Freediving, Spearfishing Resource – A Site Update

Freediving Gear and Spearfishing Gear.

As I learn more about sailing and photography I plan on adding those sections as well.  Those sections, for quite a while, will be an explanation of what I’ve learned.  They won’t be much of a resource to those with any experience, but they will (hopefully) be of some value to those starting their learning (like myself).  On photography – I’ve just picked up a new camera, and I’ll write about that shortly (nice picture at the top, though, right?)…

Creating a Freediving Resource

Writing a resource on Freediving Gear isn’t easy.  This one took hours (yes, even though it’s short). And it’s not particularly interesting if you’re not into freediving.  But – if you are searching for recommendations, and a concise explanation to what’s out there now; I think you’ll find it valuable.  There are some  (affiliate) links to Amazon embedded behind the pictures – which go straight to the item in the picture (on Amazon).  I love Amazon, it’s where I buy everything I can, and it’s where I compare prices and reviews.  If someone were to follow a link from the Freediving Gear (or Spearfishing Gear) page to Amazon, and then buy something I would get a (tiny) payment.  So if you want to help support The Nomad Trip, and need some gear – I would certainly appreciate the support.

Treading the line between concise and genuinely informative, I think my first crack at creating an entry-level freediving resource is pretty straightforward.  But being wrong is part of being human – so bear with me and feel free to let me know if there’s something I missed, I’m wrong about, or you’d like clarification on.   Leave it in the comments below or send me an email through my Contact Page.   The caveat here is that I’m an American freediver that freedives to spearfish – meaning I won’t be as versed in European gear, or competitive freediving gear, tactics, or resources.  All of my freediving information will have a spearfishing slant – and that’s the way I want it to be.

Creating a Spearfishing Resource

I think that spearfishing is a much harder topic to effectively cover than freediving (just look at the length of this page!).  There are so many considerations – diving conditions, quarry, and budget – in addition to the never-ending personal preferences.  I think this is actually a testament to the ingenuity of this group, as a whole.  The truth is, spearfishermen are a crafty group of humans that are always innovating.  I hope to be able to stay relatively current on gear – please let me know if something changes!

All that said – I’ve tackled the subject of Spearfishing Gear here. It’s an overview, and there’s so much more to cover that it’s daunting – but I’ll certainly take suggestions and certainly write as much as I can about what I know.  Again – there are a few Amazon affiliate links scattered through there.  If you have any suggestions, comments, or feedback – the comments below are the best place for them.  Of course, I do my best to answer emails too.

Hope  this provides a little bit of clarity, and a genuinely valuable freediving and spearfishing resource.  If you like those pages, please do share them, bookmark them, or link to them.  I appreciate it!  Finally, I’ve studied a ton of resource pages and I believe the best ones are built by a community.  So please let me know if there’s something that should be updated.

Stay tuned, I’ll publish my trip-related progress soon.

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Moving Forward (Slowly)

Trip Update

This post is more of an update, which I try to not do – nonetheless here I am, writing an update.

The last month has been one of complete chaos. I’ll detail out what’s changed and why, but don’t worry – I’m still planning on leaving sometime in 2014.  The sooner the better.  That said, I don’t want to leave on this kind of a journey half-cocked so I’ve been working diligently to knock out the ever-growing to-do list so that my trip is more sustainable.  Without further ado, here’s an update:

We Bought a Duplex (and Started Remodeling It)

One of my goals, before leaving was to grab ahold of at least one multi-family investment property.  My reasons were: a) I’d like to establish a small amount of cash-flow to supplement the trip and b) when I get back, I don’t want to be flat-broke.  Despite a record-breaking housing boom here in Austin, I’ve managed to do part of that.  We’re remodeling the duplex though, so it’s not complete and has added another level of complexity to this stage.  In the next 4-5 months, I’d like to buy one more multi-family unit (no remodel this time, I hope).

I Moved

Obviously related to the above, I’ve decreased my cash-burn by moving into something that a) builds equity and b) my tenants help pay the mortgage on.  Moving is also not complete and has also added another level of complexity.  A big plus of this though is I was able to go through and very objectively separate the “I need this stuff” and “I don’t need this stuff” in my life.  Just the thought of removing some of the accumulated and (mostly) unused stuff is therapeutic – I highly recommend it. This will be handy over the next few months as I’m trying to get rid of things.

I’m Close to Purchasing a Mini-Storage Complex

There’s a ton of work involved in this as well and it’s sapped my time.  That said, I think it’s a pretty smart way to help supplement the cost of the trip over the next few years and to also build a little equity.  I hope to have this wrapped up by the end of January.  To give you a rough idea – I was looking for units within driving distance of Austin that a) had 15-20% cash-on-cash returns b) had management in place c) that had 90-100% physical occupancy.  If anyone is seriously interested in this, I’ll elaborate more via email, comments, and after I purchase the units.  This is part of a bigger plan to setup recurring revenue, that doesn’t need day-to-day management.

I’ve Spoken With Some Interesting People

Could I be more vague?  Hundreds of emails and a few phone calls, all responses from my posts on sponsorship and video help,  and I’ve started to gain a clearer picture (no pun intended) of how (and if) I should pursue either of those goals.  I continue to be intrigued by both video production and sponsorship, but I worry that I’m complicating something (the trip) that was partly designed to remove my life from complication.

I Made a Short-List of Boats

In reality I did this in my last post, but I’m continually adding/subtracting to that list and have alerts set that let me know when boats come up on the market.  The next step is getting one under contract and setting up a prolonged sea-trial so my Mom can see how comfortable she is on the boat and with the cruising lifestyle.

I’ve Had Serious Dental Work

Sounds stupid, but this laid me out for a week.  Initially I went in for a checkup to get all necessary dental work done.  The checkup revealed I’ve been grinding my teeth and have cracked a couple.  Those cracked teeth needed crowns.  But one of the teeth that needed a crown was close to my wisdom teeth (which needed to be removed, before the placement of a permanent crown). So, I had two impacted and deeply rooted wisdom teeth removed – which led to dry socket and a ton of pain.  It needed to happen, but it wasn’t pretty and put me out of commission during a really busy time.  Next step is a really thorough doctor’s visit (and the remainder of my dental work).

I Set Up a Development Site

I have no time right now (see the above, and remember I work full time too), but I expect that to (slightly) change after some of the chaos of moving, remodeling, and buying the mini-storage settles. Then I want to redesign this webpage so I can experiment a little.  To help me decide what will and won’t work on this, I cloned my current site under a different domain to experiment with. This redesign is alot harder than I thought it would be and requires me to reformat the majority of my content (not hard, but time-consuming). I may hire some of this out, we’ll see.

There’s a long list of stuff I haven’t done as well, but I won’t bore you with the details.

Thank You

Before I sign off though, I wanted to give a huge thanks to everyone who has supported me over the last couple of months.  In comments on the blog, emails, in person, and via phone a huge number of people have reached out and offered a bit of support.  It comes in many forms, but it all has the same effect – to remind me that this isn’t just a to-do list.  It’s the beginning of a big, life-changing experience that most people only dream of doing after retirement.  My favorite words to date were short and sweet, at the conclusion of a long email from someone who found my blog (and is doing something similar).

“Don’t let anything stop you.”

So, in conclusion – thanks for the support, it’s appreciated.  And, of course, I expect to follow the above advice.

As always – if you’d like to stay in touch the best ways are to “Like” The Nomad Trip on Facebook (via the box on the top right) or subscribe to get updates via email here. 

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Change is the Only Constant

Alrighty, since we’re getting charter bookings (thanks!) we decided it is time to put together a quick guide to Panama City.  Getting to us (NOMAD) is simple and fairly quick considering you’ll be going from civilization to a part of Panama that you can only really explore via boat (San Blas/Guna Yala).  We handle this, though […]

Circumnavigation – Advice and Concerns

the post here.  After writing it, I posted a link to that in a Google + sailing group, and I received a really thoughtful reply from someone who had circumnavigated before. The reply was something I was really glad to hear, but it also helped cement some of the thoughts I’ve had surrounding the mental aspects of circumnavigation.

Here’s the word-for-word advice I received.  I’ve bolded the things that I’ve been grappling with.

My points for you:

• You will change. 
• It is easy to go but hard to come back: It is easy for a slave to become free, but difficult for a sailor to be slave. 
• You cannot go home, as home will have changed.
• It will take longer than you planed.
• You will spend all you will.
• An automatic pilot is more reliable than crew, feed it well, and carry loads of parts.
• 99% of people who talk of going, never go; 99% of people who buy a boat, never leave harbour; 99% of people who leave harbour, never get past 100nm of home. Find a reason to put to sea and not a reason not to.
• Re skills needed: Patience, Acceptance of other ways of living, Accept you cannot control your environment. Learn how to navigate without electricity. Be self sufficient. Try and be as good seaman as your great grandfather was. Learn to: anchor in 25+ kts; anchor in 20 meters of water; to tow; drive the boat backwards in 25+kts.  Have a routine before you put to sea, to check the boat and compass. 
• My Books I studied and took with me: 
Nigel Calder: How to be a diesel mechanic; Refrigeration for boats; Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual (buy him Heineken beer if you see him), Jimmy Cornel ; World Cruising Routes and Pilot; Complete Guide to Anchoring and Line Handling; The 12 Vot doctor; Cook books.
• Where there are no doctors.
• You will lose your last name and that will be replaced with your boat name, so name your boat wisely. John on a boat called Wild angel is John Wild Angel.
• Rough weather: Each boat and each situation is different, so there is no one way. I am a Jordan series fan, but it depends upon the boat and proximity to land. Buy a whitewater kayak helmet with a visor, so you can breathe in the foam that is blown in rough weather. Buy good quality waterproofs, as you will wear them for days. Avoid extreme weather, it is painful. Keep your bunk dry; take the waterproof off as soon as you come below decks. Learn to sleep in the cockpit. Wear a harness all the time on deck, as it does not wear the harness down. If you fall overboard in bad weather..say goodbye. Be careful cooking in bad weather (I wear my waterproof trousers when I cook). Buy a pressure cooker. Buy a stout and a canvas bucket, good for many things.
• Land is danger, when is doubt head out.
• Keep a formal log, along with a social log. The formal log is for any accidents, and should you lose your electronics, then you have a last position and bearing. The social log is so that you can be the old bore at the yacht club bar who has done everything.

I’m not going to attempt to write about those points quite yet, as they’re issues that really require some pondering.  I just wanted to point out, that while the idea of this trip sounds kind of dreamy (are you picturing a margarita in some remote spot, as the sun goes down?).  The bottom line is that there is a ton of personal, financial, and physical risk involved.  This isn’t a sailing trip around a couple of civilized, protected islands.  And I’m not going out with a full crew of experienced sailors.

English: French map of the first world circumn...

The first circumnavigation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Honestly though, those aren’t even remotely close to my biggest concerns.  Here’s what’s been in the back of my mind for the last couple of months:

  • A shift in mentality:  I’ve been through really life (and mentality) changing scenarios before (see: fighting in Iraq, losing family/friends, etc).  When these events happen, even if you are able to become acclimated to “society” again – it takes time and nobody can possibly see things the way you do (their issues revolve around children, jobs, mortgages, etc).  And it’s not their fault, it’s yours, you’re the outsider.
  • No chance of a career:  Anything I’ve gained in my “career” to date will be largely shot.  This really isn’t a huge loss, I don’t put much stock in “careers.” It seems too much like indentured servitude. But it will obviously pose problems when I get back and need to find some source of income.  More importantly, I believe this will shift my mindset (even more) away from consumerism and the objects others in society deem important.  Which isn’t a problem – except that shifts like this largely make you seem anti-social (promise, I’ve been there).
  • People move on, the world keeps spinning:  Honestly, after the novelty of the idea wears off – people return to their daily lives and (if you’re lucky) you’re an afterthought – “Remember that guy, who I used to work/drink/eat/dive with? Yeah, I think he took off sailing.”  Without a doubt, your family, friends, and others move on.
  • “Home” loses it’s meaning:  Another one of those things that I can live without, but it does have an effect on the lonely wanderer.
  • Budget?  What budget?  I can’t possibly, really budget for this. I know from others trips that they plan to be gone for 3 years and come back in 10, and only after they’ve sold all of their belongings (remember, possessions don’t mean anything anymore).  Then they borrow money to start their lives over (from scratch), all the while planning their next escape.  So if I’m planning 5, and the experience agrees with me – I suppose I may be starting from scratch at 40.

To be fair, these are incredibly “first-world problems.”  And none of them are even remotely insurmountable.  That said, I’d be a fool not to consider these points before I drop everything, sell everything – and really, fundamentally change my life.

English: sailing boat

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bottom line is that I welcome a change – normal life is tedious and boring (on a good day), a life of debt and consumerism isn’t for me, a “career” feels like slow death,  and I find myself planning ways to escape daily.  More importantly – few people have the gumption to do this, and when (or maybe if) I pull this off – it’ll make for some damn good stories, pictures, and videos.

I hope you folks subscribe, so you’ll get to live this vicariously (or hell, even make a visit to see me).  You can also like my Facebook page (up, on the right) or follow me on Instagram (also up, on the right).

Cheers, until next time.

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Working On My Sailing Experience

Alrighty, since we’re getting charter bookings (thanks!) we decided it is time to put together a quick guide to Panama City.  Getting to us (NOMAD) is simple and fairly quick considering you’ll be going from civilization to a part of Panama that you can only really explore via boat (San Blas/Guna Yala).  We handle this, though […]

My First Wahoo Spearfishing (and a Brush with Death)

Spearfishing Gear

So, naturally, I said yes.

Pack.  Leave. Quickly.

I’m Out

I was on the road – it was about 11PM and that put me at my buddy’s close to 3AM.  We were leaving at 5AM and I’d had about two hours of sleep the night before.  Energy drinks kept me in some limbo between sleep and being awake, but soon enough I was there. Trying to sleep.  Shit, this isn’t working.  Finally the alarm went off and I stumbled around the dark house getting all my crap together and loading the truck.

My host (and the captain) is a good dude, but he definitely isn’t a morning person and I was short on patience (nothing new here).  I wake him up a third time and even raise my voice a little.  He’s up, let’s get this party started.  On the way to the marina real exhaustion starts to set in, the only thing keeping me from dropping into a really crappy mood is that I can probably sleep on the ride out.

 Load the boat.  Gas fumes fill my nose and don’t help the oncoming sense of nausea.  This was a charter – the clients seemed alright, a huge relief.  They were all tuned up and ready to go.  Check the weather.  Shit.  It’s going to be a rough ride out – they’re calling 3-5’s all the way out.  Too late now.

Rough Seas

English: Rough seas at Brighton Marina The wes...

Rough seas on the jetty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No dice on sleeping on the way out – the boat (a stable 36′ Contender with twin Yamaha 350’s) is pitching heavily.  When I tried to sleep in the bow I was being thrown a couple of feet into the air every couple of seconds.  Good thing I don’t get seasick.  Back on deck the wind chills me (it’s just a bit over freezing) and the saltwater stings, but I’m loving every minute of it.  This is where I’m supposed to be.

We talk about tactics and sharks – nothing new, but this would be my first time supervising clients in the water and hunting wahoo at the same time.  My main purpose was making sure the clients understood what they needed to do, that they didn’t have a blackout underwater, and to keep the sharks off their backs.  I got this. 

It takes more courage than I’ve ever had to display in combat – to justify stripping and putting on my wetsuit in the wind, salt spray, and near-freezing temperatures.  Wetsuit on, almost there.  Lack of sleep, and the stress of leaving and rushing had taken its toll – I was starting to wonder what I was doing out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, during the middle of winter, during the middle of a storm.  Am I f*cking nuts? 

The Joy of Wintertime Wahoo

Jesus Christ the water is cold.  It immediately snaps me out of my funk.  I’m back, it’s on. Fish are all around me, then sharks.  I lead the way and take a couple of shallow dives to get warmed up.  The clients are floating, probably still shocked by the cold water and a little worried about the (very curious) bull sharks that are making passes at us. My breath hold sucks – I’m lucky to have 30 seconds underwater before the contractions start.  My mental state isn’t letting me pass the initial “get to the surface” feeling and my dive-reflex isn’t kicking in.

Ocean Triggerfish

Ocean Triggerfish (Photo credit: Thespis377)

The first Ocean Triggerfish start coming up from the deep – we’re drifting over the spot.  Amberjack are next and the clients start easing down, but they stop short of 30 foot.  That kind of dive isn’t going to work at this spot, the wahoo are sitting at 50 foot – if they’re home.  But this isn’t my trip – I’m just here for backup.  One client gets back in the boat – the sharks make him nervous and he’d rather line-fish. Fine with me, one less diver to worry about. No wahoo are home.

Run and Gun

Back on the boat the engines go from silent to a dull roar and we’re doing 35 knots over the whitecaps to the next spot. This is run and gun diving, if the fish aren’t home, we’re not hanging around.  The next spot is a little better.  We do 3 drifts and see a couple of lone wahoo.  These aren’t the monsters I chase around now, but it didn’t matter – these were the first wahoo I’d seen underwater.  Adrenaline fills my veins, I have tunnel vision and the only thing I can hear is the thumping of my heart in my ears.


Wahoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Right behind you!!”

I’ve been yelling at the top of my lungs for 10 minutes.  For all the prep, all the risk, all the money, all the time – the wahoo keep going right behind the client when he’s underwater.  He doesn’t even see them.  When he surfaces we exchange six words “keep your head on a swivel” and go back to the diving.

The sharks are thicker at this spot and are nipping playfully (or not) at our fins. They aren’t huge – it would more likely be a nasty scar than a mortal wound.   Another wahoo passes behind the client.  I wait until it’s far out of his range, take a breath and being an Olympic-style swim towards the fish.  It eyes me but doesn’t pick up speed.  I’m closing, but it’s still 50 feet away and my contractions have started – I’m going to need air soon. Just two more kicks.  It’s a hail-mary and I know if I miss I’m going to be in a pile of shit with the client and with our captain.  Everything slows down, I aim and put pressure on the trigger.
Bull sharks

Bull sharks (Photo credit: Mercury dog)

The shot was so long the spear actually arched, but it was a lucky shot and it landed right in front  of the tail – it might just hold.  The wahoo takes off and I kick desperately for the surface – I pushed it on that dive.  On the surface I watch my line take off and let out a bellow – I just pulled the trigger on my first wahoo!  I won’t forget this. Now I’m in shark-defense mode.  The sharks have picked up speed and are starting to swim erratically and they seem to jerk through the water – they smell blood.  I can’t lose this fish to sharks.

The wahoo wasn’t a monster – it might have been 35 pounds.  It only made a single, fast run and then some kicks towards the surface as he started to give up.  I was there to meet him.  With my first wahoo on the boat, and with my adrenaline pumping I yelled a little about a photo and dove back into the water hoping someone would follow with my camera.  

Over the next few drifts I spent some time in overwatch mode; keeping an eye on the sharks, playing with the marine life, and just relaxing while the client dove and worked to get into some wahoo.  I was completely relaxed, finally.  I made several dives to 50 foot to see if the wahoo were deep, they weren’t.  We saw sporadic loner wahoo a couple of times, but no schools and no monsters.

Round Two

Here we go again – the client had another wahoo pass within a few feet of the back of his head. I waited until I was sure the wahoo was out of range, and then I made an underwater sprint to close the distance and land a hailmary shot in the wahoo’s tail.  With fish number two in the boat I was a bit in the doghouse – the client had paid for the trip and I’m the only one landing fish.  In my defense, the client had more experience than me and every advantage – he just wasn’t seeing the fish.  I was banned from pulling the trigger again, unless it was an over-zealous shark.  No problem, I’d run the boat with a huge smile on my face.
We slept tied to a rig, about 70 miles offshore that night.  It was rough, cold, and wet.  I didn’t get much sleep for the third night in a row, and I was feeling it.  Our client didn’t do very well on the drifts that day and was on his way to getting skunked.  So we did what any self-respecting crew would do in this situation, stop at a rig and do a deep SCUBA dive to try to pull up an amberjack or big grouper.  I was completely satisfied sitting on the deck, but I could tell the captain wanted to shoot something – which means I needed to be on overwatch, in case something went wrong.

The dive down the legs of an offshore oil rig is always an amazing sight.  Life teams around the rigs – huge schools of jacks and snapper swirl around me as I make my descent.  I limited myself to a quick 150 foot bounce dive, with an appropriate amount of air for a deco stop.  Everything was going fine, I was watching the guys as they broke off and started kicking around the structure.  At 135 I saw a cubera snapper that I knew I was taking home.  He descended, so did I.  At this point we were well into a very risky depth – but I did a quick check around and the guys were alright.  Deeper.  There.  The cubera made a run around the rig leg, and I was waiting for him to come out of the other side…. But he didn’t.  Sometimes the fish are just smarter than us, and this is their playground – I’m just a visitor.  I lowered my gun removed my finger from the trigger area and checked my depth gauge.  I saw 163 feet.  Then everything went fuzzy.

I saw 163 feet.  Then everything went fuzzy.

Night Rig

Night Rig (Photo credit: arbyreed)

When I opened my eyes, saltwater was stinging them and I realized I had a mouthful of water.  My mask was off my face and my regulator wasn’t in my mouth.  I could feel pieces of my teeth in my mouth and tasted iron.  Not good.  I shook my head and immediately, instinctually kicked toward the surface.  When I looked up I realized I would never make it. So  I played the “your-regulator-is-behind-your-back-at-163-feet” game – which is no fun.  I found my regulator and managed to get a breath of air – but even after purging the regulator, it was spewing air out of it at an unsustainable rate.  I was in trouble.  Mask on.  My mask was half-full (or half-empty?) of water, my eyes were stinging and I was becoming aware of some serious pain in my mouth and nose.  But I had much, much bigger problems – my air continued to spew out of my regulator, I was at 150 feet underwater, and I had about 750 pounds of air (decreasing rapidly).

Air bubble

SCUBA bubbles (Photo credit: riandreu)

As I kicked toward the surface I looked around – I signaled trouble and it was pretty clear I needed help.  The captain kicked toward me as I ascended.  On the ascent I noticed the spear from my speargun dangling beneath me, and realized for the first time what had happened.  My speargun had again misfired, the recoil slamming the but of the speargun back into my face – knocking off my mask and punching the regulator out of my mouth. I remained cool and calm, but in my head there was definitely a bit of panic rising.

At 35 feet I grabbed a rig leg, and the bubbles streaming from my regulator had slowed – but only because I was almost completely out of air.  I purged the valve again, and for some reason – this time the bubbles stopped  entirely, leaving me less than 400 pounds of air in my tank.  I was sucking for air, but well within range of the surface.  At this point, running out of air only meant I would end up bent – but I could solve that with another “drop and hang” at 35 feet, on another tank. Our captain showed up next to me and we buddy-breathed.  I could tell there was a bit of “what-the-hell-happened” in his eyes, but I was much more worried about my teeth at this point – I could tell the front two were broken.

At the end of the day – we all made it back, we were all (kinda) smiling, and we all left the dock with wahoo for the dinner table.  But it almost didn’t end up that way.  This was my first, but certainly not my last brush with death while spearfishing.  I can honestly say it didn’t shake me, and that it didn’t keep me out of the water very long.  While we’re on the subject though – spearfishing (freedive or SCUBA) is dangerous – there are just a ton of variables.  Everybody I know that does it, has either seen or experienced someone dying or having a close call.  If you panic easily, don’t ease into it, don’t take the proper safety precautions (training) – you may very well end up being a statistic.  I almost did, and this certainly wasn’t my first rodeo.

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7 Steps To a Healthier “Leave It All” Mentality

the circumnavigation, mentally.  And what I’m finding is resistance – not just from others – but from myself.  Rather than beginning to live more frugally, I’m having a hard time giving up delivery when I’m at home.  Rather than beginning to sell things I don’t need or use, I find myself continuing to acquire things I know don’t matter. This is not what I expected.

Change is something I work hard to incorporate in my life.  If things get stale, I change.  If things are going badly, I change. If things are going well, I change (ideally continuing to improve). But I’m finding it hard to change now, and I can’t put my finger on it.  I had some time to think about it on my motorcycle the other day (between warp-speed, hairpin turns) and I really think it has to do with my job and being too comfortable.

Which means I need to get out and take a little risk.  And this is my accountability – and hopefully some inspiration for you to do the same.  Here are my steps, with goals – hopefully some of them will resonate with you.

Step 1 – Drain the Bank Account

This isn’t what it sounds like – I’m not giving everything away or buying everything I’ve ever wanted.  But I want to be riding closer to the edge – I want to worry, just a little, about money.  So, the vast majority of my “disposable income” is going somewhere I can’t touch it.  I need the stimulation, I need the uncertainty, I need the push – to keep me on my toes.

Goal – December 2013.

Step 2 – Quit the Shenanigans 

The new rule is I get one Friday and one Saturday night (per month) to cut loose.  The rest of the evenings are spent at home, watching movies, or doing something productive.  I love to have a couple of beers with friends, so this is a big deal for me.

Goal – Yesterday.

Step 3 – Focus on Independent Work

I could fill up 5 people’s calendars with the projects I have going on (but I’m scaling that back too) – so there is NO excuse for not being insanely productive.  And I have NO excuse for pissing off a day or an evening or a weekend.  Unless I’m taking a break – but that’s not an excuse, that’s a necessary part of maintaining a healthy balance.

Goal – Yesterday.

Free weights

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Step 4 – Focus on Health

I have two gym memberships, and for some reason I’ve been making excuses for not using either.  It’s bullshit. I do have a legitimate reason for not visiting the gym twice a week (I spend two hours commuting Monday and Wednesday), but that leaves 5 days per week I can workout.  More working out = more energy, and I know that’s going to lead me to a better place mentally.

Goal – lose 10 pounds and regain strength, December 2013.

Step 5 – Take Any and All Measures Necessary to Quit the 9-5

Yep.  You read that right.  Before I go on this circumnavigation, I’m quitting my 8-6 (ish), well-paying job.  I find myself rushing everywhere, unable to take time for the things that matter (health, food, basic life maintenance) and so I’m quitting.  I want to work for myself, on my schedule, without all the bullshit that comes with a typical 9-5.  I’m over it.  Some of this is under my control – some of it (really) isn’t.

Goal – January 2014 I’m self-employed.

English: For Sale by Owner Sign svg

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Step 6 – Start Selling the Accumulation of Soul-Sucking Crap

I admit it – when I buy something I expect it to be with me forever.  There has been only a single time in my life when I bought something with the intention of selling it (ever), and that was recently (two days ago).  But I’m done with it.  I’m over the materialism, I’m over the borderline hoarder mentality, and I’m over the stress of having too much stuff.

What the hell do you tell your family though?  Something like: I don’t want any more presents for my birthday, I don’t want trinkets that you picked up at the gift shop, I don’t want gifts from your travel. Please spare me – I’m going to have to sell it, and then I’m going to feel guilty for selling it.  In effect, you’ll be paying money to make me feel guilty.  

I’ll take support, I’ll take a little bit of genuine (organic) promotion for my cause. Of course, I’m sure there will be a point where I need something on the trip – and at that point maybe my family/friends will send me something that I really need (I’ll have some brownie points by then, surely).

Goal – Big ticket items sold by February 2014.


Step 7 – Start Telling Everyone “No”

I’m completely fed up with saying “yes.” I can’t accomplish anything I want when I’m busy pleasing everybody else. To be clear – anybody that knows me understands that I’m not known for being overly generous with my time.  I simply don’t have much to give.  But I’m clamping down even more.  Even tonight there was the inevitable distraction that I could have avoided had I said “no.”  And guess what?  I should have.

I can feel the clock ticking, and I when I’m busy pleasing others – I feel them sucking the energy from me.  Energy that could be spent working towards one of my (huge) goals. Energy that could be spent working on one of my many projects.  Starting yesterday, I’m doing what I want, when I want, and if people don’t like it – I’ll understand completely.  But I won’t feel guilty anymore.

Goal – Yesterday.


When I got the panicked call that my Dad was dying, I was terrified.  My whole life changed, I knew he wasn’t going to make it and I wasn’t going to get there in time.  It was one of the most heartbreaking things that’s happened to me.  But I’ve come to understand – it was a liberating thing as well.  My father instilled in all of us, early, the value of money – having a “good job”, and working hard.  And if that was what I really wanted, that would have been just fine.

But when I think about work, material possessions, and what we (in America) have come to accept as “life” – I really only see it as a form of mental, financial, and societal slavery.  It’s everything I don’t want, but it’s been pushed so hard that I almost lost sight of what matters to me – my freedom.

Things became even more clear this year, when I got the same type of call about my Mother.  Thankfully – she did survive and she’s now back to 100%.  But here’s what those moments have taught me:  Your life is full of bullshit.  That bullshit is a drain on what you should be.  That bullshit isn’t necessary.  That bullshit can be cut out.  That bullshit, if you let it, will completely blind you from what is important.  Until that moment when it all becomes clear.  And then it’s usually too late.  

Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.

– Socrates

The phone call I answered, late that night was a gift not many get to experience this early – it stripped away everything that didn’t matter and reminded me exactly how fragile life is.  I remember being deployed in Iraq and coming to this conclusion – but somehow, coming back into American society started to corrupt me again.  It took a brush with the death of a loved one to remind me.  Funny how death works – how it closes important doors, but it brings us together and forces us to confront things in our own life that might otherwise go unexamined.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  

– Jobs

But this wouldn’t be a fair post without a couple of caveats:

  1. I just bought a second (used) motorcycle – and I’m not giving it up until I’m leaving.  Everything else will go.
  2. I’m going to take time off when I need to.  I’m not going to sacrifice quality of life.
  3. I’m going to continue to eat delivery occasionally.  I’m not giving it up completely, but I’m cutting back.
  4. I’m going to have the occasional drink socially with friends – catching up doesn’t count as Shenanigans.

My last non-essential purchase

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Convention and Tradition are a Trap

Photo of Wisdom Path

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s our Skype conversation:

Friend:  “[Time is] all any of us have dodo, it’s all about how we use/waste it.”

Me:  “Maybe, but most people don’t have 5 years to just f*ck off (speaking about my trip).  Or maybe they just can’t figure out how to finance 5 years of f*cking off.” 

Friend:  “Not so sure. We sort of decide what we are going to do. Go into the Army, go to college, get a job in a factory.  It’s not that they don’t have the time, it’s the lack of courage to take risks.”

Me:  “That’s probably true too.  And there’s this idea that your life is supposed to be kinda cookie-cutter… Get a job, find a lady, have some kids, get a house, give up and relegate yourself to a mediocre existence.”

Friend: “That’s the f*cked up American template, for sure.”

Me:  “I have to admit – it sounds good because it would be so much easier and there’s so much pressure to just do that… but then I’d be dragging my knee around every corner on the motorcycle just for the tiniest bit of adrenaline.”

Friend:  “It’s not easier. It’s harder. And it’s a f*cking trap.”

Now, if this was some college-age punk or another friend of mine who was an adrenaline junkie – I’d probably dismiss this conversation as ego-polishing.  But this friend is over 60, has a child, a wife, a house, and a nice BMW motorcycle that I’m happy he chooses to ride with me and my motorcycle.

Old News - canon rebel t2i

(Photo credit: @Doug88888)

“It’s Tradition” or “It’s Conventional” Aren’t Answers

That  subtitle says it all.  If approached at the end of my life, when someone asks why I did something or lived a certain way – the only answers I don’t want to give are the unexamined answers:  “It is tradition” or “I gave into societal pressure” or “It was conventional.”   Specifically in the realm of marriage, children, religion and the mundane life of most middle-class Americans.   They say our American Middle Class is disappearing – maybe, but I’m not convinced there is much we should save.

wedding rings

Photo credit: Wikipedia

On marriage:

I don’t believe marriage is for most of us, certainly not me (yet). It’s an archaic institution that has long outgrown it’s purpose, and if you simply look around – you’ll see that we’re not as inclined (as a species) to follow through with it as we once were.  First time marriage has less than a 50% success rate, second time marriages are successful about 33% of the time, and third marriages have a remarkably shitty success rate of 27%.  And for what benefit would one take this risk?  I don’t see much logic in it, until much later in life.  People’s goals, ambition, and focus change – often very quickly and in this day in age “forever” is much longer than it was.  There simply isn’t a compelling reason for it anymore besides Convention and Tradition – and you know how I feel about that.

On children:

I think overpopulation is a real concern and having more than a couple of children at this day in age is either:  a) irresponsible (as in:  I didn’t take the proper precautions and now I have 5 kids) or b) selfish (as in: I love kids and I want them, they make me happy) or c) stupid (as in:  I didn’t think about it)

That get your fur up a little bit?  Well, let me explain.  First – exponential growth is crazy stuff, do some reading or just look at this graph of human population growth:

Graph of Human Population Growth

The graph above can be found here. And the argument that it’s not first-world population growth is bullshit too – a child in the US consumes 66 times the resources that a child in India does.  We may not be growing as rapidly, but our waste and overconsumption is serious stuff. Where are we going to be by 2083?  About 10 BILLION people.  If you’re in the US and reading this, you may not care – but do a bit of traveling and you’ll see the horrible impact we’re having on the environment as humans.  Ever been to a landfill, seen a trash city, or heard about the island of plastic in the Pacific?   Again – forgo the tradition and convention, having more kids isn’t helping anything.

English: World Religions by percentage accordi...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

On organized religion:

I believe it’s a nothing short of a form of mental slavery.  If you really believe in your organized religion, I’d encourage you to think about why.  We all know it’s not logic or scientific discovery that led you there, so what was it? My hypothesis is it’s society/tradition/convention that encourages it.  It’s fairly common knowledge that children are most often persuaded in religious preference by their parents.  And childhood indoctrination is something that people are becoming more and more aware of and against – prominent authors that are critical of it include:  Nicolas Humphrey, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins – who argues childhood indoctrination is actually child abuse.

I’m not sure I’m qualified to tell anyone how to raise children or what to believe – but I find freedom, numbers, science, and logic compelling – and it seems like every organized religion I know of has worked very hard to remove those things from their organization.  Even worse – studies show that the more educated and intelligent you are, the less likely you are to believe in organized religion – a foreboding statistic if you also realize the sheer numbers of religious folks.

English: Suburban tract house in California

Photo credit: Wikipedia

On the traditional American middle-class:

It sounds horrible to me.  I’m supposed to relegate myself to some type of indentured servitude, where my masters are children, the economy, a flawed society, some corporation, and some customers.  Have we made all of this technology and all of this progress for this? What’s funny is that we, as Americans, have these “epidemics” that involve things like obesity and prescription drug addiction.  And in true American form, we sue and blame everyone else without taking a hard look inside.  What’s missing from our lives that leaves us with holes that we fill with prescription drugs and fast food? Everything.  Our connection with nature (and the perspective that brings) has suffered noticeably.  Our connection between food and nature and activity has suffered as well – to the point that we, as a culture, criticize people who continue to work to hunt and bring (natural, high-quality) food to the table.  And as hunters we’ve done a shitty job of only hunting for things that we bring home and only shooting what we can/will eat.

But back to the subject:  the traditional, American, middle-class life holds nothing for me.  I not only am uninterested in it, I’m uninterested in the value system it relies on, the consumerism it breeds, and the lack of freedom we end up with by following that route.  Is the dream really to have a mortgage, multiple car payments, two weeks (if you’re lucky) of vacation, no time to pursue hobbies and interests, no time and energy to workout and enjoy nature, and the stress and pressure all of that brings?  If that’s the American Dream, I beg you – let me wake up, it sounds nightmarish.

Like a Bad Dream

Photo credit: Keoni Cabral

Alright Nate – we get it, what’s your point? 

My point is this:  if you’re leading an unexamined life, just going with the flow – I believe you’re cheating yourself.  Examine your life, your belief systems, and your goals – and if that examination leads you away from Tradition or Convention, GOOD.  Convention and Tradition are a trap – break the chains!

Showing the strain

Photo credit: Brian Smithson

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

Convention and Tradition are dead people’s baggage – you don’t need it and you can give it back.  It’s perfectly legitimate, and even noble, to lead a non-traditional, non-conventional life.  In the next two years I’ll be getting off my soapbox and practicing what I preach (with The Nomad Trip) – it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, or subscribe to the blog by clicking here.

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