AWESOME PERSON #15 – MEET JUSTIN CARMACK!
Justin Carmack is a travel blogger, divemaster and over-all lover of freedom and adventure on the road. He runs a great travel website called True Nomads which is his blog where he writes and posts photos of his world travels. Justin has been constantly traveling for almost 4 years now, and says the craziness never ends. From wild Quambi rides in Malawi, to highway robberies in Peru. Backpacking the world has brought him to 72 countries and 6 continents so far, and it’s an addiction he just can’t shake! Justin was kind enough to offer some of his time for an interview with Living Seasonal! For more info on Justin check out his site www.TrueNomads.com!
1. Justin, you left home in 2011 to embark on a study abroad adventure to South Africa yet never made it back! What inspired you to choose South Africa and then want to stay?
Well I didn’t really choose SA, in fact it was pretty low on my list as I had virtually been no where else. But my university’s Outdoor Program did international trips between semesters, and I didn’t care were they were going, I just wanted to join. So SA is where I went.
It turned out to be amazing. Cape Town is still one of my favorite cities, and we also wandered to Zambia and Mozambique. Trip of a life time! By the end of the trip everyone was getting depressed because they had to return to the “real world”.
Then and there I decided I would make my own “real world” and take the next semester off and keep going. Well the allure for travel and my happiness never faded. One semester off turned into 2 then 4 then more. Best decision I ever made.
2. When you were waiving goodbye to fellow students and planning to remain in Mozambique, what were the initial thoughts going through your head? I know you said you had no regrets and felt immediate happiness, but were there any nervous moments? What about money?
I was on a high because I had just gotten scuba certified there, but pretty nervous also, knowing they were leaving me in Africa, and I had no return flight and only $400 to my name.
But it was the best kind of nervous. Such a rush. If you ever want to build a high level of independence in someone, drop them off in Africa with no way home and little money. That’s what happened to me. I did it to myself, I forced myself to ignore “reality” and “bad idea” talks from friends, and did it.
I found a job a few days before they left me, at a hostel and Internet cafe near the beach, and life was good. Knowing I could find jobs along the way opened up so many doors, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
3. Your first job abroad was with a hostel and dive shop. Did you have previous experience in these positions? What made you choose to work there?
None at all! But I was in Africa, spoke English, was traveled (well, more than some), and was educated. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to work at a hostel, and they aren’t going to pay well anyway. But I wasn’t looking to set up a saving plan, I just needed to sustain the travels.
For example, they didn’t pay well but I did have the following benefits:
Free accommodation. Free meals, including fresh lobster. Free wifi, not so common there. Meeting new contacts from all over. Discounts on any diving I want. Commissions for diving referrals I brought. I also found someone going north in a SUV, made friends with them, and got a free ride towards Malawi, saving that much in bus tickets. Basically everything I needed was covered and I lived on a world class beach eating seafood all day. That trend continues now.
4. What was it like living in a tent on a cement rooftop? Why did you choose to do that…was it your only option?
I’ve done that a few times. Especially in Africa and South America. It is common for hostels to offer camping if you have a tent, and charge only a couple bucks. But the time you mentioned, it was New Years Eve in Maputo, Mozambique, and the “camp ground” they offered was on the roof. Very hard but saved a lot of money.
5. You’ve visited 68 countries on 6 continents. Which continent is left? Do you plan to visit?
Actually I’m at 72 countries now, and Antarctica is my last continent. And of course, I’ll go! Only reason I haven’t is because it’s so expensive to get there. But soon!
6. How about home, when was the last time you were there? Do you plan to travel the U.S.?
I spent a few months there about 3 years ago, doing another semester. Then I was off again and haven’t returned. I DO plan to travel all of the States, but my to do list is so huge who knows when it’ll be.
7. You’ve been surrounded by machetes, robbed, held at gun point, hitchhiked and slept in abandoned buildings…tell us your most frightening story!
Maybe I take things in stride or maybe I’m too dumb to know when I’m in real danger. And yeah, I’ve been robbed, jumped, chased by wild dogs, seen deaths, and much more, but let’s face it, then most dangerous thing you can probably do in the world is ride motor bikes in places like Hanoi or Delhi! I’ve seen and heard of so many deaths on those crazy roads it’s insane. I seriously doubt there is anything with a higher death rate!
8. You talk about first having to become an expert solo traveler before becoming a professional one. What kind of advice do you have for those looking to become “expert solo travelers?”
If you really want to become an expert solo traveler, you have to throw yourself in head first and immerse yourself in it. Forget about danger or consequences. Go alone, build independence and more importantly a confidence to be dropped into any country with just a few bucks and a backpack. Do that a few years. Then you’re a pro.
9. Where did the idea for www.TrueNomads.com come from?
I wanted to highlight traveler’s stories, not just mine. Real, inspiring stories from real nomads. Normal people having awesome travel experiences. Not so much rich people visiting the Bahamas, but actual unique stories from regular people chasing hard to reach their dreams.
10. The question everyone wonders…love and travel. Have you (and how) do you make it work?!
So hard! I’ve had so many 2 week relationships that it’s insane! I always think “well I could settle down with this one!” and give it a try, but my extreme sense of wanderlust kicks in every time and I have to go.
Now I am the luckiest man ever. I somehow managed to find a girl with the exact same dreams and wanderlust as me. We either travel together, or don’t see each other for a few months. Doesn’t matter, we stick together. It’s amazing having someone who lets you live your dreams and even encourages it, and hers is the same. We were in Mexico together and she told me “I want to go to Bolivia. I want to go alone and make it a really meaningful solo journey.” No problem! Now I’m going to Belize and having fun, and we will meet in Italy in a couple months. It’s perfect.
The point is, find someone that will be by your side and demand you live your dreams. Not someone that will anchor you and make you get a real job!
11. What does your family think of your lifestyle? How about your friends back home?
Some think I’m crazy, others think it’s awesome and read every word I publish about it. Either way I can’t live my life for other’s expectations. You can’t make everyone happy. Make yourself happy and set the example
12. What is the one piece of advice you have for anyone looking to change up their life and start new?
“Real change happens on the other side of fear” and “Life truly starts outside your comfort zone”. Those are two of my favorite sayings, and they really say it all. If you want to change your life, then go all out and just do it. No reason you can’t. Maybe you have more obstacles than some, but you still can. If I can, anyone can.