singapore). My longest car trip (in a day) was 685 miles, driving from St Louis, MO to Burlington, CO (en route to San Francisco).

Travel by Companions

I had the pleasure of seeing and hanging out with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people throughout my trips. Being nomadic gave me an opportunity to visit friends all over the world, attend a variety of conferences and festivals, and of course meet tons of interesting people along the way.

That said, a majority of my time going from once place to another (e.g. flights) was done alone. 88% of the miles traveled (140,807) were done by myself. As an introvert, I didn’t mind this at all.

5% of travel (7,869 miles) was done with my brother, including our epic road trip in the summer of 2015, and 4% (6,505 miles) were with my GATT, including cross-country drives to and from Palo Alto.

Accommodations by Place

While most of my travel was done on my own, most of my visiting was not. I certainly could not have pulled off this adventure without the help and support of some incredible people.

I mean that on an emotional level, but that’s hard to quantify, so here’s the support some provided on a “you can sleep here” level.

accommodations by nights

Pie Chart of Accommodations by Nights

There were a mix of different types of accommodations, including staying with friends, family, friends of friends (FoF), AirBNB, while in transit, and at my apartment.

Which I guess now is a good time to confess something: though I’m ending my nomadic journey today, I’ve technically had an apartment for about a month. BUT I barely spent time there this last month, which was also my second busiest travel month of the entire experience. Plus 18 months sounds a lot better than 17…

That said, here are a few notes about where I stayed:

  • 38% of my stays (208 nights) were with friends. 86 nights were at my GATT’s place. 28 nights were with my now current roommates, and 25 nights were with my best friend since 7th grade.
  • 32%, or 176 nights, were at hotels. A majority of stays were split at either Wyndham properties (47 nights) or Marriott brands (44 nights).
  • 19% of the time (103 nights), I stayed with family. 72 of those nights (13% of all stays) were at my mom’s. I also stayed with my brother David, my grandma, my cousin Jean, and my cousin Stephanie.
  • 4% of stays (23 nights) were via AirBNB, including 2 nights on a houseboat in Amsterdam.
  • 2% (13 nights) were with friends of friends, including friends through CSz, friend’s parent’s places, and someone’s office.
  • 2% (13 nights) were spent sleeping in transit, including 5 flights, 3 trains, 3 stays in a Walmart parking lot and two different nights in a rest area.

Like I said, I couldn’t have done this alone.

A Few Final Pieces of Data

As of this line, we’re sitting at over 1,400 words for this post, so I’m going to wrap it up. Here are a few random pieces of data that I couldn’t fit anywhere else:

  • I did 151 engagements for work and 136 performances over the 18 months of being a nomad.
  • I traveled with 33 pounds of stuff. On average, I wore 6 pounds worth of clothing, had a backpack with 11 pounds worth of gear, and a carry-on bag of 22 pounds of clothes.
  • I spent $44,000 on travel over the course of the journey, an average of $2400 / month. A lot of that money was reimbursed by clients when they brought me in for various events, the rest was out-of-pocket.
  • On January 1, 2016, after 9 months of traveling (and getting through the holidays), I was statistically the fattest I have ever been. I weighed in at 151 pounds with a 33″ stomach. I’m now back down to 144 pounds with a 32″ stomach.

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top of preikestolen

20 April 2015. Preikestolen, Norway

My feet hung over the cliff, where 600 meters (1980 feet) below, the blue water of the Norwegian fjord settled like blue concrete.

My right hand held a Kvikk Lunsj chocolate bar (basically a Norwegian Kit Kat) as my left hand held on for dear life. My friend and travel companion, Harald, took my picture as I tried to look as relaxed as was possible while sitting at the edge of a 600 meter drop.

I was at the top of Preikestolen, aka Pulpit Rock, named the #1 most breathtaking platform by the Lonely Planet.

My travel companion, Harald, was the reason I was there; not just there at Preikesetolen that specific day, but also the reason why I was in Norway to begin with.

I had met Harald three years ago at The Humor Project in Silver Springs, NY. He was there to improve his own humor education and I was presenting on how to effectively use humor at work. We connected afterwords over a shared love of standup comedy and stayed connected after the conference via the Facebook.

A few months after that, a friend of his was visiting New York City and he put the two of us in touch. She happened to be the producer of a comedy festival in Norway and was looking for talent from New York City. We hit it off and six months later I was in Norway for the first time to help her kickoff her production company.

Now, in 2015, I was back for the second year of her comedy festival which had taken place over past weekend. Harold had offered to take me to Pulpit Rock and I agreed. He even took the day off so he and I would be free to make the journey, and a journey it was.

To get to the top of the rock required a 3.8 km hike (2.3 miles) up 334 meters (1,095 feet). And though the temperature was 10°C (50°F) down on the ground, the trail still included quite a bit of snow once the elevation increased.

Preikestolen Route

During the climb, Harald and I caught up, talking about a wide variety of things, from nature to comedy to having kids to the hike itself (“Whoa, this is more strenuous than I thought.” “Yup.”).

We eventually got to the top where we took in the stunning view. There were quite a few other people hanging around, including a group of Frenchmen who were preparing a slack line to cross one of the gaps between the two rocks.

I had started off very cautious at the top, army crawling my way to the edge. My confidence slowly grew until I finally felt comfortable enough to sit at the edge (while holding on).

Sitting on the edge of a cliff while feeling a slight breeze as you eat chocolate has a way of making you think philosophically.

I thought about how spectacular view was. I thought about how so far on my journey, some of my best experiences had taken place in the company of other people, despite the fact that I consider myself very much an introvert. And I thought about the nature of effort and reward.

The view was naturally stunning. But it felt even more amazing because it had to be earned. There was no driving up to the top, there was no tram, no shortcut, no elevator. It required a somewhat strenuous hike that included ups and downs, wide rock landscapes and narrow snowy paths, easy strolls and hard climbs.

The hike up had taken 90 minutes. The hike down would take another 90. Depending on how long you stayed at the top, you might spend more time getting to and from the destination that actually enjoying the destination itself.

The same is true for setting goals in life. It’s not just about the end destination, it’s also about the journey to get there. And most of time, there’s more work to be down, even after you’ve reached the top.

My grip on the rock loosened ever so slightly as I took another bite of the Norwegian Kit Kat. I had enjoyed the journey up. I would enjoy the journey down. But for the moment, I was enjoying being at the top.

Peering Out

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leather sofa

One of the questions that people first ask when they find out about my nomadic adventure is, “Are you crazy?” The second question is “What are you doing with all of your stuff?”

This always reminds me of George Carlin’s bit on stuff (warning NSFW language):

The Stuff I Own

To determine how much stuff I had, and what to donate / give away / put in storage / take with me, I created an Excel spreadsheet that represented pretty much everything that I owned.

stuff i owned

The total number of items: 197. The breakdown went:

  • Put in Storage: 30% (59 items)
  • Given Away on Craigslist: 29% (57 items)
  • Dumped in the Trash: 19% (37 items)
  • Donated to Goodwill: 16% (31 items)
  • Taken with Me in Travel: 6% (13 items)

It’s somewhat liberating and moreso terrifying that I boiled the necessities of life down to 6% of what I owned, but then again I am only taking two bags with me.

Donations and Giveaways

Nearly half of my belongings were given away or donated (29% + 16% = 45%). These were mostly things I either wanted to get rid of anyway or were cheap enough that it didn’t make sense for me to hang onto (e.g. IKEA furniture). It was either donated to Goodwill or given away on Craigslist for free (where “free” means come and get it out of my apartment before my lease is up).

Had I planned better and not procrastinated I probably could have sold many of the things on Craigslist. In particular, I gave away a $1,000+ leather recliner sofa that I got from a friend of mine when she moved to London.

I will say that I had fun writing the descriptions of my belongings, which you can find below (you can see that I had prices on the items which was before I got desperate and just gave things away):

Putting Things in Storage

The next largest bucket of stuff was put in “storage” and by “storage” I mean my Mom’s spare room in her condo in Ohio.

For that stuff, I rented a large van, packed up the items, and made the 10-hour drive (one way). I did this twice over the course of 2 weeks, though the main reason for multiple trips was an event I was leading in Ohio in late February.

Because of the two trips, I was ecstatic to learn I could keep my leather recliner chair (sadly not the sofa, but more on that in a moment). The leather chair was one that me and my first roommate got when we graduated college. We got a matching set like Joey and Chandler on Friends because we were, in fact, friends.

The leather couch still hurts a little bit, mostly because when the nice family came to pick it up, they asked if it could be taken apart. I told them, unfortunately, it could not. They disagreed… and were correct. On the underside of the couch was a long beam and a couple of screws–screws that when removed allowed you take the couch in three easier-to-carry sections that would have fit in the van I had rented…

Oh well, a nice Latino family in the Bronx is now enjoying a couch that would have been sitting at my brother’s place.

And that is what I did with my stuff.

my empty apartment

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pennsylvania highway

My last day at P&G was June 30, 2012. Since then, I’ve worked for myself, building and growing Humor That Works. I’ve worked with phenomenal organizations, have met some incredible people, and talked about a wide variety of topics. I’ve also traveled a ton.

Last year alone I spent 94 nights on the road and traveled more than 50,000 miles by planes, trains, and automobiles. For more than 25% of the year I was away from my place in NYC, translating into roughly 15% of my total annual expenses being paid to rent a room I wasn’t in.

As I looked at my calendar for 2015, I noticed the trend of traveling continues. I already have a few extended trips planned, including: 2 weeks in Geneva, another 2 in Norway, a week in Florida, 5 days in Philadelphia, a week in Quad Cities, and 5 days in D.C.. And that’s all before the end of the summer.

So I thought, “Instead of going back to a single location between all of these events, why not explore other areas?”

One of my business goals is to speak in all 50 states and on all 7 continents. In some sense, being “homeless” will not only allow but also encourage checking off a few more locations that I may not otherwise get to (I’m looking at you Wyoming!).

Plus I’m bound to end up with a few good stand-up stories out of the ordeal oh, and personal growth stuff I guess).

Will it be challenging? Yes.
Could I hate it? There’s a good chance.
Will I give up before I barely start? Quite possibly.
Is it worth trying? I think so.
Am I done with asking myself questions? Maybe.

Worst case scenario is I die a horrible death in some sort of freak accident. Not-nearly-as-bad-but-still-not-great scenario is that I realize quickly I hate traveling all the time and I go back to NYC or move to a new city.

Best case scenario is that I get to see incredible parts of the country and world while meeting new people and creating memories I’ll tell future artificially intelligent appliances (and my kids).

If you’re curious about what I’m up to or how I’m going about such a task, check back here for updates on posts like how I’m prepping for the life of a nomad or what gear I’m packing. You can also follow my adventures by signing up for my newsletter or following me on Twitter @drewtarvin or on FourSquare.

Oh, and if you have any recommendations of where I should go, let me know.

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Since 2008 I’ve called NYC my home. But in 2012, I left my comfy corporate job to start my own business, with the mission to teach people how to enjoy their work more while doing it better.

Over the course of working with thousands of people at hundreds of organizations, I’ve traveled to 22 states, 9 countries, and 3 continents, spending as much as 25% of my nights on the road.

In February 2015, I decided to see what it’d be like to turn that 25% of my time to 100%… I decided to become a nomad.

A Corporate Nomad

The idea of living location independent is nothing new. There are some phenomenal bloggers that have already shared their stories, including Nomadic Matt, Kareem Mayan (no longer active), and James Turner.

So why another blog? My case is a little different. I don’t consider myself a “digital nomad.” While some of my work certainly takes place online, I also do a lot of in-person speaking, training, consulting, and coaching.

I think of myself more as a “corporate nomad.” Someone still very much entrenched in helping small to large companies become more effective and more productive. And that means a slightly different focus.

Many digital nomads find Southeast Asia particularly alluring because of it’s cost of living and pro-nomad services. Based on my corporate work, I’ll be sticking more to the United States and Europe.

Follow the Corporate Nomad

If you’re interested in staying up to date, you can follow me via newsletter, on Twitter, or on Instagram.

If you’re curious about my corporate work, check out Humor That Works.

Thanks for reading!

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