Quitting the daily grind of work to travel the world is something which takes a great deal of courage to do. Swapping a steady career and the security of a monthly wage in order to hit the road, with no guarantee of your future, is a very bold move. But a 24-year-old American, Derek Freal did just that. Five years later, he is still travelling and hasn’t been home since – with no intention of doing so either. Derek is what you could call a modern-day nomad; visiting country after country, meeting new friends and having a life experience which many would dream of.
While working in IT in 2009, Derek became disillusioned and wanted a new challenge. He didn’t update his CV, though. Already a keen traveller after seeing virtually all of the US and Central America, a three-month spell in Japan changed his outlook on life. Once home, work became secondary and he started planning his big adventure. The rest you could say, is history.
“For me it was more gratifying than scary,” he says, talking about making the decision to leave work. “I used to love my job; it was challenging, I had a lot of responsibility and a promising future there, but after taking a leave of absence the last quarter of 2008 to move to Tokyo, well, let’s just say I was never the same after that. The travel bug had bitten and my work ethic had evaporated. So I decided to hand in my notice and hit the road permanently.”
Five years later, Derek is currently on a motorbike exploring hidden corners of Vietnam hundreds of miles away from the beaten track and only has a few countries to tick off the list in the far east and south east Asia. With having time to spare to really immerse himself in the culture, he doesn’t usually plan on where to travel or hinders himself with any time frames. He adds: “I like to spend an average of two to three months per country, enough time to really visit all the hidden corners and get a more accurate feel for what life there and the culture is really like. No point is rushing through somewhere in two weeks and spending half your time on buses; where is the fun in that? As far as the future, no idea. I like to keep my schedule empty and prefer to never plan anything, not even buying airplane tickets ahead of time. Spontaneity dominates my life.”
One has to have a certain mindset and perhaps no ties back at home to really make a success of the lifestyle which Derek has become so accustomed to. “First off the nomadic way of life is certainly not for everyone,” He warns. “I’ve written about the downsides to it before, such as lack of a regular sleep schedule, having to sacrifice any sort of a ‘normal’ relationship and of course the toll it takes on friends and family back home. But there was nothing left for me in the States, and nothing holding me back or begging for me to return.”
As the brains behind travel community site, theholidaze.com, Derek has been documenting his travels for over two years now. The site unites travellers from all over the world to share experiences while documenting his own personal adventures. His web skills earn him a decent living as he occasionally does freelance design work. He admits his travel fund has eaten away at his savings, but plans to increase his online income streams to fuel his wanderlust.
But still, there are negative aspects to leading the nomadic life but these situations are very much in the minority. “I don’t like being treated like I have dollars tattooed on my forehead,” he admits. “This happens in a lot of countries, especially in the tourist traps or backpacker part of town. But if you get off the beaten track and start visiting places where few overseas people ever go, well then you make friends with locals and see the real essence of their spirit. Families have taken me into their home, let me sleep on the floor – some giving me the only bed and fan in the house just to make me feel comfortable – and then afterward they neither want nor except financial compensation. What I do instead is go with them to buy a bunch of meat and veggies from the local market and have a going away feast. Those experiences are priceless.”
Derek does plan on returning to Indonesia, a country he is hugely familiar with, to launch the Tour de Horror – a travellers’ expose into the underbelly of the country. He explains: “After doing a movie and national TV appearance in Indonesia, I started to wonder ‘how can I top all that I’ve already done there?’ It was then I created the Tour de Horror, a trek across Indonesia to all the haunted locations, both well-know and obscure, in search of anything extraordinary. The only things Indonesians love more than a bule (white foreigner) is a bule who can speak their language, who travels their country, and haunted locations. Now I’ve managed to combine all of that into one amazing package and the response has been amazing. This could very well end up being a stepping stone to much bigger things in Indonesia.”