Photos courtesy of Adam Pervez – Adam is currently on a round the world trip (RTW), exploring his passions by traveling to remote places and learning what happiness means to people and cultures globally. He shares his experiences and thoughts on his website, the Happiness Plunge. Recently we had a chance to ask Adam about his travels and travel philosophy.
Q. What is the “Happiness Plunge”?
The Happiness Plunge is when self-discovery and planning reaches the point of no return and you dive headfirst into a new life designed by you/for you with no possibility of returning to the life you left behind. In short, it’s creating a new life based on your passions and going after your dreams.
Q. What is the “Happy Nomad Tour” and what is the focus for you personally on this round the world trip?
The Happy Nomad Tour is my Happiness Plunge. My identified passions were writing, learning/teaching, helping others, and telling stories. Oh, and traveling of course! Traveling is my main passion, and I started from there and designed a trip that incorporated the other four passions. I write for my blog. I am constantly learning and teaching. I volunteer in each place with the goal of leaving it a bit better than the way I found it in my attempt to help people (though they often help me more than I help them!). And I try to find inspirational stories in each place to share on my blog.
I am focusing on many personal things during the trip. I want to learn to be more selfless, less connected to material things, more giving and loving, and more connected to nature and humanity. Of course, I want to learn more about the world, but my previous travels took me to 47 countries. From now on, I am focusing on people instead of monuments and museums. So connecting with people is the biggest goal after the goal of leaving each place a bit better than the way I found it. I also want to become fluent in Spanish and perhaps Hindi.
Q. What were the reasons/inspiration that led up to you quitting your “career job” and going on a journey of such length?
After working in the oil industry and then doing an MBA, in Denmark I created what I thought was my ideal life – a very comfortable existence with a good job, great income, and incredible society. But I just didn’t feel healthy. I was stressed out in a place where there is no need to feel stress. I felt like I had done everything right, yet I didn’t feel happy or satisfied.
So I started thinking about what my passions are, how to live a life based on my passions, and how to make that financially sustainable. The financial sustainability remains a work in progress, but I realized in the Middle East that money is not a motivator for me anyway.
The timing was perfect as I had no responsibilities. My parents are healthy; I had no wife or girlfriend, and no kids to be responsible for. I am 29 years old and healthy, and I felt like it was now or never to get out of the rat race and write my own script for my life.
The length of the trip is arbitrary as life is one big journey. But I hope to travel for at least two years as I am volunteering in each place I visit. Each volunteering experience is wonderful in its own way and I am constantly meeting amazing and inspirational people.
Q. Any recommendations for someone interested in taking a long trip such as the one you are currently on?
I think anyone embarking on a long journey needs to realize you can’t plan everything. Actually, you can’t plan very much. I do my best to stay one month ahead, but sometimes my plans change completely at the drop of a hat. So you need to understand yourself, your level of comfort with uncertainty, and what your goals are for such a journey.
I would also recommend spending as much time as possible off the beaten path. Stay with local people (I often couchsurf), live how they live, eat what they eat, and do what they do. Walk a mile in their shoes. Hotels are sterile and you miss so much culture by staying in them. Hostels are great for meeting people from all over the world, but I think it’s better to live the culture of the place you are staying.
It goes without saying, but you also have to have an open mind. Don’t research too much or you’ll spoil the fun. An ounce of open-mindedness is worth a ton of research. Don’t be afraid of not seeing everything. You can’t see everything! Just focus on having great experiences, and if you miss Monument X or Museum Y, that’s ok.
And be prepared to deal with loneliness. It’s inevitable no matter how many great experiences you have or how many amazing people you meet.
Q. Based on your experience in the oil industry compared to what you really wanted to be doing, what insights would you give the next generation as they explore how to pursue meaningful work?
Go back to when you were a little kid and you dreamed of being an astronaut or doctor or fireman/woman. That part of us is still alive deep inside, but we suppress it with our “adult understanding” of reality. Don’t suppress it. If you are going to spend 40 years of your life working, you have to be doing something you enjoy. If you are miserable at work, that will affect the other areas of your life negatively.
Don’t focus on money. Once you earn enough to cover basic needs, each additional Dollar adds almost nothing to your overall happiness. Focus on identifying and following your passions. And your passions can change throughout your life so don’t be afraid of change. Variety is the spice of life. Being “responsible” often means leading a very boring, repetitive life. So keep life interesting and be ready to roll with the punches. Santa often doesn’t bring what you asked for, but there’s always another year to work toward achieving your goals and getting the most out of your life.
Q. You have lived and worked in the Middle East. What is your favorite country from your experiences there and why?
The Middle East has many definitions, but from a geographic point of view, I’d have to say it is Turkey. I visited Turkey by surprise in 2005. I had just completed a safari through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. I was visiting a friend in Abu Dhabi for a day before heading back to work in Qatar. I called my boss to see if he needed me back. To my surprise, he gave me another week off!
So I went to a travel agency and looked for places to fly the following morning. I picked Istanbul, not knowing hardly anything about Turkey. I just made a hostel reservation and arrived with an open-mind and blank slate.
Compared to the Persian Gulf, where I was living, I really appreciated the secular nature of Turkey. The people were friendly, the food was amazing, and the history of that beautiful city is arguably unparalleled anywhere else.
Q. Has there been any time during your travels that you found yourself in a dangerous situation or had a serious problem – and if so describe what happened.
I didn’t have a good answer to this question, but literally the night before I answered these questions I had my first bad experience. Considering that it took so many years of traveling before I had a bad experience, I think I have been pretty lucky!
I was meeting up with a friend I met via Couchsurfing. She picked me up in the center of Guatemala City and we were in the process of unlocking the door to her building. A guy on a motorcycle showed up and started off by saying “Good evening” in Spanish. The rest of what he said was in a very low, muted voice and very fast. I am still learning Spanish and I focused very hard on what he was saying.
In fact, I focused so much that I didn’t realize my friend had already run a good 100ft/30m away and was yelling. The whole time I was staring the guy right in the eyes, focusing on trying to understand what he was saying. I think he didn’t know what to do since he was demanding I give him my backpack and belongings, but I just stood there, not intimidated at all, staring at him.
Once I realized what was going on, I ran after my friend and the incident was over. She told me what he was saying and I lived through my first attempted mugging not feeling nervous or afraid at all thanks to my bad Spanish! 🙂
That said, when I first arrived in Guatemala City, a guy took a half an hour of his day to help me get where I needed to go since I had no idea. I choose to remember Guatemala for the 99.9% of wonderful, friendly, and amazing people I met.
Q. Describe your ideal trip.
My ideal trip would have me going somewhere I’ve never been before. I would know nothing, or almost nothing, about the place, people, or culture. This isn’t as easy anymore due to globalization and the internet, unfortunately. I would spend all my time with a local family, participating in their daily activities and chores and truly understanding how they live. I’d feel like a part of the family and there would be lots to learn culturally and historically.
Q. On your website you talk bout “living through experiences, not things” – can you expand on this and explain a bit more what you mean by this.
I feel like in a consumption-based society, “things” are given far more value than they deserve. For me personally, the fewer “things” I have, the happier and healthier I feel. When you get right down to it, you don’t need many “things” to live. Yet modern marketing tends to convince people to worship products and brands. Obtaining such products or displaying certain brands is the path to a happier life, or so it is marketed.
I propose abandoning such thinking in favor of experiences and self-development. One’s purpose in life is not to consume and live vicariously through products and brands. Each one of us has our own purpose in life that we have to discover. Living a simple life full of interesting and fulfilling experiences builds character, confidence, and knowledge – and helps you get closer to finding your purpose. A luxury purse and several weeks of backpacking through Latin America cost roughly the same. Which one adds more value to your life? And someday when you’re old and trapped inside a body that can’t do what it once could, you’ll reflect a lot on your past. It’s up to you to create a past worthy of reflection.
Q. What advice do you have for people who want to make a career from online travel writing?
Going back to the previous question, I’d say you need to have an open mind and try to experience as much as possible. Within reason, never say no to a potential experience. Approach everything with an open mind and do your best to translate what you detect from your five senses into something your audience, no matter their age or experiences, can understand.
I would also say that you shouldn’t be afraid to add your own slant or point of view to what you experience. Of course it depends on where your writing is being published, but within reason express what you think and how you feel.
And have fun! The worst thing that can happen if you try to make a career out of travel writing is failure. But do you really fail if you visit the places you’ve always dreamed of and helped translate your experiences to others? You may fail commercially, but in all other areas you’ll probably succeed.
Adam Pervez left the comfort of a six-figure income in the corporate world to take the plunge into a more fulfilling life based on his passions of traveling, writing, teaching, learning, helping others, and telling stories.
Though his “Happy Nomad Tour” just started this year, after 50 countries and counting his curiosity and sense of exploration shows no sign of slowing down. By volunteering in each place he visits, he hopes to leave each locale a bit better than how he found it.
For more about Adam and his travels please visit: