April 1, 2020 Update: This article was originally posted on February 6, 2018. As of 2015, I've traveled to over 40 countries around the world. In 2018, I decided to plant down in Berlin, Germany, which is where I'm currently based.
As I re-read this article, I can only say that everything I wrote in the original post still rings true. At any given moment of your life, you can shed the past, imagine the future, and create change all with a single decision that you commit to. There's big magic in writing down your goals, your fears, seeing it all in black and white, then taking effective action.
I wish you the best as you acknowledge a decision that, deep down, you already know the answer to.
IT STARTS WITH A SINGLE DECISION.
In April of 2015, I left my full-time job in broadcast/media and my LA-based music studio behind to embrace a lifestyle of endless travel. Since then, I have produced my biggest projects entirely remotely. Over the course of two years, I have kept a vow to continually find the optimal mobile music production setup – one that allows us to minimize travel gear while retaining top-notch studio sound quality.
I began producing music as a hobby in the mid-90's and started to DJ at clubs and parties in the year 2000. Shortly after, I entered the world of broadcast – first through college and public radio followed by various production roles in commercial radio. After returning to the States from an exchange program in The Netherlands, the travel bug had forever sunk its teeth into my skin. I wanted to see the world. The average two-week vacation wasn't going to be enough to cover the 196 countries of the world in a lifetime.
So how does one combine a mentally-absurd passion for music with an equally ridiculous obsession for travel? Ten years ago, us music producers would have been locked down by all of our hardware gear. Today, we are blessed with the fruits of the digital revolution. Two years ago, I sold off most of my gear and went completely in-the-box. Today, my mantra is "mobility first." I have realized that embracing a philosophy of minimalism is not only essential in my travel life, but also in my music as well.
get started. embrace your fears.
Before I pulled the trigger with a one-way ticket to Thailand, there were a mountain of obstacles and "what ifs" to overcome. The thought of showing up in a foreign country was daunting. What would I do with my home? What about my job? My friends at home? My bills? Responsibilities? How could I just leave? Wouldn't the world I've worked so hard to build collapse? What about my network? Would I lose touch with my friends and co-workers? Would I destroy everything I had built, only to show up in a foreign country with nothing?
These are all normal fears, especially when you're dealing with so many unknowns. Sure, you know what to expect when you're in your own neighborhood, your own state or province, your own country. Maybe you took a trip to another city, even in your own country, and realized how different it was. How would a different city in your own country compare to being in a completely foreign land?
If you think of all of these questions and try to solve them in your head all at once, it's daunting. First, because you do not yet have the experience to come up with a solution, and second, because it may seem unquantifiable and overwhelming, so you may just put it off until "some day." You may have a dream that's so alive in your heart, but as soon as you move that dream to the practical plane of your mind, it dissipates.
write your fears down.
The first step, is to write down all of your fears right now. That's right. Stop what you're doing, grab a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and at the very top, write down: "I'm suspending my dreams of travel because..."
I suggest you actually write and not type your notes because there's something that's inherently more tactile about getting your thoughts out on paper than typing it on a digital screen. In my experience, you're actually about to get it out of your mind and onto a physical medium, rather than typing it out. I've found that the same thoughts take up less mental space after I use pen and paper, compared to typing.
Don't move into the next section until you've written until you can't write no more. Write down all of your fears. Not just the first few that pop into mind, or the easiest ones. Write every single one of them down.
Done? Good. If you've got a few more to squeeze out, now's your chance. Here's what mine looked like:
talk back to those fears.
Now that your fears are in plain sight for you to observe, they're no longer taking up mental space with no solution on the horizon. These exact fears are what are holding you back from living the dream that's in your heart. Now, let's address those fears one by one.
The world, full of its infinite possibilities and solutions, is not holding anything back from you at this moment in time. Only you can do that. So let's have a shift in mindset to finding solutions and creating possibilities, rather than playing into our fears and remaining stagnant. Try to think of 3 possible solutions that would address each fear. Even a single good one is good enough, but trying to think of 3 will put your brain into a higher gear.
Have fun with it! Here's what mine looked like:
If you're having trouble reading my scratchy handwriting, I've typed out the entire list, including the solutions, here:
I'm suspending my dreams of travel because...
What will I do with my car?
- Sell it.
- Leave it with friends/family to drive periodically.
- Store it.
Motorcycle needs to be fired up regularly.
- Leave it with a friend who will appreciate riding it from time-to-time.
- Sell it.
- Store it.
What will I do with my place?
- Rent it out.
- Leave it in a friend's care or AirBNB.
- Property management company.
- Sublet it.
All of my hardware gear/speakers/synths
- Sell it.
- Store it.
- Leave it with a friend.
- Sell those I haven't worn in a while or put it up in a yard sale.
- Donate to charity.
- Go paperless everywhere possible.
- Forward it to parents.
- Ask roommates to collect for me.
How will my bills get paid on time?
- Enroll in auto-pay.
- Request electronic billing.
- Enlist the help of a friend or family member (if you must write a check, still) and pay them electronically via PayPal, bank transfer, etc.
Losing touch with friends and co-workers
- Skype/Facebook/FaceTime video calls.
- Schedule regular calls to catch up via What's App, Facebook, FaceTime Audio, LINE, etc.
- Give them an excuse to travel and visit you!
- Sell them.
- Donate them.
- Give them to my friend's dad who loves gardening.
People will think I'm crazy
- Those who have also done this will not.
- My life. Not theirs. Who cares?
- Only those who have never done it themselves will think this way.
What if I destroy my career?
- What if I build a new one?
- What if this helps my career?
- How can I find newer and better opportunities while traveling?
- What if this is a chance for me to move closer towards what I really want to do?
What if I can't find work when/if I come back?
- Use this time to educate myself.
- Learn a new set of skills while traveling.
- Travel is one of the greatest teachers.
What if I regret this decision?
- People regret the things they didn't do more than the things that they did do.
- I'll regret it if I don't do this!
- What if I regret living the same life I've been living and being too afraid to change it for the better?
What if I run out of money?
- Save for 6 months of travel.
- Secure online work opportunities.
- Worst case scenario: I can always fly back.
How will this look on my resume/CV?
- It will set me apart from the competition.
- I will gain an expanded world view.
- Potential for international job opportunities. I'll meet people around the world that I never would have otherwise.
What if I get lonely?
- I will connect more with myself.
- I'll go out and speak to 3 new people per day.
- Join social events.
- Call friends and family back home.
Can't make decent music in headphones.
- Some engineers mix/master solely in headphones.
- False! I've written some of my best work while traveling. Check out the Nomadic Music Producer's Handbook for an in-depth disclosure that explains exactly how.
- Have multiple sources of monitoring.
What if my gear is stolen?
- Cloud backup.
- Items can be replaced or purchased.
What if I get sick or hospitalized?
- World Nomads travel insurance.
- It's unlikely, but if it happens, I'll survive.
- Same thing can happen anywhere, even here at home.
What if I catch a tropical disease?
- Take lots of mosquito spray.
- Make sure immunizations are up-to-date.
- Travel insurance.
- Wear white instead of dark clothing (mosquitos are attracted to darker clothes).
- This is highly unlikely in the areas that I'll be visiting.
How will I stay fit without a gym?
- Body weight exercises.
- Enroll in Anytime Fitness (worldwide network of gyms).
What about clean, healthy foods?
- Buy food fresh from local markets.
- Research areas and food supplies beforehand.
- Cook at home.
How will I communicate without knowing the local language?
- Learn the basics of the language before going.
- Immersion! The best way to learn a language is just to throw yourself into the culture. I'll learn when I get there.
- Go with a friend who speaks the language.
- Network with expats on Facebook groups before going there.
PICK A DATE. TAKE ACTION.
Great! Now that you've figured out exactly what's holding you back, you've also gained some new insights on how you can tackle those fears. You may also have some new perspectives on how you can work around these fears. The antidote to fear is courage! And the only way to practice courage is action.
Think of how much richer you'll be as a person, how much more developed your character will be, how much more confident you'll be once you step far outside of your comfort zone. Only by making this decision now will you gift yourself the opportunity to go far beyond what you're normally used to. On the other side is YOU, version 2.0.
The difference between "some day" and "I did it" is that single moment when you decide to take action. So let's start building some momentum now.
Grab a marker and your calendar, or open up your Google Calendar or iCal, and pick a date that seems far away enough, but not too far. 6-12 months time is a good time frame, depending on how ready you feel. 18 months may feel better if you're not quite ready, but I wouldn't push it beyond that. If it's too far away, you'll lose momentum or circumstances in your life may change, making it harder (but not impossible) for you to ride the momentum you've already created for yourself, just by reading this article.
Now keep your destination in mind and write it down. For example, "Flight to Thailand" or "Backpacking trip begins in Peru" or "One-way ticket to Hungary" or "World travel begins!"
If you can book that plane ticket now, do it! By booking that plane ticket, you're committing yourself to this whole-heartedly. Once you do that, everything will begin to move forward to support your commitment.
This quote by William Hutchison Murray has always stuck with me:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
THE NOMADIC MUSIC PRODUCER'S HANDBOOK
The Nomadic Music Producer's Handbook is the result of over two years of trial-and-error as a nomadic DJ and music producer. I have made mistakes, spent money unnecessarily, overdone it and underdone it – but you don't have to! I overcame my fears to help you realize that if I can do it, you also can. I discuss ways you can earn an income remotely as you travel, landing DJ gigs, finding free meals and accommodations, staying fit while traveling, my take on mixing and mastering, preparing for travel, and much more.
The life you dream of is easily within reach – and whether you want to live a nomadic lifestyle for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, what I have to share in this book will help you get there on your own terms.
Don't let your dreams of long-term world travel and producing music escape you!