Wade Shepard - A Life Without Borders

Wade Shepard - A Life Without Borders. Why he perpetually travels the world.

What country are you from?

What is your age?

How many countries have you visited?
Around 50

What is your greatest joy of living anywhere?

Being in a place where the people are socially available, where you can walk down the street and have dozens of conversations, while at the same time not being bothered or harassed. Being able to get what I need to survive and be happy easily and cheaply. Having a room with widows, a desk, and WIFI where I can escape to whenever I want and work in comfort. Being in a place that I find stimulating to the senses, where I can see something new and interesting each day, a place where surprises occasionally occur, a place that sometimes makes me say "What the f'ck?"

Though my greatest joy of living somewhere has to be the riddles, the intrigues, the questions, the challenges, and the little personal triumphs that occur each day of living and traveling in a country that is not your own. This is what keeps my wheels turning  

Why do you live in many cities in many countries?

I began traveling for what I think are the normal reasons: for the adventure, the thrill, curiosity, for those landmark experiences that make up a life. But as I continued to travel I think it was more the process of the traveling lifestyle hooked me. The stimulation of meeting new people, facing new challenges, building your own knowledge, and testing your personal limits against the world raises the excitement of life a few notches. Once living this way becomes normal it becomes incredibly difficult to come back down again, go home, and have the same daily routine in an environment that because a shelter out of its sheer familiarity. 

Travel is really living in the raw, so to speak. When traveling, the focus of your attention is on you basic living necessities: food, shelter, safety, transportation, companionship. These basic elements are posed as mini challenges each day, and their acquisition becomes a game of sorts, you are always stimulated to some degree with your surroundings, travel keeps you in the moment, at attention, and this feels good to our animal senses. 

What is your source or sources of money?

My website Vagabond Journey.com, Vagabond Explorer magazine, and occasional trades with hotels for room and board. Having a regular (though relatively small) income from my web based projects means that I have a monetary number to shoot for spending under, so, often, saving money is more of a focus than making money. So the food/ accommodation trades mean that I can bank almost all of my income to continue traveling on, though I only really need to do these maybe once a year for a couple of months. My wife is also pretty capable has has the proper travel work creds (university degree, TEFL certification, lots of teaching experience) so if times get rough financially she could just get a job at a school somewhere teaching English. 

Realistically, I need to start making more money though. $50 per day will soon be the minimum that I will need to make as my daughter gets older and more expensive to travel with, and, right now, we only make around $30. So there is a good chance that some different strategies will be needed for making money in the near future.  

How does a person prepare?

Learning foreign language, skills and trades and that can translate to income on the road is probably the main way that I would recommend for someone to prepare for living a life in travel. The rudiments of travel and culture are virtually the same everywhere, so preparation for various destinations can often be done on arrival. I don't think 've ever prepared for traveling in a country before getting there. 


Keep physically fit, eat well, cultivate your mind, ask questions, meet people, have no fear of looking foolish, put yourself out in the world and see what happens. 

What mistakes have you made, that you would recommend people avoid?

When I first began traveling I did not talk to enough people. I walked around places as some silent apparation on the horizon. It wasn't until later than I realized that the joys of traveling are not just in the act of going between places but in the people you meet along the way. 

One Travel Tip?

Cultivate a project, a business, or a hobby that you are passionate about, can be done from anywhere in the world, and that travel will further enrich. All too often would be perpetual travelers go home because they eventually feel as if they are not doing anything with their lives simply by moving between places. Most people need something more in their lives than a backpack with a few essentials and memories of travel. Having a project that you can build upon each day of travel, something that intellectually stimulates you, challenges you, and makes you a little better each day, in my opinion, is essential to keep the mind sharp and the emotions even when traveling. 

I continue doing VagabondJourney.com not only because it makes me a little money each month, but also because it motivates me to meet people, explore new places, and chase various intrigues. Just that fact that I need to have something to write about daily is enough of a push to get out and interact with my surroundings at a more intense level.  

Biography, explanation of life of living in many places, the longer story:

I don't have one of these "I quit my job, sold everything, liquidated my life in exchange for travel" stories. Rather, I've never really known another way of living in adulthood. Right after turning 18 I left the farm in upstate New York and went to Florida, and this very quickly turned into Ecuador, and then Peru, Europe, Asia, Central America, North Africa on and on, and 50 countries and many years later I'm still traveling.

In a way I feel that I've missed a certain perspective on life that can be gained from working a 9 to 5 job for years on end, acquiring possessions, having a house, bills, regular friends, social obligation, but it is not something, at this point, I am willing to make up for. 

Travel became an immediate lifestyle once I struck out on my own in 1999. I use to tell people in high school that I was just going to "travel around and do whatever I want," after graduation, but I was not really serious at the time. I laugh now when I look back and realize this is pretty much exactly what I did. 

But I have to admit that the traveling life was not intentional at first, it was more something I fell into. I just started going from place to place and could never get over the urge to just keep going. I would go on a three month trip, return home and not be able to stay content for two weeks before the urge for another trip would kick in and I would leave again. Eventually, the "trips" grew longer and longer and the times of going back home shorter. Soon enough I began calling going home "visits," and I realized that the "normal" time of my life was on the road.

It was not until a couple years of doing this that I realized that I had, in a very real sense, become a traveler, and that I could conceptualize the lifestyle and really make something of it. Now, rather than thinking in terms of "trips" I was more focused on how to make a real living and a full life on the road.

In my first year of traveling I learned how to do archaeology fieldwork in Ecuador, and it did not take me long after this before I realized that I could zip around the USA from project to project making decent money in this field. So whenever I would go broke abroad I would do a three month tour around the USA working on archaeology projects, often going from one side of the country to the other and back again. Then once I had some cash saved up from this I would go abroad for 9 months or so and then return for another archaeology circuit when I needed money.  

This life was pretty good, even the work phases involved near constant travel and was enjoyable, but I soon found that I needed something more to do during the 9 or so months a year that I was traveling abroad. Visiting places without anything to do there and no real purpose began getting to me. I don't mean to say that I was ever really bored, but the motion of packing a backpack, going to another town, eating in a restaurant, walking around, packing a backpack, going to another town . . . starts to lose its glimmer after a while. I needed something more, I realized that I needed to build something on the road, I needed a project that I could do each day no matter where in the world I was. I began looking more for work abroad, as this allowed me to get into places a little more, meet different types of people, and have more of a life when traveling. But I also wanted to return to university.

So I combined the lifestyle of traveling with university study and went to an international university (Global College, LIU) where I could study pretty much anywhere in the world that I wanted. I think I studied in around 6 countries while in this school on four continents. (Note: the rules of this school are now very different than they were when I was a student, and the freedom of movement that I was able to take advantage of is no longer available). This school gave me culture related projects to do while I traveled and stayed in various places around the world, which I either worked on remotely with an advisor or at a regional center, and they really lead to a large change in how I engaged places. I now had to look at places more closely, make contacts, interview people, and complete various research projects that forced me to really learn about where I was in the world. Going to this school also allowed me to fund my travels and living abroad with scholarships and financial aid.   

I began travel blogging in 2005 while in Global College, and the methods that I used for writing research papers and my thesis I began applying towards articles and blog posts. I moved my blog over to VagabondJourney.com in 2007, and this became my main project ever since.

I sought to make a living from travel blogging and running a website, and it has always been a rough road. It was my goal to have work that I could do each day from anywhere in the world and make a living from, and I suppose I achieved this goal, but it came at a pretty large cost. I began blogging almost daily (sometimes two or three times a day) in 2005 and this occupation grew into a habit into a virtual obsession. I would often work 60 to 80 hours per week for virtually no money at all. But it was this lack of easy success, I feel, that really provided the passion for this project. I kept at it each day, dreaming of the time when I would be able to comfortably fund my travels from working for myself, writing, and taking photos.

It took me around four or five years after first starting to blog before I really began making any money at it. It is my impression that my website gets more traffic and I make more money than 99% of other travel bloggers, but it is still a difficult way to make a living. Although I have not worked another job in a couple years now, I am still at the bottom rungs of success -- I have a high traffic website but I only make the bare minimum amount of money from it to justify continuing. To these ends I began a travel magazine called Vagabond Explorer this year, and I hope that selling this publication and other books that I can double my income in the near future. It is working so far.

On another note, I was married and had my first child in 2009, and, outside of one solo travel trip per year, I now travel with my family. The transition to traveling with a family has just been another step in the direction of cultivating travel as a lifestyle rather than an activity. I now strive to stay in places for one to three months, get to know people better, really get into my surroundings, and have time to live a good life and to really enjoy my world.

Sun, 3 Jul 2011 05:37:12

Wade Shepard in Iceland
Wade Shepard in Iceland.

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