Exactly two years ago, I was leaving the US after 3 years, with a 55l backpack and a day pack, heading to Southeast Asia without a clue on what would happen next.
Today, I’m still embracing uncertainty not knowing what’s next, but certain that that ticket I bought to Bangkok, two years ago, was one of the best purchases I’ve made in my whole life.
During the second year of embracing the groundlessness of life and not having a place to call ‘home’ for more than a couple of weeks, I spent some time back in my home country and visited 12 others, I landed in Africa for the first time, went on a breathtaking (literally) trekking looking at the Aconcagua, met some of my best friends in random places,went back to Europe, spent 10 days meditating in silence, got my motorbike drivers license.
Instead of writing about my adventures, I’ve decided to answer some of the questions people keep asking me about my nomadic ‘lifestyle’. If you’d like to ask me something that is not listed below, just shoot me a message or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.
Literal Uncertainty has been an amazing ride, and I’m thankful for all the incredible people who have been riding along with me. I wouldn’t be able to do it without all of you.
When did you realize you wanted to live like this?
I didn’t fully realize until recently. However, now that I look back at my life, I notice that I’ve always known I have a need to be in constant movement. When people asked me the ‘what you wanna be when you grow up?’ question, my answer used to be ‘a truck driver’. The truck driver makes me think of flows – of people, of goods, of money, and, why not, of places. Flow is movement. The truck driver is also about movement, about going to places, meeting new people, seeing changes in landscapes, trying different food. In college I studied Geography and International Relations, always thinking about a truck driver kind of life – one day here, another there, then somewhere else. I guess I always knew I wanted to live in a constant flow, but only recently I had the courage to try it for myself.
How do you choose where to go next?
It really depends. Rationally, two main aspects help me decide:
1) Work. It was through work that I ended up in Angola (and loved it!) and the Philippines. When I don’t need to be in a specific location for field work but need to do a lot of online research or have conference calls, I choose places with better communications infrastructure (i.e. internet connection), such as Cape Town and Maputo. If I only need to write a report, I end up going to pretty calm and relaxed places – preferably by the beach or next to a river – being near water keeps my pisces soul calm and inspired.
2) Friends and Family. I often choose places where I have friends or family, because it’s always helpful to have a place to stay and a local contact while figuring out things to do in a particular country. That’s how I ended up in SE Asia. One of my best friends from grad school is Thai and we used to joke that if I couldn’t get a job in the US I would go to Bangkok and stay with her. That’s exactly what I did. Once there, I was adopted by her family (and vice-versa) who hosted me for a few weeks while I was acclimatizing to this new part of the world. Weddings are also a great excuse to catch a flight and visit a new country 🙂 This year, weddings took me to South Africa and Austria, and family was the excuse I needed to spend a few days in Italy.
Although work, friends and family are important part of my ‘where to go next’ decision making process, I must say that most of my movement around the globe has been based, so far, in Intuition. I find it hard to explain in words such an intangible factor, but this is the truth.
In 2016, intuition sent me to Southeast Asia and it ended up being the best decision ever, as it deeply changed me and the way I see and live my life. After a short period back in Brazil, I was ready to make a move and explore the world again. Even though I was dying to go back to Laos (and still am), I had a feeling it was time for Africa. I then headed to South Africa for a friend’s wedding and to visit another friend in Cape Town , where I ended up networking with people who recommended me for the project in Angola.
How do you afford this lifestyle?
Most people think I earn and spend tons of money. Let me tell you a secret… I spend less money traveling than when I was living in Sao Paulo, or in Boston. I travel on a budget, I don’t stay in fancy places, I don’t buy fancy clothes (by the way, I have a rule that I can only add things to my bag if I take things out, simple as that), I try to use public transportation whenever possible. I avoid alcohol (trust me, it’s going to make a huuuuge difference on your travel expenses if you stop drinking when traveling), I stay with friends when possible.
Oh, you want to know where my money comes from? I work. Yes, it is possible to work and travel at the same time. It’s not a 9-5 job and you need to be comfortable with not knowing how much money you’ll make next month, and very good in managing whatever amount you have in your bank account, but it works!
I’ve met people who travel full-time on a budget, and I admire them. I must admit that I sometimes need some comfort, like a foot massage, or get my nails done, or a really nice meal at a nice restaurant. Recently I needed a calm place to stay for a week, where I could relax while thinking about my life, about where to go and what to do next, a place where I could just stay with myself without worrying about my roommate, or food, or whatever. This place cost me more than what I’m used to spend, but I made a conscious decision to spend more, and it was 100% worth it.
Can you/do you sometimes find it hard to move between places?
Sometimes I do, especially when I need to leave a place I became very fond of. Recently, I had a hard time deciding where to go after Mozambique. Not because I didn’t know where, but because I really wanted to stay longer and explore more of the country. Unfortunately I couldn’t extend my visa and left the country one day before it expired.
What’s your most important piece of luggage you couldn’t get through a trip without?
I wish I could write something else, more poetic, romantic and less techy, but I need to be honest here. It is my smartphone. In my phone I have offline maps (with Maps.me), apps to help me find accommodation (Couchsurfing, Booking.com, Airbnb, Hostelworld, Agoda), apps to search for budget tickets (Hopper, Momondo, Skyscanner, and a few others), currency exchange (Currency XE), translator (Google, you saved me in Vietnam!), WhatsApp to communicate with family and friends. In addition, I’ve got a mobile plan that gives me unlimited data and messaging in most countries plus calls at an affordable rate in case I need to make or receive urgent calls. Another point is that a phone with a nice camera can be very handy, especially in places where I don’t feel comfortable showing off my camera.
If I couldn’t get through a trip without it? I’m sure I could, but it makes things easier and makes me feel safer.
What life routines/systems you maintain/find helpful when you’re traveling?
I try to meditate as often as possible – sometimes I meditate more, sometimes less, but it’s always on my mind and I find it very, VERY helpful to keep my mind and body happy with all the movement. I also have specific routines in specific places. For example, when in Cape Town I go to yoga almost every day, sometimes twice a day.
Not sure it’s a routine, but I consider this a system that I find very helpful: I have a packing system. I have colored packing bags in 3 different sizes, and since I started traveling 2 years ago, I follow almost the same packing system. Bottoms in the large black bag; tops in the large red; underwear, socks (1 pair only, I hate socks!), scarfs, in the medium red; linen, headlamp, towel, etc., in the medium black; chords, chargers in the small red; watercolor, painting stuff, notebook, in the small black. In addition, a white bag for my three pairs of shoes, and toiletries. I place them in the same order inside my backpack and I find it helps me keep track of everything – if there’s something missing it’s easier to notice. It’s also easier to find something without having to open everything in the middle of a bus station.
What kind of foods do you look for that make you feel good?
Food. Hahaha! This is a very good question! I have a few restrictions and I know I’m at my best when I stick to them, but I LOVE food and I LOVE trying local flavors. Where I felt healthier was in Southeast Asia. I could definitely live on noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In general, I try to go for what the locals eat – if not too adventurous for me (i.e. insects and frogs in Laos). I try to avoid fried food (must confess french fries in Angola were unavoidable), and alcohol. When it comes to food, however, exception is my best friend.
Have you found places that you just don’t like – that for one reason or another you’re not liking?
I have. The reasons for not liking are pretty random. I did’t like Johannesburg, in South Africa – if I can say that after spending only 3 days there – and would need a very good reason to go back to spend more time. I didn’t feel safe (and hey, I’m from Brazil) and there was a social tension in the air that made me very uncomfortable. Also didn’t like Vang Vieng, in Laos from the moment I got there (yep, it is possible not to like a place in Laos). The ‘young foreigners get drunk and party’ vibe didn’t work with my personal vibe and I couldn’t wait to leave.
I have learned, though, that the time I spend in places really affects my “liking” bar. I recently visited Vilanculos, in Mozambique, and didn’t feel comfortable or safe at all during the first night. All I could think of was ‘why did I spend all that money to fly over here if I could have just gone back to Tofo in the first place?’. My plan was to visit Bazaruto island the next day and leave asap, but the weather the next day was bad, forcing me to stay longer. And you know what? The following days changed my first impression completely. I met people who made me feel comfortable and safe, and I only left Vilanculos on the fourth day because I found a free ride back to Tofo.
What do you miss most about home?
This is such a tricky question! First, because I struggle to define ‘home’. I understand it as a place that gives me a sense of belonging, and I don’t really feel that I belong to where I come from. I have that ‘belonging’ feeling when I’m on the move, meeting new people, new cultures, new places. But if I think about what I miss the most about my native country, it gotta be pão de queijo, coxinha, and fresh juices. (Mom, I miss you too).
Are you happy? Would you rather lead other lifestyle?
I am VERY happy, and anyone who looks at pictures of myself before and after September 2016 will notice how happier and healthier I am today. Not that I wasn’t happy before, I was. It’s just that I always fought against this need to be on the move. I always tried to put myself in that box that my upbringing tried to impose over me: a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and a dog, and a nice car. In other words, live a ‘stable’ life in one specific place.
Do I get tired? Of course I do. But if I get tired I find a way to rest, to recharge, so I can keep on moving, and being happy.
Do you miss Coco?
Look at her! Who wouldn’t?