Earl Baron didn’t spend much time wondering before he started wandering, continuing what began as a brief graduation trip for the past 15 years, exploring 87 countries and countless marvels of the world.
He didn’t plan to become “Wandering Earl”; he learned how to be a professional traveler by working, figuring out how to make enough money to support his lifestyle from anywhere.
As you’ll learn from Earl, there are ways of wandering with purpose. Here’s a glimpse into the life of the “permanent nomad”!
1. When did you start identifying yourself as “Wandering Earl”? Did this development change your perspective or your approach to traveling as a sustainable lifestyle?
It wasn’t until the end of 2009 when I came up with the name for my blog, Wandering Earl. My middle name is Earl and I sort of liked how it sounded, so I stuck with it and created my blog, completely unaware of what I was getting myself into.
And to be honest, not much really changed in terms of how I approached my travels. My goal from the start was always to present an honest account of how I travel and what I learn from my experiences and I figured that the only way to achieve that was to continue traveling in the manner that I had always traveled before having a blog.
Sure, some things changed a little...I always have the blog in the back of my mind as I wander around, trying to think of ways that I can present what I am seeing to my audience. And after a couple of years, I began thinking that I could possibly use my extensive travel knowledge to create certain resources that would help others achieve their travel goals even faster and to provide me with another source of income.
2. How did you build the confidence and competence to become a traveller for life? Are there benchmarks or hurdles that stand out in your memory?
It’s always been my nature to just go for it, as soon as an idea hits me. So when I decided that I wanted to travel long-term and not for the three months I originally planned, I knew that I was going to achieve it.
The problem was that I had no idea how and at the time, back in 1999, I couldn’t just hop online and find hundreds of examples of people who were already living this lifestyle to help give me extra confidence.
All I did was reach the conclusion that there must be a) people out there traveling long-term and b) methods to earn money that would allow me to do so as well.
Then, I started talking to people, as many people as I could, both travelers and locals alike. The more people I talked to, the more stories I heard, the more ideas I had and the more opportunities I discovered. When I met someone who had taught English informally, simply by putting up signs at a university advertising his services, I thought that would be something to try, and so I did the same in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
When I met another traveler who told me that I would be a great candidate to work on board cruise ships, something I had never thought about before, I decided to give that a try as well. Slowly, slowly, with each new opportunity that presented itself, whether I tried to take advantage of it or not, my confidence grew that there were indeed ways to earn money and travel long-term.
Even my blog started when a fellow crew member on board one of the cruise ships I was working on handed me a book one day all about working online and blogging. I read the book, resigned from cruise ships a couple of months later and got to work creating my site. And as that started to materialize, my confidence grew even more in the fact that the most important factors, when it comes to creating this lifestyle of travel, was hard work and determination, not how much money you start with or what education or skills you have.
That realization alone is enough to boost anyone onto the path of freedom.
3. What expectations did you have for your trip to Asia? When did you first feel your goals shifting? Can you describe the moment (or a moment) when you knew you would not return home?
It’s funny as I had very little expectations for that first trip. I simply wanted to see a few cool places for a few months and then head back home, that was all. And I think that is why my goals shifted so quickly, only one week after I arrived. Suddenly, I found myself sitting on a stone wall one evening staring at the mesmerizing Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, surrounded by chanting Buddhist monks and thousands of friendly locals, all celebrating the Millennium together. It was something so surreal since it was an experience that I never imagined I would ever have. I was blown away by my interactions with the local people, by the scene around me, by everything that I was learning in such a short period of time (only 7 days at this point!).
And that’s when it hit me. If I could learn so much about the world and about life in just one week, imagine what I could learn if I traveled for longer than my planned three months. I had a feeling right then and there that my life was about to change and that from that point onward, travel was going to play a major role in everything I did. After that Millennium celebration, I could no longer envision myself returning home and starting a normal career. There was an entire world to explore and I was going to tackle that goal head on!
4. You’ve shared many helpful secrets to living the life of travel. Is it challenging to make your own unique experiences useful to others? to package your personal knowledge as a product?
Here’s the thing, I’ve always tried to present my experiences in a way that avoids this complication. I fully understand that what I experience is not necessarily what anyone else will experience on their travels/in life and so my aim is to simply use my experiences to inspire others to get out there and create their own unique path.
An example is working online...I might write about how I work online while traveling but I avoid telling others that this is what they should do. I just want my readers to understand that there are ways to earn an income online, but that there are also ways to earn an income through local work or teaching English or any number of other ideas, whatever suits them the best.
And when it comes to specific travel information based on my own wanderings, I try to present my travels in a way that doesn’t necessarily convince people to follow in my footsteps, but instead, to get out there and visit the destinations that appeal to them the most and to maintain an open mind throughout their adventure.
So what I guess I’m trying to say is that I use my travels to help others figure out how to achieve their own goals and to determine what they want to get out of their own experiences, not to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do or where they should or shouldn’t go.
5. How did you first achieve financial freedom? Was it through local work or online income, or some balance of both?
My first experience with such freedom was while I was working on board cruise ships as a Tour Manager. I worked on and off on ships for a few years, saving almost all of the money that I earned during each 4-5 month contract since I had barely any expenses while on board. Then, I would travel in between contracts, or for extended periods of time before returning to the ships, and still, my bank account was growing as soon as I got back on the ship. This was my first taste of work that allowed me to not only live this traveling lifestyle, but to avoid having to worry about money all the time as well. Once I decided to give up cruise ships for good, I had saved enough money to buy me some time to try and build something online in the hopes that it would give me even more financial freedom.
6. In your experience, what’s the most rewarding way to make money while traveling, in terms of both personal enrichment and finances?
Whatever feels right for each person. You could be earning $1,000,000 per year online but if you hate the work you do, then it’s probably not the most rewarding way for you to earn money. But if you earn $20,000 per year and you absolutely love every minute of the work required to earn that amount, then I’d say you’ve found a most suitable income opportunity. And since everyone has different goals, skills and interests, it’s hard to pinpoint any one way of earning money that would be truly rewarding across the board. For me, I love working online, mainly because it gives me the freedom to pick up and go anywhere, at any time, and still get my work done wherever I am in the world. But for some, working online is not enjoyable at all and a different type of work experience, such as local jobs in different countries, would be a better fit.
7. What are some of the habits that help you manage your time and money? How did you learn these strategies?
I actually don’t use much in terms of organizational tools. I’m quite relaxed about it all, with both time and money. I know what work I need to get done and no matter where I am, I make sure it gets done. And with money, I know what is a reasonable amount for me to spend while traveling and I also know what I want to save as well, and I stick to that pattern. For me, simplification is the key. Also, once I started to realize the benefits of working online, of living this lifestyle, of having the blog, etc, I am able to find the motivation to get my work done and to make sure I have money to continue traveling for as long as I want. I’m fully aware that if I don’t continue to work hard and I don’t pay attention to my spending habits, this lifestyle of mine will quickly come to an end, and that’s not something that I want to happen any time soon!
8. You write about having to defend the nomad lifestyle as a life of purpose (not bumming!). What is your purpose, Wandering Earl?
My purpose is to experience, and then to present to others, endless examples of the world, its cultures and its peoples, proving to be so very different than what we might think. I want to use my first-hand travel experiences to help break down misunderstandings and to eliminate harmful assumptions about places we actually know very little about (but often think we know very well) so that we can all understand that the overwhelming majority of people on this planet want to live a simple, happy life just like you and I, a life without war and enemies, a life where they can provide for their families and share wonderful experiences with those they love. If we can all understand this, I think many of the world’s problems would vanish which is why this always will remain my overall purpose for my travels.
9. Finally, where in the world are you going next, and what do you see yourself doing there?
Well, in terms of work, the plan is to continue building, building upon ideas, creating new projects, all focused on helping others achieve their own travel goals. In terms of travel, I’m currently in Kyrgyzstan and will most likely head to the Republic of Georgia and Armenia in ten days, then off to Mexico for a month on the beach, where I’ll continue to work hard on my blog and other projects. And one of those projects that I’m working hard on, Wandering Earl Tours, involves leading small group tours that I organize to various destinations around the world, something that I absolutely love doing. Coming up this year are Mexico, Southeast Asia and Socotra Island (if you haven’t heard about this place, look it up, it’s unreal!), so I’ll be heading to those destinations as well.
Earl Baron is a permanent global nomad who celebrates a true passion for travel. He has been a constant traveler for the more than 15 years, exploring 87 countries and counting. You can find him at wanderingearl.com and on Twitter @wanderingearl