Alternomad, or Beyond Nomadism

To push past borders and limitations.

The following corpus is a book draft. It will change a lot as I go through the creative process.

Departure

Nomadism carries the fire. Movimiento es vida. We need our own pastoral roads and sea vessels. A network of tribes. We will be forced to operate seasonal migrations with bikes and sailing boats. Paths need to be secured. We shall cultivate the land given to us by the goddesses of travel. The Earth is our garden. We will trade our knowledge and skills to rebuild. We will carry humanity forward and secure ourselves a place in the jungle. Nobody will be left behind.

Preface

The best way to learn something is to write a book about it. To digest your thoughts, actions, and encounters, a few words at a time. The one you are reading has been in my stomach for three years. It started as a school essay during my time as a French engineering student: Nomadism as an ascending vector. I had just read Tim Ferris' The 4-Hour Workweek, and the concept of location-independence struck me as a path to become a better engineer. Investigating the topic of nomadism for a few months opened myself up to fresh and innovative ideas about remote work and the art of travel. One thing was still lacking: firsthand experience living as a full-time traveler.

I was 22 when I went abroad to study software engineering at the University of Stockholm. Sweden has one of the most advanced education systems in the world, which gave me the opportunity to study remotely. All the lectures were recorded, and the professors were freely available via Skype or email. I would work from my apartment whenever I would not feel like braving the cold winter to attend a lecture. That was my first experience as a digital nomad, and I've never stopped moving ever since. I started working as a software engineer in Switzerland, to end up building my own tech products remotely while traveling across Europe and Asia.

I have always been a traveler. I owe this to my parents. When I was a baby they would take me around Iberia whenever they could go on vacation. They didn't have a lot of money, but traveling was the best gift they could offer to my brother and me. My father spent his youth riding his motorbike in Greece and Italy listening to Bob Dylan. My mother was hanging out with gypsy kids when she was still a child. Sometimes I imagine myself as a modern Corto Maltese, born from a French gypsy witch and a Vietnamese biker. For as long as I can remember I spent my summer holidays in a van on the roads of Spain and Portugal. We met people and made friends. We could stay in a given location for as long as we pleased, and move to another town the next day. We lived like tziganes. It felt great. Today I'm a nomad entrepreneur. I am still living like a gypsy, in a sense.

This work documents my thoughts living as a digital nomad. I experienced the good and bad aspects of it. There are many resources about being a full-time traveler, but few dive deep in the real problematic, which is the sustainability of such way of life. The number of remote workers is increasing by the day. Some of them become digital nomads, for a few years. That's when the side effects kick in. The modern adventurers take a step back and return to their previous life. To me, digital nomadism doesn't have to be a mere phase, it has the potential to become an original lifestyle, and it is time to implement it with sustainability in mind. Alter-nomadism is my answer to the challenges of globalization.

Four months ago I decided to write at least 200 words on a daily basis, and publish the result on social networks. I was stuck in my first startup attempt. Words allowed me to escape and keep my sanity in check. I wanted to develop a writing habit. This is how the 200 Words a Day challenge came to be. A month later, it became an open online writing community, and I announced my plan to release a book. It was supposed to be an autobiography. The volume of my work grew quickly. I was covering many topics. Too many, in fact. I finally went with nomadism as the sole subject of the book.

Being French, writing in English is far from easy. Yet English is the closest we have to a universal language: it was worth the pain. I apologize in advance for the poor grammar. I thought about giving up a few times. I ended up writing a meaningful message with love and overlooked my poor skills as a wordsmith. This work is bound to be quickly depreciated. It is also bound to evolve. Do not hesitate to send me your feedback and suggestion, it is my deepest wish to iterate over the current version to improve it.

I want to thank all my readers for putting their trust in me and taking the time to read this book. I hope you find my insights valuable. Feel free to drop me an email at hello@alternomad.com, I would be happy to connect.

I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me. More specifically, I want to dedicate this book to my grandparents who fled from Vietnam so many years ago as refugees. They taught me to love diversity and to cherish my time on this planet. Thank you.

Much love,

Basile Samel

A Few Bucks

I live on about $800 a month. $26 a day. It's very little compared to the average revenue of a western household, but it's also six times an average salary in Vietnam. I live frugally, yet comfortably.

I don't have any debt, which directly propels me in the wealthiest people on this planet. Power is not spending $3000 dollars a month, it's being able to save it. It implies a tiny bit of self-control with a drop of grit: it's hard to resist the general tendency for people to accumulate more - houses, cars, partners, bottles of alcohol, job titles full of crap... the opportunities to live less on more are everywhere.

There are so many countries where you can live on less than $1000 per month when you sit down to look at a map of the world.

With globalization, spending more time and money on material possession significantly decreases your leverage to earn more. It's not a race to the bottom - "who will spend the least?". It's a race to the top where the most successful make the best use of what they have.

Western countries have an incredible leverage called passport power. I can't help but cringe whenever I hear westerners complaining about foreigners taking their jobs. Emigrating takes a courage they are incapable of. Very few people are willing to leave the comfort of their roots. In most cases, it's a desperate act. It's way harder to move from East to West than it is from West to East.

If like me you are a privileged young adult with a head full ambitious dreams, don't settle down just yet. Travel, live on less, experience more. The world owns you nothing, you are the one in debt to the world around you.

A Nomad's Carbon Footprint

Decreasing my carbon footprint as a digital nomad has been a lot on my mind over the last two years.

I don't own a car and I don't have to commute every day.

All I need during my travels fit in a bag.

My websites are powered by renewable energy.

I've reduced my consumption of meat. I eat what locals eat and in season.

I don't watch TV and I barely use my phone anymore.

Most of my electricity consumption comes from powering my laptop, heating, and air conditioning. I could eliminate the last two by migrating to the right countries according to the seasons as birds do. Southern Iberia during winter and Scandinavia during summer, for example.

I spent around $1000 on transportation costs this year, but it allowed me to save much more on housing and food. Plane tickets account for 90% of the sub-total. I took 8 flights. 8 too many.

One of my goals this year is to do less air traveling and more slow traveling. I can stay up to 3 months in any European country without a visa, so in theory, I should board at most four planes in one year. The only variable left to take into account is the housing market: I can be forced to move because of the local renting costs.

Electricity consumption and transportation represent 50% of the global sources of carbon emission. The next 20% comes from industry. I've already reduced my use of plastics but it's still far from enough.

A Thought on Financial Independence and Digital Nomadism

I was interviewed by a French newsletter called Plumes with Attitude two weeks ago about my lifestyle as a maker-writer. An observation by my interviewer Benjamin Perrin struck me as particularly interesting: "I see digital nomadism and the Financial Independence Retire Early movement as two opposites. A bit like the Grasshopper and the Ant, in fact. One is more hedonistic in nature, whereas the other is turned toward sacrifice."

I was 23 when I decided I wanted to reach full financial independence in my early thirties. I was still a student, but I'd already saved about 11,000 dollars from my scholarships and was relatively mindful of my spendings: I would work hard and party harder while enjoying my time as a student, but I had no interest in buying a car, fancy clothes, and a big apartment. Since I already had developed good financial habits and wasn't in debt, I knew it was possible.

Being in a long-distance relationship with a Macedonian girl and volunteering at a global NGO, I also got to experience life as a digital nomad, even though I didn't know the term at the time. Most lectures at Stockholm University being recorded or available online, I was able to study remotely while traveling. I still had to show up during the end-of-semester exams, but it still left me several months to move around.

That's when I understood that traveling didn't have to be expensive. Quite the contrary in fact, because it allowed me to spend less on food, and I had a network of people to host me almost anywhere in Europe.

Quite naturally, the idea of combining financial independence and digital nomadism occurred to me.

The FIRE movement is not about sacrifice, it's about developing meaningful spending habits to work on long-term goals, instead of wasting money on expensive restaurants because I'm too lazy to cook.

Nomadism is not only about pleasure either. Long-term travel is hard: you need the discipline to work from anywhere, and to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone to deal with a new culture, in an unknown environment, often on your own. Most people would fail for those reasons.

Now that I know how to live comfortably on $1000 per month and that I'm starting to have several income sources (The Co-Writers, Bouquin, freelance writing, and books), I'm confident I'll be able to reach FI in less than 5 years.

$1000 per month in living expenses is $12k a year, so I need $300k in investments by applying the 4% rule. With the right projects and connections, a yearly wage of $90k as a software engineer is not unrealistic, and I'm already making $80 an hour as a junior technical freelance writer. From there, my wealth can only compound.

I'm turning 26 in July, so my predictions from three years ago should turn out alright if I keep hustling without sacrificing my health, and it's thanks to my lifestyle combining FI principles and digital nomadism.

Alter-Nomad: book presentation

The world demands change, now more than ever.

Underemployment is growing. Global inequality is increasing. We are nowhere near solving our ecological issues.

Challenges are many, but each problem brings an opportunity. Modern Nomadism is one of them.

My name is Basile Samel, and I spent more than 3 years living in foreign countries. I was born in France, studied in Sweden and worked as a software engineer in Switzerland to finally build my own tech products remotely while traveling across Europe and Asia. To me, digital nomadism is not just a trendy topic, it's an original way of life.

Of course, every lifestyle comes with its own problematics. It's getting increasingly easier to become a digital nomad. You can find many books and online courses that can help you with that. I doubt they prove to be of any use to you, and I'm convinced they tackle the wrong issues. The challenge is not to become a digital nomad, it is to develop a sustainable lifestyle with traveling as an enabler, an alter-nomadism.

Alter-Nomad is a collection of practical essays gathering personal tips, experiences and thoughts I accumulated throughout my researches on the topic of nomadism.

7 readers pre-ordered the book already. Join them today for a discount :)

Balaton Train

As the train is taking me to Lake Balaton, I am reminded of my time spent traveling with my parents across Iberia.

My attraction to travel has never been about walking around new places or visiting monuments, and more about movement itself. There is something about watching landscapes succeeding one another from a window. It's like staying immobile and seeing the trees, mountains, plains, cities, and seas moving alongside you, accompanying you toward an unknown destination. To see this whole world literally revolving around you is a comforting illusion.

There is also this idea that was already there, the one consisting in transposing my life from one place to another. Once we would arrive in a new town, I would usually prefer staying inside the comfort of the camping truck and spend my time playing video games, imagining stories, or listening to music. Now an adult, I can only note that this behavior didn't change much, even though I've grown more extroverted: I'd still rather work on something meaningful than just go through every tourist attraction.

I don't think that digital nomadism is a lifestyle meant for everyone. It's an integral part of my identity that developed throughout my childhood, and it's still indirectly governing my life.

Band of Gypsies

I have always been a traveler. I owe this to my parents. When I was a baby they would take me around Iberia whenever they could go on vacation. They didn't have a lot of money, but traveling was the best gift they could offer my brother and I.

My father spent his youth riding his motorbike in Greece and Italy listening to Bob Dylan. My mother was hanging out with gypsy kids when she was still a child and is still a die-hard hippie at heart. Sometimes I imagine myself as a modern Corto Maltese, born from a french gypsy witch and a vietnamese biker.

For as long as I can remember I spent my summer holidays in a van on the roads of Spain and Portugal. This is how I learnt slow traveling. We met people and made friends. We could stay in a given location for as long as we pleased, and move to another town the next day. When you travel in a van you can truly experience how locals live since you are not bound to any schedule or guide. You can go to the town market in the morning, cook stuff like you would at home, and eat like a local. Sometimes it's too complicated to find a place to park so you have to hit the road again. Regularly you have to go on a water supply point hunt.

We lived like tzigans, and it was great.

Today I'm a nomad entrepreneur. My parents have been nomading around Portugal for the last 3 months in a camping car. My brother joined them for Christmas from Faro's airport.

We are still living like gypsies in a sense. A band of gypsies.

Eastern Europe

I find Eastern Europe fascinating. It's an uncommon melting pot of rich cultures, and not just Slavic sub-cultures as one might think. Each country is vastly different, even if they share common traits.

As a digital nomad from France, it's particularly advantageous.

Except for Russia, I do not need any visa to go there. The lack of administrative hassle is liberating. I can just book a ticket and stay in a given city for three months without having to ask anything.

Eastern European countries are still under-developed. It's financially interesting, you can easily live under $1000 a month.

More importantly, unlike South-East Asia, it's not filled with tourists. It's not devoid of tourists, but you have to interact with locals all the time. Of course, depending on where you live, most of them don't speak English so you have to immerse yourself in the culture. It's incredible the number of things you can do by saying "Yes", "No", or "Thank you".

One thing I adore is the opportunity for me to live incognito in a quiet environment. The way I look, people will assume I'm a local and won't mind me. Try doing that in Asia. I get looks just by walking in the street.

I don't see myself settling there, however. Conservatism is deeply ingrained. People are constantly hustling and young people dream of moving to wealthier countries. There is an entrepreneurial spirit, but it's going away. Alcoholism is a huge issue too. The local economy is not particularly strong. Even though the unemployment rate is quite low compared to the rest of Europe, the local buying power is weak.

Living in Eastern Europe is humbling. It makes me aware that nothing should be taken for granted.

Fuel for Imagination

Whenever I travel, I feel inspired.

Discovering a new environment stimulates the brain. All the information you need to take in can appear overwhelming, but in the end it's just brain food. Stay too long in one place and you start developing necrosis. Change is entertaining, but a change of air has mental health benefits.

There is something about observing people in public places. We are culturally different, but everyone looks so similar. People going to work. People eating. People sleeping. People in love. We all share the same aspirations: to have a good time, to seek a better life.

Travel fuels my imagination. Locals appear strange and mysterious. However, the moment you start sitting among them, living with them, you develop a relationship - you can relate. This duality is inspiring. It forces me to reinvent my identity, which is what imagination is all about: a change of perception - how you perceive yourself, others, facts, and ideas.

This is the reason why travel is an apprenticeship. A wandering mind is always learning.

What's a human without imagination? Dead wood. Not faced with new situations, humankind gradually loses its humanity. It can be travel, it can be a book, it can be someone new... just go out there.

Going remote

I often hear people expressing the desire to find a remote job: "I wish I could live as you do."

Remote positions are rare, but there is no shortage of remote opportunities.

It's never been easier to switch career paths. Any marketable skills that can be monetized online can be learned online too: writing, marketing, programming, editing, teaching, etc. Free educational resources are everywhere.

You can also create an online business around what you're great at. Every skill can be taught, and you can teach people too. You can become a consultant, a Youtuber, a blogger, or provide niche productized services. The possibilities are many.

If you're already in a remote-friendly position but your company prevents you from going full-remote, you'll need to focus on acquiring leverage to re-negotiate your work conditions. It's not easy, but most knowledge workers probably already use online communication platforms to perform their daily activities. The infrastructure is already there, but only employees and the job market can lead the way toward new management methodologies: you eventually have to ask.

Wishing is not enough, you have to work for it. Remote jobs won't ever be handed to you, because they take a different set of skills.

Hanoï Daily Routine

Three days in Hanoï and I already settled in a work routine.

My parents and I wake up at 7. We go in the street to eat a bowl of phở, about $1 each. I come back to the apartment to work while they spend the morning visiting. Around 1 PM we eat lunch together in another street food stall. My father speaks Vietnamese so it's much easier to try out a lot of different meals. The heat gets unbearable after lunch so we head back to the apartment to have a siesta. I finish my nap and get back to work till the evening. We have dinner at another place - we will soon get to know the whole neighborhood this way. Then we just chill till bed time, around 1 AM.

Our sleep schedule is split in two to make the most of the day. The plan is to gradually wake up earlier (5AM) when the jet-lag wears out.

Digital nomading with your family is doable as long as you develop the right discipline. It doesn't leave much time for me to visit the city, but I schedule activities during the week-end. It's a nice trade-off.

Regarding the location we are in, it's incredibly nice. The apartment is quite big when you compare it to a regular Vietnamese apartment. The neighborhood is located in central Hanoï, yet it still feels authentic. There are tourists passing by, but not many compared to Saigon's center. Street businesses are still prevalent, and the local life seems intact.

Impact of Travel on Biodiversity

The planet lost 60% of its wild vertebrates since the 70's.

39% of its terrestrial animals, 39% of its marine life, and 76% of all freshwater animals disappeared.

The loss of biodiversity has a direct impact on the natural equilibrium needed for our environment to maintain itself. The Gaia hypothesis proposes that our planet can be visualized as a single living being where each animal participates in its homeostasis. Killing species is removing a part of this cosmic balance, which will affect humans one way or another.

Global warming, habitat destruction, pollution, the introduction of invasive species, and overexploitation are the main threats to biodiversity.

Travelers impact biodiversity when they participate in mass tourism. It's not unusual to see hotels replacing natural habitats, restaurants encouraging overfishing, or hikers and scuba divers disturbing protected areas.

It's primordial for travelers to become more mindful and responsible for the way they act abroad. A true cosmopolite feels at home everywhere and treats his environment as such. Anthropocentrism remains foreign to him, as he treats all living beings equally with the same respect.

If you're not given the chance to support biodiversity by volunteering or growing a garden, at least try not to degrade it when you marvel at the wonders offered by travelling.

Life and Movement

We've been given a life, so we might as well do something interesting with it instead of giving it away.

Sitting around all day without letting your mind roam freely is a fate no different than eternal darkness, so one could say that death is the absence of movement: a wise person will always make sure to keep walking through life, even if it means encountering countless hardships.

It is also worth noting that all lives lead to the same destination, so the end of the line will never matter as much as the journey: the quality of one's life amounts to the roads he walked. The more we expose ourselves to different walks of life—through people, ideas, or experiences—the more capable we become at navigating reality.

Your roots do not matter, for humans shouldn't live like plants. What matters is that we have two legs and two feet, so we might as well use them to keep progressing.

An authentic life is not a set of directions either, for directions shift your focus toward destinations. It's easier to surrender ourselves to the precepts set by others, but it's missing the transcendent thrill of getting lost and finding your own way. Entropy is an essential part of life we have to be comfortable with.

Living off the Clutter of Others

One thing that attracted me to the nomad lifestyle, in particular, is how it presupposes minimalism.

Wherever I go, people are always surprised at how small my luggage is.

In Asia, I carry 3 t-shirts, 2 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 1 pair of shoes, 4 pairs of socks, 4 underwears, and a blazer for whenever it gets cold. I never fail to bring a tie and a waistcoat. There is always a good reason to suit up when you travel. When I stay inside I use a sports shirt and a pair of shorts. Except for clothes, the only thing I need is my laptop and some electronics.

What I carry fits in a medium-sized bag, and I like it this way.

Anything else I need is at reach. From my rented apartment/hotel room. From the grocery shop by the street. From locals.

I live off the clutter of others.

One could say, I live like a cockroach.

To me, it's a compliment. Cockroaches can withstand any environment thanks to their adaptative nature. Similarly, I think it's important to learn to live with less. It forces you to adapt. Only those who can adapt quickly can survive and strive.

What happens to the individual who trained himself to carry on with his life, no matter the place?

He becomes the freest man on earth, or as Kipling said:

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Love and Remote Work

Looking back, love was the reason why I started working remotely. Not money, entrepreneurship, or a desire to travel the world. Simply love.

I was dating a girl living in Eastern Europe while attending Stockholm University in Sweden, and decided I had to figure out a way to finish my studies remotely so that I could visit her.

A few years later, I think my motivation hasn't changed much. The digital nomad life helped me launch my career as an entrepreneur while discovering new places, people, and cultures. It gave me the freedom to do what I want, but more importantly, the freedom to be wherever I desire with who I want.

If I miss my friends, I can hop on the next train.

If my family needs me, I will be there.

Wherever I go, I'll only be surrounded by fools if I choose to. This is an undeniable perk of working remotely: you can just let the Wi-Fi signal carry you from one place to another.

I can be everywhere. I can be anyone. I can chase love whenever it hits me.

In a globalized world, there is no greater tragedy than reluctantly saying goodbye to the ones you love.

Moving

The nomad life. A lifestyle based on movement.

The nomad never travels. He moves around the same territory following the sun and the seasons.

Sedentary societies are a sum of movements as well. Flows of goods, flows of people. We tend to ease the former rather than the latter. Moving populations scare governments, but trade generates profit.

Our lives are a pile of movements. We commute. We move in. We move out. We travel. Cities are booming with rushing individuals. We can't stand still.

Movement is not only physical. There are intellectual and spiritual movements. Humans are molded by them. Capitalism, communism, Christians, Buddhists, ecologists, lobbyists... We belong to one movement or another.

Reality itself is just one big movement. Atoms are nothing but particles in constant motion. The universe is constantly expanding. Everything moves. Stillness is an illusion.

I wonder. Is movement a cycle? Or is a movement a linear motion? I was reading Junji Ito's Uzumaki last month. Maybe movement is a spiral that consumes you. It would be funnier to move as we dance.

One thing is sure though. Humans move.

Moving is what makes us human.

Only the dead remain at rest.

No, not even the dead can stand still.

Thanks @lexc for proposing this idea of a weekly topic. Good one!

Nomad Laptop

It is often said that all you need to be a digital nomad is a laptop and a stable Internet connection, but technology has evolved so much over the last ten years that I'm not sure this is even true anymore.

The price of 1GB of data is decreasing and new technologies such as progressive web apps and static-generated websites decrease the total amount of data you need to interact on the web. With even planning, a stable Internet connection is never an issue: I never had a problem publishing my daily post in more than a year of nomading, even when I was cruising in Ha Long Bay or lost in the mountains of Northern Vietnam far from any public Wi-Fi.

You don't even need to buy an expensive MacBook and fear of being robbed on the road. In fact, you can buy a Raspberry Pi, a keyboard, a mouse, and a monitor for less than $100 and all the hardware you need will still fit in your bag. You won't be able to play video games, edit Youtube videos, or do fancy 3D design work, but it will be enough to do written content marketing or web programming.

When you're working as a digital nomad, you often carry just enough to cover your basic needs, and you can't afford to lose your precious equipment. Making sure you're able to quickly recover from theft or trekking accidents, without losing sensitive data, is a definite must-have. Fortunately, we live in an age where we don't need our terminals to do much: we just have to leverage all the cloud services out there.

Big screens, for the average Joes and Janes of the world, are not only a waste of money, but also a waste of time: you can't focus on two screens at once, even with crossed eyes. Reduce the digital clutter, and learn how to use your operating system.

On my bike, feeling free

I spent a week with three friends along the coasts in the South-West of France. It was summer this year. We rode our bikes from Royan to Bayonne. Around 400km.

Mornings and late afternoons on the road. Middays at the beach. We would rent an Airbnb for the night.

It was just us, the bikes, and the road. Small bags to carry the bare minimum: clothes, rations. The burning sun. The forest of the Landes of Gascony. The strong Atlantic waves.

But also the sweat. The burning legs. The aching buttocks. The pain is agonizing. But the pain goes away after a few days. Your body adapts.

I took a notebook with me to brainstorm new product ideas. I didn't feel like writing about the experience at the time. Sometimes it's better to wait for the heat of the moment to fade away. You gain new insights.

I don't think you can ever find a greater freedom than the one you find on the road. Kerouac says it so well: Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. You just have to find food and a shelter for the night. Nothing else matters. No phone. No laptop. Just the day to seize. A liberating feeling_.
_

I will do it again. Slower. For a longer period of time. Maybe somewhere else. Maybe with someone else. Sleeping in a tent, with the stars for me to watch.

Thoreau was right. Simplify, simplify.

Places where I lived

Note to self - all the places I've been living in for at least a month:

  • Hanoï, Vietnam (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur

  • Penang, Malaysia (3 months) - nomad entrepreneur

  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur

  • Bangkok, Thaïland (2 months) - nomad entrepreneur

  • Warsaw, Poland (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur

  • Budapest, Hungary (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur

  • Paris, France (1 month) - CTO

  • Geneva, Switzerland (6 months) - internship

  • Stockholm, Sweden (1 year) - studies

  • Bucharest, Romania (1 month) - visiting ex-girlfriend

  • Skopje, Macedonia (1 month) - visiting ex-girlfriend

  • Shanghaï, China (1 month) - internship

  • Lyon, France (4 years) - studies

  • Bordeaux, France (1 year) - studies

  • Morocco (1+ month: Essaouira/Southern Morocco)

  • Portugal (1+ year, hard to estimate: Viana Do Castello, Braga, Guimaraes, Chaves, Batalha...) - summer holidays

  • Spain (6+ months, hard to estimate: Barcelona/Valencia/Costa Brava, Galicia, Pais Basco...) - summer holidays

  • Tonneins, France (18+ years) - place of birth

Fourteen countries. Six years as a student. One year as an official "digital nomad". Three years working/studying remotely. I moved a lot throughout the years, but I just realized I lived in that many places. Travel has definitely played a huge part in the construction of my identity.

Other places I passed by: France (Rennes, Toulouse, Grenoble, Marseille, Nice, Arles, Agen, Strasbourg...), Poland (Wroclaw), Danemark (Aalborg, Copenhagen), Sweden (Malmö), Italy (Milano, Torino, Roma, Napoli, Portogruaro), Germany (just hit the road), Austria (just hit the road), Slovenia (Ljubljana), Croatia (Zagreb, Hvar, Split, Dubrovnik), Montenegro (Kotor), Macedonia (Ohrid), Albania (Tirana), Kosovo (Pristina), Serbia (Belgrade), Romania (Vama Veche)

Places I'd like to go to over the next year: Estonia (Tallin), Ukraine (Kiev or Odesa), Turkey (Istanbul)

Some ideas to cut my budget while traveling abroad

1) Work from libraries instead of coworking spaces

Libraries are free, have books, and are frequented by locals. Coworking spaces don't, plus you can actually talk to people during your coffee break in the chat room.

2) Work from Airbnb for full focus

A good Airbnb has a kitchen, a workstation, a laundry, and a fast Wi-fi. It is better to pay for a slightly more expensive rent than to spend money on coffee shops, coworking space memberships or commutes.

3) Get a gym membership instead of partying and doing stupid stuff

Gym memberships are increasingly cheap. It's a great investment to stay healthy and productive. If you are not into iron, doing bodyweight exercises at home works well too. All you need is a cleaning bucket filled with water (for curls), and a broomstick on top of two chairs (for pull-ups). Push-ups and pistol squats do the rest.

4) Get a transportation card to visit the city while benefiting from free discounts

Long-term transportation cards usually come with many financial benefits.

5) Eat from home

In SE Asia the food is so cheap it is actually more expensive to cook stuff yourself.

6) Practicing intermittent fasting

7) Go to meetup/startup/networking events instead of partying and doing stupid stuff

They offer free food and drinks.

8) Bike

You can cut a lot of monthly costs by just biking: public transportation, medicine, gym membership etc.

9) Cut off your phone/data subscription

Use the power of Wi-fi instead. Do you really need to publish those cute Instagram pictures in real-time?

10) Bank fees

Get cash in bulk from affiliated ATMs.

Street

When I think about communal living, I am reminded of street food in South-East Asia.

In countries like Vietnam or Thailand where living in the street is part of the local culture, the public space belongs to family business owners trying to make a living. Street food, in particular, is at the heart of local community building.

I remember fondly sitting on a plastic chair in Saigon at the crack of dawn with uncles going to work, eating a bowl of dumplings soup and watching the scooters driving down the street. Or strolling down the streets of Penang in the evening to find my favorite Mee Goreng stall, right next to an open air karaoke club.

There is just nothing quite like it in Europe where I come from. Eateries are way more expensive in comparison, and simply unsustainable for common folks. I think this is a huge loss in the diversity of the urban landscape when regulations trump organic movement.

Walking around in those Asian countries is an entirely different experience, where your senses are challenged and adventure comes your way in unexpected yet mundane situations. You could visit the same street every day for several months and still keep on learning new things. This is what being street smart should be like.

Summer Bindle

Traveling is always more enjoyable when you don't have much stuff to carry around.

This is the only reason why I might prefer traveling to hot countries, or during Summer. I don't have a coat or sweaters to fit in my bags, and most of the pieces of clothing I do bring can easily be handwashed. Shoes take up a lot of space, and Winter shoes are also by definition heavier than Summer ones.

In these conditions, a 30L backpack is enough to fit all I need.

I do carry a second one on a shoulder, a tad smaller, to bring extra items—extra clothes, my camera gear, a towel, and a resistance band—but the total weight is negligible and I feel light as a feather. I'd say the total volume is about a third of my winter luggage.

The way I packed for my trip to Paris and Grenoble, I could easily do some hiking with everything on my back. I'd be able to transport everything by bike as well, but I sprained my ankle two weeks ago clowning around and don't feel in shape to climb the Chartreuse Mountains.

I feel like a hobo strolling around the countryside with his bindle, and it's all I need to be happy.

Summer Decluttering

I always liked the idea of living out of a backpack: very few material possessions to worry about, only the thrill of the adventure ahead to savor.

But what you carry varies throughout the year and depends on your destination. You still need what Yasmine Abbas calls a meta-architecture of storage: a place to leave the stuff you might need later on (a warm coat for winter), or the things that simply have a sentimental value.

Now that I'm back in France at my parents', I can see that my bedroom is full of stuff I'll probably never use. Old clothes, books, decorations... I'm not comfortable with the clutter it creates. It doesn't feel "optimized".

Ideally, I want the room to be easy to clean, and easy to use by my parents when I'm not around. I also do most of my work from my bedroom, so I can't afford to have things distracting me.

I think it's time for a summer cleaning.

I'll first need to make an inventory of what I have, what I need, and what I don't need.

I'll put everything I don't need in trash bags. Old clothes can be donated. Electronics, books, and decorations can be reused by my family. I store the rest in the attic.

Sweden

If I had to choose one country to settle in, it would probably be Sweden.

It's a big country with plenty of nature and where everyone has the right to roam, so it's perfect for a nomad soul.

Social security and education are similar to France (affordable, even free in some cases), but Swedes take much better care of their natural habitat. The government is also much more efficient: there is a working app for every administrative scenario I've been confronted to when I was studying there, foreigners are treated with respect, and they actually know how to speak fluent English.

I don't mind the short days and the snow storms in Winter, but I've only lived there for a year, so I don't know how I would feel about it on the long-term. I'm also an introvert, so I don't find the Swede mentality off-putting.

Even though Norway and Finland are culturally similar, Sweden's central location makes it more attractive. Danemark is another option, but Danes don't have a right to roam like in the rest of Scandinavia and the country is way smaller.

One of my goals in 2021 is to do some bikepacking there for at least a month and get to know the Southern part of the country. I just started taking Swedish lessons today and will look forward to meet new locals as well.

The Places

We spend most of our lives looking for a place to belong to—a city, a country, a job position, next to a loved one—and the rest of it protecting it or trying to get it back.

Every human is one day forced to ask himself this fatidic question: where do I belong?

This is one of the main forces driving individuals to move around. This is how our species evolved to what it is today, and why we feel the desire to travel.

Travel is one of the many possible manifestations of this primal force.

Achilles traveled to Troy to meet his fate. Odysseus traveled back to Ithaca where he belonged. Oedipus ran away and met tragedy.

Travel is not mere escapism, it is perhaps precisely the contrary: we travel, not to run away, but to find answers.

Another question is whether we should learn to belong anywhere and everywhere at the same time or stick to a select few tribes. Each path pushed to the extreme is unsustainable (lack of stability with the former and dogmatism for the latter), so the answer might be to develop the flexibility to do a bit of both.

Two Travel Pain Points

What prevents remote workers from nomading? People are naturally attracted to travel, it's in our genes to move, to be attracted to what's different. However, we face two obstacles preventing us from taking action on those inner desires: fears and high expectations.

Fear is what prevents you from going on a journey. Expectations prevent you from enjoying the journey, from learning to adapt.

Fear is usually overcome by having travel buddies or some sort of mentor figure. My parents told me the basics of living on the road, for example.

Expectations are harder to deal with. It's about your mindset, and overcoming the disappointment from unmet expectations is an introspective work.

When the founder of the Pléiade Joachim du Bellay traveled to Italy, the epicenter of Renaissance Humanism, he hoped to find transcendence. The mix of his a priori, ambition and preconceived ideas about Italy resulted in severe disappointment, which later led to the creation of his collection of poems The Regrets.

Travel comes with disillusions. Nomading is not fundamentally better than sedentism, it's an entirely different way of life with its own issues. Have an open mind. Be willing to adapt to make the most of the experience, no matter what.

What's so hard about long term traveling?

Traveling is like swimming. Anyone can do it, but you still have to learn not to drown.

Long term traveling is not as easy as booking a plane ticket, it's a habit to train.

People love traveling because it's a radical way to create change. The brain loves distractions. Too much change creates fatigue, however.

As a digital nomad, you still need to work. And work doesn't like distractions.

Sustainable travel is thus a balance between new experiences and routine, between change and stability. If a lifestyle is a sum of habits, the surest way to fail is to try to develop all habits at once. That's when we end up developing travel fatigue.

Finding this balance is the hard thing about becoming a nomad.

Unlike historical nomads who already developed their own sustainable culture over hundreds of years, digital nomadism is relatively new: our psyche is uncharted territory. We have to figure out things for ourselves, what works and what doesn't.

From my own experience, flexibility and slowness are the two core habits to integrate to become a successful long-term traveler - by successful I mean the ability to live your best life, whatever it means to you.

Flexibility is how you integrate your new environment to your daily life and to your objectives. Changing places will always make it hard for you to get things done the way you used to. You can complain and fail, or you can adapt. There is always a way to find harmony.

A common excuse I read when people decide to quit digital nomadism after a mere six months on the road is how they can't go deep in their work. It's a lack of flexibility, find a quiet spot in town and put in the work. Stop hopping around every two to three days.

Slowness is another important part of traveling well. You are not a tourist cramming visits in your day, you play the long game. Digital nomadism is not all fun and parties, it's just a different approach to work where the same first principles apply.

The longer you stay in a new place, the more you grow as an individual. Relationships take time, destinations are new and attractive partners. One night stands are draining you more than they create you. No local will be willing to create meaningful connections with you if you are visiting for a few days, it's just not worth the emotional investment.

Slowness is how you acquire stability, it's the well-deserved rest healing your congested travel muscles.

Learn to swim before diving in.

What's your favorite country?

I got this question in my OyeStartups interview.

I answered Switzerland, or Sweden, mainly because the living conditions are optimal for me, but let me elaborate.

South-East Asian countries are cheap, you don't need to cook, and they are full of friendly people - locals and travelers alike - but the living conditions won't cut it. It's incredibly polluted, the humid heat makes me lazy. I don't see myself living there the majority of the year.

On the other hand, my daily life in Switzerland was healthier. Surrounded by mountains and lakes. The fresh air and the clean water. This nature is a luxury. Same in Sweden, full of lakes and forests. Switzerland and Scandinavian countries are expensive because everyone can make a decent living: the apparent costs are reflected in the high-quality of the environment. And nothing like a hot cup of coffee in an empty shop while it's snowing.

Still, the question remains: do I have a favorite country, in general? I gave an answer for the sake of it, but I don't believe in the concept of an El Dorado country. When it comes down to factors I have direct control over - my productivity or my happiness - the environment is not the issue, my habits are.

With the right routine, you can transform your whole perspective of a country, effectively rendering the concept of favorite country meaningless.

Where I Sleep While Nomading

I have a lot of experience living in a van to travel, but I preferred more stable environments over the last two years. I can divide the places I slept at in two different categories: Airbnb rentals, and hostel dorm rooms.

Renting an entire Airbnb studio is the best option when I need to recharge my mental batteries. As an introvert, it frequently happens: I spent 80% of my time traveling by myself in small apartments.

It's not expensive as it sounds depending on where you stay at. Especially when you stay at the same place for a whole month, thanks to Airbnb's monthly discounts.

Sometimes however, I do feel the need as a young single male to mingle and live with other people. That's when I choose hostel dorm rooms. 200 Words a Day was born in a capsule hotel, for example.

Now, the thing with hostels is that it's everything but quiet, so I always buy a 24/7 coworking space membership in parallel. I just stay the whole day at the coworking space, visit the gym in the morning a few times a week, and come back at the hostel during the evening.

This is the best option when you feel social, and it's also the most cost-effective one. To give you an example, I'm moving to an hostel in two weeks after 4 months of alone time. It's less than $10 per day ($280 a month + free breakfast), $172 for a month of coworking (24/7, fixed seat), and $30 for monthly gym pass, which amounts to a grand total of $482. Not bad. That's less than the rent I'm paying this month.

Paradoxically, I think it's also the way to go if you're in a creative slump. Having your own place is so comfortable it can prevent you from getting things done. You just can't chill with a movie in your bed in an hostel, it simply looks weird when you're in a 12 bed dorm room. You either socialize or work or go for a walk. The social aspect is also a problem if you're constantly dragged into parties, but I think it's pretty easy to handle when you have the drive and discipline to make a living as a digital nomad.

In one sentence, live in hostels when you want to expand your comfort zone, and get your own studio when you need a more stable, peace-and-quiet kind of place.

Apprenticeship

Hominization

Hominization is the process of how humans came to be. Since understanding travel is understanding what makes us human, the first step is to study our origins.

The Hominid species is born 20 million years ago. The Homo lineage from which we descend appeared 2 million years ago. That's when we developed the concept of culture, unprecedented in the animal kingdom. Culture is what is not Nature. Early examples of culture are reflected not only by cave paintings and sculptures constituting a primitive form of art, but also by funeral rituals indicating a spiritual awareness. Ritualizing death is an attempt at controlling it.

Humans are animals driven to tame their environment. They domesticate fire. They give birth to languages to designate objects encountered while traveling or used in everyday life. This domestication of time and space enables us to evolve, not only as individuals but also as a species: the Homo Sapiens appears two hundred thousand years ago in Africa.

For over a million years, the different populations of hominids were all entirely nomad.

The act of moving, eased by bipedalism, was either compelled by an instinct to survive — to look for food or to run away from conflicts — or out of sheer curiosity, the lifetime of a human at the time being 20 years in average. With distance, communities and cultures evolve and become more diverse: human beings evolved by traveling.

The confrontation with foreign tribes leads people to exchange and barter. The market economy begins. Housing becomes more and more durable. Its inhabitants are protected from the hardships of the weather. Hunter-gatherers learn to grow vegetables and grains by diversifying their gene pools — agriculture. Nomads settling down to become farmers and shepherds, sedentarization started around 9000 years ago. Sedentism is thus an incredibly tiny fraction of our long history.

When sedentarization began, nomads were mainly divided into three categories: shepherds, traders, and migrants. Shepherds developed animal husbandry by selective breeding, making meat more nutritious. Traders contributed to the birth of arithmetic and the alphabet, as nomads are parts of a community to survive: understanding, speaking, and writing in a common language is essential. They invent music and art to satisfy their senses and entertain their hosts. Traders establish colonies during their travels. That’s for example how the city-state of Athens came to be: the merchant seamen invented democracy to prevent landowners (sedentary) from acquiring all the political power, the voting system allowing them to stay involved in the decision making process. On the other hand, the concept of currency is introduced to replace bartering by simplifying and normalizing trade. Finally, migrants gave birth to the first monotheistic Religions, with the ancient testament being the Hebraic narrative of the quest for the Promised Land.

Sciences, humanities, technologies, religions, arts... all those cultural elements form the basis of our civilization and originate from nomadic needs. A nomad shapes his body and mind through incessant movement: ultimately, the nomad is the father of the man. Mankind is born nomad.

Why We Travel

Encountering travelers is part of traveling. Travel is full of repetition. People travel to the same places. Few innovate. Whenever I meet someone similar on the road, I never fail to ask the same question: Why do you travel? And I'm always surprised to find that most individuals do not travel for a reason. Backpackers looking for meaning, tourists passing time... they are legion. The more I travel, the more I find that travelers follow the same pattern, some sort of hero journey.

The monomyth, also known as the Hero's journey, is a fascinating concept in narratology popularized by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949): "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." This pattern can be found in most tales depicting the adventures of a hero. In most religions too: all prophets went through a similar journey.

Carl Jung observes that symbols from the collective imaginary take a big part in the development of our subconsciousness. Heroism is no different. It is deeply ingrained in our psyche: "He is no hero who never met the dragon, or who, if he once saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing. Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard". The Hero's journey is still widely used in popular narratives -- advertisement exulting the inner hero of the consumer, or the origin stories of famous entrepreneurs. We all aspire to be heroes, and I believe modern travel to be a path toward this aspiration, or sometimes, a substitute.

When people say they travel to find themselves, it means they want to change their own identity. Or maybe, find back their own identity. It is Oedipus’s travel: to seek the source of his evils to free himself from them. To find a local who knows us better than we do ourselves. To remember one’s own origins is to revert back to a fetal state without any need nor boredom, a pure state of bliss… However, most travelers I meet are more running away from things rather than finding them. They try to escape from responsibilities, or from themselves. Modern travel is deeply oedipal. Oedipus, destined to murder his father and marry his mother, escaped Corinth in an attempt to avoid his fate by traveling to Thebes, only fulfill the dreadful prophecy. There is a bit of tragedy in modern travels. A tendency for escapism which prevents sustainability. Oedipus used travel to run away from an immutable reality, his destiny. It was his curse, it shouldn't be ours.

It’s always important to understand the reasons why we do things and if their pursuit is worth the time invested. Traveling should not be an excuse to avoid our issues, a substitute to deep internal introspection. Successful people who went through a hero journey are the ones who attained the treasure. The prize can take any shape, but it is up to us to find it. To do so, we have to go through every stage of this ultimate pursuit of self-discovery. Few are brave enough to set out on a quest for self-realization. You have to look out for the right opportunities, and dive in them. Go through every trial and tribulation with faith in oneself and others. Die. Resurrect. Reinvent yourself. Return. Share your treasure. Only by obtaining this new-found freedom can you face death with serenity. Some heroes face their fate willingly, while others are forced to embrace it. Achilles is a symbol of the former, while Ulysses represents the latter.

Epic journeys occupy a central place in Ancient Greece. The Iliad and the Odyssey are among the oldest texts of Western literature. As we established before, travel is cultural and its meaning varies over time and space, but the way Greeks perceive travel quite resonate with modern times.

Achilles is a fundamental aspect of the Greek notion of travel. When he left Phthia, the hero knew he was destined to die on the battlefield: "my nostos has perished, but my kleos will be unwilting". Achilles renounced the comforts of his home and the instant gratification a life of material pleasures would have offered him. Instead, he traveled to Troyes to meet his fate: death, but glory (kleos). He never gets to come back home. The philosopher Diotima explains in Plato's Symposium that people are driven by a search to reach some form of immortality. Sex, art, and most of our creative endeavors are an attempt at defying the bindings of time. Achilles' desire for glory is so strong that it ends up costing his life. Achilles represents this idea of living a short existence filled with hardships to achieve glory, in contrast with a long and average happy life. Kleos means "what others hear about you", your reputation. A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds, traveling being the mean. The most important aspect of Achilles's character is not his search for glory. It is his ability to stay true to himself. I see Achilles knowing his fate as a metaphor for self-knowledge. He clearly understands what it is he needs to do to accomplish his authentic self. More than love or glory, Achilles seeks the truth, and for that, he has to go on a journey.

Odysseus, the main protagonist of the Odyssey, is a great example of the Nostos theme, a theme used in Greek literature depicting an epic hero returning home by the sea. The journey isn't just a homecoming. It's about how it changed the hero's identity. The term Nostos would later bring out the expression Nostalgia, meaning the condition of longing for the past: Odysseus travels only to come back a better man, transitioning from a war machine to a family man after longing for his son and wife for years. Traveling as an apprenticeship, a rebirth to integrate more successfully into daily life. Unlike Achilles, Odysseus never sought glory. He didn't want to leave Ithaca and has to suffer his fate instead of reaching out to it. But again, despite him unwilling to travel, he is compelled to it and ends up transformed. Consequently, we could formulate that the main characteristic of a fruitful traveling experience is that it is not sought out, but the byproduct of a higher motive. Travel becomes a tool to grow, to meet one's destiny. This "Jungian" travel is a way to become a better individual, who benefits humanity as a whole. Changemakers go through a similar hero journey.

Critique of Digital Nomadism

Digital nomadism is trendy. A digital nomad is an individual who can work anywhere. Such lifestyle brings many opportunities for personal growth: increased purchasing power, improved living conditions, better work/life balance... remote work is a privilege more and more people will access in the near future. Location-independence usually comes with time independence. Your schedule is flexible. It can be bent to accommodate your timezone, or to fit your most productive hours of the day. At a fundamental level, digital nomadism should be motivated by an attraction for more independence to feed personal growth. Not an end-goal, but a different way to exist. Seduced by vlogs and Instagram accounts depicting nomadism as the new Eldorado, many want to go remote. Unfortunately, the life of a digital nomad is not that simple to figure out.

The challenge of digital nomadism is not whether or not it's accessible or inclusive, it's sustainability. The inclusiveness of mobility-as-a-lifestyle will grow with digitalization. It's only a matter of time. Sustainability, however, is an ongoing problematic we need to tackle now. Nomadism is mobility, and mobility has consequences at both individual and global levels.

When I look at digital nomadism as a movement, I do not see the heir of the nomadic spirit but regular travelers looking for some excitement. As we will see later on, this behavior is harmful to others and to themselves. I tend to be one of those digital nomads. yet we need to become better travelers if we want to make it a sustainable lifestyle.

Alter-nomadism consists in taking the best parts of historical nomadism and sedentism. I am aware I can be accused of idealizing historical nomadism. Those accusations of idealization don’t date from the New Age counter-culture. Whether it is in the “Persian Letters” by Montesquieu, “the Confessions” by Rousseau, “l’Ingénu” by Voltaire or in the “Supplement to Bougainville’s voyage” by Diderot, all considered the benefits of more "primitive" cultures. It wasn't idealization in my opinion, but merely pointing toward possibilities offered by different societies. The nomadism of the first peoples can be more happy to live than the sedentary societies of Europe. I critique sedentism a lot in this book, but it doesn't mean one lifestyle is better than the other.

Mobility and Globalization

If travel is the physical movement of going from one place to another, animal migrations could be considered as travels too. The difference is that animal migration is seasonal, whereas human travel isn't. Travel is a man's impulse. It's in our nature to wonder and wander. However, traveling is a cultural thing as well, exclusive to sedentism. As the philosopher Gilles Deleuze shows, nomads do not travel: "nothing travels less than a nomad"[%abecedaire%]. Nomads are anchored to a territory and circle around it in a seasonal fashion. Their life is linked to this territory.

It's extremely important to note that nomadism is not just about travel. This statement goes for digital nomadism as well. Nomadism is polymorphic. It varies both in time and space. Inuits and Tuaregs are both famous nomadic populations, yet their cultures are vastly different. Similarly, nomadism in the early history of civilization is unlike modern nomadism. There is a historical nomadism and a modern one including sub-cultures such as digital nomadism.

We can observe three kinds of nomadism throughout history: physical (historical nomadism), intellectual/spiritual (globalization or mercantile nomadism), and digital (not only digital nomads but also digital transformation as a whole).

Losing its hereditary aspect at the end of the first millennium, historical nomadism gradually disappears. Mobility is motivated by dogma, pilgrims seeking to purify their souls and crusaders waging wars in the Middle East, but also by sheer curiosity with intellectual movements with representatives such as Averroès, Thomas d'Aquin or Marco Polo. As the latter shows, trade is also one of the main reasons why people travel at the time. Later, writings and intellectual developments are empowered by the invention of the writing press in 1454. It's the start of a mercantile nomadism.

Mercantile nomadism appears with the first wave of globalization, characterized by the discovery of America. Settlers, pirates, and explorers access new wealth. This manna is sought by the European States in a dire need to keep their power over the Old Continent. The flow is eased for those who work, for those who think, and more generally, for those who create wealth. Work mobility becomes an economic necessity. The liberalization of travel involves institutional reforms. This free flow already becomes a source of inequalities and misery, slave trade being a striking example.

Merchantile nomadism originates from the sedentary need to accumulate wealth, which results in a convergence of sedentism and nomadism towards a hybrid favoring a free flow of goods over a free flow of men, or at least limited to a small part of the global population.

This first globalization gives birth to a second one, an industrial nomadism where movements are industrialized. Cowboys, hobos or the Charlot of Chaplin are part of this new generation of nomads. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution pushes the States to prepare future wars through colonization, leading to globalized migratory flows toward colonized countries, including Northern America. Those generations of workers regularly travel to build across the country. Travel is industrialized: a journey of 6 months by coach is reduced to one week by steam train. These urban nomads, that Jack London depicts so well in his novel The Road, constitute a cheap labor force. Their situation is precarious, living in communities called jungles, moving from one town to another depending on the jobs available, from which they barely survive.

After World War II, globalization enters a third phase. Mobility becomes not only physical (historical nomadism) and intellectual (mercantile nomadism), but also digital. A virtual nomadism where anyone can travel from the safety of their home using new technologies: telecom, software… a hyperworld where individuals and hardware constitute a meshed network, built from mobile entities creating a substitute to travel.

This three-dimensional nomadism is modern nomadism, also known as neo-nomadism. Neo-nomadism is omnipresent in our sedentary cultures. Political nomads such as migrants, refugees, homeless people... all cast aside from society, but also workers -- expatriates, remote workers, modern hobos -- and tourists. Every globalized trade flow is part of neo-nomadism as well. Nomadism is plural, but each branch shares this concept of mobility. Nomadism is not just a lifestyle based on mobility, it includes all the economic and social phenomenon originating from globalization.

Globalization has its benefits. It decreased the cost of travels. It's never been cheaper to move across the globe. As a result, seasonal tourists are legion, but trends like digital nomadism, enabled by remote work, are spreading as well. Travel is not only industry. It has become a lifestyle, in between historical nomadism and traditional sedentism. All you need is an apartment from Airbnb and a plane ticket from Skyscanner. But it comes at a cost. Globalization comes with challenges too. The economic inequalities between countries are still increasing. We didn't eradicate war. Environmentalism is still marginal. I truly believe we can use travel as a tool to propose viable solutions to the challenges of globalization.

On Tourism

Travel fascinates people. Everyone loves traveling, or at least, the perception of travel as a vacation. It's not uncommon to see travel listed as a hobby in resumes, or in Tinder bios, as if it defines us. As a consequence of globalization, it is appreciated on the job market and perceived as a mandatory step toward success. Students go abroad. Job relocation packages are getting increasingly common. The most fortunate spend their weekends and holidays in retreats, in the countryside, or in a chalet. Travel is a social enabler fed by digital networks. This demand for mobility became an industry with mass tourism being one of the results.

Tourism appeared during the 18th century to describe young bourgeois traveling around France to perfect their education. From a historical point of view, tourism is a practice performed by the elite, probably inspired by the medieval wandering journeymen who learned their craft by moving from one town to another. Modern tourism followed the Great Explorations era. Tourists travel out of curiosity and idleness, to seek entertainment. Only the most privileged can sustain the cost of traveling. From a historical point of view, a tourist, a modern traveler, is a social identity used to signal success.

Travel is romanticized for social or commercial purposes. Digital nomads have little in common with historical nomads, but the term "nomad" sounds better than "all-year-long tourist". Reality is not as glamorous. Tourism is an industry taking many shapes: entertainment travel, cultural travel, business trips… each targeting a specific niche of consumers. For example, humanitarian trips are profitable businesses relying on popular dreams and right-thinking desires (esteem needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs). Travel has become a consumable: we travel as we eat. A strategy to acquire pictures and be seen, that demands planning. Tourism often is "à la carte", starting from a "Things To Do" list every tourist follows religiously to gorge on information and dumbed-down postcard-like landscapes. Travel as an extra-ordinary experience to perform things that would not have been possible on a regular day. To Deleuze, this kind of travel is a "cheap break"[%abecedaire%], far from the transcendence tourists like to imagine. A modern traveler is closer from the tourist cliché, an explorer's empty shell.

Tourism has something of voyeurism. The modern traveler tends to give priority to pictures over words, to cameras over talks. When we travel, we look for something, consciously or not. It is an initiatory quest where everyone is looking for his own Eldorado: an identity change, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us, “be native in another country and a tourist at home, [...] to restore meaning to one’s own existence". As we saw previously with the examples of Oedipus, Ulysses, and Achilles, identity is at the center of every travel. Oedipus wants to change his identity to avoid a curse. Ulysses wants to get back to his previous life of father and king. Achilles embraces who he is, no matter the consequences. A touristalker cannot challenge her own identity, because she experiences difference throughout a lens, rather than by understanding the locals who incarnate this difference. Everyone becomes an obstacle to each other: some tourists put their own freedom above others without taking into account the consequences of their acts.

I was in Bangkok last month. Tourism is both the best and worst thing happening to the Kingdom. Sex has become an industry you can witness everywhere. The hordes of tourists are never-ending. Bangkok is so polluted the air irritates your nose and eyes if you stay outside for too long. On the other hand, tourism is a major sector in Thaïland, among the biggest economic contributors with +15% of the country's GDP. Needless to say, I felt way better out of the city center and far away from the tourist attractions living the life of a regular thaï working man. Point is, contemporary travel is paradoxical. Traveling taught me all of our actions have an impact. What is apparently harmless can be harmful to others in ways we do not anticipate. Bali comes to me as the perfect illustration of tourism gone wrong. The Butterfly Effect is real - this is why we must consider an ethic of travel.

On Xenophobia

I grew up in Tonneins, a town of 10,000 inhabitants bordered by the Garonne river. Jean Macé elementary school. Then Germillac middle school. During high-school, I moved to an even smaller town 10km from Tonneins called Aiguillon. I spent 18 years of my life in Lot-et-Garonne, one of the poorest departments of France in terms of GDP. My parents were born there as well. They spent most of their life there, yet they enjoy traveling. Travel made me hate the condition for a human to be chained to his birthplace, or to any place for that matter. It's not that I don't like my hometown, no. My heart still shivers at the memory of the green pastures and forests of Gascony. The sun has a different color. The smell of fresh dirt makes you feel alive. I believe Brassens says it better: "It's true that they are pleasant, all these little villages, all these market towns, these hamlets, these localities, these cities, with their fortified castles, their churches, their beaches, they have only one weakness [...], and it's being inhabited by people who look on all others with contempt from the top of their ramparts, the race of chauvinists, the rosette wearers, the complacent idiots who were born in some place." Where I come from is a part of me, but it doesn't have to define me. I feel at home wherever the wind blows We are all born somewhere, it doesn't define us.

Globalization generates more flexibility and more freedom, but also cultural homogenization. Traveling is adapting your daily routine to local customs, not the other way around. Travel does not make you, it undoes you. A life of travel is a community life where exchange creates social aggregation. Meeting new people is confronting your identity to others: "travel starts where beliefs stop". It's facing the foreign to be less foreign to yourself, to fight xenophobia - the fear of others. Discovering new cultures is not an easy thing: "Probably it is harder to reinvent life rather than inventing another one". A beautiful journey asks of its actors to "break the chains that place and fix people in a given identity in order to assign them to a belonging": a movement toward others, a change of identity that makes us better humans. We all aspire to reach a better place in life. Yet, we fear change, even when we need it. People who want to change the world rarely do it, because we seldom question our own situations, our own identity. We enjoy being fixed in an identity. We need labels because they simplify complex entities, just like words are an attempt at describing a reality we do not fully understand. Similarly, we tend to simplify the world we live in, because we cannot fully express it. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand. I don't want to be tied down by dogmas. I seek truth. Where are you now? Why are you here? What prevents you from being somewhere else?

Welcoming moving populations repulses the sedentary. Anti-migrant politic figures understood it well, but we should not forget empowering diversity will lead us to a brighter future. Traveling is understanding. When you travel, you expect locals to treat you well. You expect hospitality. Hospitality is a value of the historical nomad. I was still a child when my parents took my brother and me to Morroco for a humanitarian trip. They had to deliver goods to a local organization. We encountered a Tuareg named Saïd in Essaouira. I don't remember much of this summer, but I can never forget Saïd taking us to the bazaar to eat chickpeas. It felt like home. I made friends of the same age. We would play football in the streets and drink hot mint tea. We were living in a van and would visit occasionally. The universal Golden Rule is to treat others as you would like to be treated. The global migrant crisis is a complex issue but it's the duty of the Northern countries to take the matter in their hands. Conscious travel is the first step toward becoming a global citizen.

Infrastructures of Mobility

Globalization is supported by infrastructures of mobility: transport hubs such as airports, but also ITC infrastructures and distributed workspaces, among others. The notion of distributed workspace is of particular interest to me. We hear a lot about coworking spaces - workplaces shared by several companies any individual can join for a membership fee. Traveling while working is a dream to many, yet the precarity resulting from high mobility is an obstacle when you need to get work done. Coworking spaces are commonly presented as a solution for remote workers. A place where you can meet people at events organized throughout the year, and more importantly, get work done. I spent two months in two different coworking spaces in Asia. They are highly overrated.

Getting work done is all about your ability to focus for a long stretch of time. "Deep work" as Cal Newport puts it. Coworking spaces are mostly open spaces: distractions are everywhere. What you end up with is a so-called collaborative space where everyone is either wearing headphones or locked in small sound-proof boxes you have to book for an additional fee. It’s no different from a regular corporate office space, so why bother attaining the freedom offered by digital nomadism if it is wasted in such a manner?

Coworking spaces are also expensive. The famous Dojo Bali costs $80 per 50-hour workweek or $200 for unlimited monthly access, which is a minimum wage in Indonesia. Needless to say, you won’t meet many locals working here, unless their companies are paying for them. Even if they do, they won’t have time to exchange with you. I am not traveling to be constantly surrounded by the same cultural bubble. Traveling is all about meeting people fundamentally different, culturally and economically speaking. Coworking spaces are popular thanks to the club effect around them, but paying for a monthly pass will neither help you get work done in an optimal fashion or socialize.

Instead of joining a coworking space, look for your right work/social balance. Make deep and impactful work from either home, libraries or coffee shops. In that order depending on the opportunities offered by your environment. Train yourself to work in those conditions. Develop your adaptability skills. If you are not born a digital nomad, at least you can become one. For the social part, live locally. Go talk to people in the street and bartenders. Attend public meetups and free social events. They are plenty. You even might attend events organized by coworking spaces for free, while avoiding all the negative fuss. Networking events can be a good thing, but you'd better be off visiting or learning about the local environment. It might seem hard, keep in mind you don’t make meaningful connections and go meaningful work without effort. Why people still join coworking spaces in the end? It's hype. They didn't learn not to think in terms of workplace. They didn't learn how to create a sustainable work environment for personal growth. You might think you are an extrovert needing the extra noise to get work done. No, you need to work less, at a higher level of focus, and you must go out more.

There is but one situation where you should join a coworking space, and that is when all other infrastructures fail to provide you a comfortable environment to work from. I spent three months in Penang this year.

Fear of Movement

Mobility is encouraged, as long as it maintains the status quo.

When sedentism began, the growth of the rural towns induced raising taxes and choosing tribe leaders to facilitate the management of those new communities. Sedentary populations use nomads to trade with each other (caravans) or to wage wars (mercenaries). Nomads are often cast aside as asocial and lunatic: they never stop moving, live from very little comfort, and take pride in their customs. Sedentaries fear potential attacks orchestrated by those nomadic populations. Fear creates a craving for safety. Cities institute new security measures: warriors, ramparts, walls, fortified buildings... even armies. States originate from a social contract: an attempt at survival, but more importantly an attempt at securing wealth. Away from chaos, away from nomads.

In the Roman empire, motion frightens. People are contained, fed and distracted to decrease entropy (Panem et circenses). Immigrants moving due to poverty or war are confined, expelled, locked up in prisons, or enslaved. Historical nomads living outside of the city-state, like the Huns, must be monitored to prevent their attacks. It didn't prevent them from taking over Rome. Territories are as important to nomads as they are for sedentaries.

During Middle-Age, the plague becomes the perfect illustration of a nomad illness targeting sedentaries. The fear of the outsider is real. Banishing the sick proves to be inefficient as it only redistributes the plague. New institutions appear to contain the old and the sick: hospitals. Later, forced labor is created to fight against idleness. Under feudal regimes, the past is considered as barbaric and intellectual movements are frowned upon. Those who move are terrifying — artists, scientists, philosophers, explorers, bandits, beggars — because they go against the public order.

Just like we admit a wandering impulse, human beings fear what escapes their control. There is a fear of differences and a fear of movement. It's a historical constant we can still witness nowadays. We are naturally suspicious of what we cannot control, so we uniformize, we condition, we normalize… not only do we lock up people but we also confine ourselves in boxes of many shapes: classrooms, barracks, capsule hotels, cubicles, nightclubs, cars, coffins.

States monitor and control mobile populations. To ban them. To jail them. To tax them with passport fees or work taxes. To punish them. Precarious sedentaries, potential nomads forced to leave to seek a job. Or excluded from society: homeless, Roma people, migrants... Bureaucracy ensures control, in the name of public order, hygiene, and security. The use of permits or identity cards to cross imaginary borders is a cultural filter. In the era of neo-nomadism, mass spying - foreign and domestic intelligence - as Edward Snowden proved it, comes completing the police among other repressive state apparatus. State apparatus perpetuate sedentism so that the state can survive. It's not inherently good or bad as it ensures more people can survive, but it can result in abuses. It’s the principle of totalitarian violence by Maffesoli: the state nurtures a society of “good thoughts that numb people". It domesticates the masses by offering a “happy prison” (golden handcuff), with bread, entertainments, and protection in exchange for a quiet submission. Pinning down a population ease its domination.

Flows are monitored as well. Sedentism leads to private property, then monetization created the concept of bank, which is the institution of creation and management of monetary capital. Banks oversee the monetary flows while companies emit income statements to enable economic monitoring. Highly mobile entities resulting from neo-nomadism don’t necessarily bring more freedom. We ensure our own surveillance through the use of technology: protected mobile designation of origin, corporate surveillance, and other use of personal data.

Settling is domesticating the cattle for animal husbandry and the earth for agriculture, but also domesticating the people. In this sense, modern nomads are just tamed nomads who leave traces, are traceable, and only go where the infrastructures of mobility are. Shepherds became pet keepers.

Totalitarianism

Imperialism and totalitarianism are what happens when confinement is not enough anymore. It's the story of Moses freeing his people, but also how Native Americans were butchered to leave room for the settlers. The armies of the most powerful European nations take over new territories under the pretense to "educate the savages" and to "bring civilization". Colonization is an attempt at regularizing people from a different culture: "Dogs incessantly run the steppes looking for wolves to turn into dogs". Colonies also provide a way to get rid of undesired populations. It’s the story of the colonization of Australia where armies and marginals were sent to take over the First People: "slaughter the nomads if they resist and put the sedentaries to work if they survive".

Dennis Hopper illustrates it perfectly in his cult movie "Easy Rider": two nomad bikers wandering throughout the USA. Their spiritual journey brutally comes to an end when they get murdered by a personification of xenophobic America. At a bigger scale, antiglobalism - refusing all forms of globalization - is closing the borders, generating xenophobia and fear of the nomad-migrant. This kind of inward-looking attitude is precisely what leads to totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism consists in getting rid of nomadic populations through institutions of surveillance and death.

To Marx, nomadism is a primitive society which led to capitalism. Bolshevism applied this concept by sedentarizing the Kazakh population using collectivization and territorial appropriation. Opponents are monitored by a political police, prosecuted, and isolated in political prisons (gulags).

Nazism used marking to watch over nomadic populations - Jews, Roma, or any other marginal excluded from society - to finally commit genocides. Every case of totalitarianism ends up with a prohibition of free flow by the closure of the borders.

What about democracy? We denounce totalitarian regimes. It’s part of our republican values. From a young age, we study the atrocities resulting from such regimens. Yet we still do not talk enough about our indifference towards the First People that we pushed to sedentarization, their territories arranged and industrialized to our benefits: we let those people disappear. Among them, historical nomads carrying a knowledge whose value is immeasurable. Whether it is through wars (Tuaregs), deforestation (Awá from Amazonia) or forced sedentarization (Australian aboriginal or Native Americans), we are responsible and it is our duty to do something about it.

But concealment is still a thing: for the last five millenniums, "we write History, but we always write it from a sedentary point of view, and in the name of a state apparatus. History never understood nomadism". The work of the nomads, which shaped humankind, truly suffered an appropriation by the sedentaries.

Endangered Nomads

Precarity targets modern nomads and sedentaries, but it is even more present among first peoples, who need us to urgently reintegrate them: they represent a population of 300 million individuals. Few nomad people survived till today. A few millions of individuals at most. A tiny portion of the overall population. A marginal lifestyle, barely represented in the current human population. Historical nomads are not against development - obscurantism. They still carry antique wisdom we lack. The first peoples remain the guardians of their territories and the life growing from it. Consider this quote of Sitting Bull: "When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money". The famous Native American chief said those words during the 19th century, but it's only been a few decades since the "civilized" world decided to act. Bad treatments towards the first nomads are still an ongoing issue. Sedentaries feel at home everywhere thanks to modern telecommunication technologies. Historical nomads are nowhere home, except for a few transit camps.

To Ratzel, historical nomadism is a force to preserve, which managed to survive natural selection thanks to its flexible organizational structure. The tragedy lies in the fact that history is written by sedentaries, while nomads rely on an oral tradition. How can a way of life, which allowed humankind to get where it is today, be bound to disappear? Maybe it is time to ask ourselves how to go back to our nomad roots in a sustainable fashion.

Alter-nomadism includes the values of historical nomadism: simplicity (accumulate without harming, fight against the culture of the short-lived), ecology (understanding and protection of nature) and res publica (keep the common good in mind, refuse precarity, adopt a democratic behavior, not to tolerate a breach of the human rights), compassion (understand otherness to find your own benefit in the benefit of others), curiosity, sharing (transmit knowledge), solidarity and hospitality (welcome people like you want to be welcomed). As Maffesoli summarizes: "weaken the identity (to reinvent one’s self), commune with nature, reinvent a social link". An ethic of travel arises from those values. This ethic demands respect, responsibility, and ecology: "to act during your travels as if you were in your own home country" (virtual sedentism principle).

Precarity of Sedentism

Neo-nomadism generates precarity. Globalization serves the states and their citizens, but the market still prevails. Our time is marked by a need for mobility. Mobility is omnipresent. Stopping the free flow would prevent economic growth, yet the fear of motion persists. State apparatus solve the equation by limiting the free flow to a small segment of the population and to goods. Sedentism segments and isolates to maintain public order. This way, it creates injustice whose consequences are visible in the North/South inequalities. It’s a vicious circle assisted by mechanisms such as “social reproduction” - through ideological state apparatus such as schools - and symbolic violence allowing to maintain a sedentary order. Globalization implies cultural homogenization: the strongest culture economically can export itself everywhere in the world. Merchantile globalization offers flexibility at the cost of precarity, the disenchantment of the world. Precarity is first reflected in the growing inequalities between Northern and Southern countries, rich and poor. Attali classifies the global moving population into two categories: infranomads and hypernomads[%attali%].

Neo-nomadism serves the most privileged: people like me who travel to improve their quality of life, for financial reasons (pay fewer taxes, tax evasion ...), or for entertainment purposes. Those hypernomads chose their lifestyle. They are the elite who can afford to move around. Many sedentaries try to imitate hypernomads by practicing tourism while staying indoor for the major part of the year. Merchantile nomadism supports the flow of goods more than the flow of human beings, which is eased for people who add an economic value. This is why we let hypernomads and sedentaries move across countries: tourism is a profitable industry, workers from Southern countries produce at lower costs, and international companies have access to a bigger market, brain Drain of the intellectual elite... Hypernomads are attracted by this wealth creation and enabled by governments.

On the other hand, infranomads are hereditary or constrained nomads. Hereditary nomads are historical nomads, we already defined them. Constrained nomads are urban nomads, sedentaries who are forced to precarity: homeless, migrants, refugees, etc. without socio-economic stability, marginals forced to move to get a job or just to live a normal life. In both cases, this form of nomadism is not chosen. The historical nomad isn’t forcibly precarious, but what is precarious ends up becoming nomad to survive. Infranomads are limited in their movement by institutional nets: we prevent flows of migrants seeking better living conditions in northern countries, we marginalize them in the news without understanding the real problems going on... despite free flow being a human right in the Universal Declaration. State borders are filters dividing the populations. Residents from southern countries have less visa power than individuals from richer countries: a French citizen needs a Visa in 35 countries, whereas a Thai citizen is required to present a Visa in 134 countries[%visalist%]. It's kind of ironic when you consider that Thailand is among the 10 most visited countries in 2017. Political nomads end up without landmarks and are excluded (ie the global migrant crisis). Getting used to a new location takes time. Human beings strive for stability, but we consume in a way that favors everything ephemeral. Cities became temporary habitats where urbanization and urban misery induce the rapid construction of new living spaces. In France, one household out of three has been occupying its apartment for less than four years. The average commute time never ceases to increase: one hour and a half per day in Paris. Workers became consumables. All of those behaviors combined induce unemployment and competition as an institution. We favor competitivity and busyness, at what cost? Public institutions are closing. Institutions such as education, healthcare, and the police must make profits. Otherwise, they get privatized. More mercantile nomadism is less democracy, less state, and public services whose benefits we progressively lose, resulting in an even bigger precarity.

On Work

People are expected to commute for long hours and be flexible with their own time. Individuals adapt to jobs, not the other way around. Liberalism is the nomadism of salariat and profit: companies are getting increasingly mobile to access bigger markets and generate more profit. Neo-nomadism was initiated by sedentaries for sedentaries, to ensure a flow of goods and services resulting in economic growth. Companies are compelled to adapt to the quest for profit and the strong competition resulting from globalization. It's an amoral race for productivity where the most efficient organizations survive. Contracts trump laws: delocalization is a striking example of a quest for profit ignoring basic human rights. Services are getting increasingly mobile and exportable. Middlemen are removed (uberization) to put individuals and professionals in contact directly. Taylorism, Fordism, and similar work structures lead to more specialization, blocking social traffic among citizens. Modern sedentary work is confinement, an obvious lack of flexibility slowly turning into sclerosis.

Rethinking work is essential. Remote work is an immense opportunity, yet relatively recent, mysterious, and mostly misunderstood. It's interesting to note that the term "travel" comes from the old French "travail", which means "work". The word "travail" originates from the Latin "tripalium", an instrument of torture. From an etymological point of view, travel is closely related to work, and torture. Work defines the nomad: you need a plan to sustain yourself financially, which is a challenge of digital nomadism in itself.

I spent six months in South-East Asia this year. I experienced new cities and met new people, but I did not live it to the fullest. I was spending most of my time working from my Airbnb studio. Job stability is usually not synonymous of nomadic life, because that's just not how companies are designed. Digital nomads are mostly freelancers, creatives and/or tech workers. They don't work from the beach. You can go remote or work locally. Remote work, teaching, and wwoofing are among the jobs favored by full-time travelers. The best talent will want to go remote. It's already part of some company employee benefits packages.

Anyone can become a nomad, but it is not for everyone. This is why the first and most essential step is to assess whether this lifestyle suits your individual aspirations or not. Digital nomadism is demanding in terms of self-knowledge. It takes a lot of self-control to implement the right routine for you to get the work done and to stick to your new habits. Your environment often changes, and if you are not capable to quickly adapt, your work/life balance is impacted. Travel is a double-edged sword that can make or break your productivity. The good news is that it can be learned.

You need a good reason to make the change. Otherwise, you are bound to be crushed by a tough reality. Sedentism is alright too. If nomadism is not for you, it’s okay. Digital nomadism is overhyped at times. There are many reasons to travel, which I already categorized into three profiles: Achilles, Ulysses, and Oedipus. It's nothing scientific, but those are good indicators to situate you. If you are an Oedipus, moving places can help you run away from realities, but not for long. You can be an Achilles and do it for glory, for the smell of adventure, because it's what you live for deep down. I am more of a Ulysses: I travel out of necessity. I consider travel not as an end-goal but as a tool for growth. Many resources cover this topic already, but when it comes to nomadism, the 4-Hour Workweek is already a classic. To Ferris[%ferris%], the "New Riches" are those who value time and mobility more than money. It’s a currency on its own. Our generation doesn't seek job stability but growth, new experiences. Going remote is a way to free yourself from a work routine to leave room for the present. Money as a tool, rather than a master.

Quitting your job is an option. Time is too precious to justify an alienating job. Quitting a job is no failure, it's not abandoning: it’s a change, a movement, an evolution, which allows breaking free from a dehumanizing routine while signaling a thirst for improvement. It’s indeed easier for remote-friendly jobs, nevertheless, behaviors are evolving and digitalization is spreading: solutions are possible.

Before finding a good reason or a good opportunity to go remote, you have to actually get used to remote work. I'm not going to talk about how to get a remote gig. There are already plenty of articles about it. Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Workweek proposes a strategy to negotiate a remote position at your current job. Getting remote work usually implies you already had experience working remotely. A lifestyle is just a set of habits to integrate into your daily life. It's best to start small when you build new habits. Digital nomadism is no different. Find a nearby city in your home country. Relocate there for a week with your friends, your family, or your lover. Or go visit someone for a short time on your own. Maximize your comfort zone, and do some work. Feel how your body and mind react. To be able to work efficiently, you will need a minimum of comfort. It is okay to go to backpackers hotels, but you will need a desk and good Wi-Fi. A bad Wi-Fi network will kill your productivity. I started my own transition slowly, without knowing it in fact. I had a Macedonian friend at the time, so I seized the opportunity to visit her home country for two weeks while studying remotely. I was studying remotely in Stockholm anyway, so I just decided to use this opportunity to travel and spend time discovering a new culture. As long as I was delivering my assignments and reading/watching the lectures, no questions were asked. The more you experiment, the more you will get to know yourself. Learning about your limits is important. Figure out how long you can sustain being in a given place. How your social life is impacted. Whether you manage to make new friends or not. If you can maintain a good work/life balance. How working without colleagues physically by your side impacts your work. How long before you start missing your friends and family? And so on... Digital nomadism is full of hardships you have to experience for yourself, with sustainability in mind.

Every nomad is different, you have to set on this personal journey to come up with your own answers. I believe that faced with total freedom an order comes naturally out of it, but it takes some adaptation time. The values of alter-nomadism must be adapted to each individuality. Ferris proposes the DEAL (Definition, Elimination, Automation, Liberation) methodology. It is about defining your dreams and desires through introspection work. This thought process allows you to define quantified financial needs. Once your objectives are clearly defined, an aspiring nomad can learn to master his own time to get closer to his/her own vision by iteration.

A digital nomad makes a contract with the institutions: "Reality is negotiable [...] and it doesn't require being unethical". This contract allows him to take back control of his own time, of his own life. One must justify his/her own choices while understanding what society expects from its members: to create wealth. Traveling favors the development of important skills - such as negotiating, planning, improvising, etc. - or to boost your own productivity by choosing your own schedule (everyone works differently). But digitalization and remote work are not just a way to decrease costs or increase your personal comfort. The promises of remote work can be much more thought-provoking: the decentralization of the job market could result in dynamizing and capitalizing on more remote regions, freeing time and decreasing our environmental impact by reducing the commuting burden, or empowering local communities by avoiding brain drains.

Subversive

Gilles Deleuze was a philosopher. Félix Guattari, a psychotherapist. Deleuze and Guattari's nomadology [%nomadology%] is a work of philosophy first, but it's also the most thought-provoking work on nomadism. According to their historical analysis, the nomad is a tendency towards deterritorialization, meaning, a movement out of a given identity. Nomadism is not a lifestyle based on mobility, it is a mindset of deterritorialization[%nomadology_definition%]: "nothing travels less than a nomad". This definition completely reinvents the concept of modern nomad, not someone who travels but an individual who is constantly changing, who has no fixed identity. Nomadism is a transgression of values, a practice of non-conformism shoving the establishment throughout history. The Huns contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Mongol Empire invaded China. Such lifestyle constituted a rebellion against a mercantile order, a fight against institutions, to keep their freedom. Pirates illustrated it well: they were the embodiment of the ideals of the French revolution - a democratic government and a thirst for freedom transgressing morals. Deleuze and Guattari highlight nomadism as a political statement by describing its non-conformism as "a form of thought that [...] does not allow itself to fall through the cracks of institutional forces... a posture based on a mistrust of the powers and mores of an era, a mode of opposition".

Nomading is fighting against totalitarianism by contributing to a free flow of ideas and human beings, by challenging the banal and the alienating. Wandering is a fundamental impulse of human nature because wandering brings joie de vivre. The Greek god Dionysos tells us that in order for a society to live, apart from (re)production we need something unproductive. Walter Benjamin’s act of strolling opposes a life oriented toward productivism - Frederick Taylor being against idleness in all its forms. This “dionysian effervescence” is a call to return to the animal side residing in everyone to commune with nature. The nomadic lifestyle puts the Myth of Prometheus into perspective: a relativization of a conquering society, against nature, for a scientific development devoid of ethical or ecological concern.

To become an alter-nomad is to become a thinker and a maker, rather than a bystander. The mission is to participate in the realization of a better world: "the nomad attempts to escape the codes (of the highway), the conditions (at a socio-psychological level) and simplistic, locking definitions. But he doesn’t pretend to escape all conditioning. On the contrary, he seeks the best conditions, the best conditioning possible (breathing space, focus space, etc.). He works on himself, never losing sight of both his animal and natural basis". To change the world, one must incarnate this change.

I'm pretty sure Deleuze would laugh at digital nomadism as it still appears as a cheap low-effort nomadism, fixed in a cultural identity. I believe digital nomadism to have the potential to be the new hippie. In mercantile globalization, being a consumer can be more powerful than being a citizen. Traveling is consuming differently. It is affecting the economy to have a societal impact. Moving is making a life choice, so traveling is deeply political and has the power to become subversive. The nomad has a responsibility in keeping his travels ethical to make it a sustainable and positive manna.

Mind Travels

Travel is an industry where tourism is but the tip of the iceberg. Travel is regularly associated with a quest for pleasure in the advertisement industry to attract customers. Malls are airports where consumption is a travel: a product pleases the senses. Sports focus our attention on movement and assign athletes and spectators to tribes, to create emotions. Entertainment provides a gateway outside from reality, a mean to sell our precious available brain time. The New Age counter-culture illustrates a return to the values of historical nomadism while revisiting it. Travel through the use of psychoactive drugs ("fly high", "trip") but also in sexual freedom with sexual tourism, erotism etc. Later, advertisement transformed goods and services into immobile travels. Travels to oblivion nurturing escapism. One day we will probably travel out of our bodies to become cyborgs. What is modern travel then, if not the simulacrum of an ideal with a commercial purpose rather than a real positive impact? A popular desire amounting to a few weeks every year. An accessory, rather than a lifestyle. Modern travel is romanticized to appeal to the masses.

Travel is not a physical movement, it's an internal journey. Deleuze declares: "I hate the conditions, for a poor intellectual, to travel [...] there is a geo-music, there is a geo-philosophy, those are profound countries. More like my kind of countries" [%abecedaire%]. I find this statement particularly inspiring. A beautiful book, a beautiful movie, a beautiful theorem, or a beautiful software program transport its initiate. Travels can be physical, intellectual, but also digital. Psychoanalysis allows us to come back to our own story to better navigate through life (catharsis). Information technologies merge both mental and physical travels. You can instantly move to the other side of the world thanks to Google Earth. Long distance communications bring lovers together. Those three kinds of travel are complementary. They propose different aspects of the same experience. You don’t experience someone online as you would in real life, for example. All travels are beautiful, as long as they are not travels into oblivion. Being a modern nomad is not so much about booking a plane ticket to move to the other side of the world. It's about impacting the world.

Achilles, Odysseus, and Travel

Epic journeys occupy a central place in Ancient Greek literature. The Iliad and the Odyssey are among the oldest texts of Western literature. Travel is cultural and its meaning varies over time and space.

During Ancient Greece, foreigners who do not travel to trade goods are called nomads, or barbarians if they do not speak Greek. Nomads are not a moving population. Instead, they are individuals perceived as both monsters and gods, or as Aristotle says: “a man who has no need to live in a community, because it is self-sufficient, has no part in the city”. Those travelers are pictured as solitary and erudite heroes, similar to Odysseus.

Odysseus, the main protagonist of the Odyssey, is a great example of the Nostos theme, a theme used in Greek literature depicting an epic hero returning home by sea.

The journey isn't just a homecoming. It is also about how it changed the hero's identity. The term Nostos would later bring out the expression Nostalgia, meaning the condition of longing for the past: Odysseus travels only to come back a better man, transitioning from a war machine to a family man after longing for his son and wife for years. Traveling as an apprenticeship, a rebirth to integrate more successfully into daily life.

Achilles is another aspect of the Greek notion of travel. Achilles never gets to come back home. When he left Phthia, the hero knew he was destined to die on the battlefield: "my nostos has perished, but my kleos will be unwilting". Achilles renounced the comforts of his home and the instant gratification a life of material pleasures would have offered him. Instead, he travelled to Troyes to meet his fate: death, but glory (kleos).

The philosopher Diotima explains in Plato's Symposium that people are driven by a search to reach some form of immortality. Sex, art, and most of our creative endeaviors are an attempt at defying the bindings of time. Achilles's desire for glory is so strong that it ends up costing his life. Achilles represents this idea of living a short existence filled with hardships to achieve glory, in contrast with a long and average happy life. Kleos means "what others hear about you", your reputation. A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds, traveling being the mean.

What is the lesson here? The most important aspect of Achilles's character is not his search for glory. It is his ability to stay true to himself. I see Achilles knowing his fate as a metaphor for self-knowledge. He clearly understands what it is he needs to do to accomplish his authentic self. More than love or glory, Achilles seeks truth.

Unlike Achilles, Odysseus never sought glory. He didn't want to leave Ithaca and has to suffer his fate instead of reaching out to it. But again, despite him unwilling to travel, he is compelled to it and ends up transformed.

Consequently, the main characteristic of a fruitful travelling experience is that it is not sought out. It is but the byproduct of a higher motive.

Always Alone, Never Lonely

Yesterday I went to a Tinder date for research purpose.

It struck me how easy it is to socialize nowadays.

You can travel alone far from your own country and still connect with people whenever you feel like it. The culture might be different, but all humans have the same basic needs for friendship, love, and happiness. All it takes is for us to overcome the invisible social barriers built in our minds.

We will die alone. We are always alone, but it doesn't mean we have to feel lonely.

I'm a big introvert, but I can switch on my inner extrovert from time to time. I end up drained the next day and it takes some alone time to refill the energy. Still, it expands my comfort zone.

One thing I believed in for a long time is that when you travel you can't make meaningful connections.

I think this is partially wrong because you can learn to create meaning from the simplest conversations. When you are authentic and genuinely curious about someone, you end up asking the right questions that will lead to more meaningful relationships.

Loneliness is an actionable mindset.

Another interesting thing is that the more people you travel with, the less meaningful the relationships you develop. This tribe effect is toxic. It prevents social flexibility because the tribe comes first, not the others.

Don't be afraid to travel alone. Traveling alone is never lonely.

David-Néel, the Ideal Neo-Nomad

Alexandra David-Néel is the perfect representation of a nomadic ideal.

As a Belgium-French writer and explorer, David-Néel displayed through the example of her life a real ethic of travel. Her erudition and thirst for otherness allowed her to transcend conditions: she became the first western woman to enter the Tibetan city of Lhasa, forbidden to foreigners at the time, as she described it herself in her book My Journey to Lhasa.

However, even a great explorer like Alexandra David-Néel alternated between long periods of travels and long periods of sedentism. This is what made her a true nomad from a historical definition. Historical nomads never travel. They move around, following a cycle. Her cycle was not seasonal. It was a cycle of creation. Writing at home. Gathering materials during her travels.

It's in her house, nicknamed Fortress of Meditation, that she wrote the books that made her famous.

David-Néel didn't travel out of boredom. It was an impulse she displayed at a young age. Later, traveling became an obligation. She traveled to make a living as a singer. She traveled to continue her intellectual work and further her own education. More importantly, she traveled to meet her fate. And this is what separates nomads from tourists: purpose.

She would later inspire Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Alan Watts, among others.

Fortress Of Meditation

When adventurer Alexandra David-Néel wasn't on the road, she would stay at her Fortress of Meditation. Even explorers need to have a stable place to retreat to, because a life without roots is also without directions. Or as the poet would say:

Happy he who like Ulysses
Has seen hundreds of lands
And has regained again, after
Many years of wandering
The country of his youthful years
On an early Summer morning
When the sun sings within your heart
Then how fine it is to be free
Fine to be free !

We are all free to choose where home is, but I believe it takes some introspection work and many experiments to settle, at least temporarily.

For now, home is where my parents are—that's the address I use for my business—, but it's not my fortress.

I spend most of my years from one city to another and I don't think of ever settling in one place for the rest of my life, but the security of knowing there is somewhere I can go if the world were to end is reassuring.

A quick look at the average price of a plot of land in France tells me I could get enough surface to build a house and cultivate the land—anything from 1000 to 3000m²—with $15,000, and less if I were to share the property with others.

The average tiny house is about $35,000. Of course, doing it the maker way would significantly decrease the price. With the right constraints, hard work and imagination can pull off amazing fits.

In conclusion, I will be able to execute on the idea as soon as I save up about $50,000. I would also need to take into account several fees. In any case, It wouldn't take long if I were to put my mind into it, but this is not a priority for me at the moment. It's probably something I'll want to focus on in my 30's.

Infinite Conversation

Traveling is an opportunity to experience several lives. All it takes is a good conversation.

The hard part is going toward others. Meeting new people is always uncomfortable, almost scary. Aristotle says humans are social beings, but it's a half-truth. We are not completely open to new acquaintances. We meet individuals within our social spheres, and we rarely escape it. Have you ever went to a bar by yourself to strike up a discussion? It's not innate.

Once you overcome this lingering fear, you still need to make the dialogue interesting.

Talking is always about the other. Everybody has a story to tell, and your job is to discover it. That's my approach to ignite my interest: every encounter is an opportunity to learn something new that can potentially impact your life to a great extent.

People are never boring, you just need to figure out where your interlocutor's fascination dwells.

Start by figuring out what the person is doing: the daily routine, the career, the hobbies, their family relationships... nothing is mundane.

You can then draw a mental picture of what your contact is good at. Everyone has an expertise in some area. It's not always about career or emotional intelligence or ideas, it can be about striking events and people. Keep Socrates' maïeutic in mind. Don't just listen, don't use the person's experiences to talk about yourself - focus your attention on understanding.

When you manage to identify what he/she is passionate about, you're in for an infinite conversation: it's an accelerated course on human nature, soak it all up!

Mazeophobia

I've been cruising in the Ha Long Bay for two days with ten other westerners. As it's frequent in most tourist attractions many activities are organized to keep us busy. Guides tell us where to go and what to do. I kinda hate it. We bought a package to visit the bay and it happens the activities were included. I started wondering why people would actually like those. My brother and I had rather spend time silently observing the mountains, the sea, and the fishing boats.

My conclusion is people either don't want to think for themselves, or are too afraid to go on an adventure.

I think it's quite obvious you can always distinguish two kinds of travelers: tourists following the herd of other tourists, and more independent people seeking to interact with locals first and foremost. The fear of getting lost, mazeophobia, is probably the single thing defining who is or isn't a "tourist".

I believe travel is not about finding new monuments, new cultures, or new people. It's about losing yourself: losing your identity, losing your mental barriers, losing your sense of what's normal and what isn't. Travel destroys more than it creates.

We have to learn to be comfortable with not having a pre-defined plan. We have to be comfortable strolling through the streets aimlessly, without any map or smartphone to guide us.

Only then can we relate to people again. Only then can we be ready to face any situation the world throws at us. Being lost is temporary, all roads lead back home.

Mobility and precarity

We can observe three kinds of nomadism throughout history: physical (historical nomadism), intellectual/spiritual (globalism or mercantile nomadism), and digital (not only digital nomads but also digital transformation as a whole). This three-dimensional nomadism is called neo-nomadism.

Neo-nomadism is everywhere in our sedentary societies. You can witness it in political nomads (migrants, refugees, homeless people...), workers (expats) or travelers. You can especially observe it in every trade flow around the globe shaping both economic and social phenomenon.

Unlike historical nomads, a neo-nomad does not belong to a given tribe. Sometimes those relationships are short-lived, limited to social networks. Deeply individualistic, he puts his freedom above others. It's a society where goods of consumption become transient (planned obsolescence), where a thirst for new material possessions prevails. Neo-nomadism serves the richest: people like me who travel to improve their quality of life, or for financial reasons (pay fewer taxes, tax evasion ...). On the other hand, political nomads end up without landmarks and are excluded (ie the European migrant "crisis").

Getting used to a new location takes time. Human beings strive for stability, but we consume in a way that favors everything ephemeral. Cities became temporary habitats where urbanization and urban misery (shanty towns) induce the rapid construction of new living spaces. In France, 1 household out of 3 has been occupying its apartment for less than 4 years. The average commute time never ceases to increase: 1 hour and a half per day in Paris. Workers became consumables. All of those behaviors combined induce unemployment and competition as an institution. Companies are compelled to adapt to the quest for profit and the strong competition resulting from globalization. Contracts, rather than laws. For example, delocalization provides a mean for more profit while ignoring basic human rights.

We favor competitivity and busyness, at what cost? Public institutions are closing. Mercantile nomadism serves the states and their citizens, but the market still prevails.

Globalism offers flexibility and freedom, but also cultural homogenization and precarity. How can we reconcile both? I want to think about an alter-nomadism.

Modern travel

Travel fascinates people. Globalism made it mandatory. Students study abroad. Travel is appreciated on the job market. People are expected to be flexible and commute for long hours. Travel is a social enabler. A mandatory step to be perceived as successful. This demand became an industry with mass tourism being one of the results.

Tourism is a term from the 18th century describing young bourgeois traveling around France to perfect their education. From a historical point of view, tourism is a lavish practice performed by the elite.

Modern tourism followed the Great Explorations era, but unlike explorers, tourists travel out of curiosity and idleness. And only the most privileged can sustain the cost of traveling.

We tend to romanticize travel. Truth is, modern travelers are closer from the tourist cliché, the explorer's empty shell. A tourist is a pressed visitor who prefers monuments over human beings. "People travel as they eat," says Frank Michel. Travel has become a good, a "strategy to accumulate pictures", and as in any good strategy, it needs a plan. Tourism often is "à la carte" and starts from a Things To Do list that every tourist follows religiously to become a "gurgitator of knowledge and dumbed-down landscapes", a "postal card eater". Travel as an “extra-ordinary” experience to perform things that would not have been possible on a regular day. For Deleuze, this kind of travel is a "cheap break", far from the transcendence tourists like to imagine.

Tourism is an industry that takes many shapes: entertainment travel, cultural travel, business trips… each targeting a specific niche of consumers. Humanitarian trips are profitable businesses relying on popular dreams and right-thinking desires (esteem needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).

When we travel, we look for something, consciously or not. It is an initiatory quest where everyone is looking for his own Eldorado or "American Dream". A quest for pleasure. Travel is regularly associated with pleasure in the advertisement industry to attract customers. Malls are airports where consumption is a travel: a product pleases the senses. Same with sports, where movement is the center of attention. Same with entertainment. Same with drugs ("fly high"). As a general rule, goods became immobile travels. Travels to oblivion. Escapism. The exact opposite of the beauties one can find in traveling. In a near future, we might want to travel out of our bodies to become cyborgs.

What is modern travel then, if not the simulacrum of an ideal with a commercial purpose rather than a real positive impact? A popular desire amounting to a few weeks every year. An accessory, rather than a lifestyle. The nomad has thus a responsibility in keeping his travels ethical to make it a sustainable and positive manna. How to act towards the common good? I need to find answers to this question.

New Place

I won't be able to release everything I promised by Monday as I wasn't as productive as usual last week. After working on 200 Words a Day every day continuously for two months, I was wondering if I was starting to burn out or not. I felt sluggish. Not sad, but empty.

I tend to be overly passionate about my work, but passionate people burn out easily. It turns out I was overly-reacting: it was the change of environment. My worries disappeared after a week.

One thing to take into account when you work remotely is your adaptation period to a new place.

In my case, I need a good week before getting back to full productivity. Before that, I feel tired and lazy. I don't know the psychology behind it, but I suppose that since mobility breaks routines, it depletes will power as well.

Humans are not meant to be fast travelers. Mobility generates precarity. Precarity is the enemy of stability. However, you need stability to perform deep work. This is why digital nomads rarely move from one city to another in just a couple of days.

You can create stability by relying on healthy personal micro-habits.

I turned inwards to figure out what was wrong, and I came up with some nice observations about myself. Tiredness is cured with sleep, sweets, and loved ones.

Tomorrow I will write about my personal habits to get into a flow state.

On Xenia

Ancient Greek hospitality, called xenia, rests on two principles: hosts must offer food, drinks, entertainments, and shelter to travelers, while guests must be respectful, never abuse the hospitality given to them, and reciprocate it by, for example, telling tales of their adventures.

Hospitality used to be sacred, for gods were believed to travel amongst men. Refusing hospitality was offending the gods. Breaking xenia was often the trigger of many myths and stories. Paris taking Helen from his host King Menelaus started the Trojan War, for example.

Even though the custom isn't as common as it used to, we can still witness its influence and consider it common etiquette for tourists and locals alike.

Xenia is a reciprocal relationship where both parties grow better thanks to it.

Xenophobia, the fear of what is foreign, is going against this ancient wisdom: it's everyone's loss, because it dehumanizes us. When I hear about anti-migrant protesters in modern Greece, or anywhere else in Europe for that matter, I can't help but laugh at those so-called patriots forgetting what their Greek ancestors stood for.

Overtourism and other touristic abuses can also be considered as breaking xenia, for it doesn't respect locals.

Travel ethics go both ways. Wherever you go, you have to strive to leave the place and the people within it better than they were before your arrival, and there are many ways to go about it: just share a bit of what makes you you.

Slow travel

Tourists exhaust me. I avoid them. What is a tourist? A fast traveler.

Just like fast food, fast travelers are all about over-consumption.

Slow travelers understand that less is more. The world moves fast. Travelers don't have to.

I find it astonishing to see people go on vacation, only to make a job out of it. They wake up at 5AM, take their little map and go to each location marked on it. We have to hurry darling. We have to do this and that and this. Then they come back home and feel burnt out. They wonder why and wait for the next holidays to repeat the process. This is shallow travel, why would society inflict that to itself? I have a slight idea. It's about getting caught up in things to forget reality. A cheap break from daily life.

Slow travel is not a new trend invented by some hipster millennial. It is how humanity moved in the first place. Fast travel is a consequence of globalism.

Henry David Thoreau said that he had traveled a great deal in Concord. He was capable of traveling around his own birth place because he trained his mind to see things with a fresh perspective. Slow travel is a low impact form of tourism where social interactions and in-depth activities prevail.

Travel, not only as a physical movement, but also as an intellectual one.

The End of Historical Nomadism

Nomadism took a new turn at the end of the first millennium. Losing its hereditary aspect, historical nomadism gradually disappears. Travel is motivated by curiosity, dogmas, and trade. Pilgrims and crusaders illustrate this new nomadism. Nomadism becomes an intellectual movement, with representatives such as Averroès, Thomas d'Aquin or Marco Polo. Writings and intellectual developments are empowered by the invention of the writing press in 1454. It's the start of a mercantile nomadism.

Mercantile nomadism appears with the first wave of globalization, characterized by the discovery of America. Settlers, pirates, and explorers (erudite nomad travelers) access new wealth. This manna is sought by the European States in a dire need to keep their power over the Old Continent. The flow is eased for those who work, for those who think, and more generally, for those who create wealth. Work mobility becomes an economic necessity. The liberalization of travel involves an institutional reform.

The free flow already becomes a source of inequalities and misery, slave trade being a striking example. Merchantile nomadism originates from sedentism. The market results in a convergence of sedentism and nomadism towards a hybrid of fading borders. A hybrid favoring a free flow of goods rather than a free flow of men, or limited to a small part of the global population.

This first globalization gives birth to a second one, an industrial nomadism: movements are industrialized. Cow-boys, hobos or the Charlot of Chaplin are part of this new generation of nomads. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution pushes the States to prepare future wars through colonization, leading to globalised migratory flows toward the colonized countries. On the other hand, those in most need emigrate to Northern America. Those generations of workers travel regularly to build across the country. Travel is industrialized: a journey of 6 months by coach is reduced to one week by steam train. These newly urbanized nomads, that Jack London depicts so well in his novel The Road,  constitute a cheap labor force. Their situation is precarious, living in communities called jungles, moving from one town to another depending on the jobs available, from which they barely survive.

Historical nomadism is far from those semi-nomads. Few nomad people survived till today, a few millions of individuals at most.

The Need for an Alter-Nomadism

Globalization has its benefits. It decreased the cost of travels. It's never been cheaper to move across the globe.

As a result, seasonal tourists are legion, and trends like digital nomadism, enabled by remote work, are spreading.

Travel is not only industry. It has become a lifestyle, in between historical nomadism and traditional sedentism. All you need is an apartment from Airbnb and a plane ticket from Skyscanner.

It's in our nature to wonder and to wander. But it comes at a cost.

Globalization has its challenges.

The economic inequalities between countries are still increasing. We didn't eradicate war. Environmentalism is still marginal.

I truly believe we can use travel and entrepreneurship as tools to propose viable solutions to the challenges of globalization. Simplicity and anti-consumerism (now rebranded Minimalism) are both values passed down to us by the historical nomads. Entrepreneurship teaches proactivity: it is possible to make a positive impact at scale by solving important problems.

How can digital nomadism become a sustainable lifestyle, an alter-nomadism?

It's up to us to experiment with our lives, to seek our own answers, and ultimately to share our opinions with the world.

Global issues demand a glocal involvement from everyone. Not everyone has the same means and aspirations, but if we each keep in mind the Res Publica the compounding effect it creates makes everything seems possible.

Why I Moved Off Dating Apps

I used Tinder for a little bit more than 2 years and Badoo for a few months. Even though it gave me the opportunity to meet cool girls during my travels, I recently decided to quit dating apps entirely.

I have several reasons for this drastic move.

First, quality photos are to dating apps what water is to humans: everything. No matter how good your bio is, photos take the main stage. Problem: it's incredibly hard to take good photos. Humans are visual animals, but if you're like me and you hate taking pictures of yourself or aren't very photogenic, you won't make the best of the platform. This fact alone is enough to create doubts about the usefulness of dating apps. It feels fake and superficial.

More importantly, dating apps are time-consuming. People usually sign up because they don't have time to go out or lack social skills. If the process is formalized and you can go through it from the comfort of your couch, it's a much more efficient approach, right? Wrong. Catfishes, prostitutes, crappy profiles, and dumb algorithms get in the way. 10 minutes a day of swapping and messaging turns into hours. If you're looking for a long-term relationship, you probably underestimate the time you'll need to find the right persons to pick.

The best dates I had happened when I was not proactively looking for anything. I feel like the best way to find potential partners is to simply stop caring about dating. Instead, we should concentrate on meeting new people, being a good friend, involving ourselves in communities, doing new things, traveling, having fun, and working on ourselves.

When people tell me they don't have time to meet new people, I am reminded of a friend of mine called Amine. Amine can go in the street, chat up some girls, and meet their entire group of friends overnight. He is THAT good. He just radiates charisma, takes care of his appearance, has a cheerful attitude, and his social skills do the rest. I know, because I tagged along with him last Summer and was amazed at how random it was. One minute we are eating some noodle soups in the streets, and the next one he brings me to a table full of strangers to have a beer and get some contacts. Good time!

Next time you think about swiping left on your phone for ten minutes, try instead crafting a tweet, posting a picture on Instagram, or chatting up some tourists in the street.

Why I travel

I think that people travel for two reasons: to escape from daily life, or to use travel as an enabler.

My life spent vagabonding is not extraordinary. Extra-ordinary. I am doing exactly the same things I would do at home in France: programming, writing, reading. Except for my environment, nothing changes. This is how I want to travel. Not to runaway from my responsibilities, but to truly embrace them. Not to take pictures of dead monuments, but to raise my own awareness. To loose my identity, by embracing the ones I encounter. To work, be and offer my best.

When I graduated from college, I took all the money I saved and set on to make my own products while traveling. My parents never had a lot of money. I saved all I could from scholarships and an end-of-study internship. I choose to live a simple life, not because I am a masochist, but because I have been raised this way. All I need fits in a small bag. I do not feel well when I carry too much stuff. I don't plan on buying a house. I don't plan on buying a car. Except for one flight every one to three months maybe, I'm pretty sure my energy consumption is far less than a regular sedentary: traveling as a minimalist, you live off existing infrastructures, the clutter of others.

In terms of material possessions, the only thing I miss is my bike.

Living on less, you get more time to dedicate to what matters: your friends, your family, your life work.

Money-wise, relocating to cheaper countries gave me the opportunity to improve my living conditions while spending less. A smaller burn rate equals more time to make stuff.

Meeting new people and cultures every day, you constantly reinvent yourself. You confront problems you would never have faced in your home country. You live many lives in a short amount of time. I am definitely not the same person I was three months ago before arriving in Asia.

To me, a life of conscious traveling is a more sustainable life in many ways.

Return

On Decentralization

Decentralization is the redistribution of social and economic activities across a territory, from the administrative centers (regional and national capital cities) to the surrounding areas. There is a correlation between urbanization and centralization, but urbanization doesn't have to imply centralization.

Why do people move to bigger cities? Cities are cultural centers by definition. More things to do, more people to meet: humans are social animals genetically programmed to mingle. It's not an anthropological constant, however. Most people move to bigger cities because they are forced to. Centralization implies job concentration, thus, a side-effect of centralization is pauperization of smaller cities and rural areas. A decrease in the number of available jobs is a decrease in both purchasing and bargaining power, as quality employment is proportional to the local job market. Increasing the employment rate is useless if the job quality doesn't follow. Oddly enough, industries which are the most susceptible to go remote are also becoming increasingly concentrated in fewer cities. Equal access to high paying jobs is not going to solve itself, yet talent is evenly distributed while opportunities aren't.

It's not uncommon to see young white collars give up their employee benefits package to buy a farm and grow their own veggies. Ruralization has become a privilege. Nomadism can play a key role in revitalizing forgotten towns and cities. The tendency, however, is for digital nomads to join nomad hubs. Nomad hubs are dense urban areas where digital nomads enjoy heading to, characterized by an infrastructure of mobility (public and private transportation, internet access), cheap living costs and a booming startup ecosystem. Ubud and Chiang Mai are famous nomad hubs. In my opinion, it's missing the entire point of being able to work from anywhere. Why are digital nomads moving to hubs instead of benefiting locations that need them most? The digital divide all countries around the world experience is still the main obstacle in developing digital nomadism. Decentralization is still a political concern: only strong digital policies can create the infrastructure needed, but a nomad can still empower local economies on the road, as we will see later on.

Another con to centralization is an increase in commute time. I remember commuting for three hours in Shanghaï on a daily basis. I was interning in a company located in an industrial area. The wait was agonizing. Three hours per day accumulate to a huge amount of time over a year. You can try reading a book or listening to a podcast to make the most out of your commute, but it's still not optimal.

Decentralizing is not only getting time and money back but also reducing the environmental impact of the population.

On Personal Finance

Location independence is an opportunity for more financial independence. Ask random people in the street about what financial independence means to them. They will tell you they need millions to consider themselves financially independent, that you have to earn a lot more than what you are currently earning. As long as you invest it correctly, you would have earned enough money for the rest of your life. This is a never-ending quest. A trap where money is the bait. This is no freedom. Sustainability is reachable if and only if you learn to master your money. Money is a universal tool meant to provide a way to exchange goods and services. It should remain a tool. Instead of wondering how you can earn more, you might want to think about living on less. People don't want money, they want the freedom that comes with it. Traveling the world is usually one item on everyone's bucket list. Randy Komisar[%komisar%] defines the concept of "deferred life plan" as the common behavior for an individual to systematically postpone your aspirations in life. Life is short, there is a necessity to use your time wisely. Most people use excuses to delay their travels, mostly financial and relational reasons. I will come back to the relational aspect in a moment, but let's focus on finance first.

Back in 2017, I spent six months interning in Geneva as a software engineer. The first step toward a life of continuous adventure and learning and intellectual freedom is to stop being scared of the future. Most bad decisions in life are taken out of fear. I set out to learn how to spend my money more wisely - because money is a source of worry when it comes to planning the future - to implement spending habits accordingly. There are but two ways to gain financial freedom: you can either increase your income or decrease your expenses. Decreasing your expenses is easier than increasing your income because it's immediately actionable. Expenses result from daily habits, so financial independence is a lifestyle based on frugality and anti-consumerism, which is exactly how historical nomads live.

Rent, food, and transportation are the most important categories of personal costs. Then mobile subscriptions, bank fees, and health insurance. Then hobbies and leisure activities. I could choose between living at the French border or living in Geneva. I opted for the former as I had the opportunity to be housed in a special program allowing recent graduates to access affordable housing. The apartment was pretty small but it was enough to sleep and cook, and the rent was amazingly low at $260 per month. I spent all my food budget on grocery lists and home cooking, rarely eating out except for a few times to hang out with friends and coworkers. Meat is not only expensive but resource-intensive to produce, I investigated ways around it. Ho boy, the wonders you can do with rice and beans. At the office, I was always bringing my own lunch, much to the amusement of my coworkers who were spending $20+ on take-out. Food took me around $300 per month. I did not use public transportations for four months (at $80 per month) and bought a running bike for $300 instead. I would bike for 20km per day in 2 hours. This way I avoided buying both a gym membership and a transportation card. I ditched my mobile subscription and relied on internet services instead. Bank fees were a necessary cost as a French worker in Switzerland ($25 per month). My health insurance was covered by my student status back in France. Regarding hobbies, I spent 90% of my free time working remotely on my startup or learning new things. Knowledge is available for free on the internet, why not use it wisely? I also bought a pull-up bar and a yoga mat to exercise a bit more. Except for the few times I really felt like socializing (maybe once a week?), I can’t say I spent much on parties or booze. Most of the social interactions I had were with my coworkers or neighbors. My revenues were around $2700 so I ended up saving 70% of my income on average over the 6 months I spent in Switzerland.

As I just demonstrated, even by spending so little I was still enjoying a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and those six months were among the most productive time of my life. I was not depriving myself either. I lived frugally, not cheaply. I spent money on what mattered to me. I just had grit, to do what was right to fulfill my ideals and execute on them. This experiment was also the main reason why I was not afraid anymore to become a digital nomad straight out of college. I do not travel simply for pleasure. Or for the sake of traveling. Travel is my tool to become a better human and to reach mastery in my art. There was no more appropriate time to start. I saved around $24000 over five years from previous scholarships and earnings, so I decided to make the leap of faith and build my own tech business while traveling. In my case, I make tech products, so I had no need for either a big network or a lot of money to start.

I applied the same financial thought process during my travels. Cost is the main factor that sets me on a destination over another, for the exception of friends and family. Rent, food, and transportation are still my 3 biggest expense categories, so I assess the potential costs according to them. Food costs and transportation costs always end up proportional to housing costs, so I just narrow down my researches to the locations with the best ratio between housing costs and quality of life. Then, I head down to Airbnb and start looking up places. If I've never gone to a place before, Airbnb is my safest bet. I book places for a duration of one month. No more, no less. Not only it is just enough to get an idea of the location and decide if I want to stay or not, but it also allows me to get a monthly discount on the rent. If I want to stay, I can look around for cheaper options and meet the landlord/manager face to face. If I don't like the place I can just move on as I'm not tied by the duration of my rent. My housing budget for a month is $500 top. I use five Airbnb filters to cover all my needs: entire place (mandatory in my experience if you need to get some serious work done), kitchen, laundry, WiFi and workstation. Finally, I browse places starting from the nearest destination and choosing where the quality of life is the best - usually downtown but if the area is well connected it doesn’t matter.

Tickets can be the biggest upfront cost, but the local life costs compensate: smart travels are way cheaper than a sedentary life. Relocating from France to South-East Asia, I easily cut my monthly costs by 50%. I lived in Penang under $600 a month without sacrificing my well-being. I spent $834 for a month in Bangkok in an amazing apartment (swimming pool, city view, Chinatown district, gym, an entire studio for myself) and eating out delicious food at the shop opened 24/7 located at the bottom of my skyscraper. You can always live on less, but depending on your work it's good to have a minimum of comfort to avoid going crazy/burning out. Backpacker hotels are nice for a time, yet you will need a bit more personal space if you plan on traveling for a long time.

How would it impact my life to receive 1 million dollars right now? I would travel the world while writing for machines and humans alike. I'm already doing that. Maybe build my own little house and grow a garden like Thoreau? Find a nice lady and have kids too. Work from home and watch over them. Hit the road when we feel like it. Visit my friends and family more often. Keep life simple. I don't need one million dollars. And I never will. If you are already doing something you love, chances are that your life won't be much affected by a wage raise. This is something we should strive for: a lifestyle fitting you so deeply that even all the money in the world would not be able to change it. Alignment. And living locally is the best way to improve your living conditions while reducing your expenses.

Moving Globally, Living Locally

I like the expression "purchasing power". Not what it means - the number of goods or services that one unit of a given currency can buy - but what it illustrates in a literal manner: having money is a form of power, and buying is empowering the organization you are buying from. We are quick to forget that the way we consume has a huge impact on our economy at scale. I plead guilty. There is always a moment where you just buy something apparently harmless without thinking about the consequences, like buying a burger from McDonald's out of hunger after a night at the bar. Do I want to empower McDonald's business? Hell no. But I want instant gratification at this moment, so I am happy to forget. I'm using a McDonald's example because it reminds me of an event of my childhood. My mom has been an ecologist activist since as long as I can remember. She was the only family provider and didn't earn much, but she never hesitated to pay slightly more for high-quality food, organic and fresh from the farm or the market. One summer we were visiting Barcelona and we ended up on the Barceloneta during lunch time. A McDonald's on one side, a grilled sardine restaurant on the other. My brother and I wanted to eat at McDonald's because there was a playground inside, which looked fun. My parents agreed to take us there, but they would be eating at the sardine restaurant afterward. We got so disgusted by the food we ended up eating sardines as well. I didn't eat at McDo again until much later during my college years. In retrospect, consumption is a matter of habit. Conscious living is a habit. Making conscious choices is not innate, but it's possible to act upon them. Traveling is political because it impacts the way we think, create, and consume.

Another lesson from this little childhood memory is that eating what locals eat is always better. Not only from a nutritional and gustative point of view but also economically and environmentally. Even if as a digital nomad you move globally, it doesn't mean you shouldn't eat locally. The first contact you usually have with a new culture is through taste. More generally, the way we consume is as impactful as the way we create, if not greater. By purchasing locally you encourage sustainability. Less transportation is more time for you and less air pollution. Buying from independent businesses is empowering local and national communities. Quality is proportional to geographical closeness. And you get to create bonds with locals, so avoid the supermarket as much as possible during your travels. To Frank Michel, a beautiful journey is spontaneous, disorganized, improvised[%michel%]. It consists in a restricted number of travelers to get fully immersed in the cultural and natural environment, to concede decision making powers to the locals, to walk off the beaten track while desiring to know the environment, meet, share, exchange. Living with locals is not idealizing them, however. It's an exchange. What is common for us might appear strange to others, and vice versa. The ordinary is beautiful. People are living embodiments of the culture, much more attractive than dead monuments. A will to travel is a desire to understand: to ask people for bits of advice and insights is to create a local social link.

Imitating locals is also reducing your expenses. You can work from libraries instead of coworking spaces. Libraries are free, often have English books, and are frequented by locals. Coworking spaces don't, and you can actually talk to people during your coffee break in the chat room. You don't need to own a car when everything is at walking distance. If you really feel like moving, get a public transportation card. Long-term transportation cards usually come with free discounts and financial benefits. I barely cooked during my last trip to Asia because street food is much more popular and cheaper to get. I love street food in Thaïland and Vietnam. It's quite different from street food in Malaysia or Europe for example. Street food in Vietnam is nomad food. Food vendors carry their kitchen with them. Everything fits in their stall. They circle around their territory, gathering fresh local ingredients on their way. A street food stall is a symbol of simplicity and minimalism.

Sedentism is an attempt at domesticating nature. Unlike a nomad who coexists with his territory, a sedentary relentlessly uses it until exhaustion through industrial processes. A state is a hierarchical organization allowing us to accumulate wealth. Sedentism invented saving - storing cattle to eat it later - before making a business out of it. Thrifting natural resources without leaving time for nature to recover is a debt lifestyle. Society marginalizes those who produce less or those who are perceived as the weakest. Weapons were invented to obtain some plots of land: sedentism exacerbates violence.

Likewise, the neo-nomad takes natural resources without respecting the cycles of nature. The technologies freeing us ask for important quantities of materials and energy. Access to digital technology is spreading, but there its expansion appears limitless. Neo-nomadism goes against historical nomadism by exhausting the earth while institutionalizing ephemeral products and services. The infrastructures of mobility induce huge wastes: storage spaces for digital services create enormous costs, estimated to $25 per Go per month (source needed). Man is a wolf to man: Nature is an enemy to conquer and dominate.

All digital nomads can shut down this mindset to introduce more environmental-friendly measures. Historical nomads already paved the way with the concepts of slow travel and minimalism.

On Simplicity

We are living in a society where goods of consumption become transient (planned obsolescence), where a thirst for new material possessions prevails. I started simplifying my life to reduce my impact. Simplicity is key in many things people crave for — food, friendship, comfort, happiness, love. Learning to simplify is learning to put what really matters first while ditching the rest. Life is short and there is no need to make it busy. Busyness is absurd, we should strive to make our time on earth productive and enjoyable instead. "Simplify, simplify," says Thoreau. "Less is more" is today's minimalist credo. In the collective imaginary, the nomad is firstly a simple individual. Simplicity is no simplistic vision of the world. Etymologically speaking, the term “nomad” refers to the member of a tribe of itinerant shepherds: a mix of “nomas” (“the pastoral”) and “odos” (“the road”) in ancient Greek, to describe those who change locations depending on the seasonal rhythm by carrying their material possessions with them. A nomad does not accumulate, he carries his patrimony. Simplicity and anti-consumerism are both values passed down to us by the historical nomads. Over-consumption is incompatible with environmentalism.

One thing that attracted me to the nomad lifestyle, in particular, is how it presupposes minimalism. In our digital age, the sustainability of mobility implies that a responsible physical mobility is pretty loaded down and barely connected. The full-time traveler must act as a mindful consumer by avoiding "meta-architectures of storage"[%abbas%]: the tendency for travelers to disseminate their possessions everywhere, even replicating them sometimes in several physical locations. Simplicity is not only an individual obligation but also a societal responsibility. We have the opportunity to tackle consequent contemporary problems such as over-consumption or air pollution while enjoying a more meaningful life. Living a simple life is a much more powerful philosophy than commoditized ecological practices that you can read about in simplistic fashion magazines. When I graduated from college, I took all the money I saved and set on to make my own products while traveling. My parents never had a lot of money. I saved all I could from scholarships and an end-of-study internship. I choose to live a simple life, not because I am a masochist, but because I have been raised this way and I enjoy it. I do not plan on buying a house. I do not plan on buying a car. Except for one flight every one to three months maybe, I'm pretty sure my energy consumption is far less than a regular sedentary: traveling as a minimalist, you live off existing infrastructures, the clutter of others. In terms of material possessions, the only thing I miss is my bike. I do not feel well when I carry too much stuff. Wherever I go, people are always surprised at how small my luggage is. In Asia, I carry three t-shirts, two shirts, three pairs of pants, one pair of shoes, four pairs of socks, four underwears, and a blazer for whenever it gets cold. I never fail to bring a tie and a waistcoat. There is always a good reason to suit up when you travel. When I stay inside I use a sports shirt and a pair of shorts. Except for clothes, the only thing I need is my laptop and a few electronics. What I carry fits in a medium-sized bag, and I like it this way. Anything else I need is at reach. From my rented apartment/hotel room. From the grocery shop by the street. From locals. We all live off the clutter of others, digital nomads more than anyone else.

The engineer part of my brain loves optimizing, so I quickly got attracted to the concept of minimalism during my college years. Minimalism has been around for thousands of year. From Diogenes the Cynic to Marie Kondo, the core idea remains the same: "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"[%saintex%]. Perfection is an ideal state. You cannot reach it forever: perfection rarely comes, it will eventually go. Saint-Exupery was referring to the craftsmen who built his airplane. The quest for perfection doesn't start with accumulation. It begins with simplification: when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness, when the superficial is removed to expose the core. Minimalism is a philosophy with many subcultures. I am not a big fan of "Checklist Minimalism", it's not so much about how many pieces of clothing you own. There is but a short step between minimalism and asceticism. Tending toward asceticism is missing the point of minimalism, which is to make the most out of your time on this planet. It's about getting your life together by aligning your actions, possessions, and values. We only have so much time every day. Isn't it better to spend it on things that matter? A minimalist is an individual who understands the finite nature of time well enough to make conscious decisions on a daily basis towards his own betterment without ever losing compassion. Minimalism is not a trend. It's not even a revolutionary idea. It's a mindset easily drown in the ambient noise and forgotten, but it remains a wise practice. Stoïcs such as Marcus Aurelius spoke of practicing poverty as a way to eliminate fear. I remember going to the airport in Treviso near Venice in Italia to visit my then girlfriend in Bucharest. I arrived by bus late at night. To my utter surprise, the airport was locked and I couldn't get in. I had to spend the night outside in the street. I walked a few kilometers and tried looking for an open store where I could rest, to no avail. I sat on a bench near a water fountain - it was a hot summer night - and tried to sleep. I was literally homeless for a night. A neighbor must have called the cops on me because I woke up to the sound of a police car siren. Two cops approached to ask me some questions. I explained the situation and was left alone a few minutes later. I came back to the airport, sat on the ground, and waited till morning to board my plane. Ha, the things you can do for love! When you face this kind of unexpected situation during your travels you learn to adapt and appreciate what you have. Simplicity is no poverty, yet a form of transcendence.

The Case for Stability

Alexandra David-Néel is the perfect representation of a nomadic ideal. As a Belgium-French writer and explorer, David-Néel displayed through the example of her life a real ethic of travel. Her erudition and thirst for otherness allowed her to transcend conditions: she became the first western woman to enter the Tibetan city of Lhasa, forbidden to foreigners at the time, as she described it herself in her book My Journey to Lhasa. Even a great explorer like Alexandra David-Néel alternated between long periods of travels and long periods of sedentism. This is what made her a true nomad from a historical definition. Historical nomads never travel. They move around, following a cycle. Her cycle was not seasonal. It was a cycle of creation. Writing at home. Gathering materials during her travels. It's in her house she nicknamed Fortress of Meditation, that she wrote the books that made her famous.

David-Néel didn't travel out of boredom. It was an impulse she displayed at a young age. Later, traveling became an obligation. She traveled to make a living as a singer. She traveled to continue her intellectual work and further her own education. More importantly, she traveled to meet her fate. And this is what separates nomads from tourists: purpose. She would later inspire Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Alan Watts, among others.

I wrote extensively on the shortcomings of sedentism. Alter-nomadism is no anarchism, a supporter of an idea of a society without a state. It isn’t a return to a state of nature, it is about taking the best of sedentism. Sedentism allowed stability. Stability is needed to think in the long term, to generate growth and progress. Our mastery of nature enabled food security. The comfort brought by sedentism empowered humankind to survive and thrive. It created institutions fostering humanism: mass education, healthcare, security... The principle of dynamic rooting[%maffesoli%] by Michel Maffesoli states that humans, just as they admit a wandering drive, need the stability brought by sedentism. Modern nomads are no different from other human beings: they are bipolar animals. A digital nomad is half-sedentary and half-nomad. Historical nomadism is alternating between moving and resting phases. As sedentaries, modern nomads must admit the right for every individual to move, a free flow of human beings. While traveling, they must respect the different lifestyles of their hosts, while living simply without accumulating more than it is needed (sustainable relationship with consumption). Alter-nomadism wishes to foster diversity while keeping access to sedentary services. Rescue must become a duty of the state rather than a mercantile option.

It's only when you come back home you understand how uncomfortable travel is. Voyage fatigue is real. For a digital nomad, mental stability is of utter importance and is usually the result of a stable environment. If you are a healthy human being who needs stability and a close circle of friends at reach, don’t lose your sanity going around the world. It is not important. What is important is how you feel and how you can do your best work. Your best work will impact others in a positive way, and that’s what really matters: a meaningful life. As Spinoza proposes: “the wise, to enhance his power, will live in society, in harmony and reason". As a digital nomad, you regularly move from place to place. You need to implement a good practice of stability to stay sane and healthy.

Routine is the root of stability. It can seem counter-intuitive to seek routine when you travel the world, but you need a little bit of routine to properly function in life. The word “routine” originates from French, meaning literally “the small road”, the one you take “out of habit”. A good routine always serves a personal purpose. It is an enabler that helps you reach your own priorities in life. It gives you a structure to perform in the best mental conditions, a psychological lifeline that keeps you afloat throughout the toughest times and the storming feelings. Routine offers the stability needed to get things done. As a traveler, it is a paradox but a routine is meant to change. I would add, a routine is meant to include the entropy of everyday life. Keep the micro-habits that proved to work for you, but stay open-minded for the exciting opportunities travel brings. I found out I need a work routine to stay productive. I usually work from my Airbnb when I need to perform deep work. All I desire in a good Airbnb is a kitchen, a workstation, a laundry, and a fast Wi-fi. I prefer paying for a slightly more expensive rent than to spend money on coffee shops, coworking space memberships or commutes. When I lived in Penang, I used to wake up around 11:00 without an alarm clock. My capsule bed was warm. The air conditioner runs all night long, and if you are not careful, you can catch a cold. Still groggy, I would quickly put on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts to go downstairs with my bag. I would drink some cold water, head to the shower, and prep myself. Umbrella in hand, I hurry to get some street food at my favorite coffee shop, Kedai Kopi Seng Thor on Carnarvon street. Dried Wan Tan Mee (dumplings noodles) or Koay Teow Th'ng (fish soup). The waiter already knows my drink of choice -- ice lemon tea (Teh O’ Ais). Lunch is served soon after, and I am done by 13:00. As I am walking toward the coworking space I can hear the call of the Muezzin. It is Zuhr prayer time, and it marks the start of my workday. As I reach Little India the call to prayer is covered by Bollywood Hindi songs blasted as loud as possible. I enter @CAT Penang and get in the zone. I write for an hour. Then I read some content and take two or three tasks from the public Trello to process them. My mandatory tasks for the day are officially done by 16:00. After that, I perform a body scan to see how I feel and figure out what I want to do for the rest of the day. Sometimes I want to learn new things so I read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts or work on something new. Sometimes I feel like working more on my business. If I feel mentally exhausted, I just go out, have some cider cans, and meet random people in bars. One thing I enjoyed doing was to take my notebook, go to the Junk Bar near Love Lane, order a beer, and brainstorm on some new articles or product ideas. At some point, I go back to my hotel. By 2 or 3 AM I fall asleep. I dedicate my current life to my craft, so I naturally developed a routine. A routine is tied to its environment. Yet, some parts of it do not change. I call those parts "micro-habits". They have the particularity of being location-independent so that I can always get work done no matter what.

On Slow Travel

Tourists exhaust me. I avoid them. They are fast travelers. Just like fast food eaters tend to eat more than needed calory-wise, fast travelers over-consume. I find it astonishing to see people take a vacation only to make a job out of it. They wake up at 5 AM, take their little map and go to each location marked on it. They hurry and do many things. Then they come back home and feel burnt out. They wonder why and wait for the next holidays to repeat the process. This is shallow traveling. It's about getting caught up in things to forget reality. A cheap break from daily life. Mindful travelers understand that less is more. The world moves fast. Travelers don't have to. Slow travel is not a new trend. It is how humanity moved in the first place. Fast travel is a consequence of globalization. Traveling at a fast pace creates voyage fatigue. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau stated he "had traveled a great deal in Concord". He was capable of traveling around his own birthplace because he trained his mind to see things with a fresh perspective. Slow travel is a low impact form of tourism where social interactions and in-depth activities prevail. Travel, not only as a physical movement but also as an intellectual one.

I learned to slow down during my childhood. I spent my summers in a van on the roads of Spain and Portugal with my family. We could stay in a given location for as long as we pleased and move to another town the next day. When you travel in a van you can truly experience how locals live since you are not bound to any schedule or guide. You can go to the town market in the morning, cook stuff like you would at home, and eat as locals do. Sometimes it's too complicated to find a place to park so you have to hit the road again. Regularly you have to go on a water supply point hunt. We met people, made friends. Always at our own pace, day-dreaming or moving on depending on how we felt. "We are pricks, but not to the point of traveling by pleasure,"[%abecedaire%] Deleuze reminds us. Travel is not limited to a quest for instant pleasures, offered and consumed in a fast-food fashion. Being a nomad does not mean traveling full-time. In fact, historical nomads do not travel. They just go around in a specific territory depending on the seasonal cycle throughout every generation. You can work remotely from home most of the year and still travel to new places once in a while when you feel like it. There is no checklist to fill out. Slow travel implies it's alright not to always be on the move. Tim Ferris[%ferris%] talks about the concept of mini-retirement: "a series of intentional breaks throughout your career, rather than one final retirement after a life of labor"[%miniretirement%]. Similarly, sustainable nomadism is about creating regular mini-travel phases to break the monotony. Most successful nomads have a main base, a specific location, and travel around from time to time. It doesn't mean you should own a house in a city and rent it when you are away, but it works too. Just keep in mind renting your apartment on Airbnb - or any similar online service - is a lot of work.

Not being a slow traveler is being harmful to nature by contributing to the airplane or more generally transportation pollution: the transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions[%greenhouse%]. When you are a digital nomad who doesn't own a car or a house you can afford traveling by planes a few times a year without emitting more greenhouse gas than a regular car owner. But still, if you book a plane every week or every month your environmental impact will be disastrous. Traveling by train or bus is more eco-friendly than traveling by plane or car, yet traveling by plane is still better than moving in a car by yourself over a long distance [%transportation%]. Shared transport remains the way to go.

All I knew about Asia before going nomad came from a one-month internship I performed in Shanghaï during my first year of college, and from my childhood as a descendant of Vietnamese migrants -- I am 25% Vietnamese (third generation) and 75% French. All in all, I still know very few things about the different, and diverse, cultures located in this continent. I won't have enough of a lifetime to discover everything. In my opinion, one month is too short to discover a city as big as Bangkok for example. Three months feel more like the right amount of time, especially when, like myself, you do not have any particular tie to the country. Whenever I come back to my hometown I'm always astonished to learn new things about it. Curious cultural things I didn't know existed: a specific food, a word, a plant, a tree... Thoreau had a natural talent to re-discover his environment. Traveling far away has the same effect to change your perspective. I spent a week with three friends along the coasts in the South-West of France. It was summer last year. We rode our bikes from Royan to Bayonne. Around 400km. Mornings and late afternoons on the road. Middays at the beach. We would rent an Airbnb for the night. It was just us, the bikes, and the road. Small bags to carry the bare minimum: clothes, rations. The burning sun. The forest of the Landes of Gascony. The strong Atlantic waves. But also sweat. The burning legs. The aching buttocks. The pain is agonizing. But the pain goes away after a few days. Your body adapts. I took a notebook with me to write down thoughts and ideas. I didn't feel like writing about the experience at the time. Sometimes it's better to wait for the heat of the moment to fade away. You gain new insights. I don't think you can ever find greater freedom than the one you find on the road. Kerouac says it so well: Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. You just have to find food and a shelter for the night. Nothing else matters. No phone. No laptop. Just the day to seize. It's a liberating feeling. I will do it again. Slower. For a longer period of time. Maybe somewhere else. Maybe with someone else. Sleeping in a tent, with the stars for me to watch. I entirely rediscovered my region by just exploring it at a different pace.

On Nomad Tribes

Nomadic populations act in parallel to traditional societies based on sedentism. Sedentaries fearing the unknown, the perception of the nomad is altered. During Ancient Greece, foreigners who do not travel to trade goods are called "nomads" - or barbarians if they do not speak Greek. A nomad is perceived as a monster or a god: “a man who has no need to live in a community, because it is self-sufficient, has no part in the city,” says Aristotle. The historical nomad is seen as a solitary and erudite hero. Aristotle proposes that men are political animals, meaning, they only exist in tribes, because “existing” is “to come out of your own self” (ek-sistence). Not living in society is leaving your humanity. The Greek perception of the nomad is romantic, but not accurate. A nomad is not self-sufficient, and always part of a bigger population.

Nomads are tightly tied to their community. Protectors who understand their necessary link with nature. Harming nature goes against the nomad’s ethics. The skills used to survive while respecting nature are transmitted to the next generations: oral tradition and collective memory ensure the survival of the tribe. Community is at the heart of a wandering society, a platform to divide work and transmit knowledge. The best nomads, those who survive, are the ones excelling in those two domains.

Stubbornness is a key aspect of the nomad: attached to the territory, attached to traditions, attached to the tribe... all culture is exclusive, but some are more open than others. The historical nomad is a protector of the tribe, yet empathetic toward outsiders. Nomadic people display curiosity, are open to exchanges, and ready to communicate. Sharing, hospitality, and solidarity are values of the historical nomad, not only towards their own tribe members but also towards foreigners met on the road, who are treated like family.

Compassion is second-nature. Violence is a necessary evil, but it is not amplified by their human nature. On the contrary, nomads limit violence to their basic survival needs: to feed or protect themselves. For example, killing animals excludes all aggressivity to become a social (sharing a meal) and spiritual (exchange between nature and mankind) activity.

Nomads are deeply social, probably more than we imagine.

Relationships on the Road

Loneliness is often presented by digital nomads as their biggest pain point. Picture this. You can go everywhere and anywhere. Your stays are short-lived so you do not create meaningful relationships. You genuinely love someone but it's impossible to picture something on the long-term, so you miss a beautiful story. Your friends/family/lovers are far-away and tied to their jobs. You are excited about your journeys, about sharing your trials and tribulations, but few can relate to it. You come back to your hometown and witness nothing has changed. There is something of Plato's Cave to the life of a digital nomad. Becoming location-independent is accessing a new realm with new problematics the majority of the population did not experience. This new world outside appears superior to the cave you previously lived in, so you become eager to share your vision with the prisoners remaining in the cave. Your material possessions are few and your social status is mysterious: your situation will appear precarious to others and no one will be willing to undertake a similar journey. Probably worst, they will hate you for it. C.S. Lewis famously said, "the price of freedom is loneliness, to be happy is to be tied".

I am probably too much of an introvert to care, I barely need to talk to anyone. Extroverts might have a harder time in such conditions. Still, I can't help but think digital nomads are exaggerating their loneliness. As Bukowski would say, we all are alone with everybody. Loneliness is not the illness of the nomad. It's a societal construct. Sedentaries are lonely too, so many are waiting for the weekend to forget it. We just didn't learn to create social aggregation. Digital nomads should stop complaining about their lack of relationships and start building meaningful connections by traveling more sustainably. The more people you travel with, the less meaningful the relationships you develop. Humans are quick to join like-minded people and travel in a pack, without much compassion or real curiosity for the locals or for foreign cultures. This tribe effect is toxic. It prevents social flexibility because the tribe comes first, not the others. Don't be afraid to travel alone. Traveling alone is never lonely. Travel is full of encounters when we leave our cameras and phones aside to take the time to appreciate it, to favor human contact. Unlike historical nomads, a digital nomad does not belong to one specific tribe, but many. Yet nothing stops you from slowing down your travel pace to feel more included. Float like a butterfly.

A bit of loneliness is fine. Traveling is learning to be comfortable with your inner voice, to become independent, to stop being needy and reveal your grit. Learn to love loneliness, but learn to connect with others as well. Compassion is a muscle that can be trained. You can travel alone far from your own country and still connect with people whenever you feel like it. The culture might be different, but all humans have the same basic needs for friendship, love, and happiness. We all know people who can't get things done by themselves. I find this dependence on external motivation to be tragic. It doesn't mean you should be a loner. It means you have to learn to be self-reliant to enjoy community life to its fullest. This year I decided to spend the end of the year in South-East Asia. The first thing I noticed is that Christmas is celebrated out of sheer western influence. There is no particular reason why people do it, except maybe for advertisement and social pressure. Santa sells more than it gives. I was far away from family and friends. It is not that I don't love them. It was about training the mind. Everyone fears loneliness. I included. Yet I believe loneliness to be a part of life you need to face head-on. I am lucky to have loving parents and an incredible brother. I am grateful for my family and my friends. But I can't take anyone for granted. This experience of loneliness is part of a conditioning process. It is not an attempt at escapism, but rather a jump into a cold reality that strengthens the mind and heightens the senses. When the worst will happen, I will be a little more prepared, you can never fully be prepared. I choose to be alone this year. I won't do it willingly again. It is a catharsis to re-learn that those holiday celebrations are all about cherishing your loved ones. I am stronger today thanks to my travels.

More importantly, learn to be independent but do not isolate yourself more than necessary. Agnès Varda died a few days ago. Her movie "Vagabond" proposes a great lesson to digital nomads: we are not designed to reject community life. I downloaded Tinder during my last trip for research purpose. It struck me how easy it is to socialize nowadays. You can go to meetups or networking events instead of partying and doing stupid things. They offer free food and drinks. As a maker, changing environments is incredibly productive. I joined online communities. My interactions are not limited to social networks, but it helps to connect with others in real life.

I'm a big introvert, but I can switch on my inner extrovert from time to time. I end up drained the next day and it takes some alone time to refill the energy. Still, it expands my comfort zone. Sometimes those relationships are short-lived. For a long time, I believed you can't make meaningful connections when you travel, but once again, my parents showed me otherwise. All it takes is for us to overcome the invisible social barriers built in our minds. Travel teaches you socializing is a skill. Loneliness is actionable. You can learn to create meaning from the simplest conversations. When you are authentic and genuinely curious about someone, you end up asking the right questions that will lead to more meaningful relationships. This wandering is not offered by the tourist industry. It is the kind of travel that is not profitable because it requires time and hazard. It implies to “enter the simple life of simple people” (Jean Chesneaux).

A beautiful journey is never lonely, and there are many opportunities to include a family circle. A common misconception is that digital nomadism is incompatible with family life. Digital nomadism is unequal to access, but it doesn't mean it is not inclusive. It is not easy, yet not impossible. No matter your situation, many online articles already treated the topic and people who are no smarter than you already did it. There is no need to be rich, young, or single to become a digital nomad. It is a matter of choices and priorities. Adults have remote work, students have remote programs. You can travel at a slower pace. Personal finance is not an issue. Digital nomadism is not even a constraint, it's an opportunity to switch the social power to spend more time with your children or with older adults.

One question I commonly get is how I manage to communicate with people. I am fortunate to understand English, Castilian, and French. You can get by anywhere with a few words of English. Without forcibly being fluent, most people in the service industry know just enough international words to help you, and most young people in big cities speak English. I try to learn the national language of the countries I visit, but I don't find many opportunities to practice. I enjoy using body language to get myself out of tedious communication situations: it's always funny to see how people react to you trying to oddly mimic simple concepts such as eating or booking a place for a few persons. Words and languages are mysterious and fascinating. Exchanging about our linguistic differences is a sure method to learn about a foreign culture and bond at a deeper level.

On Health

Just like you need a work routine, health should be part of a daily ritual. Mind-body dualism increasingly appears as unfounded: a healthy mind is deeply tied to a healthy body, and vice versa. Living in a new environment every two to three months is intense. Some habits are needed to support your work, and exercising is one of them.

I love sports. France is a football nation. We grow up playing football. I am not good at it and I don't like watching it on TV or in a stadium, but I've always found it fun to play. Playing football during my childhood must be the reason why I like exercising now. The dopamine rush is addictive, and it benefits you in all areas of life. I started studying work out programs quite early out of frustration. Like most teenagers, I used to be quite uncomfortable in my own skin and wanted validation. I started with home workout programs. I kept practicing on and off until college. Mostly off. In college, I joined a gym and did some weightlifting. My year spent in Sweden was the most productive one. I used to wake up at 5 AM three times a week and get a good workout (Stronglift 5x5 program) when everyone was still asleep. I hate crowded gyms. I never managed to persist for more than a month and I am nowhere near the buff version of myself I liked to imagine. Every two to four weeks I spend another three doing nothing. Working out is a habit I just can't figure out. When you are traveling all the time it doesn't get easier. You have to find a gym which is accessible, not overly expensive and offering one-month memberships. And not as crowded as you can't afford to lose too much time. Asian megacity condos typically have a gym and a swimming pool accessible to all its inhabitants, which is nice. You can always find a way to work out from your apartment if you rent one, but it's always hard to replace pull-up bars with an equivalent exercise. Lifting buckets of water, doing broomstick pull-ups between two chairs, push-ups, pistol squats, lifting pieces of furniture... it's nice but it's not viable in the long run. I made peace with the fact I don't want to grow big. I don't like stuffing myself to put on some weight. It's just not my personality. Growing up I learned to accept my body the way it is and to use it to my advantage. I simplified my exercising routine by simply walking, running, biking, or any other opportunity presenting itself. My only motive now is to stay healthy, in both body and mind. The process, rather than the pursuit of a body goal. Just doing something is better than nothing.

A prerequisite to traveling full-time is to have good health insurance. Companies like Safety Wing offer global insurance for digital nomads, but better options might exist in your home country. During my last trip in Asia, I managed to use a clause from my previous student health insurance to obtain global coverage for $20 per month, which was almost 50% cheaper than any online service. Depending on where you are heading to you will also need to renew your vaccines. If you travel on a budget, stay in urban areas and don't go trekking without protection.

Traveling Phases

Wherever I'm traveling to I find myself to go through three main emotional phases. Those three states greatly impact my mental health.

As I previously proposed, humans are not meant to be fast travelers. Mobility generates precarity. Precarity is the enemy of stability, but you need stability to perform deep work. This is why digital nomads rarely move from one city to another in just a couple of days. I need a good week before getting back to full productivity. I feel tired, sluggish, and lazy before the end of this adaptation period. One thing to take into account when you work remotely is this adaptation period to a new place. I don't know the psychology behind it, but I suppose since mobility breaks routines, it depletes will power as well. A change of environment influences your physiology. You have to add jet lag effects if you have been traveling over a long distance. Traveling across countries mess with your circadian clock. Resetting your internal clock takes a few days. Pro tip: don't forget to go to bed when the sun sets and rise with the dawn. I got my circadian cycle torn up a few times because I would stay awake the whole night and sleep during the day, which prevents you from enjoying the local life to the fullest. In the meantime, rely on your habits to get you through the work days and explore your surroundings.

After a week, you enter the Oyster period. The honeymoon period of travel: the world's your oyster! The more you stay in a place, the more you will expand your comfort zone. Being able to feel at home wherever you go truly is the traveler's high. After a few months in the same place, being recognized as part of the neighborhood truly feels special. Local business owners know you and say 'Hi'. You made friends and lovers. You know where to eat and get your groceries. You know where to head for the night, got acquainted with some bartenders and you can list your favorite local drinks. Your new routine is fully formed and you can get work done in an optimal fashion. At some point, it's time to leave because you planned something else or your visa is about to expire. I always have this weird feeling when I'm leaving a place. Like I'm leaving a part of me I will never find again. Your heart balances between nostalgia and excitement of the unknown. You felt part of the local community. New memories have been made.

The last phase is homesickness. Traveling is draining and the fatigue is inevitable. Homesickness has a huge impact on your mood. It's uncertain if it will go away. It's time to spend a few weeks resting in your main base or visiting friends or family back in your home country. Last time I went abroad, I started feeling homesick after six months of solo-traveling in Asia. I missed my friends and my family. I missed the green pastures of France. I missed the food. I missed the cold. It's always hot in South-East Asia. You might think it's a blessing. I wish we could send all the people dying from hypothermia to Asia during the winter. But it's also humid. Everyone relies on air conditioning to cool down, but the effects are not the same as living in cold weather. We tend to hate the cold. It has its virtues, however. I have chronic asthma and the humid weather weakens me. There is something cathartic about running or biking in the cold early in the morning. Or an exhilarating cold shower after a good workout. Or the frost biting your frustrations away. A burning fireplace surrounded by loved ones during a cold winter night will always feel warmer than the hottest summer day. The scarf of your lover smells of flowers. Cold is the surest proof you are living. I long for a heated cup of coffee on a foggy morning. The hot weather makes me lazy. Once I traveled back to France, I couldn't wait to wear my poncho, put on my good ol' boots of Spanish leather, and eat some camembert! You get the picture. Even if our feet are meant for us to walk, we all need to get back to our roots once in a while.

On Education

Technical mastery and societal responsibility are two sides of the engineer. An expert who mastered the aspects of his craft on a given production line, as well as a manager capable of integrating both a collaborative logic and a self-development practice to solve a technical problem involving many stakeholders. A science keeper, but also a vector of evolution through creation, or destruction. I graduated as a software engineer. It was a childhood dream. In my country, engineering is an institution, separate from the traditional university system — the Grandes Ecoles, a merit-based system of competitive selection dating back to the Napoleonic era. Engineers were part of a military corp created for one purpose: to build engines of war. I am not referring to a past long forgotten. Unfortunately, it has never been truer. Something as harmless as computer vision can become a mass destruction weapon when it is integrated into drones. Engineers have huge responsibilities toward society, and this reality presents us with numerous ethical questions. If life is short, we might as well make it meaningful. Facing this daunting responsibility, I came to the conclusion I must strive to become a “skillful individual”, as Montaigne puts it. I need the knowledge to understand and assess objective criteria, which can only be attained by seeking constant education and intellectual independence. This is what my travels are about at the core: overcoming borders, both physical and intellectual (independence), and encounters (constant education by meeting people whose culture differs from mine). This idea of travel is deeply ingrained in me since childhood. I enjoyed comparing myself to a gypsy nomad, and this photography lasted until my engineering studies. Throughout all those years, I came to imagine nomadism as a sustainable way of life to become a better engineer. I am 24 now. I never stopped slow traveling, and it allowed me to find my own interpretation of my role in society as an ethical engineer, which involves entrepreneurship.

We often quote Montaigne's essay as a precursor to modern education. According to Montaigne, the goal of education is to birth skilled individuals, meaning, people capable of judging things for what they are, rather than mere scholars. Inspired by the wisdom of ancient Greek philosophers, Montaigne proposes core educational values such as the absence of dogma and independent thinking. Institutional education is a huge step forward. It is trendy to criticize the schooling system, but mass education is still an amazing thing. We grow by interacting with others and campuses happen to gather thousands of students. It doesn't mean we cannot do better. We have a lot of progress to make. We have to re-learn how to learn. We have to encourage free thinking, introspection, and collaboration. Science, with awareness.

With the rise of Renaissance humanism, travel is rehabilitated as an educational tool: the giant superhuman Pantagruel of Rabelais follows an initiatory journey. Joining in an adventure is a means to discover, to know and to understand, as to redistribute this new knowledge by relating one’s own experience. Traveling is an apprenticeship that provides independence (cf Walden, Henry-David Thoreau), self-mastery and control over fear. Wandering is a form of purification, dispossession leading to transcendence. This is what religions illustrate: Buddha, Caïn, Jesus, Moïse, etc. realizing an asceticism through travel and attaining enlightenment (knowledge of truth). Not just a purification, a rebirth to integrate more successfully into daily life, as Ulysses shows us. To Don Quijote, this enlightenment is translated into an ideal. He is in a quest for an ideal in the form of his Dulcinea. To Proust, travel is a way to confirm a truth: to give perspective to books through your own existence. A relearning to ensure a truth that might appear dogmatic at first. In the craftsmanship model, journeymen must set on a trip to acquire the necessary skills to become master artisans. A beautiful travel is liberating. The character of Corto Maltese is the perfect allegory of travel as a way to re-enchant the world: you just have to understand it to see there is room for change and beauty.

Education enables flexibility: “one has to grow hard but without ever losing tenderness”. A skillful individual left the cave to experience the sun and be blinded by its intensity. Facing this cold hard reality head-on is growing hard. I grew up with this quote from Che Guevara written on the wall next to my bed in the family house. I remember writing it as a teenager learning about politics and trying to act cool and contrarian. I didn't quite grasp it at the time. When you grow hard, it's tempting to choose the easy path and grow bitter or to feel superior, so stay tender. In Buddhist terms, cultivate compassion. It is important to balance self-development with compassion. Being quick to adapt is the basis for survival, the root of evolution.

Supranational Species

I used to live at the French border to work in Geneva. Living across borders feels strange. You wake up in France, live in Switzerland, then go back to sleep in France. You belong to both and none. I find the concept of borders fascinating. Someday probably, a long long time ago, five dudes from a tribe decided to create invisible barriers between territories and people because they felt special, entitled to own a plot of land and everything in it. That's basically how borders were born, from a socio-political agreement between two tribes. Borders are a cultural construct. Wars started when two tribes didn't agree on imaginary lines and wanted more. I wonder what a world without borders would look like. I asked a friend once. She told me it would be chaos. I did not agree but said nothing. Europe gives me a sight of what it would be like. The ability to meet friends from different countries without having to request a visa feels great. Studying abroad played a key role in my personal growth. I can book a plane or a train from France to any country at an amazingly cheap price. In one hour's time, I can live in an entirely different city. Borders are veils over humanity's treasures. Imaginary, yet painful. Einstein stated human stupidity is borderless, but so is its genius.

Elon Musk wants humans to become an interplanetary species. We are not even a supranational one yet. As Attali highlights, it demands us to reinvent the way we work and we think to establish a “government of the planet”[%attali%]: a transhuman universal democracy whose only preoccupation would be the Res Publica, the common good of mankind through emancipation, respect, and hospitality. On the long term, living as an alter-nomad should be scalable, a virtuous lifestyle willing to do good. Social entrepreneurship teaches proactivity: it is possible to make a positive impact at scale by solving important problems one by one with concrete solutions. However, more local and short term actions exist already for everyone.

One could say, living from the clutter of others, a digital nomad is similar to a cockroach. To me, it's a compliment. Cockroaches can withstand any environment thanks to their adaptative nature. Similarly, I think it's important to learn to live with less. It forces you to adapt. Only those who can quickly adapt can survive and strive. What happens to the individual who trained himself to carry on with his life, no matter the place? He becomes the freest person on earth. Nietzsche announced "the emergence of a new race of men, supranational and nomad, possessing a faculty of assimilation far greater than that of common mortal". His character Zarathustra becoming the Übermensch - the Superman - was a great illustration of this nomadic ideal. Zarathustra is a traveler, sometimes solitary to meditate, sometimes living within a community to tell his adventures and transmit his knowledge. An ubermensch follows a constant iterative hero journey. He lives in harmony with his environment, as illustrated by his ability to talk with animals. It's up to us to experiment with our lives, to seek our own answers, and ultimately to share our findings with the world. Global issues demand a glocal involvement from everyone. Not everyone has the same means and aspirations, but if we each keep in mind the Res Publica the compounding effect it creates makes everything seems possible.

Digital nomadism is an important trend that is still vastly misunderstood. Experimenting for yourself is the only way to know if this is a sustainable lifestyle for you. It is both an incredible opportunity for people to be their best and experience new perspectives on life. It can also become your doom. Just like most things in life, it is all about finding your own balance. This introspective work is not simple: it demands to leave the comfort of your daily routine. One can think that this lifestyle is not for everyone, a nomad must be brave because he tends to be marginalized. Wandering builds character. Nomads are change makers. Travel constitutes an apprenticeship, a vector of change, but, as the cave allegory of Socrates shows us, learning is suffering: we must be prepared to endure it. As Rolf Potts says, we have to define our fears to act against them[%potts%]. We then notice that they are minimal in comparison to the benefits overcoming them bring in the long run. Historical nomadism is based on principles of common sense, applicable to a life lived in society. Life is movement, "the first sedentaries are the dead". Ultimately, this lifestyle is aiming at making humans more human: nomadism as a vector for change.

Back on the Road

The wind brings unknown words. I hear the call of distant lands. The road is burning under the sun of excitement, and so am I.

It's been 41 days since I came back to France. I had time to release a small book and recover from my travels. I feel rested and ready to take on new challenges. Days feel slow in the French countryside. Slowness nurtures patience, and patience is a prerequisite for growth. Personal growth is a balance between a need for stability and a need for new ephemeral experiences.

I'm going back to South-East Asia in June to spend three months in Vietnam with my close family. It's official: I bought the tickets yesterday. It's the first time we do this trip together. My father's parents emigrated from Vietnam six decades ago. He went there once. My brother is learning the basics of Vietnamese. He and my mother never traveled to Asia. It is going to be both moving and exciting.

I have almost two months ahead of me. Should I stay? Should I go? The young man wants to go East. But the young man also has work to do. The road will have to wait a bit.

Bikepacking

I've been in my hometown for almost 3 weeks, but I already feel the itch to hit the road. See new things, meet new people. Surrendering myself to the call of adventure, I decided to go on a bikepacking trip this summer.

I'm planning to go to Bordeaux by bike on July 10 and spend three nights there. I'll then head to Paris by train for a week to see some friends, before ending up in a chalet near Grenoble with some other friends.

I'm not sure where I'll go from there. I'll either bike to an alternative living community near Montpellier to do some volunteering—helping with my skills as a digital nomad, entrepreneur, and former volunteer at a student NGO, while learning about permaculture—or head back to my hometown to get some quiet time.

Before the pandemic decided otherwise, I was supposed to spend the summer biking and wild camping all around the Baltic Sea. But all hope for a nice bikepacking trip isn't lost.

As I stated in an article about this Baltic Sea project, I'm especially interested in learning how this kind of slow travel can impact my productivity.

I won't be wild camping, so I'll still have access to a regular desk to do my work while benefiting from the surge of creative energy endurance training brings me. I won't be biking over very long distances—100km per day once, at most: plenty of time to finish the refactoring of Cowriters by the end of August.

Childlike Traveler

Entertaining my little cousins is one of my favorite things in the world. Children are fascinating: witty, smart, playful, and thirsty for knowledge. They are not afraid to interact with the world, you can learn a lot from kids.

In his book Mastery, Robert Greene proposes that masters are individuals who managed to revert back to this blank open state of mind while retaining their expertise and their ability to focus.

I am convinced traveling is the surest way to come back to this childlike state.

A good traveler's mindset is similar to that of a child: no preconception of good or bad, just an open mind and a bottomless fascination for the world and its people.

Landing in a new foreign country is a rebirth. You're a new born faced with an environment you know barely anything about, and your survival depends on your capacity to be flexible and quickly adapt. You mumble words you learned on the go to buy food, or you just use your body language to be understood - just like a kid.

Of course, you can still identify common patterns across countries making the transition easier. Even though the culture remains different, we all share the same natural needs for food, sleep, and love - which is why you don't spend 10 years acquiring the basics, as a child would. It doesn't mean there is nothing to learn: your way of doing things to satisfy those needs is no superior than the local ones. You have to scratch the surface of the postal card to unearth the true beauty of the destination you're in.

Communal Living and Nomading

I love the combination of communal living and nomading.

I wake up early, go to the gym every two days, go to work on foot, and come back to my room in a youth hostel when I'm done for the day.

I join random people I met the day before and get acquainted with new ones.

I expand my knowledge during the day and develop new friendships at night. I think this is the closest I've ever been to an Epicurean ideal—where I get to feed my mind, body, and soul to reach a state of ataraxia on a daily basis.

There is no pain or fear to feel, only new things to discover and new adventures to join. This is exactly how I described a perfect day a year ago: "Mornings are meant to be spent in focused practice. Afternoons are full of discoveries. Evenings are festivities."

There are a few pitfalls to avoid, however.

First, you need to set clear boundaries between your time and other people's time. You can't afford to fall in the trap of hanging out all day with the group of friends you met the day before. It's easy to procrastinate and synchronize your activities with them, but it's only escapism. There is a form of detachment to cultivate. You have to stick to your own things and make sure you make daily progress on your own goals. It implies not working from the communal space and getting yourself some sort of office—coworking space or coffee shop or library—to get alone time.

Second, avoid drama and stay away from toxic people. Travelers come and go, so you'll eventually have to use your emotional intelligence skills and deal with all sorts of people. You don't want to join a crowd for the sake of it. Consider yourself a flâneur instead: both inside and away from the crowd, hopping around without judgment, staying out of troubles, and enjoying the simple pleasures of a walk, a dance, or a conversation.

Last but not least, don't forget your health. If you're not careful, transient communal living spaces—hostels, hotels, or campings—will force you into bad habits: chronic sleep deprivation, bad diet, drugs... you name it. Those places are particularly good at attracting chronic escapists: you'll need the strength and discipline to think for yourself and avoid excesses.

Living a good life is learning to both live with others and live with yourself.

Countryside Biking

I try to take out my bike every day to discover new paths in the hills near my hometown.

Ideally, I want to find a way to the Cross of the Pech-de-Bère, a panorama 170 m above sea level, about 5 km by bike. It's a great spot to have an orientation race or do some quiet forest bathing, and near enough to visit every day.

The track is full of rocks, dirt, and dry grass, so I have to alternate between road biking and walking.

I underestimated the topography the first time, so I made sure to bring some food and equipment for my bike the second time. Then I found the track to lead to someone's house, so I preferred turning back thinking I must have lost my way.

Turns out, I had to go through the property to reach the correct road. I'll try again tomorrow, early in the morning as to avoid the heatwave. I found some blackberries by the side of the track at least, so I got that going for me.

I've lived near all those places for eight years, but I never thought of exploring them before. It's like seeing my hometown in an entirely different light. I guess that's what Thoreau meant when he said he "traveled a great deal in Concorde", his birthplace. What new surprises tomorrow will bring?

Cycling Migration

I want to live like birds, migrating from one place to another following the dance of the seasons. Europe is amazing for that: you can live in Sweden during Summer to enjoy the 5-hour nights, then move to Andalusia or Algarve to have a swim in Winter, without a residence permit or asking anyone for approval.

Fortunately, there are also great cycling roads spanning every country, and France is lucky to have 7 passing through. This way, you can migrate from one side to the other without paying a huge carbon bill.

Going from Faro to Bordeaux is about 1338 km according to Google. 587 km from Bordeaux to Paris. 916 km from Paris to Hamburg. 340 km from Hamburg to Copenhagen. And finally 848 km from Copenhagen to Stockholm following the Southern Coast, for a total sum of 4029 km.

If we were to suppose an average speed of 20 km/h (10 mph), it would take around 202 hours to perform a full migration, or 50 days if we biked 4 hours per day. That's a suboptimal scenario, of course. It would take a young healthy individual about a month biking at a sustainable pace for 6 hours a day with little elevation and light packing. To give you a comparison, the Tour de France lasts 23 days over a distance of 3500 km and the terrain is indeed nowhere near as flat as the Eurovelo cycling routes.

The great thing about bikepacking is you aren't limited in terms of accommodations. You can rent an Airbnb studio for a few days, then do some stealth camping. Stay in a city apartment, or move to a cheap cottage. Van camping with my parents, I learned that finding water and a place to sleep is really not that hard. Except it's harder to stay discrete when you are in a van with a family of four. Plenty of opportunities to take longer breaks while migrating.

Eldorados

Reading So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport, I noticed finding a job where you'll flourish is a lot like finding the right place to settle in: you'll never know until you actually move there and put in the work to get to know the environment, the culture, and the people.

There is no such thing as landing a dream career or moving in a dream city, we only get to choose average jobs or cities and improve things over time.

Some like to think there is an Eldorado that will tick all the imaginary boxes we make up in our little escapist minds. But from my experience, the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence. It's just a different lawn with its own pros and cons. Comparing the two is meaningless.

If you can work anywhere, any place will do, really. What matters is the bonds you'll create.

I lived in 22 countries. I could see myself living in each one. It's only a matter of choosing the best one now—meaning, the environment that will allow me to grow and bear nutritious fruits that will feed society.

No matter where you end up, human life doesn't need much to sustain itself.

Finding places you can call home

I enjoyed imagining my ideal town when I was a child, and I came to the simple conclusion an ideal place is some sort of Eldorado where you can find everything.

I still wonder where are the best locations to live from. My environment influences my state of mind, and my mood influences where I like to be. But living somewhere is sacrificing an advantage for another.

Big or small cities, fast or slow internet, night life or not... I do not care so much. Traveling is adapting yourself.

Little pollution, a good climate, a soothing atmosphere... those are conditions I look for however.

I do not see myself traveling all the time. I do not see myself staying in one location forever either. I want to switch between different places I can call home, and occasionally discover new ones, for as long as I can.

A nomad's location is rythmed by seasons. Perhaps a digital nomad doesn't have to live differently.

Seasons are charged with symbolic meaning. Spring is rebirth. Summer is a time for adventures and new discoveries. Autumn for wisdom and gratitude. Winter is not death but hibernation, propitious to introspection.

I can see myself spending my summers in Scandinavia and my autumns in South-East Asia. Iberia during winter, and to close the cycle in France.

Looking for one unique Eldorado is a waste of time. It's easier to make your own one by traveling to different locations.

Flânerie

As a nomad maker, travel is an integral part of my creative process. But not all travels are equal.

Some can hurt you, they are the manifestation of an unsustainable escapism. Flânerie, on the other hand, originates from a quest for truth.

As a Frenchman, I'm deeply attracted to the concept of flânerie to describe what's a sustainable form of travel, which is not an easy term to define.

Reading The Painter of Modern Life, a series of essays written by the infamous poet Charles Baudelaire, I hope to shed some light on the mindset of a flâneur.

Baudelaire was a contemporary of Rimbaud, and it is undeniable that the search for beauty -- the search for truth ("to distil the eternal from the transitory") -- was at the center of their art.

In the essay "The artist, man of the world, man of the crowd and child", Baudelaire presents the flâneur as an ideal, personified by a certain "Monsieur G": "a great traveller and cosmopolitan [...] a man of the world, a man who understands the world and the mysterious and lawful reasons for all its uses [...] he wants to know, understand and appreciate everything that happens on the surface of our globe [...] the mainspring of his genius is curiosity," to which he adds, "genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will [...] a childhood now equipped for self-expression with manhood's capacities and a power of analysis which enables it to order the mass of raw material which it has involuntarily accumulated". The act of flânerie is exactly about that: getting back to a child-like state, driven by passion and curiosity.

Curiously, this definition of "genius" is exactly how Robert Greene defines mastery and I wouldn't be surprised if Baudelaire inspired him to a great extent.

In addition to being a man of the world and a man-child (capable of great curiosity), a flâneur is a man of the crowd: "for the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement [...] To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world [...] The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family [...] The lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy". A flâneur finds beauty in the most mundane aspects of life.

As Baudelaire describes, a 19th century flâneur is the exact opposite of a modern tourist: "The world is full of people who can go to the Louvre, walk rapidly, without so much as a glance, past rows of very interesting, though secondary, pictures, to come to a rapturous halt in front of a Titian or a Raphael -- one of those that have been most popularized by the engraver's art; then they will go home happy, not a few saying to themselves, 'I know my Museum.'".

In modern French, flâner is a common verb used pejoratively to express a lack of action: "arrête de flâner" could be translated to "stop fooling around". It's pretty far from the original mindset of a flâneur, which is exactly not about doing nothing. It's about living in the present and being mindful of our surroundings.

Walking around the city aimlessly, writing from coffee shops, meditating on a park bench... those are forms of flânerie. Flânerie is the opposite of busyness, and in the busy world we live in it's time to re-learn how to unbusy ourselves.

Freedom and Solitude

Plato's parable of the cave was written to illustrate how unnatural it is for humans to seek the truth: education is a painful process, some people willingly remain in the comfort of the darkness their minds provide, and they will kill you if you try to force them out of it.

This allegory is also reminiscent of how great freedom often comes with great solitude.

It's in human nature to like the idea of freedom, without actually going all the way to acquire it. We are afraid of alienating ourselves from our colleagues, friends, lovers, and family, so we never act to make our dreams a reality: we are afraid of the solitude freedom brings.

Once you leave the cave and see all your fellow humans slaving away, it's only natural to want to help them follow the same path you walked, or at least to understand it. But you will fail and will be shamed for it, because you can't help people that don't help themselves. That's when the feeling of solitude is at its peak.

Worse, the entitlement you feel is toxic to everyone, including you. The resentment it creates will only lead to the opposite effect by leading people to be proud of their ignorance. It's a vicious circle that isn't easy to break from, and it's this way for everyone.

The only solution is to regularly come back to the cave and talk with those who want to, without any expectation or judgement or any sign of white knight syndrome. After all, you never know if you didn't leave one cave for another.

From Bordeaux to Hamburg By Bike

Here is a breakdown of the official cycling road between Bordeaux and Hamburg, following EuroVelo 3:

  1. Bordeaux - Angoulême: 142 km
  2. Angoulême - Châtelleraux: 154 km
  3. Châtelleraux - Tours: 74 km
  4. Tours - Orléans: 120 km
  5. Orléans - Montargis: 112 km
  6. Montargis - Paris: 114 km
  7. Paris - Compiègne: 90 km
  8. Compiègne - Fourmies: 126 km
  9. Fourmies - Charleroi: 63 km
  10. Charleroi - Liège: 108 km
  11. Liège - Aachen: 52 km
  12. Aachen - Bonn: 112 km
  13. Bonn - Dusseldorf: 69 km
  14. Dusseldorf - Wesel: 57 km
  15. Wesel - Munster: 91 km
  16. Munster - Osnabrucker: 57 km
  17. Osnabrucker - Bremen: 122 km
  18. Bremen - Hamburg: 111 km

Some checkpoints can be broken down, or the distance can be reduced following departmental roads. Considering one day per checkpoint, it would take 18 days to reach Hamburg.

The trip could be estimated to cost 630 euros (25 euros per night and 10 euros of food per day, per person). 180 euros in the best case scenario, finding spots to do some wild camping every day. Alternative housing might be cheap since it's the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela, but I doubt it. Two third of the trip is in French-speaking territory, so it might help to find places to install my hammock.

Regional trains are also cheap if I feel too lazy or tired.

How can travelers reduce their carbo

Notre premier conseil est d’essayer de ne pas voyager trop vite.

Equipement : gourde, voyager léger, acheter d'occasion et local, matériaux naturels aux matériaux synthétiques, savon solide

Quand vous voyagez dans des pays tempérés ou froids, les émissions de CO2 liées au chauffage seront le principal impact environnemental de vos logements.

La climatisation consomme beaucoup d’électricité qui est majoritairement produite à partir d’énergies fossiles en Afrique, en Amérique latine et en Asie. De plus, les climatiseurs utilisent des gaz appelés hydrofluorocarbones (HFC) qui peuvent s’échapper en cas de fuite ou lorsque l’appareil est jeté. Les HFC représentent une faible part des gaz à effet de serre, mais ils emprisonnent des milliers de fois plus de chaleur que le CO2.

La construction des logements pour les voyageurs consomme également beaucoup d’énergie (la production de ciment/béton représente 8 % des émissions de CO2 dans le monde). Elle empiète aussi parfois sur des habitats naturels.

Enfin, les rejets d’eaux usées pas toujours traitées des logements touristiques sont une source de pollution qui affecte la vie aquatique des cours d’eau et des océans avoisinants.

Dormez sous une tente ou dans un hamac, Dormez chez quelqu’un en faisant du couchsurfing, privilégiez les dortoirs ou partagez votre chambre,

Prenez des douches courtes et évitez les bains

l'agriculture représente 24 % des émissions

  • La déforestation pour étendre les terres agricoles et donc la moindre absorption de CO2 atmosphérique par la photosynthèse des arbres.

  • Le protoxyde d’azote (N2O) émis lors de la transformation de produits azotés (engrais, fumier, lisier…)

  • Le méthane (CH4) émis par les rots des bovins (contrairement aux idées reçues, ce ne sont pas leurs pets qui polluent)

83 % de la surface agricole mondiale est utilisée pour l’élevage

achetez sur les marchés, Mangez local, évitez les produits importés, Limitez votre consommation de viande et de produits laitiers

Le tourisme impose une forte pression aux écosystèmes naturels. Les  voyageurs peuvent introduire des espèces invasives et des maladies, font  du bruit, interagissent avec les animaux, piétinent ou cueillent des  plantes, laissent des déchets, salissent le cours d’eau…

Évitez les loisirs à moteurs, pas d’attractions qui participent à la maltraitance animale, ne pas intéragir avec la faune/flore

  • La reforestation : ce type de projet n’est pas recommandé, car la majorité de l’absorption de CO2 ne se fera que très longtemps après la plantation, quand les arbres seront grands, alors que vos émissions ont lieu maintenant.

  • Les énergies renouvelables : par exemple, la construction d’une usine hydroélectrique ou l’installation de panneaux solaires pour remplacer l’électricité produite par une centrale thermique

  • L’utilisation rationnelle de l’énergie : par exemple la construction d’un bâtiment passif

How to discover new cultures while being productive

Laser-like focus and dedication are key for startup success, there is just no way around both hard and smart work. When you love your work as much as I do, you don’t really consider relaxing. As a direct consequence, I do not make enough time to really make the most of my life as a digital nomad. It is a shame, and I wish to improve on this point. Some solutions to get a better grasp of the local cultures I'm visiting while still feeling productive:

  • Learn the language: I downloaded Duolinguo to serve as a basis for learning and plan on practicing consistently in real life situations.

  • Go to meetups, exchange and share: Meetup and similar social apps are an incredible opportunity to exchange with locals, even though English-friendly events seem kinda scarce in some countries.

  • Learn photography: photography is a good excuse to go out and an incredible communication tool. I just happen to have a nice camera gathering dust.

  • Work from libraries: buying a coworking space subscription is out of the question. Open spaces are obviously not deep work enablers, and coworking is still expensive from a local’s point of view.

  • Write about you learned during your visits

    1. Google some local cooking recipes, 2) go to the local market, 3) scream "My name is Chef", 4) get the pan/oven/pot ready, 5) profit
  • ?

Imagining An Ideal Nomadic Lifestyle For Myself

Nomads are shepherds moving from one location to another according to a seasonal path. Digital nomads could behave in a similar fashion.

On the other hand, when I imagine the ideal nomad lifestyle, I think of Henry David Thoreau, his essay on walking and living in Walden, and how he traveled.

I can see myself in my 30s combining the two ideas.

I could buy a cheap plot of land in two different countries--say, Spain and Sweden--and share my time between them to take advantage of the weather.

I would learn bushcraft and make myself a cabin like the ones you can see on Youtube self-reliance channels.

If I were to stay at least three months in each location, I could also live off the land. For example, lentils are sown in spring and take three to four months to harvest. Two to three months for white kidney beans. Common vegetables, such as lettuce, green beans, onions, or tomatoes are even easier to grow: from one to two months to harvest.

Green transportation between the two countries would also be possible. The great thing about being a European is the ability to pass through the member countries of the Schengen area without needing a visa. You can use the European long-distance cycle routes (EuroVelo) to safely travel across countries while enjoying the scenery. The Sun Route is 7,050 km long and connects the far North of Sweden to the sunny South of Italy. You can complete it in 89 days if you bike 80km per day, but of course, you'd need less than that to go from the South of Sweden to the South of Spain (about 4,500 km, 56 days). You could also alternate between biking and taking the train to speed things up.

This is one idea among many to become more sustainable as a digital nomad.

Journeyman 2021

I will have a few income sources ready by next Spring, so it will be the perfect moment to consider traveling again. My objective will be to take on the journey that was originally planned last Summer: to tour around the Baltic Sea following the 10th EuroVelo cycling route.

My motives are still the same. I want to study alternative forms of digital nomadism and share them in a book. If we truly were to live like nomads, stoic yet unfettered, how far could we go? That's what I set out to find out through my own experience.

Over the past two months, I discovered I only need about 50Go of data per month to get work done. Perhaps much less. I could simply carry a 4G USB modem and a SIM card, and I'd be able to push words and code from anywhere in the world. No need for an Airbnb, a coffee shop, or a McDonalds' Wi-Fi spot, the road would literally become my office.

I still need to plan more carefully how I will sleep, shower, access electricity, do my laundry, and adapt my workflow, but I've already figured out how I can address the biggest pain points: nothing good equipment and the right mindset can't fix.

The real challenge will be to make the lifestyle sustainable for a whole month or two. Being homeless for a week isn't particularly hard with the right gear, but living alone like Thoreau is a whole different story. I'll probably alternate between local inns, couch surfing, and wild camping depending on my current mood and the opportunities I'll find.

I intended to take a bus from Paris to Copenhagen and start there, but I'm now considering to take EuroVelo 3, also known as The Pilgrims Route, from my hometown to Kolding in Danemark. It will take longer to arrive in Estonia, but it will also make the journey more interesting since wild camping is technically illegal in France, Germany, and Danemark. It will force me to meet the locals and ask them to set my hammock on their property, which can only lead to good stories and experiences.

Journeyman - Part 1: Motives

I'm planning to go full nomad this summer, traveling around the Baltic Sea with a bike and wild camping while working remotely.

I wouldn't be the first to do it. I stumbled upon a blog with the exact same goal. The guy's been at it for several years now, so for the naysayers out there: I know it's doable. The first article I've seen on this blog is literally titled "How to be a maker and a digital nomad?". Sounds like me.

I have several reasons to make this choice.

First, I'm a bit tired of the typical digital nomad myth telling you to go to Bali, live off the locals, and hopping from one trendy hub to another every week or so by plane. I believe digital nomadism should be about independence and sustainability, not just another dogma where everyone does the same things.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to live in Bali or Chiang Mai. I've been to similar places. I did my South-East Asia tour, and I don't regret doing it. It taught me a lot about regions of the world I had no knowledge of while allowing me to launch my own business. I'll probably live again in Bangkok, Penang, or Ho Chi Minh City in the future. For now, however, I want to think about more innovative approaches to digital nomadism with concepts like slow travel and minimalism.

The second reason is I need material for my book on sustainable digital nomadism. I have frameworks, theories, and solutions, but I lack a good story. I want to think of this adventure as an alternative version of Thoreau's Walden applied to digital nomadism.

Walden's influence is huge. It's probably the book that precursed modern minimalism and Happy Sobriety movements advocating for simpler lifestyles. In my opinion, Thoreau's genius lies in his ability to merge practical experiences, readings, social critics, and philosophical statements in thought-provoking paragraphs. Both outside and within society in a Zarathustra-esque fashion, Thoreau is a singular character urging you to find your own answers while providing his own, regardless of what others think. That's what I want to convey throughout my book.

Last but not least, I've been working every day for the last two years. It's time for a vacation, or at least a change of routine since I can't afford to stop working on my one-man indie business. A bike tour is an occasion to stay closer to Nature, away from the stress cities bring. It's also an opportunity to meet people with a different perception of life than I'm used to while traveling.

As usual, I'll be documenting this journey in my writings, in a series called "Journeyman". Part 2 will be about my itinerary, part 3 about my gear. I didn't plan further than that.

Journeyman - Part 2: Itinerary

I'm going on a bike tour this summer while working remotely. I already wrote about my motives yesterday, and I'll talk about my itinerary in this post.

The initial idea is to move like a nomad: slowly, carrying all my possessions, and respectful of Nature. Biking doesn't pollute and allows me to carry all I need to survive.

I want to live as close to nature as possible, so I'll be wild camping at least 75% of the nights. I'm neither an experienced camper nor cyclist, so I decided to take it easy and choose Scandinavia.

Scandinavia is flat, so I won't exhaust myself too much. It'll also be during the part of the year where nights are incredibly short (6 hours in Stockholm in July) to give me more flexibility to work from the road.

Last but not least, wild camping is legal and trees to use a hammock are plenty.

I'll stick to the European cycle route network, also known as EuroVelo 10 or the Baltic Sea Cycle Route.

I'll start from Malmö, go along the Southern coast and move up North to Stockholm. This is the first part of the trip, 848 km that I'd like to cover in 17 days. That's 50km per day on average, so about 2 hours with my racing bike. That leaves me plenty of time to find coffee shops to work from in the morning and set camp during the evening.

From Stockholm, I'll bike another 100 km to board a ferry to the Åland Islands. There, I'll take another ferry to arrive in Turku, Finland. This second part only takes three days (126km) to complete.

The last part consists of reaching Helsinki, which is 205 km (4 days) from Turku.

From there, I'll be able to board another boat to Tallin, mess around a little in Estonia, and come back west by bus.

I already draw the itinerary on Google Maps. In theory, the trip only takes 24 days to complete at a reasonable pace, or 1179km covered by bike at an average speed of 50 km per day.

I think it's too short, so I'll probably be butterflying in some cities from time to time. I lived in Stockholm for a year and I really miss it. Or maybe I'll just spend more time biking around the beautiful Åland Islands.

An additional part could be added in Estonia, since it's also one of the rare countries authorizing wild camping.

I could start in May, but I think it would be better to wait until June for the weather to get warmer.

In Part 3, I'll be talking about my camping/biking/nomading gear. Part 4 will probably be about my daily routine and how I'll leverage my lifestyle to get writings and code done.

Journeyman - Part 3: Offline Software Development and Productivity

As I'm preparing my bike trip, I'm expecting my friends and family to ask me the following question: how can someone achieve anything in these conditions?

Productivity is a field I've been actively studying for close to seven years now. I've come to the realization that all attempts to be productive imply removing distractions to focus on what's essential. It's the very definition of productivity according to Wikipedia: "labour productivity is equal to the ratio between a measure of output volume and a measure of input use".

It might seem obvious, but you are probably more productive than the average knowledge worker if you keep adding value for four hours a day without interruption and call it a day. Add an hour for planning, two hours spent in meetings, lunch, and occasional chit-chats, another hour browsing social media, and you obtain a typical workday.

In other words, 80% of your efforts directed toward being more productive should be spent cutting down distractions and managing to do things on the first try.

As a developer, it means focusing on the task at hand and designing before coding. None require an Internet connection, three monitors, and a fancy whiteboard.

80% of your Google search results can be found in offline documentations. Git commits can be taken offline too, you just need to push the changes once a day. Designing workflows and programming don't require being online either.

In fact, the more you take things offline and rely on trustworthy sources of truth (aka, read the f* manual), the more productive you can be. There are very few problems you can't solve by just tinkering with them on paper or reading detailed technical specifications.

If you need to look for packages and libraries to solve an issue, leave the task for later and focus on what can be done now. Same for testing: test what you can now, focus on making things work on the first try, and leave the rest for later.

As a writer, you absolutely don't need anything more than a pen and a piece of paper to get some words out. You only need connectivity when it's time to publish.

From a theoretical aspect, doing my job doesn't need me to spend more than an hour or two online.

In practice, even on the road, it's not that hard to find a coffee shop with a stable Wi-Fi in Europe, spend two hours there in the morning with a cup of coffee, and move on to another one to take a break and keep working.

The time you actually spend biking can be used for thinking or listening to audiobooks. Idle time is an opportunity to read or write.

I'd argue that being by myself, close to nature, exercising daily, and with only the road to care about, will give me the perspective to be even more productive than I currently am. But I don't want to get ahead of myself and will wait to gather concrete data to prove my claims.

Journeyman - Part 4: Training

Most people I know assume you have to be sporty to be a bikepacker. Except if you have particular medical conditions, it couldn't be further from the truth: it's only a matter of pace.

There is no manual telling you to cover 100km every day. It's all up to you, really.

I didn't train to perform my first 500km bike ride. It wasn't easy, but the body quickly adapts to external conditions with proper rest and nutrients. The worst part wasn't even the aching legs or the strained back from carrying a backpack, it was the literal pain in the butt—I didn't wear cycling pants: it was a clothing problem, not a physical fitness one.

That being said, I do am planning more carefully this time.

I re-joined a gym this month to get back on track with my StrongLifts 5x5 program. Barbell squats are the best exercise I can do right now to acquire more strength while maintaining proper biking form, so I'm slowly getting back to my previous squat weight (80kg, weighting 70kg).

I'm getting back to France in about one month, so that's probably when I'll re-settle into a biking routine to activate the specific muscles I'll need. Between 5 and 10km per day at max intensity. I'll be moving around France to see friends and family, so I'll also have to carry my bike with me or simply use it.

Journeyman - Part 5: Carbon footprint breakdown

The average French person emits 10,8 tons of CO2 per year.

The carbon footprint can be broken down as follows: 27% transportation, 27% housing, 16% food production, 13% in miscellaneous goods and services, 9% from maintaining public services (health, education, etc.), and 7% from manufacturing clothing and equipment.

Reaching the goal of 1.7 tons of CO2 per person per year—needed to limit the temperature increase to 2°C—implies to drastically change the way we do things.

A world traveler is estimated to double his carbon footprint (21.4 tons of CO2 per year), mainly because of the increase in the use of transportation (2.9 tons for a sedentary vs 16 tons).

On the other hand, living in communal housing divides the carbon footprint in the housing sector up to 6 times (2.9 tons vs 0.5 tons). The other emission items are expected to be the same.

In other words, switching to a slow-paced communal nomadic lifestyle has the potential to reduce the average carbon footprint down to 5.4 tons of CO2 per year per person. Less than 1.7 tons of CO2 yearly if you cut your meat/dairy product intake, practice zero waste, and travel light.

I should be able to meet all these requirements during my two-month long bikepacking tour. I'll also be looking for opportunities regarding communal living, as Scandinavian countries are at the forefront of this newold lifestyle. Thinking about the Rosenhill farm near Stockholm, for example.

Journeyman - Part 6: Gear

The trip is in three months, it's time to list down the gear I'll be needing and proceed to look for the best bargains.

Clothing - $0

I'll be packing lightly, not different from usual. 1 rain jacket, 1 merino sweater, 3 t-shirts, 3 underwear, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of jogging pants.

Transport - $0

I already own a road bike that's good enough for Eurovelo roads, and all I'll be carrying fits in a 30L backpack. Additional bike bags would be overkill, so I'll just take bungee cords to strap the sleeping material to the saddle/handlebars and sew a small custom bag to the frame to carry some small groceries.

Work - $26 + <$10/month

laptop + mouse + camera + Kindle + Data: < $10 - Just need 1Gb as a safety measure if I can't post my 200 words or get lost + Long battery life MP3 player: $26

Food

Housing

Hammock + Rain Protection: $72 Sleeping bag: $24 Inflatable pillow: $5

Msc

personal hygiene products

Headlamp: $16

Opinel knife: ?

Bike repair kit: ?

Bonus: Portable wood burning stove: $18 + enamel pot

Journeyman - Part 6: Gear

The trip is in three months, it's time to list down the gear I'll be needing and proceed to look for the best bargains.

Clothing - $0

I'll be packing lightly, not different from usual. 1 rain jacket, 1 merino sweater, 3 t-shirts, 3 underwear, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of jogging pants.

Transport - $0

I already own a road bike that's good enough for Eurovelo roads, and all I'll be carrying fits in a 30L backpack. Additional bike bags would be overkill, so I'll just take bungee cords to strap the sleeping material to the saddle/handlebars and sew a small custom bag to the frame to carry some small groceries.

Work - $26 + <$10/month

Laptop, mouse, camera, tripod, lavalier microphone, smartphone, Kindle, mobile data (< $10/month, just need 1Gb as a safety measure if I can't post my 200 words or get lost), long battery life MP3 player to listen to music and audiobooks while biking ($26).

I'll be working from coffee shops, so I won't need anything else.

Housing - $101

Hammock with mosquito net and rain protection ($72), sleeping bag ($24),  inflatable pillow ($5)

Msc - $16

Personal hygiene products (hard soap, nail clipper, toothbrush, earpick), headlamp ($16), opinel knife.

I'll also need a bike repair kit. I had some problems during my last tour, don't want to be unprepared this time.

Bonus: Food - ~$20

Portable wood burning stove: $18 + enamel pot

Grand total: $163

Except for that, most of my costs will come from food, coffee, and occasional Airbnb stays. The good thing is that most of my housing costs end up becoming long-term investments: the more I use them, the less I spend in rent.

Living On The Road, With A Bike

Is it possible to live a semi-nomadic life, just as simple and respectful of Nature as living in a cabin near Walden Pond, as a tech worker? This is a question I had in mind since I started digital nomading two years ago.

It's doable, in theory. I could take my bike and live on the road.

I can carry everything I currently have in saddle, handlebar, and frame bags. I know it's possible because I went on a bike tour for a week (400km) with just an everyday 30L backpack.

I would just need a camping hammock and two trees to sleep. Of course, I would have to leverage countries where wild camping is authorized.

The main issue would be to ensure I can work remotely.

Regarding electricity, there are specialized solar panels, power banks, and bike dynamos that could be used to ensure I never run out of power, but it would be difficult to carry. The easiest solution would remain to spend some days in coffee shops, restaurants, or airbnbing or couchsurfing.

Wifi is not an issue. I can use mobile data.

Regarding diet, I know it's not particularly difficult as long as you remain near the European cycle route network.

I think it could be a fun thing to try for one or two weeks this summer. Living like that for several months would require more organizational skills, but it's also possible thanks to the power of the Internet. Acquiring the right mental discipline is the hard part.

Movement and Creativity

Creativity is your mind traveling to distant lands. And since mind and body are but one thing, moving around generates inspiration.

Movement and creativity are closely linked. Many thinkers are known to be avid walkers, like Nietzsche and Thoreau. Sometimes, you just have to get up or squeeze a toy.

Placebo or not, I do feel more creative when I take some time to stroll around, stare through a morning car's window, or watch waves crashing on a beach or trees jiggling in the wind from my chair. I just need to take out my notebook, and the words come to me.

It only works with slow movements—movements that don't require my eyes to constantly jump from place to another. The scenery has to sink in to reveal its secrets.

Inversely, nothing good comes out of an agitated or overthinking mind. If we're too fixated on something and our mind can't wander, the creative result is mediocre. We have to learn to let go.

New City

I know people who will visit a few monuments and claim they know their city. It couldn't be further from the truth: discovering a new city is a slow, consuming art that takes months, if not years.

It's an adventure. You don't want others to spoil it for you with guided tours and pub crawls.

Never plan, and never stay in your comfort zone. Leave your phone at your hostel. You want to get lost and find your way back. You need spontaneity and courage. Only then can the city unveils itself in its rawest beauty.

Walking is the single best way to get to know your city. Think of yourself as a flâneur and never cease strolling. Let your curiosity guide you.

Get out of the city center whenever you can, for a lot is hidden away from the tourist's eyes.

Live outside, work outside whenever you can. Read in public parks. Write in coffee shops. Take a piece of paper with you during meditative walks.

Engage with locals: bars owners, partygoers, drunks, passer-by, grocery clerks, shop keepers, acquaintances, gym members... the city is where its people are. Traveling is an opportunity to overcome your social fears. If you travel alone, there is no one to tell you how to act: you can be whoever you want and do things you wouldn't normally consider.

Next Destination

Time is often represented by an hourglass - by sand more precisely - to remind you how easily it slips through your fingers. My stay in Vietnam will be over in three weeks.

New friendships were born, and new memories were made. It was an enriching experience on the trail of my origins.

There is no one Vietnam but four. One in the North where life is a peaceful garden, center Vietnam where girls are spicier than a bowl of Bún bò, southern Vietnam where the food reflects the economy: rich and tasty, and the one I'll keep in my dreams.

The hardest part about being a digital nomad is not the work or the adaptation period to a new environment. It's saying goodbye. Travel is a breakup, a state of intoxication, and all romantics know the best way to sober up is to drink again. You hit the road, again.

The saddest feeling you can experience as a full-time traveler is the inability to come back. Hopefully, it won't happen with Vietnam. For now, Istanbul, Turkey holds the first position of my mental list for when it will be time to choose my next destination. I'm prospecting apartments.

Personal notes on nomad entrepreneurship

I am a software craftsman. Creating software products is not only a job or an impulse, but it is also a need. If I spend more than a few days just consuming or doing nothing, I feel drained. Creativity is a fire you must release, or the energy ends up bursting out of you.

In June last year, I decided to open a one-man business that would allow me to launch all the tech products I am dreaming of, in order to confront them with reality.

Over the last six years as an engineering student, I learned that the success of a  project is about three things: community, accountability, and execution.

I need people. Humans are social animals. I know I cannot do this alone. Self-made men/women are a myth. Selling is all about people. If you don’t add value, you cannot sell.

Before selling a product, you need to sell yourself. People need to know your business. More importantly, they want to know your values, your vision. More than selling products, there is a social responsibility to any artisan. Communities are built around common values expressed throughout the creation of content: blog posts, pictures, tweets etc. I love sharing what I experience, and I love writing, so it was only natural to grow a way to document the whole process of building a business. That's how I started writing, which later would lead me to start the 200 words a day challenge and build a product out of it. Writing is for businesses a sort of making-of, a way to understand Why and How they do things so that they can help and/or inspire their readers, and possibly build an informal community.

A community originates from trust, from a social pact. Accountability makes sure the pact is respected. Businesses have to be accountable to stay aligned with their objectives. For example, 200WaD is an open project: transparent and publicly accessible. Being transparent is not only being respectful of your users/community, but it is also a way to include them in the journey.

A well-planned project and a great community cannot help a bad maker: execution is key.

Over the past six years, I have experimented on possible manners to maximize my personal productivity for the sole purpose of becoming a great software craftsman. I developed a personal routine to support both smart and hard work. I tried my limits in a remote work environment, in Stockholm, Geneva, Warsaw, Budapest, and Paris for a total of two years. In Asia for almost five months. I learned a lot about myself and how to use travel as an enabler. Reducing the amount of money I spend per month makes ramen profitability more achievable. Solo-traveling to a location where I barely know anyone allows me to dedicate myself fully to my mission with a laser-like focus.

I greatly admire makers such as levelsio. Makers are opening a path to a more ethical and sustainable way of building businesses.

I spent five months solo traveling to build indie tech products, with one goal in mind: to reach mastery, meaning, to build a great product.

Saying Goodbye

If I had to name one hardest thing about being a constant traveler, it would be having to say goodbye to the people you meet along the way.

It's bound to happen. You stay at the same place for weeks, frequent the local bars, eateries, and touristic attractions. You eventually create bonds with locals or fellow travelers.

Some relationships will shine brighter. Some will burn out, others will fade away. Saying goodbye is a form of breakup: the future is uncertain. People come and go and there is nothing we can do about it. Everybody gotta live, as the song goes.

This is the reason why meeting new people while traveling is about learning to surrender ourselves to the present moment, free of worries about the future and its consequences.

If we meet again, so be it.

If we drift apart, we can always find each other again. The world isn't as big as it used to be. We can work from anywhere, we can live anywhere.

Avoiding goodbyes is easier: if we never depart without a word, aren't we still in each other's company? Technology makes it possible to stay connected with anyone anywhere and anytime.

But isn't it nicer to let the distance separate us before fate leads our paths to cross again? Happy the man who, like Ulysses, has made a fine voyage, and then returns, experienced and knowledgeable, to spend the rest of his life among his loved ones.

Sedentary Dreams

Being an entrepreneur without recurring revenues sucks, especially in France when you're looking for an apartment.

You need to make at least thrice the rent to be considered solvent by a real estate agency. It's obviously not my case, even though I have enough savings to pay rent for two years.

I wanted to stay in Bordeaux with my brother for a year, but it's probably going to be difficult. The only way I can pull it off is by bypassing real estate agents and meeting with the landlord directly, but it's not going to be easy.

Looking for an apartment in a smaller town might be much easier: my parents can vouch for me, the rent would be lower, and the competition is less fierce.

I don't need much anyway. A studio where I can work all day and night with a good Internet connection and some green areas nearby where I can bike would be ideal. I never really lived in a small city, always in big ones or in small rural towns. It will be a nice change for once.

I'll probably hit the road again if I don't find anything by the end of September. The pandemic isn't stopping, so I'll see how it goes regarding that. I'm thinking a lot about Malaysia lately. My stay in Penang was probably my most productive as well, so I kinda miss it. Renting an Airbnb is so much easier than finding a long-term thing: why have we made it so hard?

Seeing the World

You never completely see the world, you only acquire tiny perspectives.

Ashitaka: porter un regard sans haine

Seneca

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you're needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”

Slow Walking

Do not walk too fast, for there is no stillness in a frantic mind.

Forget about the destination and get lost. Let the street guide you.

Listen to your body. Breath in and out gently. Feel the way your legs move, one small step at a time. Free your arms, let them go up and down as you stroll.

In parallel, increase your awareness of your surroundings. You have to look inward and outward at the same time to feel whole.

Take a good glance at all the passers-by. What do they carry? What are they doing? Where are they going? Are they happy, sad, stressed, jolly?

Shops, bars, restaurants, people sitting in the street. Focus on each detail for a brief moment, and let them pass through your mind as soon as they reach it.

Look up at the sky. Look down and be mindful of where you step.

You have to be one with the crowd, but also outside of it.

A thought might pop into your head from time to time. Entertain it if you have to, but don't dwell on it too long. Get back into your blank meditative state. You have to be there, nothing else matters just yet.

Solo

I am satisfied with how working remotely impacted my goals over the last years. Traveling alone helped me build my character: I know myself better, I have become more self-reliant, and overall I feel pretty confident about who I am and what I want from life.

It's not as good as it sounds though. It feels incredibly lonely at times. When you live in a place for a short period of time, whether it is a few weeks or a month, building long-term bonds is hard. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t help either since it's hard to divide work from life. A lifestyle of perpetual traveling makes you more appreciative of interpersonal relationships.

Something Picasso’s character said in the series Genius (season 2 episode 3) truly echoed with me : “It takes more to be an artist. The only way to be a true artist is to work day and night, to devote yourself body and soul. Do you have any idea the level of loneliness it implies? Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.

From my experience, most people end up crushed by solitude and decide to go back to their previous sheltered lifestyle. I believe, however, that you need to think about it in terms of seasons: solitude is only a part of the cycle, you need it, but you also need to balance it with friendship and family. Learning to identify this cycle is the hard part.

The Hero's journey

The monomyth, also known as the Hero's journey, is a fascinating concept in narratology popularized by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

This pattern can be found in most tales depicting the adventures of a hero. Not only in tales, but also in most religions. All prophets went through a similar journey.

Carl Jung observes that symbols from the collective imaginary take a big part in the development of our subconsciousness. Heroism is no different. It is deeply ingrained in our psyche.

Now, an interesting thing to observe is that this Hero's journey is still widely used in popular narratives. For example, advertisement exulting the inner hero of the consumer, or the origin stories of famous entrepreneurs.

We all aspire to be heroes. "We can be heroes, just for one day," says Bowie. Yet, few are brave enough to set out on a quest for self-realization.

He is no hero who never met the dragon, or who, if he once saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing. Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the “treasure hard to attain."
– Carl Jung

Successful people are the ones who attained the treasure. This prize can take any shape, but it is up to us to find it. To do so, we have to go through every stage of this ultimate pursuit of self-discovery.

Look for the opportunities. Dive in them. Go through every trial and tribulation with faith in oneself and others. Die. Resurrect. Reinvent yourself. Return. Share your treasure.

Only by obtaining this new-found freedom can you face death with serenity.

I believe however that the Hero's journey is not a one-time process, but an iterative one.

To become an alter-nomad

To become an alter-nomad is to become a thinker and a maker, rather than a bystander. The mission is to participate in the realization of a better world:

The intellectual nomad attempts to escape the codes (of the highway), the conditioning (at a socio-psychological level) and simplistic, locking definitions. But he doesn’t pretend to escape every conditioning. On the contrary, he seeks the best conditions, the best conditioning possible (breathing space, focus space, etc.). He works on himself, never losing sight of both his animal and natural basis.

- Le local et le global dans l'oeuvre de Kenneth White, Pierre Jamet

To change the world, one must incarnate this change. This introspective work is not simple: it demands to leave the comfort of a daily routine. One can think that this lifestyle is not for everyone, a nomad must be brave because he tends to be marginalized. Wandering builds character. Nomads are creators. Travel constitutes an apprenticeship, a vector of change, but, as the cave allegory of Socrates shows us, learning is suffering. Are we ready to endure it? What are the consequences of such a change? We have to keep things in perspective as Rolf Potts shows: define our fears to act against them. We then notice that they are minimal in comparison to the benefits knowledge brings. Historical nomadism is based on principles of common sense, applicable to life in society. There is no need to be rich or young to become an alter-nomad, it is about choices, priorities.

Traveling A Good Deal

I took 8 flights in 2019, including 3 intercontinental. I set out in 2020 to reduce my carbon footprint by avoiding planes, and according to my plans and thanks to the global pandemic, I'll only take 2 international flights this year: I'm settling down in Bordeaux for a year.

But this isn't the end of my life as a digital nomad. Quite the contrary.

I want to use this year to travel more slowly and locally, or as Thoreau would put it: "I have traveled a good deal in Concord; and  everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have  appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways."

Bordeaux is ideally located for regular sea and forest bathing. The Atlantic Ocean and the Landes forest are less than two hours away by bike. In fact, it's the ideal location to use a bike as a mode of transport. The Pilgrim Road, spanning from Galicia to Trondheim, passes through Bordeaux. The Atlantic Coast Route as well, all the way from the Fjords to Lisboa.  Both routes combined represent about 16,000km, 60% longer than a trip from France to Vietnam.

I tend to think that traveling without the intention of meeting people is meaningless. Most of my closest friends live in Paris, which is two hours from Bordeaux by train. My hometown, where my parents live, is an hour away by train, or 4-5 hours by bike (~100km). The pandemic made me more appreciative of the bonds I have developed, and I intend to better nurture them while I'm in France.

I'm also excited about the simple act of strolling around Bordeaux. There are many green spaces and little streets to discover, not to mention the docks all along the Garonne river.

A good deal of traveling is awaiting indeed.

Traveling the World

As of 2020, the UN recognizes 193 countries in the whole world.

If you prefer slow travel, it would take 16 years to spend a month in each country. 32 years if you only travel half the year. Needless to say, you'll never have enough time to slow travel the world with two weeks of holidays per year.

I've always wanted to walk the entire earth, but as I'm putting things into perspective, I'm wondering if I'll ever be able to, and even if I can, is it worth dedicating so many years?

I don't like traveling for the sake of it. I need a reason. A person, a project. Traveling to South-East Asia two years ago gave me the environment I needed to focus on growing my own first remote business.

But it's the other way around sometimes. Traveling creates its own reasons. As Pascal would say, the heart has its reasons that reason ignores. Great discoveries happen only in uncharted territory. Reasons have to be forced out of you.

There are two kinds of world travelers I admire: academics, and great reporters. The former travels to spread her teachings, the latter to find hidden truths worth sharing. Those are the two reasons I would need to develop and motivate to keep the fire burning.