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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airplane wing

On March 1, 2015, I started a nomadic journey, leaving my place in New York to reside pretty much anywhere in the world. This is my travel log as a corporate nomad.

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For my travels, I’ve decided to go with a two-bag approach. This isn’t surprising: three bags would be inconvenient with constantly checking it when flying and I don’t want to completely destroy my shoulders.

Many nomadic travelers go with only one-bag, but I don’t think I can or want to drop that low. I have just enough stuff that two bags is more convenient.

The first bag is the Red Oxx AirBoss, and the second is this new bad boy from Tom Bihn (yes I just referred to a backpack as a “bad boy”).

tom bihn synapse 25

The Synapse 25 is a nice step up from the Synapse 19 (Joel McLaughin has a great writeup of both here). It also happens to be available in a shade of my favorite color (that’s Orange for the colorblind among you; if you have synthesia, let me know what it tastes like).

The role of this bag is arguably more important than that of the AirBoss. This bag houses my electronics (computer, external hard drive, iPod, chargers, converter, surge protector, remote clicker, cables), papers (passport, external driver’s license, comedy notebook), and snacks (varies but often includes Pop Tarts and Goldfish crackers).

The large pocket is divided by a thin flap. I put my computer, cords, chargers, and gorilla camera stand on one side. The other side gets a tightly-packed raincoat, first aid kit, and thank you cards. And on the top go the snacks.

tom bihn synapse 25 open

There are two side poaches, one side for health-type items (Advil, diarrhea pills, hand sanitizer), the other side for accessories (mini-display cables, remote clicker). The larger front pocket contains important documents (it’s surprisingly deep and tough to reach into) and the smaller front pocket gets business cards, gift cards, public transportation cards, and Game of Thrones (kinda, it is on a thumb drive).

There’s a separate pouch for my water bottle, which is water proof to the other parts of the bag, and it has little spandex straps that I’m not entirely sure what they’re used for.

The bag is still new, so we’ll see how it goes, but I am pretty excited to travel the world with this sexy thing.

tom bihn on my back

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seattle skyline

15 February – 21 February

My journey to all 50 states in 365 days officially begins here, in Seattle, WA. I was there for couple of trainings I was leading but also managed to say hi to some friends (we had full conversations, I didn’t just say “Hi”).

The focus of the trip was a 2-day training that I was co-facilitating for Microsoft. It’s a great off site that I have the pleasure of doing with one one of the greatest facilitator is I’ve had the experience of working with, a gentlemen by the name of Phill Nosworthy.

I got in on Sunday after an earlier flight cancellation (and subsequent re-booking that actually got me in earlier than my original flight, thanks Delta!).

I got in in the evening and a friend of mine, who I’ve known since the 3rd Grade, pick me up at the airport. He and his wife, showed me a quick driving tour of Seattle before stopping at Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen for dinner despite the restaurant name seemingly belonging in a Western.

Monday was used mostly to prep for the upcoming training, though it did include a nice dinner with some of the colleagues working the event.

I remember someone telling me a long time ago that if you go to an ethnic restaurant and most of the patrons are of that ethnicity, you know it’s going to be a good meal. Given that we were the only non-Asian group at a packed Facing East, I knew it had a good place.

Tuesday and Wednesday were focused on the event, which went well. It’s incredible content so that’s not a surprise. On Thursday I led a couple of workshops, the first was humor in the workplace training for the fast-rising startup Porch.com and the second was a communication workshop for General Assembly.

Friday I had lunch with a friend who had brought me in to train at Ohio State a few years ago. While at the restaurant, Portage Bay Cafe, I randomly ran into another friend who I did improv with in NYC. She was in town for the Seattle Improv Festival (more on that below).

That evening I performed with ComedySportz Seattle, crashed at one the players’ place, and then headed to the airport at 05:00 for my flight back to New York.

Though I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, this wasn’t going to be an important part in my journey.


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seattle to turin

20 February. Seattle, WA

I was sitting in a cafe in Seattle, WA, around 12pm, about to order a delicious food-item from the eclectic menu. Across from me was Alice, a friend from The Ohio State University, who I had met when she brought me in to talk to the incoming Resident Advisors in 2012. Now, 3 years later, she was living in Seattle and we were reconnecting for the first time since the event.

As I looked over the menu, wondering if I was in a pancake or French toast mood, I heard my name called from elsewhere in the restaurant. I looked up and immediately recognized the face (I’m good with faces, just not the names they go with) but couldn’t place who it was. A few seconds later, as she walked towards our table, I realized who it was and why I was a bit perplexed.

The tall, skinny blonde walking our way was Amie, a fellow improviser at The Magnet Theater in New York City, 2500 miles away.

“Drew! What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I’m here for a couple of trainings. What are YOU doing here?” I replied.
“I’m in town for the Seattle Improv Festival, in fact this whole group of people are in town for the event,” she responded, pointing to the boisterous group of people at the table behind her.

I should have known they were improvisers. They were a little bit louder than most of the other tables and having a great time. The few snippets of conversation I had overheard now registered as bits on bits on bits (aka lots of joking), a telltale sign you have Yes Anders in your environment.

Amie and I caught up for a few minutes when she revealed some exciting news.

“Yeah, these peeps are from all over,” she said, gesturing back towards the group behind her again. “In fact, that guy is from Italy.”

My eyes lit up. “Really, where in Italy?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I could ask him,” Amie replied.
“Can you? I’m going to be in Switzerland next month and I’ve never been to Italy,” I said.
“Well then let me introduce you,” she said excitedly.

We walked over to the guy who she introduced as Paolo, probably because that was his name. I learned that Paolo is an improviser from Turin, Italy, which I learned is only a 2-hour train ride from Milan, which I learned is only a 2-hour train ride from Geneva, Switzerland, where I’ll be going for my event next month.

“You should come to Torino [translation: Turin]. If you do, you can stay at my place and we can find some improv stuff you can do,” Paolo said in his Italian accent.

I added him on Facebook via my phone and told him I’d be in touch before returning to my seat to resume my meal with Alice. Given the excitement for a possible stay in Italy and being unsure of French-Italian relations, I ordered the pancakes instead of the French toast.

Continue Reading Part 2 >>

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The first major purchase for my nomadic travels was my primary travel bag, the Red Oxx Air Boss carry on bag, co-developed by Doug Dyment of OneBag.com.

red oxx air boss bag

There are number of things that I like about the bag, in no particular order:

  1. The bag is really small when you don’t have anything in it, meaning it packs up nicely when not in use.
  2. It’s designed specifically for traveling on extended trips without checking your bag.
  3. It’s well built (if I were ever being chased by an assassin, I feel like I could throw the bag at him, knocking both the would-be assassin and bag into the street where they both got ran over by a bus, and the bag would be fine).

The bulk of your clothing goes in two large side pockets, which is convenient for me since I can use one side for business apparel (a suit, 3 dress shirts, a belt, two ties, and dress shoes). I use the other side for more casual clothing, including sweatpants, a couple of T-shirts, a pair of shorts, gym shorts, tennis shoes, and a couple of casual button up shirts. The middle section houses a pair of flip flops, undershirts, underwear, socks, and my toiletries bag, which right now is just a plastic zip lock bag sitting in a Gristedes plastic bag.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is also what it was designed for: bundle wrap packing. This is great for minimizing wrinkles and maximizing space, but the biggest disadvantage is that it requires you to take everything out of your bag just access one article of clothing.

Doug says this isn’t too much of a problem because it can be nice to actually unpack your bag while traveling so you don’t feel like you’re living out of a suitcase. While I agree with that when you’re staying at a hotel, the problem is that when you are crashing on someone’s couch (e.g. your brother’s place in College Station) you don’t want to take the liberty to just strew your clothing everywhere in the living room (it’s a love seat, not a glove seat).

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alamo texas

05 February to 10 February

I don’t officially start my nomadic travels until March 1st, but I have two trips in February that I’m using to test out some of my travel strategies.

I flew into Houston, TX (IAH, not HOU which caused a brief scare when getting picked up) on Thursday. My mom was arriving 8 hours later, meaning Dave and I had quite a bit a time to kill in Houston(note: the entire time I pronounced it ‘How-stun’ like the street in NY because I’m city folk).

Our first stop was Pappasitos, given as a recommendation from a friend who used to live in Texas. After that I turned to foursquare to find some of the “Best Ofs” in Houston.

Most of the options were in the downtown area and we had the privilege of being there right around rush hour. So rather than sit in traffic, forced to converse with each other as brothers, we decided to run errands by shopping at Wal*Mart. I can tell you that it is true what they say about Texas: everything is bigger there (including the stores, people, and cowboy hats).

Once traffic died down, which we knew thanks to Google Maps, we headed first to the Waterwall Park which was admittedly not that exciting considering there was nothing else in the area. What was exciting was the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Thanks to Shell (the gas company, not a misspelled version of Mr. Silverstein’s name) admission was free. We then made a pit-stop for milkshakes (a phrase I’ll be saying quite a bit) at Amy’s Ice Creams, then picked up my mom, and headed to college station.

The focus the next day was teaching Dave’s classes and eating at Dixie Chicken (which A&M students lovingly refer to as Chicken because that’s the most important thing on the menu).

Saturday we headed to San Antonio, where we explored the Riverwalk, remembered the Alamo (there is no basement!), and grabbed a delicious burger at Chris Madrids. That night I played with ComedySportz San Antonio which included multiple chemistry puns worthy of winning a Au metal.

The following morning we went to Austin, where we visited Covert Park and Lady Bird Lake, took in the gorgeous and somewhat mediocre food at The Oasis, and then capped it off with donuts from Gourdough’s (if you’re in Austin, go there).

We then headed back to College Station  for more classroom training on Monday, followed by a chicken finger taste-test between Raising Canes and Laynes (Canes wins in pretty much every category) and, later, a nice dinner at Proudest Monkey in Bryan, TX. Tuesday we grabbed a Freebird Burrito (which I rank above Chipotle) before flying back to NYC.

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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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