How I manage to travel the world
Namib desert highway, cool wind in my hair.

Stories of how people gave up their day jobs and sold everything to go travelling seems to be a very popular topic on news sites and travel blogs these days. Sounds very well-to-do and glamorous. I mean, who doesn’t want to sell all and spend the rest of their life soaking up the sun on some isolated exotic blue lagoon white sandy west African beach, climbing Mount Teide on Tenerife, snowboarding some of the finest ski resorts in the world or sleeping under the stars in the Namib desert and boiling water for coffee on an open fire? Read on to find out how I sold nothing and did those things.

It might be seen as insensible and irresponsible to sell all and sail off into the sunset without a care in the world, and it probably is, unless you are absolutely certain of how long you can sustain your intended travel lifestyle, or you have just won the lottery. In the year 2015 I think it was, one Spanish person won the Euromillions, €145million. In that case, why not buy the whole world, never mind travel it. But that is only a pipe dream for the rest of us and we need to be a little more realistic.

How I quit my job to travel

Thing is though, I didn’t. I can’t say I have ever actually quit a job to travel. I was getting paid to drive that safari truck you see me sitting on in the title photo, down roads that seemingly go on for ever through some of the most out of this world surreal landscapes I think I will ever see. Granted, I have had ‘normal’ day jobs here and there, but I seem to have developed this sixth sense of when it’s time to move on, to seize a travel job opportunity as it arises and to run with it, no matter how much it pays, as long as I have a place to crash and chow to eat. Free booze is always a plus 🙂 I seem to vaguely remember working on an Austrian ski resort…..G’day mate, lets put another shrimp on the barby!

I started out with nothing and still have most of it left ~ Me

Of course things can change when you get married and have kids, but for some people, well, they just take the wife and kids with them. I just took the wife as I have no kids, at least none that I know of.

I have met a few travelling families out there and plenty couples and singles who have sold all to travel. It is not a decision that was easy to make and takes very careful planning. Even if you are single, the decision to quit a good job, sell all and bugger off should be very carefully considered. On the other hand, having a job you absolutely hate might make this an easier decision.

In this article I would like to touch on how I’ve travelled to 35 countries, in the last 20 years. That’s an average of only 1.75 countries per year, so I guess that makes me more of a quality over quantity kinda guy. Like I say, I didn’t quit my job to travel, I just look for or am always open to jobs, or lifestyles that ‘pay’ me to travel. This is also what works for me (us). It may or may not work for you. Only you will really be able to know for sure if a life of perpetual travel is going to work. Hopefully I can offer some inspiration to help you make the right choice.

cheetah namibia wildlife animal
The things I get to do on the road as a tour guide. Otjiwarongo, Namibia.
south africa elephant addo
African road block, Addo Elephant Park, South Africa.

How the travel bug bit me

As mentioned in a previous article, Israel is where and when the travel bug bit me. This so called travel bug is actually a very real phenomenon. You just need to decide if you want to be ‘cured’, and you can be, or you can be like me and embrace it, ‘sensibly’. Now I’m not saying I have all the answers when it comes to sensible travel, and how to embrace the travel bug. I have, and still make travel mistakes, like spending all of the little money I had and being evicted from my hostel in Tel Aviv, with no real back up plan. Learning from that experience is what has allowed me to sustain travel for as long as I have.

MIC on tour
On tour with the band, 1996

After coming back from Israel towards the end of 1995 I heard of a local South African dance band who needed a ‘roady’. You know, the guy who drives the van, rolls the cables and sets up the stage, etc. That job lasted over 4 years and took me through most of my home country South Africa, as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. What did I see and experience? More than I can ever tell, in one article.

It was while on the road with the band in 1999 that I saw a ship in one of South Africa’s harbours. It was called ‘Anastasis’, which is Greek for resurrection. It belonged to a non profit volunteer organisation called Mercyships. A converted 1950’s Italian built cruise ship, it sailed around the world as the largest non-governmental hospital ship offering free medical care to the poorest of poor nations. In January 2000 I joined the ship in Cape Town, South Africa as a marine electrician and went to: The Gambia, Benin, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Canary Islands, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany and The UK for a cumulative total of 3 years over a 6 year period. The ship went to Europe to re-supply and recruit new crew. Another life changing experience.

Anastasis Banjul The Gambia
Banjul, The Gambia, 2000
beach liberia sean
With weekends off, Liberia has some of the most unspoilt beaches in the world.

In between terms of service on the ship, I worked as a lift attendant and discovered snowboarding on an American ski resort. I also drove Greyhound coaches all over South Africa and worked as a driver/guide for an overland safari company. This safari job took me back to countries I had already been to with the band, only I saw things I had missed on previous trips, such as a pride of lions eating a zebra 1 meter from my tour vehicle.

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving ~ Lao Tzu

It was while driving safari tours that I met my wife Sabine. She was a multilingual guide, I was the driver, we obviously had something in common, our love of travel, but not in the traditional sense.

namibia sossusvlei
Driving a safari tour through the dunes of the Namib Desert.

Working 9-5 for 48 weeks a year then a one week all-in trip to some resort in Turkey or Croatia doesn’t cut it for us. We sleep under the stars in the desert, she cooks on open fire, I go days without wearing shoes, she doesn’t own a hair dryer. Perhaps we are kindred spirits. At one point I suggested we go work in a 5 star Austrian ski-in, ski-out chalet. We got paid peanuts, but we ate, and drank on the house and got to ski and snowboard for hours almost every day for the 4 month season.

fiss snow shoveling
The things I’ll do for a free lift ticket. Fiss, Austria 2011
Fiss sean jump austria
Another tough day off. Fiss, Austria.

I guess we all have a different idea of what it means to travel. Yes, 2 weeks a year going somewhere like Hawaii can be considered travelling. Hey, I travel to the kitchen every morning to make the coffee, when I’m at ‘home’.

Now I fully appreciate that a lot of people need their routine, they thrive on it, but there are people out there that can’t do routine. If I sometimes have to find wood to make a fire before I can get my daily caffeine fix, all the more fun for me.

botswana delta okavango
How I often make my coffee. The fish aren’t mine.
mufasa johannesburg braai south africa
Day job: Tour bus driver. Night job: Braai (BBQ) master.

Being willing and able to integrate work and travel has enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. Living and working alongside people from over 50 different countries in the last 20 years has also allowed me to forge priceless friendships a lot of which are still maintained to this day. Sabine and I both have open ended invitations to visit a considerable number of countries, some of which we have already been to and some of which we have yet to experience.

So what is travelling to you? What creature comforts are you willing to give up? Your automatic coffee maker? Cable TV? High speed internet? A closet to put your clothes in?

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